By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Former Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun and UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma were inducted Wednesday into the state’s Hall of Fame.
The coaches, both already members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, had their names added to a wall that includes such Connecticut icons as author Mark Twain, lexicographer Noah Webster and baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson.
Calhoun guided the Huskies to three national titles in his 26 years at UConn before retiring after the 2011-12 season.
“It’s really great,” he said. “It only took me 26 years, but it took Mark Twain 150 to get into the Hall of Fame.”
Auriemma, who coached his team to the program’s eighth national title earlier this month, joked that he was there to represent actor Paul Newman, a 2009 inductee.
“It’s unbelievably rewarding and humbling and you’re grateful and appreciative anytime someone wants to honor you for what you’ve done,” Auriemma said. “And certainly some of the names on that wall are some of the greatest names in the history of not just Connecticut, but in the history of their field.”
The two other members of this year’s class were Roger Sherman, a founding father who helped draft the Declaration of Independence and toy maker A.C. Gilbert, best known for creating the Erector Set.
The small Hall of Fame is located in the state Legislative Office Building adjacent to the state Capitol
It was established in 2005 to recognize the outstanding achievements of people from Connecticut, both nationally and internationally. Only 16 people are members.
State Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. said there is no doubt the two basketball coaches belong on that list for their work in motivating young people to become winners.
“They have lifted up our state university, not only for us to see, in terms of their accomplishments, but all across America,” he said.
The induction ceremony coincided with the annual “Husky Day” at the state Capitol, which included a reception for the school’s basketball and football teams.
As usual, lawmakers and staffers fawned over the players and coaches, many asking for autographs. Some brought basketballs to sign. Others brought their children with them in the hopes of getting a photo with a player or coach.
Several encouraged Shabazz Napier, a junior guard on the men’s basketball team, to stay in school one more year.
Napier, who is considering entering the NBA draft, said he has not yet made a decision.
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