Scott Bordow: Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun talks fast, really fast, his thoughts tumbling into one another, pinballing from one subject to the next before he finally stops because, well, he has to take a breath sometime.
Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun talks fast, really fast, his thoughts tumbling into one another, pinballing from one subject to the next before he finally stops because, well, he has to take a breath sometime.
He would have been a great auctioneer, except for the fact he couldn't have stayed on topic long enough to sell anything.
But on Saturday, after his Huskies beat the Missouri Tigers, 82-75, Calhoun was asked about the odd coincidence that his previous two trips to the Final Four - in 1999 and 2004 - both came when the Valley hosted the West Regional.
For once, he was short and succinct.
"I'm buying a house here," he said, his smile wide.
Yes, the weekend ended well for Calhoun. He has a team he loves, he's headed to Detroit - OK, maybe that's not so hot - and all he had to answer were basketball questions Saturday.
"I know we're really, really good," he said. "We're a borderline tremendous basketball team."
As for that Arizona trifecta he's hit, Calhoun did have an explanation beyond the fact he had Rip Hamilton and Emeka Okafor those other two trips: The further away from home the Huskies get, the fewer distractions they have to endure.
"(Former Georgetown coach) John Thompson said to me, 'You get your kids away from all those people who tell them how good they are and all the people that will put pressure on them about tickets and all that kind of thing,'" Calhoun said. "There was very little around us to really distract from the experience."
There was just one person from Connecticut who couldn't lay low - Calhoun. The Yahoo! Sports story detailing potential NCAA violations involving the recruitment of Nate Miles hung over Calhoun's head all weekend.
He answered questions about it Wednesday and Thursday, and when the subject came up again Friday, he became combative, angry that reporters wouldn't let go.
Calhoun will have his defenders, of course, Huskies' loyalists who believe the story was a media smear job; some might even take Calhoun's tack that he doesn't read blogs, as if one of the most popular Web sites in the country is run by some kid wearing pajamas and writing from his basement.
But as much as Calhoun would like to run from the accusations, he can't hide. The Huskies' basketball program looks and smells dirty and the win over Missouri will do nothing to change the perception.
It's a shame, really, because the Huskies' players deserve better. They did nothing wrong. They shouldn't have to answer questions about the story or whether it's a distraction. And, in truth, there is plenty to like about Connecticut.
Like forward Stanley Robinson, a walk-on who was working at a scrap metal factory last semester because Calhoun wanted him to grow up; Robinson did and Saturday he had 13 points and six rebounds against Missouri.
Or freshman point guard Kemba Walker, a Bronx kid who might lead the nation in confidence and lit up the Tigers for 23 points in 25 minutes.
Then there's Gilbert Mesquite product Gavin Edwards, who was headed to Mesa Community College or Scottsdale Community College until the Huskies, out of nowhere, offered him a scholarship. Edwards had seven rebounds in the first half, helping to blunt the foul trouble of center Hasheem Thabeet.
"We shut a lot of people up," forward Jeff Adrien said. "We went through a lot but we learned from it."
Unfortunately, playing in the Final Four won't end the scrutiny. The bigger the stage, the brighter the spotlight, and Calhoun is kidding himself if he thinks he'll just be able to talk basketball next weekend. For now, however, UConn can celebrate. It's in the Final Four. And the Valley has won over another tourist.
"We do love coming out here," Calhoun said, "and if they want to send us out here again next year, we would be more than happy."