Monday, March 30, 2009

H to the Izzo

Check out tomorrow's Register for a feature on the (somewhat unlikely) friendship between Jim Calhoun and Tom Izzo.

Throughout the season, Calhoun has told us several times, "I talked to Tom Izzo last night …" We've always wondered what exactly goes on in those conversations, and here's a snippet: Last month, shortly after the whole "not one dime back" controversy, Calhoun got a call from Izzo.

"Thanks," said Izzo.

"What for?" Calhoun asked.

"Now, we're all alerted that we're going to get asked that same question. You had to be the guinea pig, but that's tough."

It's not one of the more likely friendships in college basketball: Calhoun, the 66-year-old cantankerous Irishman from Boston; Izzo, the 54-year-old affable Italian from Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Their personalities, at least off the court, are pretty different. Veteran UConn beat writers still talk about the time when, the night before a UConn-Michigan State game nine years ago out in East Lansing, Izzo broke away from a boosters event at a local restaurant to shoot the breeze with the enemy reporters for a short time. That's not exactly something Calhoun would be wont to do.

Still, it's safe to say that Izzo is one of Calhoun's best friends in the coaching fraternity.

"I couldn't have more respect for him," said Calhoun. "I consider him a dear friend."

Now, Calhoun has been known to overstate his friendships with other coaches. If nothing else, Izzo certainly upholds the mutual admiration society going on between the two coaches.

"I've always appreciated guys who are demanding, who hold people accountable," Izzo said. "Every year I call him a couple off times. I just love the way his teams play, love the way he develops players. He gets so many guys where you're like, 'God, where did he come from? He wasn't on any All-America list.' He's a very good judge of talent. Like all coaches in my world, I try to learn from them. He's one that's been successful."

Read more in tomorrow's Register …

***Prior to the loss at Pittsburgh on March 7, Jerome Dyson told me – with straight face – that he could return to action if the Huskies make it to the Final Four.

"It's not gonna happen," Calhoun said on Monday.

Not without some minor protestations from Dyson, however.

"I still do feel like that. I feel good," he said. "The doctors told me that if this was my last year or something like that, there would still be a chance of me playing. But the risks outweigh the positives at this point – not going out there and risking tearing it again over having a full year to do my thing next year.

"I don't have any say in it. If they don't want me to play, I'm not going to play."

***Calhoun is playing up the fact that the Spartans could have a huge homecourt advantage, with Saturday's game being played at Ford Field, about 90 miles from East Lansing.

"We’ll have the white (or gray) uniforms on, that’s the closest we’ll be to being the home team, I think," he said. "It's just a fact of life we're going to have to face. I'm treating it like a road game, to be honest with you … I guess when the 50,000 people start screaming, it's going to matter because I can't talk to my team. Will it be more like a road game? Sure it will be."

Still, only 3,750 tickets are dispersed to each team. The rest have probably all been sold, and it's a safe bet not a lot of Michigan State fans bought them, fully expecting to be in the Final Four. Sure, there will be more Spartan fans than Husky fans in Detroit (like there were at least twice as many Mizzou fans as UConn fans in Glendale on Saturday). But 50,000 MSU fans? Doubt it.

***I'm more old-school when it comes to rap (Public Enemy, BDP, Beastie Boys), but today's music quiz question: Who performed the song "H to the Izzo"?

***Stanley Robinson wasn't available for today's media availability. Seems Sticks wasn't pleased with how his hair looked.

***Jeff Adrien warmed up and stretched with the team and shot free throws, but didn't participate fully in practice due to tendonitis in his right knee. He'll be fine for Saturday. Hasheem Thabeet (left index finger) practiced and is fine.

***Rashad Anderson called A.J. Price the other day.

"He told us, it's something special, you're going to remember it, and we need to go there and make the most of it and try to finish this thing off," Price said.

Thirty years ago, A.J.'s dad, Tony, played in the Final Four with Penn. The Quakers lost to Magic Johnson's Michigan State, who went on to beat Larry Bird and Indiana State.

"We found it kind of ironic, going to the Final Four and playing the same team."

***UConn will leave for Detroit after practice Wednesday in Storrs. They'll get to practice twice inside Ford Field – for about an hour, 45 minutes on Thursday in a closed practice, and again in an open practice on Friday. That's new this year: in the past, teams only had one open practice, and that was it. This will help the Huskies get used to the cavernous background of Ford Field.

***The burgeoning question of the day: How will Calhoun react to the raised court at Ford Field?
"That's a very interesting, deep question," he said, with a smile. "I didn't like Purdue, I didn't like Minnesota, I didn’t like being below, because it's hard to get at people that way. I used to be able to. George (Blaney) might like it a lot better."

Indeed, Blaney is often the target of Calhoun's in-game rants.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


7:05 PM 
Blogger David Borges said...


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