Sixty-nine-year-old Huskies men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun has a temper. We know this because, like you, we've watched enough UConn games to know that Calhoun doesn't deal well with mistakes, particularly mental ones.
Which explains why he gave freshman DeAndre Daniels the look after Daniels used the team's last timeout late in last weekend's Rutgers game that the Huskies would eventually lose. But Calhoun did more than just stare a hole through Daniels, he also put his hands on the freshman, which so outraged the Hartford Courant that they sent the video and still photos to the university. (You can see the video of the incident here.)
We didn't see the play live, but we've watched the video a few times and our reaction is the same: what's the problem?
There's no question that Calhoun touched Daniels, and that his fist was clenched prior to doing so. We have no idea if he punched the freshman, but the look on Daniels' face was more "I'm about to get an earful from this ornery old-timer … again" than "I just got sucker-punched and now I'm equal parts shocked and in pain."
No matter, UConn reviewed the incident and determined -- like us -- that appear ready to move on.
"Interim Athletic Director Paul Pendergast has reviewed the incident and the University will have no further comment."
But not without Calhoun first clarifying his intentions.
"I'm sorry if people misconstrued my interaction with DeAndre Daniels, made in an effort to get his attention in the final minutes of the Rutgers game. DeAndre and I have spoken about it."
So that's it, right? Not quite. The Courant's Jeff Jacobs writes:
Speaking of thin lines, there is an even thinner one between genius and coaching insanity. And while Calhoun has constantly toed that line en route to three national titles, he has managed not to cross it too many times. Saturday night, he stuck a fist on the wrong side of that line.
Calhoun's ardent supporters, or those simply too exhausted to spar with Calhoun, will say, "Oh, that's just Jim being Jim." That line covers a lot, but not all of it. This may be a quaint little notion from a quaint little sports writer. But college coaches are teachers, too. There are lots of ways to get a student-athlete's attention. Working the belly like you're Rocky Marciano shouldn't be one of them.
Look, we don't condone striking players. But we also grew up in the '80s when hard-nosed coaches -- from high school through Little League -- also weren't afraid to put a hand on a player's shoulder, or show them the proper way to box out, lower their shoulder or anything else that required physical contact.
Should Calhoun have slapped Daniels in the stomach? No, probably not. But not a weekend goes by where we don't see football coaches grab players by the facemask to get their attention, usually after they've committed a silly penalty that cost their team. No one complains about that because, we suppose, football is a physical sport. Well, we've got news for you: so is basketball.
If we want to call out Calhoun for his lax approach to academics or the suspect recruiting methods that eventually got him suspended, fine. Those are fair game and worth our time. This is not.