Jim Calhoun Talks March Madness Basketball in the Holy Land

Retired UConn Coach Keeps Strong Ties to Israeli Hoops

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By Raphael Gellar

Published March 16, 2014.
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After struggling for many years to build a successful basketball program, The University of Connecticut basketball program decided to hire Jim Calhoun as its new coach on May 14, 1986. At the time, the university was hoping they made the right choice but little did they know that two and half decades later, Calhoun would become one of the most decorated coaches in the history of basketball.

In his tenure as the head coach of UConn, Calhoun’s teams won three National Championships, ten regular season Big East Championships, seven Big East Tournament Championships and an astonishing 618 games.

Not only did Calhoun’s teams win on the court, but Calhoun and his staff have sent over two dozen players to the NBA and dozens more to play professional basketball all over the world. Over the years, several former UConn players have played professional basketball in Israel.

In Israel, many Israeli basketball have grown accustomed to Calhoun’s name as he recruited Israeli basketball stars Nadav Hennefeld and Doron Sheffer to the program. At UConn, both players would became stars and would end up having very successful professional careers.

The Forward’s Raphael Gellar spoke to coach Calhoun about his recent trip to Israel, his relationship with the Israeli basketball players he recruited and who he likes in March Madness.

Raphael Gellar: Why did you decide to come to Israel?

Jim Calhoun: Well, I have been to Israel six times in the past 25 years. Throughout the years, I recruited Nadav, Doron and Gilad to UConn and have been in Israel to conduct basketball clinics. This past April, the Consulate General from NYC came up to see me and we talked about going over to Israel. I thought about going to Israel with two things in mind: promoting basketball and academics.

The people of Israel credit you for recruiting, Nadav Hennefeld, Doron Sheffer and Gilad Katz. Do you still keep in contact with those guys?

I saw Gilad and Nadav at a function we had for some of our alumni in Tel Aviv. I talked to Doron a couple of times on the phone but unfortunately we weren’t able to meet because of our busy schedules. In my past visits, I have met with the Sheffer family, who I have known for many years and they are just great people. It was great to see all my good friends as well. Of course I also enjoyed touring the country, conducting some drills and watching a few professional games.


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