Thursday, January 10, 2008

Emotional days for Calhoun

Some very interesting things out of UConn practice today, much of which had nothing to do with Saturday’s big game with Georgetown at the MCI Center (more on that tomorrow).

Jim Calhoun has run the gamut of emotions over the past few days, attending the wake and funeral of his brother-in-law, Dr. Larry McDevitt, Jr., on Sunday and Monday, leaving Tuesday night’s St. John’s game early, then addressing a dozen young Red Sox prospects during the team’s Rookie Orientation Program on Wednesday.

Calhoun explained how difficult the last few days have been for him and his family after the death of his brother-in-law, Dr. Larry McDevitt, Jr. Calhoun and his wife, Pat, attended the same church growing up, and all 12 siblings on both sides of the family are very close. Dr. McDevitt is the first of the siblings to pass away, and Calhoun said it was “very unexpected.”

“The death in our family certainly affected me and certainly affected my wife,” the coach said. “It was, emotionally, a very difficult time for me.”

Calhoun missed practice both on Sunday and Monday prior to Tuesday night’s win over St. John’s at Gampel Pavilion. He could have made Monday’s practice, he added, but instead stayed around his old neighborhood in Braintree, Mass. with his brother and wife. Calhoun left the St. John’s game with just under 15 minutes remaining due, in part, to the emotions of the prior two days catching up with him.

“My nerves were very raw,” said Calhoun, who was a pallbearer at the funeral at Sacred Heart Church in Weymouth, Mass.

On Wednesday, on the invite of Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, Calhoun spoke to a group of Red Sox prospects, including rookie phenom Clay Buchholz, author of a no-hitter in his second major league start this past season. Calhoun stressed a few different points, one of which came as somewhat of a surprise: be accommodating to the media.

“Not that you can’t fight with them, because that’s inevitable, but (let them do) their jobs,” Calhoun said. “For everybody that I’ve gone after, either wrongly or because I was protecting one of my kids, I’ve tried to at least let them know that it isn’t a personal thing. I never thought Jim Rice ever did that. You just can’t leave it dangling out there, there’s got to be some finality to it.

“Somewhere along the line, you’ve got to let them see the human side of you, because they’re doing their job. It’s good advice for a kid coming into a place like Boston, where they really truly care and everything they write is read. And re-read again.”

Calhoun also told them to respect their coaches and managers while on the way up.

“I said to them, there will be a point in your career when some manager is going to say something to you. When you say something back to him, when you’re hitting .212 … if Manny wants to be Manny, that’s O.K. But Joe can’t be Joe. That’s from the coach’s side, trust me.”

Then, perhaps remembering this summer’s no-hitter, Calhoun added, “Buchholz can be Buchholz, if he wants.”

The 12 prospects at the week-long orientation are Buchholz, Devern Hansack, Michael Bowden, Hunter Jones, Justin Masterson, Dustin Richardson, Dusty Brown, Aaron Bates, Chris Carter, Jed Lowrie, Bubba Bell and Jonathan Van Every.
Calhoun, of course, is a diehard Red Sox fan – something he reminded the dozen prospects of.

“When I leave here,” he told them, “I’ll be one of those guys sitting on my couch bitching at you. But I’ll really be rooting for you.”

Some other tidbits:

  • Calhoun didn’t particularly like the way Hasheem Thabeet practiced today, “and yet he wasn’t bad.” Thabeet has battled a cold over the past few days, Calhoun noted, and the coach wondered if Thabeet was saving himself a bit for Saturday’s showdown with fellow 7-footer Roy Hibbert and the Hoyas. Calhoun recounted a story he’d heard of Wilt Chamberlain, who never used to attend morning shootarounds. When 76er coach Dolph Schayes finally asked him to start attending, Chamberlain replied, “You want me in the morning, or you want me at night? You’ve got me once a day.”
    “I don’t know if Hasheem is saying to me, ‘You want me Saturday, or you want me today?”
  • Jerome Dyson hails from nearby Rockville, Md and will have “about 20 or 30” family members and friends in attendance at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C.
  • Calhoun steadfastly believes Jim Rice should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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