What they said… Welcome back Coach Calhoun
|03.20.09 at 4:56 pm ET|
One of the early storylines of this NCAA Tournament has revolved around one of the No. 1 seeds. Not the on-the-court performance of the Connecticut Huskies but rather their ferocious coach. Jim Calhoun spent Thursday in a Philadelphia hospital getting treated for dehydration and spent the night there for observation.
He re-joined his team on Friday in Philadelphia after they blew out Chattanooga in the first round, 103-47. On Friday, he addressed the media in Philadelphia.
COACH CALHOUN: First thing I want to say how proud I was of our kids yesterday, the way they just played, quite frankly, terrific basketball, kept their composure early. It was a 19 17 game, 12 to go.
We had been there before a little bit, especially Jeff and Craig, when we played Albany four years ago. Instead of trying to make it all happen at once, they in turn just piece mailed some things together.
Had a big halftime lead and went onto an impressive win. Couldn’t be happier for them and more proud of my good friend of 40 years George Blaney. So it was a terrific win for us. We’ve had a great deal of success, particularly over the past couple decades in NCAA post season play, but we needed to kind of reestablish ourselves. At least for a game we certainly did that. I was very, very proud of them.
As far as me personally, I fully expected to coach the game yesterday early in the morning, 10, 11 o’clock. I mentioned to Jeff Anderson, our doctor, that I wasn’t feeling particularly well, had felt weak for a couple days, but no problem. He said, Let’s go down and have you checked out. So we went down. I was checked out. Next thing I know, this hour or so turned into being admitted so they could do a full and thorough examination.
They looked at virtually everything, it seems, and came out with the fact that I probably was totally dehydrated. They could find that out.
I left early this morning. I bribed my way out of there as quick as I could. Quite frankly, I feel good now.
I probably feel good because, once again, I got a full physical examination. I will say one thing. The full exam, which got high ratings, did not include a psychiatrist.
Q. How much faith and trust do you have to have in George and does your team have to have in George to be able to, at the drop of a hat, before an NCAA tournament game turn everything over to him and have it work?
COACH CALHOUN: Well, there’s no doubt about that. George and I have only known each other a short period of time, about 41 years now, and have been dear friends, played against each other, coached against each other on numerous occasions. He’s now been with me eight very, very wonderful years. He’s a coach himself certainly without question.
I have great faith in him. I think the kids do, too, which was evident by the way they played yesterday.
We prepared very hard for Chattanooga. Tried to get into their sets.
We did a real hard job of trying to get a little more help with McDowell. I thought Craig Austrie, I watched the tape last night, I was going to be there till early this morning, I didn’t see all the game live, I got reports, but I was unable to see all the games live because of a couple different things. So I watched the tape fully last night.
The things we had practiced, we did. We gave more hedge help. We elongated our hedges and took the chance someone wouldn’t pop out to hit a three as some teams in our league can do. Obviously, George did a terrific job of getting the kids together.
I will make one side note. I can only make this about a friend. When I called him about 7:00 this morning. He said, Where are you? I said, Quite frankly, I’m getting ready to get out of the hospital. His response was, Oh (smiling).
I think it was that picture in USA Today. That was George’s response when I told him I was on my way back to the hotel.
In all honesty, the farthest thing from my mind, this is really true, sometimes you know if everybody hears of some illnesses, any different type of thing, and I’m thinking of the game even in the ride over just to be checked out quick to see everything. Next thing I know, they put a bracelet, I was admitted. I was the most shocked guy in the world.
Right now, I practiced with the team at the Palestra. I had to only walk a couple paces to join the team over there, got to practice with the kids. We will go out to eat tonight and have our chart talk. I’ll get a chance to talk to almost all the kids.
Q. How difficult was it? You weren’t expecting this. It gets thrown at you. Are you screaming at people, fighting, or do you accept it?
COACH CALHOUN: Yeah, once again, someone said I missed 10 games or something. I had looked at it and I said the other day, I’ve coached
1142 games. I had to look at the sheet, so I knew. It isn’t like it happens every single day. I haven’t had a great run over the last year certainly of not having something happen, at least it seems, from cancer to shingles to this, although this was not an illness really, it was something where I didn’t feel well. Normally, if I probably hadn’t gone, got such expert care at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, they wanted to be exceptionally thorough, and they were very thorough, as in the whole time that I was there. But bottom line is that, you get to the fighting part, then you realize that bracelet, unless you can whip up on a couple security guards, you’re not going anyplace, and I wasn’t going anyplace.
