Jim Calhoun Talks March Madness Basketball in the Holy Land

Retired UConn Coach Keeps Strong Ties to Israeli Hoops

getty images

By Raphael Gellar

Published March 16, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

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.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.