"I cringe," Allen said, "just cringe during practice when one of the coaches is giving instructions and one of the players starts bouncing the ball. Coach Calhoun would put us out on the line [for extra running], and I'd cringe. That's still in me; if the coach is talking, I make sure the ball doesn't fall."
In the NBA, Allen said, coaches don't run as "tight a ship, but in college we craved the discipline."
It's the discipline that comes, Calhoun explained, as he has so many times, from tough love, the desire to make players better. And the number of players who have forged NBA careers, many of whom returned to Gampel Pavilion on Sunday night to honor Calhoun, gives testimony to how well he succeeded.
"It shows the love, it shows the trust," Kevin Ollie said. "Everybody coming back just shows respect because he gave us respect by pushing us hard. We didn't think it was respect at the time, but he saw something inside of us that we didn't see inside of ourselves. He made us believe in the dark."
More than 600 gathered to pay tribute to Calhoun, 71, who retired as coach a year ago and turned the program he built over to Ollie, who played at UConn and then 13 years in the NBA. One by one, players from the 26-year Calhoun era came to the lectern and poked gentle fun at his Boston accent, his penchant for embellishment and his tough love, but several broke down when they described what Calhoun meant to their lives and careers.
At the end of the night, UConn announced that the road running past Gampel Pavilion, Stadium Drive, would be renamed "Jim Calhoun Way."
"We became men under his watch," Allen said. "And that network grows so far. Guys are playing all over the world, and each of us has something from him within us."
The court was filled with players from all eras, from Steve Pikiell, who played for Calhoun's from 1987-91, to Andre Drummond, who played one year at UConn (Calhoun's last as head coach) and was one of the NBA's top rookies . last season. Calhoun won three national championships at UConn and sent many players on to professional career
"A long, long time ago," Calhoun said, "I said I wanted to get into coaching to hopefully affect some people's lives. I know they affected mine. … Seeing all these guys is incredibly emotional for me. You look at them and say, 'There's that kid who walked in here as a 17-year-old, and look where he is now."
Former AD Lew Perkins, former coach Dee Rowe and dozens of former players and coaches paid tribute after Gov. Dannel Malloy's opening remarks. Proceeds are going to the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at the UConn Health Center and the new basketball training facility being built next door.
"This is about 25, 26 years of UConn basketball," Calhoun said. "We're going on now, but this is a nice way to put some finalization on it. Sometimes, you need to look back and make sure you say, 'Hey, that's pretty cool. That was a pretty cool era.'"
To the audience, Calhoun issued a challenge much like one he might have issued in a locker room. "Take what we have," he said, "and do something with it. That's our goal."
Kevin Freeman, who played on UConn's first national championship team in 1999, became emotional as he described hard times when his overseas playing career ended. Calhoun offered him the chance to start a new career in coaching, and he is beginning his third season as director of basketball operations.
"You can't fake love," Calhoun said when he got up to speak at the end. "You either do, or you don't."
Video tributes were recorded by Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo and Jim Nantz. Speakers included Scott Burrell, Rudy Gay, Jake Voskuhl, Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Pikiell and Kemba Walker.
UConn president Susan Herbst riffed about what Calhoun, who loves politics, might have been like as a U.S. senator, saying he might have broken all records for filibustering.
One of Calhoun's predecessors as basketball coach, Rowe, and current baseball coach Jim Penders spoke movingly of Calhoun's achievements as coach, and his cultural impact on the school and the state.
"Everybody said it so eloquently," Ollie said. "What he's taught me is greatness is never on discount, success is never on sale. It's never half-price, it's all day, every day, and that's what we always believed. And that's why we've been able to be great businessmen or go out and do anything in life."