If I had my way, the Yankee Conference would still be around, and UConn basketball’s biggest rivals would be UMass and URI, with guaranteed wins coming from the northern tier of our little corner of the earth.
But try as I might, I don’t have my way. So as the UConn women do what the UConn women do, and as the men celebrate a third trip to the Final Four, I think we can agree that Connecticut is clearly the center of the universe for New England college basketball.
UMass (briefly) and Boston College (bleccccch) have had their moments, and Providence once reigned. But for New England hoops, the capital city is a cow town. Storrs.
With that in mind, today’s offering is a sampler from the Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan. Ryan has a Ph.D. in New England hoopology, college and pro. I detest him as just another screaming skull on cable, but I’m a longtime admirer of his reporting and writing, and lately he’s been prolific.
For starters, there is this homage to former UConn coach and longtime éminence grise Dee Rowe. Dee’s 80 now. He’s been through a lot. But when you see him these days, you see that smile, and you can’t help but bask in the man’s warmth.
There are those certain rare people who enter our lives and make us feel better after every encounter. That’s Dee Rowe. And for the past 40 years, the University of Connecticut has been the primary beneficiary of that warmth and personal sunshine. Dee Rowe began coaching there in 1969, and, at age 80, he is still a vital part of every UConn player’s athletic experience.
Fast forward to the Calhoun era, and the price to be paid for success at the highest level. Here’s Ryan’s take.
Calhoun, like countless other coaches, including perhaps – who knows? – one or two of his counterparts at the NCAA Regionals, will do what he has to do to attract and maintain the eligibility/availability of players to put the best possible team on the floor. Any fan who doesn’t comprehend this is probably as shocked as Inspector Renault was to discover that gambling was taking place at Rick’s Café.
And finally, a tragic slice of Connecticut basketball history I knew nothing about. It’s about a Hartford Public High School star named Pat Burke. He went on to lead the Fairfield Stags when they were every bit the regional power that the UConn Huskies were. And then something went horribly wrong one February night in 1966, at a Merritt Parkway motel we’ve all driven by.
Forty-three years have elapsed. The Merritt Parkway Motor Hotel, now called the Merritt Parkway Motel Hi-Ho, still sits at Exit 44 off the Merritt Parkway, close to the Fairfield campus. It is easy to see how it all transpired. The back rooms now face out toward the steep embankment, but it is not difficult to envision someone running in the darkness and falling into trouble.
If you have the time and interest, enjoy the articles. And Bob, thanks for your talent. In print.