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Riding an emotional wave

Final Four berth just part of trying month for Calhoun

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Posted: Tuesday March 23, 1999 09:46 PM

  Off the court things may change, but on the court Calhoun's teams are consistent winners. AP

STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Jim Calhoun's passion for basketball is out there for everyone to see.

Away from the court, life becomes more complicated for Connecticut's winningest coach.

Since the postseason began, Calhoun has experienced the joys of a first grandchild and the death of a friend. Both were much on his mind when the Huskies advanced to their first Final Four.

It was more than enough to make a 56-year-old coach cry, and he didn't care who saw.

"I found myself more nostalgic," Calhoun said Tuesday. "I found that tears and outward emotions don't seem to be the one thing that I have a problem hiding anymore or see fit to hide over the past couple weeks. It gives me a different perspective on a couple different things, particularly my own journey through this life."

His trek through college basketball, as coach of Northeastern for 14 years and at UConn since 1986, has been a steady climb to the top. He has a career record of 552-257 and is the only coach in Division I history to have at least 250 wins at two different schools.

He remains the winningest coach at Northeastern with a 250-137 record. On Jan. 23, he earned his 287th win at UConn, making him the winningest coach in school history. Saturday's win over Gonzaga in the West Regional title game sends Calhoun to his first Final Four.

"Over the past few three or four days, I'm getting a much better feeling for what that bright light of the Final Four can do," he said. "People get a chance to look closer at your program, at your career, at what our kids have achieved."

One of his "kids" was 26-year-old Joe McGinn. A popular team manager from 1992-95, he had kidney disease most of his life and died March 9 as the team was preparing for its first-round game in Denver.

The bond between the two was like father and son. When doctors last year decided legs should be amputated, Calhoun broke the news to him.

"It was the most emotional thing I've ever done," he said. "Much more emotional than a Final Four."

Emily Calhoun, born to son Jim Jr. and wife Jennifer, arrived during the Big East Tournament and sweetened the postseason immeasurably for her grandfather.

He has carried her picture in his pocket throughout the NCAA Tournament. It doesn't take much to get Calhoun talking about little Emily.

"She's the prettiest 3 1/2-week-old child I've ever seen," he said. "And that's said without one bit of bias. It puts your life into different perspective and has allowed my wife and myself to do this. It's a wonderful feeling."

All those feelings converged moments after the Gonzaga game as he struggled through tears.

"It's been an amazing thing," he said. "I've lost a son and gained a granddaughter. It's an emotional time."

 
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