Jim Calhoun did what Jim Calhoun has done more than just about any basketball coach in history tonight. He won his 800th game, joining the likes of Bob Knight, Coach K and Dean Smith to become just the seventh Division I coach to reach that mark. Aside from its historical relevance, the victory all but guaranteed that UConn will once again be the top ranked team in America heading into the final week of college basketball’s regular season.
But even though he would never admit it, the win had to be a little bittersweet for Calhoun. The game didn’t seem like a nationally televised battle between No. 2 Connecticut and tenth ranked Marquette. It didn’t feel like win number 800. All that really mattered was that it was the first game following a tirade that made him a featured topic for every talking head in America this week.
By now you obviously know Calhoun made a fool out of himself last weekend when he lashed out at a reporter who asked a question about his salary and whether or not he would take a pay cut to help the state close its enormous budget gap. This, of course, wasn’t nearly the first time Calhoun turned in a post-game press conference worthy of a beer commercial, which has me wondering what his ultimate legacy will be.
We all know he’s more Knight than Krzyzewski, but will he be remembered as more bitter than brilliant? Will his reputation for being a bully trump everything he did both on and off the court?
You can’t ask most Connecticut residents this question. Calhoun is a saint in the Constitution State. Even as Husky fans statewide are losing their jobs and homes, most would argue he is a bargain at $1.6 million per year. Put it this way: If the man ran for Governor, he’d whip any opponent the way his Huskies used to whip Marathon Oil every preseason. His only challenger would be Geno Auriemma.
But nationally, I’m not sure he’s looked at in the same light. On television, he comes off more as a foul-mouthed, mean-spirited man than someone who has helped raise millions of dollars for cancer and autism research. If you do a YouTube search of his name, the majority of the hits that come back are of him attacking the media.
A Google search nets similar results.
And whether it’s fair or not, this is how we learn about people. We use the internet. And that’s not changing anytime soon.
So yes, I do think it’s fair to have questions about Calhoun’s legacy. The man is an all-time winner who turned Storrs, Ct into the basketball capitol of the country. But in this era of endless information, we’ve learned that he isn’t exactly what Husky fans make him out to be. They call him fiery.
I call him flawed.