In the 20 years prior to Jim Calhoun's arrival in 1986 as men's basketball coach at the University of Connecticut, the Huskies registered three 20-win seasons. In the 20 years since, Calhoun's teams accomplished that feat 16 times, as well as winning 30 games six times - something never done before in UConn history. Add to that two National Championships, 10 regular season Big East league titles, 6 Big East tournament titles, an NIT tournament championship, and a long list of NBA draftees and success stories, and there is no question when you are learning basketball from Jim Calhoun, you're learning from one of the elite coaches in the sport's history.
Calhoun began his Div. I coaching career at Northeastern University, leading those Huskies to five NCAA tournament appearances in six years, and five ECAC North Atlantic league titles. Calhoun, who is so closely associated with his accomplishments at UConn, remains the winningest coach in Northeastern history, with 250 wins and five 20-win seasons to his credit.
Known for his fiery demeanor and uncompromising approach, Calhoun - who may have forged his toughness after leaving college initially to work as a granite cutter and grave digger - won his first NCAA National Championship in 1999. The Huskies, led by eventual NBA superstar Richard "Rip" Hamilton, bested the powerhouse Duke University Blue Devils 77-74 in the championship, successfully culminating the first of Calhoun's two trips to the Final Four. The trip was repeated in 2004, with Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon leading the way against Georgia Tech.
To open the 2006-07 season Calhoun was 18th on the all-time NCAA Men's Div. I career victories list, amassing a 733-314 record, good for a .700 winning percentage during 34 years of coaching.
The mere mention of the name sets off a slew of images.
Maybe it’s a behind-the-back pass after a mad dash down the court or a perfect shot from 30 feet. Everyone has memories of a grinning Earvin Johnson, because he was, indeed, “Magic” on the court.
Never has a nickname been more appropriate or stuck so well. And never has one been more synonymous with greatness. Magic Johnson won five NBA Championships, played in nine finals and earned three league MVP awards with the Los Angeles Lakers. But that’s just one part of the Hall of Famer’s legend.
A flair accompanied Johnson’s exploits. So did an unbridled enthusiasm rarely seen in a professional athlete, let alone a superstar. Part of the 1980s L.A. teams’ allure was not only the winning, but the sizzle the up-tempo “Showtime” Lakers, led by the charming Johnson at point guard, provided to fans.
Johnson’s mastery of the point guard position provided another part of his legend. Big men just didn’t play the point. The 6-foot-9 Johnson was the tallest in history – and the best.
Johnson led the Michigan State Spartans to an NCAA Championship as a sophomore in 1979, and then declared for the NBA Draft. The Lakers selected him first overall. Within months he dominated as a 20-year-old. Johnson earned MVP of the finals as the Lakers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers for the championship. In one game, Johnson subbed for an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center and scored 42 points.
But Johnson’s true home was on the perimeter, and that’s where he developed into one of the all-time greats throughout the 1980s as the Lakers built a dynasty.
Players rarely reached “triple doubles” – double digits in points, rebounds and assists – before Johnson played. He nearly averaged one for his career (19.5 points, 11.2 assists and 7.2 rebounds) and the term became part of basketball’s lexicon.
The Lakers won championships in 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988. Johnson won his first MVP award in 1987. He won again 1989 and 1990. The smile never left his face, either.
Bill Walton put the final touches on a hall of fame career during two years with the Boston Celtics in the mid-1980s. What it took the MVP-turned-top sixth man to get those seasons should not be overlooked. Few athletes were better at their sport - or more driven - than the iconic Walton. After winning two national championships and three straight College Players of the Year Awards at UCLA, the Portland Trailblazers selected Walton first overall in 1974 NBA Draft. For the next few seasons Walton was either a dominant force or injured. At his best Walton was a franchise player, a dynamic once-in-a-generation talent. He led the Blazers to the 1976-77 NBA Championship and was named MVP of the finals. The next year he won league MVP. But chronic foot problems and other injuries wreaked havoc on his career. The 6-foot-11 center missed three complete seasons in his prime, and he only played 468 games in 10 seasons. Rather than retire, Walton underwent an extreme surgery in 1981 that lowered the high arch believed to make his foot bones susceptible to breaking. This allowed less stress on the bones when he landed. Walton gradually came back, playing about a game a week for the San Diego Clippers in 1983-84. By 1985-86 was back to full-time duty, winning a NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics and the league's Sixth Man Award after coming off the bench for 78 of his 80 games. He played the next season before retiring. Regarded as one of the more eclectic athletes, Walton attended Stanford Law School during his basketball hiatus and has played drums with the Grateful Dead. Today, he is regarded as one of basketball's most insightful commentators. Born November 5, 1952 in La Mesa, California Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993 NBA All-Star selection in 1976-77 and 1977-78 First-team All-NBA selection 1977-78 Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996 Last player to win back-to-back MVP awards in the NCAA Tournament (1972 and 1973) Scored 44 points and made 21 of 22 shots in the 1973 NCAA championship game against Memphis State