Q. What do you sense the win and how well they played did for them and their confidence?
COACH CALHOUN: I think A.J. Price, as young people did, said we got a little bit of weight off our back, because we lost last year to San Diego. Some of these kids haven’t been through it. Only Craig and Jeff had been through a final eight run. So I think it was really good for them.
With all that being said, there was a great deal of happiness and joy. They got on the phone right after the game. We were on speaker phone together. That was great. Seven of them texted me in the hospital. You could tell the pure joy. Even a little more bounce in their step.
With that said, Texas A&M is awfully good. Four straight years, plenty of experience by winning games in the NCAA tournament. They’re a terrific basketball team. We certainly have the job ahead of us.
We’re telling them we have 40 minutes to Phoenix, and that’s really what our goal will be. But they matchup very well and we aren’t going to overwhelm them inside as we were able to do with Chattanooga. You know, they shoot the ball very well. Their last eight games, they’ve been terrific, 49 percent, 42 percent from three. I watched their tape last night, too. I had plenty of time to watch a lot of tape at 2, 3,
4 in the morning. They’re a very, very good basketball team. We have our work cut out for us.
I think there is a little bit of whatever you call it, swagger, I wouldn’t call it relief, because I don’t think players should have relief, but I do think they feel a little better about themselves. We probably needed one of those after having the six overtimes, the two wars against Pittsburgh.
Q. Have you asked or told Stanley to alter his game, to stay closer to the hoop now, not settle for threes?
COACH CALHOUN: For the past two weeks, he’s been amazing. Seems the more success he gets, the harder he works. I think the one thing that becomes noticeable, he takes the ball to the rim a lot more. He was our leading percentage wise three point shooter last year. When he came back after missing those whatever it was, 10 early games, he didn’t have any kind of rhythm. He was physically in great shape, but didn’t have any kind of rhythm. Tried to force it a little bit. Where now I think he’s settling in and trying to be that other guy that we’ve talked about reshaping our team in the midst of Jerome going down. I think when he plays well, and Jeff, certainly AJ, Hash play well, we’re back to being a team that has more offensive option. He’s really been sensational, no question. We did say to him, we know one thing, you can get up and around the rim. Tomorrow is going to be a little bit more difficult because he’ll have major league size. But I think that helps him a great deal as opposed to, you’re right, trying to make jump shots where he’s been struggling. His jump shot, he’s starting to come into it a little more, which is an added bonus for us.
Q. When we spoke to you Wednesday after the press conference, you seemed in good spirits. Give us a quick timetable on when you started feeling under the weather. Can you talk about Craig’s performance, that confidence you tried to build up in him.
COACH CALHOUN: Once again, if you get me a day or two before an NCAA tournament game, I go back to the kids. On occasion they tell me, Coach, I’m a little bit high strung, nervous before a game. I said, There’s a guy named Bill Russell who threw up before every game. He turned out okay, the greatest winner ever. Biased, but the greatest winner ever. I have the stats on that one to prove it. And there is no game that I’ve ever approached that I don’t feel that in my stomach, okay? And I felt a little bit the night before, but nothing really drastic. But in the morning I just felt lousy. So I thought Jeff could give me something. Jeff said we can either go right around the corner here, up to Penn, we’ll do this and that. Once again, one thing led to the other and I had no choice in the rest of the matter.
As far as Craig, as I said to you, I called Craig into my office probably I believe Monday and said, Craig, you aren’t shooting the ball particularly well. I don’t think you’re playing up to your ability. I love you to death. You’ve been one of the most resilient guys. Every time we ask you to do something, you’ve done it. When you played 11 straight games, won every one of them. We said, By the way, that’s not good enough. We’re going to put Marcus Williams in your place. My point being he’s been that kind of player for us. I’ve had a great affinity for the kid. I called him in, I can tell you a lot of things. I’m going to start you. As long as you play good Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in practice, you’ll start tomorrow. Honestly, looking at the tape, he’s magnificent. He does a terrific job defensively. I mean, we were really scared we’d get lit up. I kept referring him to McClinton, because I remember how good he was from family. That’s who he reminded me of. For him to go 1 7, he had helped. We did a much better job of getting our guards over screens.
