Mar 31, 2011, 5:25 PM EDT
Jim Calhoun hasn’t been shy about proclaiming his love for this Final Four team. Comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores, it’s overachieved all season and is now two wins from a national title.
That’d make you fond of any team.
But even more than the wins, is how UConn got here. It defied expectations all season, won five straight Big East tournament games (a first) and four in the NCAA tournament. How? The Huskies (30-9) thrived because they took after their coach.
Perhaps more than any other team in his 25 seasons at UConn, this group has taken on Calhoun’s personality.
From the day his father died when Calhoun was just a teenager and he was left to take care of the family left behind, this stubborn Irishman from Boston has always been a battler. He has never backed down from a fight and his teams have always reflected that. The 2010-11 Huskies just took it to a different level.
“Being with him these few months, I understand who he is,” freshman guard Shabazz Napier said. “I feel we don’t [back] down from any fight. We’re willing to battle any time and that’s the type of person he is. He’s a strong person and he won’t let anyone poke you around. He’s got your back and the same thing for us. No matter what goes on, we always have his back.”
And more from the Huskies.
“He’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever, ever witnessed,” sophomore center Alex Oriakhi said. “A lot of people may not agree with the way he coaches, but you can’t disagree with how bad he wants to win. That’s just something we feed off of. This team wants to win so bad, every game. We’ve been playing our hearts out and he coaches his heart out. We know it’s tough love and if we aren’t playing our best we’re going to hear it.”
That doesn’t always work with a team. Players respond differently to criticism (including some UConn players), which can sometimes sink a team.
But it’s worked for UConn this season. Credit Calhoun and his guys for making it work – in a big way.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.
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