Walker Visited by Coach Calhoun on Day 2 of Camp
BOSTON – Kemba Walker was joined by an old friend Wednesday morning at the Auerbach Center, as legendary University of Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun came to watch his former pupil take on the second day of Celtics training camp.
For Calhoun, a Braintree, Massachusetts native, the experience of watching one of his all-time favorite students representing his hometown team was nothing short of heavenly.
“I’m a Bostonian, so I still love the Celtics and still want them to do well,” Calhoun said after practice. “I always follow my kids and it’s kind of a nice bonus to have to have a team I grew up with and loved to have one of the best players and people I ever coached, Kemba being here.”
Walker’s journey to Boston was one in which Calhoun was heavily involved. Leading up to last summer’s free agency period, Walker would often call his former coach to talk through one of the largest looming decisions of his life.
“We’d talk a lot,” Calhoun recalled. “(I’d ask), ‘What’s going to make your mind up? Because it’s your decision.' And he’d always say, ‘Winning. I want to win. I’m at that point in my career. God’s been good and I’ve made a lot of money, but I want to win.’”
Walker wanted to experience success just like he had in Storrs, Connecticut, where he and Calhoun helped to lead the Huskies to the 2011 National Championship. As he narrowed down his options, the three-time All-Star discovered that the perfect situation happened to be less than 100 miles northeast of where his former glory had been achieved.
Boston had everything that Walker wanted: a winning tradition, strong basketball culture, a promising future, and more.
“He knew what the Celtics represented,” said Calhoun, who recently came out of retirement to become the first head coach of the University of Saint Joseph (Connecticut) men’s basketball team.
They represented pride, tradition and success in the form of 17 championship banners. In signing with the C’s, it became Walker’s mission to experience that pride, carry on that tradition and build upon that success by bringing banner 18 to Boston.
“That’s his whole goal: to win,” said Calhoun. “Even when he came back from (the FIBA World Cup in) China, he was sneaking over here (to the Auerbach Center) a lot more than a lot of guys would have. After a whole NBA season, a month and a half playing for Team USA, he was over there trying to play the best he can.”
Calhoun says that’s the same kind of work ethic that he saw out of Walker in college, and it’s also the same type persistency that the Celtics will get out of him for as long as he’s wearing green.
“When I talked to the (Celtics front office), I said they’re going to get a special player,” Calhoun explained. “I’ve coached 50 years and have had 30 NBA players who played at least four years, and 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.”
That combination of qualities is why Calhoun enjoys being around Walker so much. And it’s why his fellow Celtics fans will fall in love with their new point guard, too.