Two Coaches Follow Parallel Paths
NEW YORK (AP) -- Their roots run deep and their coaching careers have mirrored each other's for decades. Hardly surprising then that Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim will end up in the Basketball Hall of Fame on the very same day.
"To go in with Jim is very fitting," Calhoun said. "I couldn't get somebody that I've been so parallel with over the past 20 years as Jim Boeheim."
Both recorded their 700th win within a week of each other last season and are tied for sixth on the active career victory list with 703 wins. Boeheim won his first NCAA title in 2003 and Calhoun won his second the following year.
|Jim Calhoun (left) and Jim Boeheim (right) will both be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Sept. 9. (AP)|
"He put it in perspective and told me exactly what happened to him," Calhoun said. "Jim took me through the scenario of what would happen. Jim has been in my life more than I realize. We're the two old-timers in the league, but we're also two friends."
This Friday they will both be enshrined at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. The other inductees are coach and broadcaster Hubie Brown, Brazilian women's star Hortencia Marcari and LSU coach Sue Gunter, who will be honored posthumously.
Calhoun said the emotion has been building for the last several days. Boeheim acknowledges there will be some jitters.
"You start thinking about it a little bit more," Boeheim said. "I'm going out recruiting Sunday so that takes a little bit of the edge off."
Boeheim is entering his 30th year with his alma mater. Calhoun, a staunch New Englander, also has stayed close to home. The Braintree, Mass., native coached 14 years at Northeastern and is in his 20th season at UConn. Both share a deep passion for basketball, Big East-style.
UConn and Syracuse were among the charter members when former commissioner Dave Gavitt assembled a league of seven Northeast schools in 1979 that quickly became a national power. Boeheim was there at the start, Calhoun arrived seven years later.
"The first Big East meeting I went to there was P.J. Carlesimo (Seton Hall), John Thompson (Georgetown), Louie Carnesecca (St. John's), Rick Pitino (Providence), Jim Boeheim, Jimmy O'Brien (Boston College) and Rollie Massimino (Villanova)," Calhoun said. "That's what we faced when we came to the Big East. That coaching array alone I think made the Big East very special."
Their dual induction comes as no surprise to Gavitt, who also was chairman of the board at the Hall of Fame for seven years.
"I know it's a high bar," Gavitt said. "Both have withstood the test of time and have done it very well. Their impact on the Big East was significant. The rapid growth of the Big East in the 1980s where we really established ourselves was all about coaches."
They will become the third and fourth Big East coaches in the Hall. Carnesecca and Thompson were inducted in 1992 and 1999, respectively.
"They are great, great coaches and they were consistent, too," Carnesecca said. "They maintained it and that's the toughest thing to do. We left it in good hands and I couldn't be more pleased for them."
The duo's loyalty to the conference came to the fore nearly three years ago when the Atlantic Coast Conference wooed Big East schools Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College _ primarily for football. The Big East sued, and Calhoun and Boeheim were among the harshest critics of the ACC's move.
"No two people stood up during those very, very difficult times and expressed such sincere support for the league," Commissioner Mike Tranghese said. "I know it's something I won't forget. When you're being attacked and you have two high-profile coaches just come off winning national championships it gave a lot of incentive to our league."
The legal wrangling between the conferences eventually was settled out of court. The ACC did get its three new members. The Big East replenished its ranks with the likes of Cincinnati, Marquette, DePaul, South Florida and Louisville.
"The Big East, I think, we belong here," Boeheim said. "Even though we've added some teams from outside, we're still fundamentally the Big East. And I think we're better off than we would be in a southern conference."
This winter, the Big East will tip off with a blend of the old, the new and a couple of Hall of Famers. Longevity and loyalty helped get them there.
"Calhoun has almost become the face of Connecticut and Jim Boeheim bleeds orange," Tranghese said.
Calhoun offers a slightly different take: "Any guy who says Syracuse is nicer than Hawaii in the winter, you need to know: a) he needs his head examined and b) he's loyal to his school."