Craig really was a silent hero yesterday in many, many ways in the sense he made our job a heck of a lot easier by allowing their leading scorer to go off on a 25 point game and make it more difficult.
Q. You were only in the hospital overnight. Obviously there have been some other struggles you’ve had and dealt with. When you get out, when you get that bracelet off, do you feel like you have a new lease on life, like you beat it again?
COACH CALHOUN: Well, in this case I didn’t. I’ll be very frank and honest with you. It’s not even an unfair question because I was hospitalized. But I went there just because I was feeling lousy. All this has been in a state where we’ve either had different types of flu. I’ve had a few things much more serious than that. But where you just feel miserable, can’t wait to have somebody fix me, just fix me.
I didn’t feel that way. I felt lousy. I felt tired. And I thought, first, that Dr. Anderson, our team physician, would maybe give me something for my stomach, et cetera, et cetera. He said, Let’s go get it checked out. And we did. So I didn’t feel that. I have at other times in the past year felt that way, this is really over. But the thing I did feel is I started bargaining, using tickets, anything I possibly could, to get out of there as quick as I possibly could, T shirts being sent to their children, their next of kin, anything I could think of to get out of there as early as I can.
If you’re saying was I chomping at the bit after watching my team play so well, so proud of them, yes, I was chomping at the bit. I probably slept two hours last night and feel regenerated this morning that, A, I get a terrific physical in the process, and that has made me feel much better. But my team helped make me feel an awful lot better. It’s one of those kind of things.
But, you know, like anybody else, nobody really wants to spend even a night in the hospital, particularly during such an important time of year in the profession that I’ve chosen, and because of this team’s, in my opinion, great year they’ve had with us. 28 4 is terrific. But the year I’ve had with them, coming off the spring and summer that I had, dealing with a much more serious issue, medical issue, it couldn’t have been better.
And I wanted, I can still feel that when we lost the six overtime game to Syracuse, how badly I felt for them. We’ve won in the past with some awfully good players, Big East tournament games. I know it was a classic game, a wonderful, historical event. I wanted this team to have more because they deserve more, because they’ve been great kids and they’re really a good basketball team. We just have to readjust for Jerome.
Bottom line, yeah, I couldn’t wait to get back to get the opportunity to try to help any way I possibly can to get us going for Texas A&M.
Q. Did the tests reveal anything you care to share other than dehydration? Are we fair to assume or portray this as nothing but dehydration? Anything that might linger that would keep you potentially out of action the next few weeks?
COACH CALHOUN: I’ll probably take it the other way. Actually the opposite. I got more than a clean bill of health. Once again I’ll preface by saying no psychiatric tests were taken. So we have to keep that in mind.
Regardless, quite frankly, I didn’t realize I was that healthy. I didn’t feel that way, you know (laughter). That’s the honest truth.
There’s no guarantees in life and all that type of thing. But I left there feeling awfully good because they did an extensive look at me to make sure everything was okay.
Q. The fact that they played big time competition means they won’t be intimidated, which I don’t know how often that happens, teams playing in Connecticut. How has that changed the way they’ll come after you or the mindset of the game? What is it they do that’s going to be a problem?
COACH CALHOUN: Well, when you win I believe seven out of the last eight games, and in there is Texas, particularly I think a team the most explosive, and a Final Four team, Missouri. They have that kind of explosiveness, et cetera. They’re very talented. They have very good team size. They’re very mobile. Two of their big guys can step out and do some very good things. Carter is a terrific basketball player.
No, I mean, I almost think, it won’t be quite the same, but like I was playing another Big East team. I think certainly of that caliber.
Where they would fit in the league, we’ll watch a little more tape tonight before we have the chalk talk. But I think very simply you got two teams to have achieved a great deal this year. They get off to a little slower start than we did. We got probably not as good an ending as we might have had coming down the stretch because a number of factors, who we played, a little bit certainly Jerome, certainly some Jerome. We think we can adjust. But they’re a very good basketball team. You don’t go to the tournament four straight years and do what they did.
I personally thought that BYU was a very good basketball team when I looked at them on tape. And they handled them and scored every time they shot the ball in the first eight minutes of the game. So they weren’t intimidated by the situation by any stretch of the imagination.
So we expect a real, real battle. For us to get to Phoenix, we’re going to have to play a very good basketball game.
Q. You said there was no consultation for psychiatric. Did they offer any tips or things or are we too far down the line with you to help relieve stress for the big games?
