Jim Calhoun may have retired last fall but he's as present today as he was at any point in his quarter-century as the Huskies basketball coach. But not in a bad way -- not like an overbearing parent who attends their kid's game, sits right next to the bench, and spends the next few hours yelling equally at the coach, the ref and the kid. Calhoun is more like the wise uncle who sits quietly in the back of the room but he's always there if you need him.
Except that he's not always quiet. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Before speaking at the St. Vincent's SWIM Across the Sound Sports Gala Wednesday, Calhoun spoke about making UConn basketball games an experience.
"We need to get back to having our games be an event," he said via the Hartford Courant's Dom Amore.
"If you remember our early days in The Big East, it was more than special," Calhoun continued. "They were special events -- every game was an event. [Monday night] against Louisville was more like an event, I could feel the buzz all day, playing the No.1 team in the country. It was more like you want it to be. We've all got to work to make this thing special again."
There are a number of factors for this "lack of buzz." One: it's winter break. Save the Louisville game, student, in general, don't flock back to school to watch the Huskies play Fordham or DePaul. Two: while the 2012-13 team has exceeded expectations, they lack star power (whether it's Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb or the thought of Andre Drummond) and most importantly: a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. These issues can't be discounted.
Not surprisingly, Calhoun has some ideas.
"There are a lot of things we could do," he said. "One thing, when I see that we have 10,000 or 9,000 seats sold at Gampel and only 6,000 are used. We should [text] our season ticket holders and say, 'if you're not going to use your tickets, please blast us back and let us know.' Then sell the tickets for five bucks, get people into the building. The perception is a big part of what's going on. … "We've got to get our message back out there. No, we're not selling out games. No, we don't have everything we want and there are a lot of things we need. … But just two years removed from a national championship, I think we're still in the right territory."
He's right. And it's not that different from the argument Geno Auriemma has made in the past. The difference, at least between the men's and women's game: if Kevin Ollie's Huskies start winning consistently, people will show up. Until then, we'll continue to have this conversation.