Of all people, it was fitting for Jim Calhoun to be asked about Bob Knight following the legendary coach’s sudden retirement earlier this week.
“He’s a brilliant man, one of the greatest coaches in any sport, ever,” Calhoun said. “His record on academics, discipline, everything else, is almost unparalleled in major college sports.”
In a lot of ways, they are one in the same. Both are Hall of Famers that are notoriously hard on their players and occasionally come off as bullies to the media. The striking difference, however, is that while Knight was never willing to change with the times, Calhoun has learned how to make adjustments.
Until the end --if this was the end—Knight’s recruiting pitch was all about him. You’ll go to class, you’ll learn the game, you’ll get yelled at, you’ll graduate. And you’ll become a man. But in a time where the top ranked team in the country is coached by a hot shot that assembles incredible talent with no regard for character, the army general approach is no longer relevant.
And that’s why Coach Calhoun can walk into a kid’s house and say, “I don’t care what you hear about me or my actions, here’s what you should care about. Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Rudy Gay.
Because in today’s world, all that matters to a top recruit is how you’re going to get him to the league. Not in four years, but two. Tops.
Calhoun is still as intense as ever, but he seems to have finally recognized that players are far more sensitive and their needs are different than they were even ten years ago. They’re coddled and conditioned to be stars long before they arrive on any college campus.
And if you’re going to be hard on them, they better get rewarded in the end.
So it goes back to Allen, Hamilton, Butler, Gordon, Okafor and Gay.
Calhoun’s record speaks for itself.