"I'm older, waiting for the birth of my first grandchild," the 56-year-old Calhoun says. "He has younger kids. He's in Little League, things like that. We're just at different stages in our lives."
"It's just the way it is," the 44-year-old Auriemma says.
There is no reason to talk. Of course not.
They were hired by the same man, former UConn athletic director John Toner. He was looking to revitalize a men's program that had come off four straight losing seasons. On the women's side, Toner wanted to build a contender in a sport that was taking hold in the public consciousness. UConn had played women's basketball for 11 seasons and had finished over .500 only once. An on-campus arena—the subject of discussion since the mid-'70s—finally seemed possible. Toner wanted to be ready.
Auriemma was hired first. He came in May 1985 from the University of Virginia, where he had been the top assistant in a top Division I operation for four years. Toner was looking for a family guy, young, married with children. Auriemma fit the picture. He was 31, had two daughters, and his wife, Kathy, was pregnant.
"I met with John Toner at a Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast," Auriemma says. "We had our coffee and doughnuts at the counter. He pulled out a one-page contract. I still have it. I signed." He made $28,229.
Calhoun came a year later, in May 1986. From the start of his search for a men's coach, Toner had thought about Calhoun, the coach for 14 years at Northeastern, in Boston. Toner liked the way Calhoun's teams played, especially at UConn's Christmas tournament the two previous years.
"Calhoun's teams were always over-achievers," Toner says. "He was playing mostly with kids nobody had wanted, but they were strong, really in shape. Above the waist they were like bodybuilders. And they ran all night. Calhoun won games he shouldn't have won, and when he lost a game, he didn't really lose it. The other team was just better."
Calhoun was 44 years old. He was a Boston guy, pahking his cah in the yahd at his home in suburban Dedham, which was not far from Braintree, where he had grown up. He had one son in college, another still in middle school. He had tenure at Northeastern. He wasn't sure he wanted to leave. "I'd had chances to go," he says. "Northwestern was interested once. Texas. I didn't follow them up. I was happy. UConn interested me, though. I knew about the interest in basketball in the state. Bobby Knight told me that you always should go to a school that's 'the University of' something. Those are the schools with the resources. This was the University of Connecticut."
At the press conference announcing his hiring, Calhoun told the assembled Connecticut media that the UConn situation was "doable." The writers from Norwich and Willimantic, from Hartford and New Haven and Bridgeport—the largest traveling college basketball press corps in the country, nicknamed the Horde—wrote down the word. At least the writers who understood Calhoun wrote down the word. He has a tendency to talk fast, 78 rpm in a 33⅓-rpm world, all the words bent by his Boston accent.