Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Sort of Homecoming

Jim Calhoun returns to his roots when the UConn Huskies drive up to Boston on Friday to take part in Saturday's Hartford Hall of Fame Showcase doubleheader at TD Banknorth Garden. UConn faces No. 19 Gonzaga at 3:30 p.m., followed by Providence-Boston College at 6.

Calhoun grew up about 1 ½ miles from the old Boston Garden before moving to Braintree at age 7. He also coached at nearby Dedham High for two seasons and, of course, at Northeastern University for 14 years before coming to UConn in 1986.

Calhoun will have four sisters and a brother at the game, along with several nephews and nieces. Players he coached at both Dedham High and at Northeastern will also be there.

* Perhaps the most special part of the weekend, however, will be on Friday, when Calhoun and the Huskies hold a 1 ½-hour youth clinic at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury. Calhoun coached Lewis at Northeastern and still holds the late Celtic great near and dear to his heart. It’s also worth nothing that UConn assistant coach Andre Lafleur played with Lewis for four years at Northeastern and were college roommates.

* The three regional teams (UConn, Providence and BC) were given an allotment of 3,200 tickets each. Gonzaga was given 800. UConn and PC have sold out their allotment and have been asking for more. With the BC football team playing Virginia Tech for the ACC Championship on Saturday, about 800 tickets have been returned by BC fans.

As it stands, of the approximately 18,500 tickets available for the doubleheader, only about 1,000 remain. Some of the returned BC tickets are in the lower bowl and go for $77.50 apiece. Tickets available in the upper arena are priced at $27.50.

Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com, or in person at TD Banknorth ticket offices.

* Apparently, there have been some ticket requests from some major celebrities, including members of the Cleveland Cavaliers (LeBron, anyone?) who will face the Celtics at the Garden on Sunday afternoon.

Numerous Hall of Famers will be in attendance as well, including Walt Bellamy, Wayne Embree, Marcus Haynes, Meadowlark Lemon, Norwalk native Calvin Murphy and Dolph Schayes. Organizers tried hard to get ex-Celtic greats Bob Cousy and John Havileck to come, but both had prior commitments in Florida.

* Speaking of Florida, Calhoun jokingly said he tried to set up Gonzaga with a game in the Sunshine State tomorrow night to further tire out the already road-wear ‘Zags.

“If they had nothing better to do Friday night, I’d have had them play in Miami and have them drive up Saturday for the game,” Calhoun quipped.

Gonzaga played in the Great Alaska Shootout Nov. 22-24 and plays St. Joseph’s tonight in Philadelphia before heading to Boston for Saturday’s game.

“It hasn’t line up as well as I’d like,” ‘Zags coach Mark Few admitted. “We had delays from Alaska on Sunday. But it is what it is. We need to step up and play.”

Of course, Gonzaga will already be playing without All-America candidate Josh Heytvelt and freshman point guard Steven Gray.

* Incidentally, UConn has agreed to face Gonzaga at a neutral site next season out in Washington.

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