UConn stars show up at Jim Calhoun’s charity golf event, but there were some notable absences
AVON — Scott Burrell was playing in the Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic on Monday morning, as always.
“We’re here to support Coach,” Burrell said, prior to teeing off at The Golf Club of Avon. “He built a great facility at the hospital and he’s trying to raise money every year to make it even better, to save lives. It’s great to be here every year to help him, help the hospital and help people.”
Lyman DePriest, Murray Williams, John Gwynn and Rudy Johnson were there, as well. So was Charles Okwandu, the 7-footer who cut quite the image hunched over and hitting balls on the practice tee.
Of course, there were some notable absences. Donny Marshall, who normally shows up, had a prior engagement. Richard Hamilton was always a haphazard attendee, sometimes showing up at the last minute, sometimes not, never really a big golfer. And Ray Allen, a typically ubiquitous presence at the charity golf event that’s held every other year.
Allen gave no reason why he wasn’t attending. He was photographed in New Haven at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, where he ate with his two sons. Certainly, it could have been for any number of reasons. However, he has been public about his unhappiness with UConn right now, and the way he perceives Kevin Ollie has been treated since he was fired nearly 18 months ago.
Allen voiced his displeasure at the Travelers Championship pro-am in June, saying he was “badgered” by UConn attorneys during a deposition hearing and that Ollie, his former teammate, has been unfairly vilified in the fight for the nearly $11 million left on his contract.
Allen’s absence was noticed by Calhoun on Monday.
“Every family has fights,” the Hall of Fame coach reasoned. “Sometimes they’re foolish and childish, on my side and their side. I think it’s stupid. Unfortunately, and fortunately, you get older. That’s the unfortunate part. But it brings you some wisdom. ‘Really, you don’t like what happened? Move on.’ You’re not gonna solve anything by it. I have no problem with talking with Ray and those guys, eventually.”
Indeed, it didn’t sound like there was any irreparable harm in the relationship between the two Hall of Famers — or with any other of Calhoun’s former players who normally play in the event.
“It’s disappointing, because I’d like them here,” Calhoun added. “They’re always gonna be part of this family. There’s only a couple of guys that aren’t part of my family — my personal, basketball ones — but I’ve never met a family that didn’t have arguments.”
Burrell admitted there was a rift in the “UConn family.”
“You know there is,” he said, “but I don’t pay attention to it. I’m here. It’s for charity, it doesn’t matter what the rift is ... I can’t speak for them, but I’m here supporting charity. We all have issues with someone or something, but you’ve still got to do what you’ve got to do and do your own thing.”
Calhoun’s charity event is in its 21st year, and the event continues to sell out its sponsors and raises money the Jim and Pat Calhoun Cardiology Research Endowment Fund, which supports cardiac research at UConn’s School of Medicine.
“What happens sometimes is, notoriety gives you a microphone,” Calhoun said. “What you do with the microphone is very important. What people did for me way, way back in Braintree, Mass., or what I’ve hopefully done for young coaches, I think it’s incredibly important when good fortune, fame and great players, most importantly, do great things for you, then you have an opportunity to reach out.”
Calhoun told the story of a complete stranger on a plane flight recently, who told him the cardiology center saved the life of his father, who had suffered two heart attacks.
“Connecticut really is a family,” Calhoun noted. “When they do things at Travelers, massive crowds show up. Here, 21 years in, we’re at the same number that we were in Year 10, kind of the height of our winning national championships and stuff.”
CONFIDENCE IN KEMBA, HURLEY
Burrell had praise for Dan Hurley.
“I think Danny’s gonna do a great job,” the Southern Connecticut State head man said. “He’ll turn it around. It’ll be fun to watch.”
Calhoun, who said he’s counting the days until he gets back to coaching the University of Saint Joseph for a second season, noted that he was planning on visiting Hurley and the Huskies later this week.
He also said he recently had lunch in Boston with new Celtic Kemba Walker, before Walker left for the World Cup Games. Calhoun said he had a conversation with Celtics general manager Danny Ainge before Walker signed with Boston.
“Danny said, ‘Is he as good as he seems?’ I said, ‘Better.’ Fifty years of coaching — Reggie Lewis, him, I could give you three or four — they have a special basketball ability, but they have a special ability to relate to teammates [also] ... he’ll make (Jayson) Tatum better. He’s not gonna turn the world around, but I think he will really get the Celtics in the right direction.”