After the UConn men's basketball team had won its third NCAA championship with Monday's 53-41 win over Butler, the players and head coach Jim Calhoun tried to make sense of it.
The Huskies (31-9) finished ninth in the Big East. Their marquee players were underclassmen. There were better UConn teams that did not even advance to the Final Four, let alone win a national title. This year's improbable run, first in the Big East Tournament and then in the NCAAs, is hard to comprehend. Even for those involved.
"I've been fortunate enough to have some great teams at UConn,'' Calhoun said. "Very honestly, this group to me will always be incredibly special. They're all special in their own way. But I needed this team. Very rarely does a coach say that. But I needed this team every day for 109 practice sessions, for their walk-ons, for everybody involved. They truly were brothers. They truly were trusting of each other and very, very special."
Calhoun has coached a number of outstanding players at UConn, some of whom have gone on to success in the NBA. This particular championship probably wouldn’t have occurred without the splendid play of junior guard Kemba Walker, who scored 18 points in Monday's win.
"We had a lot of doubters, picked to finish 10th in the Big East,” Walker said. “We finished ninth. But I still thought we overachieved. We got a lot of confidence from winning the Big East Tournament. We kind of felt unstoppable. It was right. We were unstoppable. That's why we're national champions. We're the best team in the country."
Calhoun, 68, became the oldest coach to win the NCAA title. He also joined legendary company. Bobby Knight, Adolph Rupp, John Wooden and Mike Krzyzewski are the only other coaches to win at least three NCAA titles.
A celebration will held Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Gampel Pavilion on the UConn campus in Storrs.
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