Calhoun: First you don’t see him, then you do

They came, but they did not see.

That’s why midway through the first half of Saturday’s men’s basketball game at a packed Rivier Univeristy’s Muldoon Center, during a ridiculous delay with an officiating issue, the fans began to shout, “Where’s Calhoun?”

Good question.

The answer? Unfortunately, the University of Saint Joseph’s head coach, known more for his Hall of Fame career at the University of Connecticut, was sequestered in the visitors locker room or the trainers room after he had a reaction to stomach medication. He watched his BlueJays’ 104-93 win on Rivier sports information director Anthony Perry’s laptop.

Nashua North alum Nate Hale, who led a furious River comeback that just fell short as he had 37 points, has a fan in the former UConn coach.

“The Hale kid played great, give him credit,” Calhoun said. “How to win championships. … the small things have to be covered. You hit your foul shots, you don’t turn the ball over, and you don’t let a 3-point shooter get going. … Just don’t let that kid score.”

It was a bizarre day. The Muldoon Center was packed with about 300 fans, some seated in chairs along the sideline and baseline. But they had no idea why Calhoun wasn’t on the Saint Joe’s bench. Clearly this wasn’t your ordinary game or day at the Muldoon. Tickets went for 10 bucks a pop.

It would’ve been fun to see Calhoun steamed at the officials who couldn’t decide whether Bluejay Jalen Watson should have one or two free throws following a basket that shouldn’t have been allowed.

But it’s all about the game for Calhoun, who came out of retirement to take the Saint Joe’s job as the school did what Rivier did over 25 years ago – went co-ed and started a men’s basketball program.

“Well, today wasn’t much fun,” Calhoun said with a grin, “but it is fun. I love the gym, I love the kids. How long I’m going to be doing it, I don’t know. But it’s kind of exciting. We’re 12-8 and they are getting better.”

Raiders coach Lance Bisson’s team played hard, but fell to 1-18,0-7 in the GNAC. He got word Calhoun was sequestered away from the court and “I felt relieved, because I thought it would cool everybody down,” he said. “We’d get back to thinking about what it is that we do as opposed to the opposite bench. I told you, we play hard.”

Why did Calhoun take the job?

“That itch of mine couldn’t get satisfied,” he said. “I love the game, I love the kids.”

For Calhoun, the game is the game. The last game he coached at UConn was in front some 79,000 people, an NCAA National Championship game in Houston. “I don’t care if there’s 79 there. I was watching it on the computer in (the trainer’s room). I had the same angst. And that’s a good thing.”

After the game, Calhoun was chatting in the Muldoon lobby. He knows he’s an attraction.

“It’s amazing, I come out of here and a lot of people want pictures,” Calhoun said. “Or we go someplace and they made a stool or something. For a lot of these people, and in Nashua, people come out and see me. And that’s cool.Some people are kind enough to say, ‘You have been the national representative of New England the last 20 years.'”

He certainly had no problem recruiting players.

“It’s unbelievable,” Bluejay Stephen Laffin said of having Calhoun as his college coach. “He’s a basketball legend, and growing up in Connecticut, I watched all his UConn games. Now that he’s coaching in Division III, it’s pretty special.”

We can’t even tell Riv fans to wait ’til next year. The GNAC is having most teams play each other just once, and next year the Raiders travel to West Hartford instead.

Before he left the visitors locker room Calhoun stopped a staffer. “Hey, can you get a pizza and put it in my car?” he asked.

Good to know The Legend was feeling better.

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251,tking@nashuatelegraph.com, or@Telegraph_TomK.