CROMWELL ——What was likely the largest crowd of the day during Wednesday's celebrity pro-am at the Travelers Championship awaited Jim Calhoun and Joe Pesci at the first tee, and it wasn't long before the Hall of Fame coach and the Academy Award winning actor got to chatting.
"One of the great stories of all time …" Calhoun began, leaning toward the much-shorter Pesci, before the crowd drowned out their conversation. It was likely one of a hundred stories during their 18 holes together. ESPN's Karl Ravech and PGA Tour player Jason Bohn completed the foursome.
Calhoun, 68, received a nice ovation upon being introduced before his tee shot, which hooked left and bounced off a tree and into the fairway. Calhoun was absent last year while recovering from broken ribs sustained in a bike accident, and he's been a no-show several times for several reasons over the last handful of years.
But on Wednesday, he took time to take a few swings. His handicap, he says, is about a 9. Before his round, he signed some autographs on his way to the practice range. Fans wore UConn shirts and handed him basketballs to sign.
"Every time I play, good or bad, I always realize it wouldn't be a good thing to do for a living if you played like me," Calhoun said. "Every year you get a broad spectrum. You get comments, you get kids. It's a good time to get out and if you can it's always fun to go. It's a long day but a fruitful day. The more times that you can get out in the state and see people I think it's a good thing."
Calhoun did address some business. There are two vacancies on the UConn staff. Kevin Ollie is considered the frontrunner to be named assistant coach and Glenn Miller the frontrunner to be named director of basketball operations.
" Jeff Hathaway is away," Calhoun said of the UConn athletic director. "He said he'd be back by 6 o'clock [Wednesday} and would go to the office, so if we can sign some papers [Wednesday] or [today], hopefully by [today] or Friday we'd have something done."
UConn coaches can travel to visit recruits beginning July 6.
"We're very happy with the recruiting we've had this year," Calhoun said. "If everything turns out by August the way we hope it will it will be a heck of a recruiting class. We have to match that with another great recruiting class, clearly.
"A lot of my former players appeared [as candidates], friends that I know. It's always a difficult situation to tell people you're going in one direction and not the other direction. We have a ton of young guys out there that want to coach. The list is really getting longer as these guys get longer in the tooth. Once they get over 30, they start to realize that there's another kind of career in basketball they might be looking at."
All UConn players are on campus except for incoming freshmen Roscoe Smith (who will arrive next week) and Niels Giffey, who will arrive later this summer. Kemba Walker, Calhoun said, will be leaving in July to train with the U.S. Olympic team at mini-camps in Las Vegas and New York. Calhoun said Walker is one of 10-11 college players who will train with the team.
Business as usual wasn't the first thing on Calhoun's mind Wednesday, however.
"Pesci usually carries a gun," he said while walking to the range. "Probably not today."