Jim Calhoun: A Wealthy Thug
College basketball doesn't do much for me. So I do not come to the topic loaded with a disposition to believe that its heroes are good or admirable people. Watching University of Connecticut men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun discuss his salary at a recent press conference left me with one settled impression: He's a jerk.
The coach was up close and personal with sports writers after yet another game in which he screamed at college athletes to run, jump and shoot, faster, better and with greater skill than the other team. Sport reporters, mostly men, who must find a story in every game, sat listening to him expound. The reporters demonstrate the truth of the theory of agency capture: in a regulated industry, the regulators get a little too cozy with those whom they regulate. In the end, both end up with the same, or similar, agendas.
Out of the blue, a voice sounds out. Here's a link to the conference as shown on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJkQTzbVEq4&NR=1
The voice asks the coach about his salary, well over a million dollars per year, and about the state's budget. Before the questioner could finish, Calhoun was quick with the lip. "Not a dime back," he said. He wants to retire some day. He's tired. When the reporter pressed, Calhoun got testy. The reporter understated Calhoun's income. So the reported pressed on, asking about the value of commercial endorsements. Then Calhoun lost it. He told the reporter to shut up, and then chest-thumped about how the basketball team generates so much money for the university. Calhoun strutted as though he were the ultimate golden goose: perhaps we should simply declare him Caesar. Hail, Calhoun.
Calhoun's assertion has raised questions. He appears to have overstated the value of his contribution to the university by millions of dollars. Rather than generating $12 million a year, the real some, according to some, is half of that. One report this morning suggests the program loses money, although I find that hard to believe. There are now calls for state auditors to examine the books and see just how much cash is generated by the hoop program.
Calhoun is a new synonym for hubris. The videotape is ugly. He looks like angry bully challenged, suddenly, to justify why he always gets the biggest and brightest marbles for use during the morning recess. He came and swinging and managed to hit only himself. I have gone from something close to admiration for the man to disgust. He threw it all away with one angry outburst.
Why is Jim Calhoun earning millions to supervise young men at play? And why when folks are losing their homes, state employees are forced to take involuntary furloughs and lay-off notices are everywhere, is Jim Calhoun strutting like Ahab in search of a whale? Folks really aren't coming out to watch him flail his arms off court.
Credit to Ken Krayeske for being persistent when Calhoun tried to avoid the truth. Krayeske, close readers will know, is a client of my firm's. We sued police officers for arresting him once while he was merely photographing the governor on her inaugural parade. It turns out Krayeske was on a watch list of activists. His crime was speaking out. The case is still pending.
In the meantime, I wonder if Ken's press pass will be pulled for UConn basketball. Odds are, Jim Calhoun can't take any more heat. Poor, poor Jim. No, wait. Jim suffers an embarrassment of riches.