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Calhoun takes criticism personally

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun compares himself to an old car — once shiny, new and well-liked by everyone, he has had his share of dings to his reputation during the later part of his 39-year coaching career.

"The shine will wear off the car, and you'll get some nicks and dents and bumps," Calhoun, 68, said Monday. "And hopefully when it's all said and done, they'll look back and see what the heck you did for your kids, for your university, for your community."

This week, the Hall of Fame coach takes his program to a fourth Final Four, after a year that saw critics calling for his job.

Those calls came after the Huskies failed to make the tournament in 2010, and the NCAA found several major recruiting violations. In February, UConn finished the regular season on a 1-4 skid, and NCAA sanctions included a three-game conference suspension for Calhoun for failing to create an atmosphere of compliance in the program — a suspension he will serve if he returns next season.

"I felt like I was in the corner because the sweat equity that we all have — my players, my coaches, the university — has put into UConn basketball over the past 25 years is pretty deep and rich. And to have people over a couple-of-months period dismiss us, I took that personally," Calhoun said. "If I take something personally, I'm going to do everything humanly possible to make sure that your perception is wrong.

"Any legacy stuff I can look at later. Right now, I just can't wait to get this team to the Final Four to have them see something that they've never experienced."

Kentucky: With its first trip to the Final Four since 1998, university president Lee Todd said he is more certain than ever that John Calipari was the right coaching hire two years ago.

"The more I see him on a daily basis, and (the way) he coaches and teaches players, the more proud I am of the decision we made," Todd said.

Calipari's previous visits to the Final Four, with Massachusetts in 1996 and Memphis in 2008, were vacated by the NCAA for rule violations. Though Calipari was not found at fault in either instance, the stigma is something he bristles at. After Sunday's victory, a fan repeatedly shouted at Calipari: "it will just be vacated."

"We will all be judged 50 years from now," Calipari said. "The good news is, there will be no emotion to it where someone wants to be nasty and mean; it won't be here. It will be here's the facts, here's what he's done."

vcu: Our time. Right now.

That is the rallying cry VCU adopted during its improbable run to the Final Four.

The Rams are having a blast, and their confidence is growing.

"It comes from our personalities and Coach (Shaka) Smart," F Bradford Burgess said. "He wants us to be out there loose and confident and aggressive. We're out there playing with nothing to lose. It's just been a fun ride, and I think we showed how much fun we can have on the court every game."

"We just have a lot of belief in each other," PG Joey Rodriguez said. "We're not scared of anybody."

Ratings increase: The NCAA tournament's television ratings are the highest since 2005. Through the region finals, this year's tourney has averaged a 6.0 rating and 13 share, up 11 percent from 2010. This was the first season every game was televised nationally. Ratings represent the percentage of all homes with TVs tuned into a program. Shares represent the percentage of all homes with TVs in use at the time.

Calhoun takes criticism personally 03/28/11 [Last modified: Monday, March 28, 2011 11:53pm]
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