Calhoun Makes Controversial Comments

Jim Calhoun, head coach of the No. 2 Connecticut Huskies and one of the biggest names in Connecticut sports, has found himself embroiled in an interesting controversy after an angry exchange with a member of the media.

When questioned by a freelance journalist about his $1.6 million salary in light of the current economic crisis in which thousands of people are losing their jobs, Calhoun responded angrily. “My best advice to you is, shut up,” Calhoun said.

Connecticut’s head man later issued a statement saying that he was “misinterpreted” as being insensitive.

eanwhile, the leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly’s higher education committee have been calling for Calhoun to be reprimanded for his comments. Other political officials believe that his words and attitude reflect poorly on the university and on the state.

In a letter to University of Connecticut President Michael J. Hogan, lawmakers said as much. “[Calhoun’s] recent behavior was unacceptable and we request that the university take appropriate disciplinary action to reinforce the high ethical standards we have come to expect from our flagship institution,” the letter read.

Hogan also issued a statement after the press-conference controversy.

“The question he was asked about his salary was perfectly fair, although [freelance reporter Ken Krayeske], as Coach Calhoun suggested, might have found a more appropriate and less provocative setting for his inquiry,” Hogan said.

Calhoun, the highest-paid state employee in the state of Connecticut, won his 800th career game last Wednesday.

GM Passing on Final Four Suites

General Motors Corporation, which has been hit hard by the current economic recession, has said that it will not use its company suites for the NCAA Men’s Final Four this year, which will be held at Ford Field in Detroit. The seats were offered as part of GM’s sponsorship of the event. The corporation has sponsored the Final Four, one of the marquee events in American collegiate sports, since 1985.

“They came as part of the sponsorship, and because we’d scaled back so much in recent months, they were empty,” GM spokesman John McDonald told the Associated Press.

A major automobile manufacturer, GM has struggled mightily in the weak economy, reporting a $9.6 billion loss for the fourth quarter of 2008. Desperate for financial aid, the company could be asking for as much as $30 billion from the government, an attempt aimed at reviving the once-prolific corporation.

The NCAA is still unsure of what it will do with the now-unoccupied suites, with GM currently engaging in talks with the NCAA regarding their use.

Philadelphia’s Magee Fourth in NCAA in Wins

With Friday night’s 63-57 triumph over Caldwell College (N.J.), Philadelphia University’s Herb Magee accrued the fourth-most wins in NCAA men’s basketball history, surpassing Adolph Rupp, the legendary University of Kentucky coach, for the honor. Magee’s 877th win leaves him just two games behind the third spot, currently occupied by legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith. Second place is also held by a retired coach: former Indiana and Texas Tech head man Bob Knight, who has 902 victories to his name. But the top mark remains a work in progress as Northern State’s Don Meyer’s body of work stands at 909 wins and counting as of Friday.

agee’s achievement has been more than four decades in the making, with Friday’s win providing a historic close to his 42nd year on the Rams’ sideline. Magee’s involvement with Philadelphia University is quickly approaching a half-century; the coach starred for four years as a player before eschewing an NBA career in lieu of remaining at his alma mater, trading his shorts and jersey for a suit and tie. Magee eclipsed the beloved and now-retired Winston-Salem State coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines for the winningest mark in Division II history last February, and he has maintained that honor while approaching the all-time top mark.

Orthodox Jewish Basketball Player

Last April, newly-hired Toledo women’s basketball coach Tricia Cullop knew she needed a point guard recruit to give her any chance of putting an end to the Rockets’ string of five straight losing seasons. She had already identified a player that satisfied her needs. She had a very solid body of work as a high school star, international U19 playing experience, maturity and toughness beyond her years, and was not signed by any college program.

The recruit, Naama Shafir of Israel, in addition to being an outstanding basketball player, is an observant Orthodox Jew and thus is forbidden to engage in any activity qualifying as work between sundown on Friday and sundown on Saturday. Unfortunately for Shafir, riding on team buses, answering phone calls and e-mails, and even playing basketball games all fall into the category of proscribed activities, a circumstance which caused other schools to cool on an otherwise hot prospect. Cullop’s need for a guard trumped any reservations about religious restrictions or language barriers and ultimately led her to extend a Division I scholarship offer. In addition, the coach pledged to make a commitment to make college basketball compatible with her beliefs.

“In a way, it was a leap of faith,” Cullop told the AP.

Indeed, the decision is one that has paid off handsomely as well. Shafir has rewarded her teammates’ and coaches’ efforts to accommodate her scheduling and dietary requirements by averaging 11 points per game and helping the Rockets post a 16-10 record while starting all but one game this season. Cullop may have been spurred to pick up the phone to Israel by hopes of guiding Toledo to its first winning campaign in half a decade, but almost a year later the “leap of faith” has borne not only the wins the coach had dreamed of but a wealth of learning experiences for all involved.

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