Jim Calhoun Talks Turkeys, St. Joseph's, UConn At His Annual Holiday Food Drive

Jim Calhoun walked through the door to a familiar sight: hundreds of bags of groceries ready to be handed out to the people lined up almost completely around the Pope Park Community Center on Wednesday.

“Holiday seasons aren’t great for everybody, you know,” he said. “If we can bring a little sunshine, a happy moment, a smile. That’s a great night. It’s a nice holiday gift for Pat and I.”

Calhoun, 75, began his holiday food drive 19 years ago and it has been a part of his calendar ever since, through the glory years at UConn, through retirement and now as he moves full speed ahead with his new challenge — starting up the Division III men’s basketball program at St. Joseph’s in West Hartford.

“It’s a whole new world for them,” Calhoun said, before sitting down to sign autographs Wednesday. “We’re working with an architect, looking at drawings of a new building — 18 months to two years. Everyday is something different. I’m excited, it’s been fun.”

Calhoun, who is officially a “consultant” and Glen Miller, who has the title “associate director,” have been out looking at players.

“We have 22 on the board right now,” Calhoun said. “I’ve been out, my wife says too much. Every kid thinks, in prep schools, he’s going to be a Division I player. And when the money doesn’t come? … Hellooo. We’re here.”

Details of Calhoun’s role and title at St. Joe’s will be worked out later, as he is still under contract at UConn. But he has some interesting ideas for year one, while a new gym is built on campus.

“We’re debating exactly what we’re going to do,” he said, “but I would like to get a game at Mohegan Sun, and I wouldn’t mind playing, if UConn has a 7:30 game, playing [the XL Center] at 5, someone local, like Trinity College.”

In the meantime, Calhoun keeps track of Kevin Ollie’s Huskies, going to most home games. He was at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, when UConn lost to Syracuse, 72-63. The Huskies, Calhoun thinks, need to develop an identity.

“I just think we’re fluctuating so much, with Alterique [Gilbert] out right now,” Calhoun said, “and when you fluctuate you’ve probably got to simplify. We need to figure out what we’re going to try to do every single night. We have really good aspects, we’ve got to find the best way to use them.

“It’s hard sometimes, because we’re trying to develop our front court, do this, this and that. We have a very good back court, five guys who can play on the perimeter, most teams don’t have that. And we’ve got to simplify what we do and hope to continue to work on what we’re really good at, and do that. Syracuse, you know what they did? Play a zone, protect the rim, and won because of the 2-3 zone. We’ve got to find our niche as the season goes on. I have a lot of confidence in Kevin. I think we have good players.”

Over 19 years, Calhoun’s food drive has distributed more than 15,000 holiday dinners — frozen turkeys and fixings. The 500 dinners given out this year were funded by Calhoun with donations from ShopRite and Omar Coffee.

Subscribe and listen to the UConn Insider Podcast

iTunes | Soundcloud | Google Play | Stitcher | TuneIn

Copyright © 2018, CT Now