There’s so many similarities between two of the fiercest competitors in college hoops history.
As Jim Calhoun (aka Calhoun Bot 3000) walks away from UConn, Orange Nation can’t help but look back on the unforgettable history between Syracuse and the Huskies. Calhoun was a vital piece to this intense Big East rivalry. He spent 26 years in Connecticut, putting together a Hall-of-Fame resume: 10 Big East regular-season championships, 7 BE Tournament titles, 873 career wins, and of course, three national championships (1999, 2004, and 2010).
In every one of Calhoun’s duels with Syracuse, Jim Boeheim stood across from him on the opposing bench. A mutual respect was fostered over the years of the bitter rivalry. Boeheim didn’t hesitate to give props to his rival:
“I think it’s one of the great coaching jobs of all-time. I think the biggest thing for me is when you take over at a Kentucky or Kansas or North Carolina or Duke, it’s still a hard job but you’ve got so many assets and so much tradition. If you do a great job there, it’s great. But if you take over a program like Connecticut, which was still coming out of the Yankee Conference, and do what he’s done. It’s pretty remarkable.’’
The Boeheim/Calhoun battle predates even the Big East match ups. Boeheim’s Orange took on Calhoun’s Northeastern Huskies before he moved to UConn. Both coaching greats were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005 and shared the stage.
Does Calhoun’s retirement give Boeheim a reason to start thinking about his own timeline? The Per’fesser has been at it for 34 years, and he has to see his world changing drastically. Calhoun’s gone, a move to the ACC is coming, no more Georgetown battles or the Big East Tournament. He just overcame prostate cancer two years ago and endured the Bernie Fine allegations. Boeheim himself is crawling towards the age of 70. It makes you wonder how much time is left in his tenure at SU.
Boeheim and Calhoin were cut from the same cloth. Cranky, contentious coaches from the old school, ones that built their schools into national powers in the Big East. The duo has both suffered from the same type of cancer. Each has fought through recent controversy. Calhoun with recruiting scandals and the APR probation, Boeheim with Fab Melo’s suspensions and the Fine case. Neither is particularly media-friendly (although Jim has developed a softer side with national pundits). They may be foes on the basketball court, but they one in the same.
It still doesn’t feel like Boeheim is leaving any time soon, but we know the clock is ticking. He told Ian O’Connor of ESPN NY in March of ’11 he probably would not be around for another four years. He hasn’t indicated this would be his final season, and you’d have to imagine he wants a stab at Duke and UNC when the Orange enters the ACC next season. Recruiting has been terrific, the Orange is bringing in top tier talent. SU was within a whisker of another Final Four. There’s no pressure on him to move on. Boeheim has wished his best to Calhoun upon his retirement. And one day in the not too distant future, Calhoun will return the favor.
Posted: Brendan Glasheen