COACH CALHOUN: Once again, I’ve done 1142. I’ve been in national championship games. I’ve been in a lot of different kinds of situations. I’ve always probably been stressed in every single game.
As a matter of fact, the only thing I share probably with Bill Russell, as a player, is the fact there was never a game that I didn’t feel really, really ready to go before the game. I mean, really ready to go. The point being simply is that’s been a natural inclination of mine. I’ve had players ask me the same thing. I’ve had people I’ve become friendly with who are actors, public speakers. Do you get kind of a rush? Everybody handles it differently. Everybody’s body handles it differently.
In 1142 games, I’ve been there for most of them. Missed a few. One of them a couple of those obviously were because of prostate cancer.
My point being simply, I don’t know of any tip, except maybe not coach basketball, not doing something competitive.
But whatever it is, I’ll find a reason to make it competitive. You know what I’m saying? Reading a book, I’d see if I could do it the fastest of anybody who’s ever read a book.
Point being, that’s kind of my nature. And I am the woman asked me very nicely earlier, Are you type A? What’s beyond that? That’s a trick question, I know.
Q. Looking down the road, how important is it to kind of get Jeff productive offensively again if you are going to win as many games as you’d like to win?
COACH CALHOUN: I don’t think we can make the kind of run that I think we’re capable of making if Jeff Adrien doesn’t start doing some of the small things which are going to come from what you just said:
Getting more points, getting more rebounds. Jeff feeds off his own success and the team’s success. He really does. I mean, he’s been one of those kids. There’s a lot of good players like that, by the way.
They feed off themselves to some degree to help the team. Jeff has been a rock for us. I mean, during the middle of our season when we beat West Virginia at West Virginia, beat Louisville at Louisville, Jeff was the rock for all of that.
But he’s a little right now trying to find himself a tad. I will say to him tonight, Keep searching, but by 3:00 tomorrow, find Jeff Adrien for us. I thought he played okay yesterday, but he’s much better than an okay player. The guy’s got 1500 points, 1100 something rebounds.
Jeff has to be better. I’m saying that about a guy who had physically, a pretty good game yesterday. But he’s better than that. He can do a lot of things. He’s been a rock for us this year. His group, and Craig, have won 99 games. Obviously he’s been very important for us.
You’re a hundred percent right, we need Jeff to be a part of that mix. There will be games where the three won’t fall for A.J. Stanley could get in foul trouble. All the various things that can happen in a game. You need as many good options as you can go to. He certainly is one of those.
Notre Dame just recently. He had 25 points, 15 rebounds, was great.
So we’ve got to get him involved, without question.
Q. Something similar like this happened in ’99 and ’04. Are you sure this isn’t a biological clock thing?
COACH CALHOUN: I hope it is. I do remember those years vaguely, some good things happened to us at the end, if I had my druthers.
You know, I really can’t it doesn’t seem that my body picks its spots. I think it’s different because I didn’t feel that I couldn’t get to the game or I had to sit or anything else. As I said, when I told our doctor, I mean, I was not by any stretch of the imagination, if I hadn’t told him, I wouldn’t have gone over at 11:30 to watch the first game and keep on going. So it wasn’t quite that critical. I still remember San Antonio , he came over, had a suit on, I was soaking wet. Kind of knew then that I wasn’t going to the game.
Maybe it’s an omen or something. Hopefully it is. I wouldn’t necessarily like these types of omens. I’d rather have the kids play.
If they play like they did yesterday, everything else will work its way out.
Q. When you spoke to them on the speaker phone, what was the feeling you had inside when you heard their voices?
COACH CALHOUN: It was really important to me because, as I said, this group is special for us. I mean, they came out right off the bat this year. When we got to the Paradise Jam, beat first LaSalle then a very good Miami team, really handled Wisconsin, you don’t handle Bo Ryan’s team by 20 points and we got better and we kept getting better.
Came back, Gonzaga, win there. Beat Michigan. We were really rolling.
And as importantly, the kids, the way they practiced and approached things, to have veterans, because we lost so many kids early, to have true veterans, is a little bit unusual for us, but also by the way very nice. We haven’t had that luxury for probably almost five years.
So it was really great having the kind of season with them. So, therefore, my desire for them to be good, to hear their voices. You could feel the pride in the noise. We just beat a 16, we’re 1. I guess math tells you you’re supposed to win that game. But they were really a happy, happy group of kids.
