Calhoun: Guts And Glory

At one point, Ollie apologized to Stephanie for spending only 10 minutes with her on their 14th wedding anniversary Wednesday.

"I love you baby and I'll see you when you come up to bed," Ollie said. "I thank you for that."

Realizing how that sounded, he quickly added, "She was already asleep, folks, it was 2:30."

It was classic. As classic as some of the tales former assistants Tom Moore and Dickenman told about Calhoun's uber-competiveness.

"We were in Pittsburgh, Ted Taigen, our academic adviser, was sitting on the bench right on the baseline," said Moore, now coach at Quinnipiac. "It's a 50-50 call out of bounds. Coach had an angle where he couldn't see it. That's not going to stop him from going over to [referee] Tim Higgins to tell him he's wrong. Well, Tim turns to Ted and goes to Jim, 'He had a good view.' Ted goes, 'Sorry, coach. It was out.' Coach looks at Ted and goes, 'What the [expletive] are you doing on our bench, anyway?'"

UConn lost that night. Moore said that dinner might not have been served on the flight back.

Dickenman, coach at Central Connecticut, re-enacted the story that Ray Allen once told how at halftime of a game during his freshman year, Calhoun had gone off like a bottle rocket. Calhoun went to kick a standing chalkboard and got his foot stuck in it. Howie had to extricate him.

"It was, [expletive]… uh-oh,'" Dickenman said, laughing. "It's like Dave Leitao says, 'Jim Calhoun isn't happy unless he's unhappy.'"

It is that competitive rage that fueled Calhoun for decades. To this day, it's what fascinates me.

"My freshman year, I'm going one-on-one with Chris Smith, back and forth," Ollie said. "I'm like, 'C'mon, coach, everybody knows he can handle the ball.' He kept me going back and forth, back and forth, 10 times. I went home, called my mom and told her I'm ready to leave. This man called me names I don't even know what he's saying. She said get your butt back out there, and I heard the click on the other line."

"That's what made me strong. That's UConn basketball. I love Coach for doing it. I went six years in the NBA without a guaranteed contract. I'm used to rejection. Every time Coach used to yell at me, [Calhoun's wife Pat] gave me a kiss. There were a lot of kisses."

Calhoun said that any foxhole you need to jump in, Ollie is your guy. Dickenman talked about how when the Cavaliers needed someone to mentor a young LeBron James, they traded for Ollie. Ollie looked at his players and said there will be no escalators, only stairs to climb one step at a time.

And then he looked over at Jim Calhoun, the toughest man in the gym, and the worst loser in history, and said, "Every time you told me I was the toughest guy in the gym, I wanted to prove you right."

"I don't mind a one-year deal. It's good that it's difficult. I'm just going to coach like I'll be here until I retire."

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