JOE D’S NOTEBOOK August 10th
SUNDAY- AUGUST 10- No football here, even though the Huskies continue to diligently prepare for the 2014 opener on August 29th against Brigham Young. More football later in the week.
No, today, it’s time to turn back the clock with UConn Men’s Basketball as the annual Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic is taking place at Mohegan Sun Casino. It’s an understatement to say it’s one of my favorite weekends of the year. It is always a great time with many of the greatest players of the last 25 years turn up in tribute to their head coach. It is even more special when the players reunite on the floor at Mohegan Sun Arena. The game took place for the 7th time on Friday night with some 34 Huskies turning up. Ray Allen, Ben Gordon, Kemba Walker, Khalid El-Amin Charlie Villeneuva and Jeremy Lamb and the rest give the fans their moneys worth. It’s funny, the guys always play the first three and a half quarters like an all star game and then if the game is close, treat the final five minutes like the NBA final. It’s the competitor in them and that was the case again this year with Walker,Lamb and El-Amin all hitting clutch spots in the last 30 seconds.
But the story of the weekend is never the game. It’s the camaraderie the players exhibit, the joy in reuniting with teamamtes, other former Huskies, their coaches and of course,the man who brought them to UConn, Jim Calhoun. The older the players get, it seems the laughs become heartier and the hugs more intense. It truly is a family that Calhoun has established and is being carried on by Kevin Ollie. Several current Huskies, led by Ryan Boatright, were on hand to watch the proceedings. The Huskies will be in good hands this year with Boatright as their leader. He gets it.
And the most important thing about the event is the money is makes for the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at the UConn Health Center. So far, over six and a half million dollars has been raised to do important medical work. More will be raised tonight with a spectacular high end live auction at the Cabaret before live shows by the spectacular Javier Colon. Then, the final event, golf tomorrow at the Golf Club of Avon. There will be more handshakes, more stories and more chances to reminisce.
And it is ironic that the Washington Mystics are here to play the Sun in a WNBA game today at the Arena and I got a chance to run into Stephanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, two more examples of the type of women who come out of Geno Auriemma’s program. It was terrific to catch up with both and their coach Mike Thibault.
Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic weekend, yes indeed, a wonderful time to remember the greatness of UConn Basketball.