Jim Calhoun makes movie debut, prepares for role with ESPN

After viewing the premiere of Jim Calhoun: Born to Lead on Thursday night at Bushnell, the media had a chance to talk with the Hall of Fame coach along with film creators Chris Martens, who won six Emmy Awards and two Ace Awards while working at ESPN, and L.C. Cragg.

Overall, I’d have to say the film was well done and did an excellent job focusing on Calhoun’s life on and off the court, whether it be good (three national titles) or bad (NCAA woes related to Nate Miles).

The film will be shown Nov. 6 on CPTV (8 p.m.).

Here are some of the post-film questions and answers:

Question: Was that the first time you saw the whole film and was there anything surprising in there?

Calhoun: “ I hadn’t seen the whole thing. It’s different. You’re watching it at home on an iPad the raw cut, so you really don’t have the same feel.  … Then you start seeing moments (on the big screen) and all of sudden between a certain period of time you forget where you are and you realize sentimentalities like where I cut stone, dad, my family, so again all those things come back. I’d never seen Jake (Voskuhl) breakdown because he almost left (the program) that night and I said ‘hang the phone up and go to practice in the morning. … Just different things and you realize how lucky you have been in your lifetime. I don’t know if it captured my life, but it certainly has incredible moments. My grandkids were sitting beside me and were getting moved by certain things, including being at the press conference when (late New Haven Register columnist) Dave Solomon and I had a tit-for-tat. And I love Dave, and I did call him the next day. I’m re-living my whole life, and that’s a surreal thing to do, no matter what anybody tries to tell you.”

 Q: Seeing your career unfold like that, do you feel satisfied with what you were about do at UConn?

Calhoun: “Satisfied is a funny word because I’m not actually a satisfied person. … I think in the 40 years I coached (between high school and college), I always tried to do the right thing and it didn’t always turn out right. Howie (Dickenman) said I didn’t try to use shortcuts. I didn’t try to cut corners, and things happened. … We made mistakes, we did them, but I’m not going to be judged because Emeka Okafor was the national student-athlete of the year nor should I be judged as someone who didn’t make sure 89 percent of our kids who stayed four years graduated.  They all fit in. … I’m satisfied with the way I tried to do things, but would I take some things back – clearly. … But the essence what I tried to do and what I’ve always done, I don’t think so.”

Q: On what Martens and Cragg learned working with Calhoun?

Martens: “I tell you one thing that’s really impressed me and that’s as a journalist when you are doing a project like this that there’s authorized vs. unauthorized. I really didn’t try to shy away from anything I tried as a documentary to be truthful, so you try to look at warts and all. You want to be fair and you want to be accurate, which I think we were. To coach’s credit, he took a look and it and didn’t chance anything. I think that’s somebody who is very comfortable with their legacy, who they are and how his life has been. He understands it’s not perfect, there were some bumps in the road, but none of us are perfect.”

ON TO ESPN: Earlier in the day ESPN announced it had officially hired Calhoun to work for them this college basketball season. He will begin with the network on Nov. 18 in a studio role at the State Farm Champions Classic, which includes Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State.

During the season, Calhoun will also do some interviews and, likely, some games.

“I’m going to ESPN because it gets me in a place I want to be, around basketball a game I love and people I care about,” he said.

Cancer Challenge Ride and Walk: Coach Jim Calhoun, Pat Calhoun, other family members, coaches and a number of his former players will be riding and walking on Sunday in the Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride and Walk. The ride and walk is open to everyone. There will be road rides of 15, 25, and 62 miles, a mountain bike trail ride of 10 miles, and a 5K trail walk.

The race begins and ends at Winding Trails, 50 Winding Trails in Farmington.

For more information, visit www.calhounride.com

William Paxton