CenterStage premiere: Jim Calhoun

12/21/2012 1:55 PM ET
By staff

Catch the premiere of CenterStage with Jim Calhoun on Dec. 25 at 3 p.m. (Ellen Wallop/YES Network)
As the head coach at the University of Connecticut, Jim Calhoun won 618 games, nine Big East crowns, seven Big East Tournaments, and three National Championships. On Christmas Day, Calhoun sits down with Michael Kay for the first time, as the legendary coach is the guest on an all-new edition of CenterStage.

From his days as a prep collegiate hoops star, to his first coaching gig at Old Lyme (CT) High School, to his 866 wins in the NCAA realm, the 70-year-old Calhoun re-lives every step of his journey from Braintree, Mass., to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Calhoun's premiere kicks off an 11-hour CenterStage marathon on YES, and here's a little snippet of what you'll hear during the legend's sit-down with Kay:

Calhoun on when he decided to step down from coaching:
“My third bout with cancer, and it happened last spring, which we didn’t talk much about. And I had a situation where an old cancer has come back five years later and had come in my ribs area. They take it out and it wasn’t necessarily a big deal…it was a big deal, I shouldn’t say it wasn’t a big deal; it was a big deal, in a sense. But from a recovery standpoint, it wasn’t. And they found out the tracings on that were of a cell of five years ago that they took out of my neck.

I had the skin cancer. Then I break my hip. The first time—I honestly mean this—I thought about after the National Championship two years ago of stepping down. But this is the first time I ever really just sat down as a human being and looked at it and said, “Jeez, let me consider now everything that’s going on.” And I made the decision to be the best time.”

On why he chose Kevin Ollie as his successor:
“Well, I think Kevin Ollie epitomized everything we wanted in a basketball player. You know, he had been a four-year starter, came from South Central L.A. He went on to have a fourteen-year NBA career, playing with ten different teams and had seventeen ten-day contracts. Now, you talk about a man with perseverance. He is also a man who understands the deal of life. And, so therefore, after being with me for two years, I felt Kevin was the right pick for UConn.”

On the legendary six-overtime game against Syracuse in the 2009 Big East Tournament:
“I came out of that game, every one of those timeouts, as we headed to the next overtime, thinking that “We shoulda had it, we shoulda had it, we’ll get it next time.” Of course, we kept losing players, as Jimmy did, but The only thing I regret is I didn’t understand just what I had been involved with. I just thought it was a loss. And I thought that for the first like twenty-five minutes.

And then I realized, as I started to kinda sit in the room afterwards talking to the press, etc., that was incredible. I mean, no one would lose. I mean, it wasn’t like no one would win… I have been involved in a situation where, “Does anybody want, want to win this game?” That game was what…the team that Jimmy had, no one wanted to lose. And it was incredible. You won’t see anything like that ever happen again.

And I am the coach. I am not supposed to be saying, “Well, this is gonna be a story.” No, this is gonna be a win, you know? Let’s advance in the tournament. And then, it hit me right after the press conference. Guys are asking me all these great questions that, you know, one or two, two o’clock in the morning, about philosophically, how did I feel? Lousy. We lost. But slowly but surely, you realize what everyone had just given out. But it was clearly a historical moment. And if I were to lose to anybody, because of the way I feel about Jim and what he has meant to the game, Jim Boeheim would be the guy.”

On what UConn’s 1999 National Championship meant to the state of Connecticut:
“Of a state of 3.4 million people, there were estimates anywhere between four and five hundred thousand that came out for the parade. I still remember getting off the plane, the ride we had back to campus, which is probably in the neighborhood of eighteen, nineteen miles, lined with people stopping on Route 84 on the Interstate, and just bowing down to the team. People up on roofs. And it was one of the more amazing things I have ever seen in my life.

And so I always believe—and you asked me before, “Did you ever believe this would happen?” I thought we could do something most people can’t in the East: We could captivate a state. In Boston, the reason Rick Pitino and I fought? We were number ten, fighting for number nine. Because you had the Red Sox, the Bruins, the Patriots, Harvard, I mean, right on down the line. And when you said the interest in UConn is incredible—it is incredible.”

Catch the premiere of an all-new CenterStage with Jim Calhoun on Tuesday, Dec. 25 at 3 p.m., immediately following Nets basketball on YES, with an encore presentation on Thursday, Dec. 27 at noon. comments