BRIGHTON, MA — Every year around this time former UConn men’s basketball coach and Bostonian, Jim Calhoun, visits the Auerbach Center to check out Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics.
This time was different. There was a familiar face on the floor.
“I always follow my kids and it’s a nice bonus to have the team I grew up with and love have one of the best players and people I’ve ever coached,” the hall of fame coach said.
Calhoun was someone that Kemba Walker leaned on a lot when trying to make the decision about his future and where he wanted to continue his career. While Calhoun said he never tried to sway his decision, he knew Boston was a great choice based on Walker’s priorities.
— Sierra Goodwill (@SierraGoodwill) October 2, 2019
“He knew about Brad, I knew about Brad, I’ve coached against Brad. He knew what the Celtics represent,” Calhoun said. “I guarantee, no matter what anybody would’ve offered him, he was going back to winning. When you talk to guys three or four times, you get a dominant theme. His dominant theme was winning.”
Celtics fans can get on board with that.
Once day two of training camp concluded, Walker and Calhoun chatted and laughed on the sidelines; something they’ve done many times before in their four years together in Storrs.
Calhoun admits he’s a die-hard Celtics fan, making him even more ecstatic that his former player will be in green knowing what Walker will bring to the table.
“Every player brings what he does well. What Kemba does well is lead,” Calhoun said. “Even though he’s only an eight-year veteran, he’s a hungry guy and he wants to win. He’s here to win. That’s his whole goal — winning.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has verbalized that this year’s main focus is playing with a team-first mentality and putting forth maximum effort for the sake of the organization rather than the name on the back of a player’s jersey.
If anyone can speak on behalf of Walker’s work ethic, it’s the man who helped mold him into an NBA player in the first place. Calhoun, who now coaches the Division III men’s basketball team at St. Joe’s, holds a special place in his heart for Walker.
“I’ve coached 50 years and 30 NBA players…he’s as special as anybody I’ve ever had in the sense of leadership, caring and has incredible confidence with humility, which is a really hard thing to have,” he said.
Although Walker hasn’t even donned a green and white jersey yet, he’s already displaying those same characteristics in Boston.
“Even when he came back from China, he was sneaking over here a lot more than other guys would’ve after a whole NBA season, a month and a half playing for Team USA,” Calhoun said. “He was over here trying to be the best he can.”
From observing training camp, Calhoun isn’t just pleased with seeing a familiar face on the floor, but he’s also impressed with the performances from other key pieces that bode well for a successful 2019-20 season for the Boston Celtics.
“I like Gordon Hayward making shots. That’s a big deal. A couple years ago when I saw him as an All-Star before he got to Boston, he’s a great player. From a coaching standpoint, you’d like to have a guy like that on every team,” he said.
“I’ve always wanted the Celtics to be good. I’m a Bostonian. Still love the Celtics. Still want them to do well.”