I think, in my opinion, for the particular reasons that they had unto themselves for us.
Q. A couple of the Texas A&M players were watching film of Stanley.
They kind of were amazed at some of the stuff he can do. You had Ray, Scotty, real special athletes. Where does he rank in that and how hard is to put the basketball part to the athletic part?
COACH CALHOUN: Well, athletically, you know, I wouldn’t have said this three months ago. Some of the things he’s done recently in games and in practice are equal to Rudy Gay. I said before, he’s not quite the Rudy athlete. He’s made plays that the only other guy we had that could make this type of play is Rudy Gay. The ball is much above the square, he plucks it down, does some special things.
Basketball wise, he’s got a great sense for the game. His problem simply is the Stanley Robinson gets down on himself. That’s been a big issue. The last two weeks, I’m not going to say much to him, because he’s on a great roll, and hopefully he continues to play as well as he has. I believe he will. His heart has always been in the right place.
Athletically, he would rate with anybody we’ve ever had. He makes plays that most guys couldn’t even think about making. When you face him, I imagine you don’t believe how quick. He jumps high, but he jumps quick, which is incredibly important obviously. He’s shooting the ball well. We practiced already this morning. No one worked harder than Stanley.
Q. Was there ever any doubt that you would not be back on Saturday?
Even when you were in the hospital, did they say it was touch and go or when did you know you’d be able to come back?
COACH CALHOUN: The only thing I knew simply is they were going to do the tests. If they didn’t find anything in the tests that was going to alarm them, then they just said, You are going to stay overnight because we’re going to do a couple procedures to check you out. It was relatively that simple. So I never had any great fear.
Now, I wanted to get out early so I’d be ready to meet with George before we started practice. So that’s where the bribing came taking place. I don’t know if you’re supposed to say that word in an NCAA press conference, ‘bribing,’ but, regardless, that’s what I did.
Q. Do you see any similarities between your team and what you’ve seen of Texas A&M?
COACH CALHOUN: I see some similarities, yeah. I think they’ve got good team size. We’re funny big. We have an enormous center obviously.
Then we have a 6’5″ power forward, then can we have Sticks, and Gavin at 6’8″. Probably overall they’re a bit bigger than we are, bigger at guards. I think both teams can really put points on the board. It appears both teams will win in not so high a scoring game. I think they’re playing much better defense now than they did 10, 12 games ago. They are playing good D. They’re making threes right now.
There are similarities and dissimilarities. But I think stylistically, both of us certainly want to run. But we’re not only that. We can run halfcourt stuff. We both want to get the ball inside.
No question about that. Carter is a great player. They can do something with him on the outside, shoot threes. Regardless, I would say particularly offensively, both teams have kind of a similar thing.
If you won’t give us the fast break, we’re going to run our stuff and try to get the ball inside first and kick it back out. That’s basically our philosophy, too.
Q. How important is it when you get into a tournament setting like this is it for a team to have mental toughness? Do you think this team could be one of those teams?
COACH CALHOUN: Well, I think when you go places, as I talked before, good to West Virginia, Louisville, Marquette, win in those kind of situations, you start telling yourself more about your team. Go to Gonzaga. Just recently we got ourselves involved in a six overtime game. Trust me, there were moments for both Syracuse and UConn that those teams could have said, It’s getting late, you know. There’s always next week. Neither team said that. It was a heck of an athletic contest where both teams showed a lot of grit.
Quickly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say how impressed I am with what Mark I remember him as a player with Roy. I like the way they play basketball. I think they go to their big people. They’re very well balanced. He’s had obviously a very good coaching career. He was a very good player. But I like their team. Sometimes you play against a team, you say, Well, they can do certain things, but I don’t particularly like that style.
I like the style. Okay, if you want to run with us, we’re going to try to put 90 on you. If you want to play halfcourt, we’ll play that way, too. They have, quite frankly, the talent and size to back it up.
They have a couple kids in their lineup who probably will have a very good chance of making some money playing basketball beyond college.
So they’re a very, very good basketball team. I think Mark has done an absolutely fabulous job with them. We know, and I told the kids this afternoon, you’re facing you didn’t face a Big East team yesterday. Their a good team, you played well, they didn’t play particularly well, you had a lot to do with that. But this is a Big East basketball team. This is the same kind of teams that we’ve had wars with all years, so let’s make sure we prepare ourselves.