Jim Calhoun got a win in his first regular season game as UConn men's basketball coach, Nov. 29, 1986. The Huskies beat UMass 58-54 at the Field House in Storrs. Gerry Besselink had a double-double (18 points, 15 rebounds).
One assumes the players learned a thing or two from their 100-92 loss to an Australian team in an exhibition game two weeks earlier. In that game, Cliff Robinson had 26 points and 16 rebounds, Jeff King 23 points and 10 rebounds and Phil Gamble 16 points for the Huskies. Tate George had 10 assists and seven points. But Andrew Gaze - who later would play at Seton Hall - lit up UConn for 42 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
And what happened after the game comes as no surprise to those who know Calhoun; he made the team practice right away in Guyer Gym.
"I had them out there for two hours," Calhoun said Thursday. "I think they knew then I was serious about my quest."
A quest that started with the victory over UMass and has taken him to two national titles. Calhoun remembers how important he felt that first win was. He remembers hugging his assistant, Howie Dickenman. He remembers what happened the day before the game: Northeastern, the school he left for UConn, upset Louisville 88-84 at the Great Alaska Shootout with Reggie Lewis and current UConn assistant Andre LeFleur as two of the captains.
Calhoun has stayed true to the same message through the years. Work hard.
Dickenman, now the coach at Central Connecticut, thinks the same way. The message was reinforced by Calhoun in many ways.
"Calhoun has a wooden block on his desk with hinges," Dickenman said. "On the front are the words 'secret to success.' Open it up and it says 'hard work.' I agree with that 100 percent."
Calhoun said he found the block in a knickknack shop in his early days of coaching at Northeastern.
"I've always believed you can outwork people," he said.
Hard work. It is what President Barack Obama says we now face, each of us, with the challenges that confront this country. Calhoun was at the inauguration, a day he said he'll never forget.
And when he looked at The Courant Thursday morning, the day after a big win against Villanova, he saw the photo of the president at his desk on the first day of his job with the headline, "Down To Business."
"The inauguration's over, the celebration's over, and it's time to get down to it," Calhoun said.
Which were his thoughts about the Villanova win. Nice win, but it's history.
There is always more work to do. Always.
"You have to always build on it, not rest on it," Calhoun said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun