The night of Jim Calhoun's third national championship ended the same way every game ends. Calhoun sat a podium. He leaned into his microphone. He talked about college basketball.
He enthusiastically broke down X's and O's like a 25-year-old assistant at a clinic. He praised his players with the glint of a proud father. He described his love of hard-fought basketball, even in games as ugly as Connecticut's 53-41 win over Butler Monday night. He chastised media members for taking "hurtful" "cheap shots" at him when the NCAA doled out its punishment in late February for failing to control violations within his program.
He was brash and defiant, loyal and loving, funny and combative.
He was, in other words, Classic Calhoun, as determined to prevail over any detractor -- perceived or real -- as the first moment of the first day of his career as a coach.
This day, of course, was different. On Monday, Calhoun won the title that indisputably cements his place among the greatest coaches in the sport's history.
On Monday, then, Calhoun got the last word.
"My dad told me something a long time ago: You're known by the company you keep," Calhoun said. "This is awfully sweet company."
The company Calhoun now keeps is a who's who of the sport's all-time greats, a college coaching Mount Rushmore. The scrappy Boston Irish kid who inherited Connecticut in 1986, when its days as a little-known Yankee Conference power were still fresh in the memory, is now one of only five men -- John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Adolph Rupp and Bob Knight being the others -- to win three NCAA titles in his career.
"He's one of the greatest coaches that ever was," said UConn assistant George Blaney, who has served under Calhoun for the past 10 seasons. "He was before he won this third title, but this third title just validates everything. The wins, the titles -- there's no issue about it. He's one of the all-time greats."
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