Friday September 14, 2012

Paul Procopio admitted he wasn't expecting to hear the news that his college roommate, and good friend Jim Calhoun, has decided to retire from coaching.

"I figured Kevin Ollie would take over," said Procopio. "I just didn't expect it would be this year. I'm really surprised."

"I know Jim wanted to leave the program the way it had been in the past -- as one of the top programs in the nation. After the sanctions and everything else that happened the last couple of years, I know he wanted to correct all that."

Calhoun's retirement after being a college head coach for 40 seasons, became official on Thursday afternoon during an announcement in Storrs, Conn.

Calhoun spent the last 26 years at UConn after 14 at Northeastern. But in the years before he joined the Boston school, Calhoun was like Procopio -- a high school coach.

The former UConn mentor started his career coaching in Connecticut before taking over at Westport (Mass.) High School. He was 21-2 at Dedham when Northeastern called. Calhoun never looked back.

Procopio's bond with Calhoun goes back to their AIC days. After both graduated in the late 1960s, Procopio said he thought he and Calhoun might be spending their years battling each other on the court.

"To be honest with you, yes, I thought he would be a very successful high school coach, have a long career and be very, very happy," said Procopio, who was inducted into the Massachusetts Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998.


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"He had some luck on his side."

The luck was being contacted by Northeastern after that big season at Dedham. Procopio said he recalled being there when the Huskies first reached out.

"We were at the Sam Jones-John Killilea basketball camp down at Stonehill College. [Calhoun] got a phone call that Dick Dukeshire was leaving Northeastern and was going to coach the Greek Olympic team," Procopio said. "Dukeshire went to AIC. Bill Callahan, our [college] coach, talked to Dick Dukeshire and got Jim an interview at Northeastern -- and he got the job."

Calhoun offered Procopio an assistant's job, which the former St. Joe's coach couldn't take because of family reasons. So the two coaches went separate ways -- and both had Hall of Fame careers.

Calhoun's 26 years at UConn included three national championships, four Big East coach-of-the-year awards and induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. None of this came as a big surprise to Calhoun's AIC roommate and teammate.

"I saw what he did at Northeastern. He's a real hard worker. I would say that his mantra was that no one is going to outwork me," Procopio said. "That's the way he played. He was a hard-nosed player. He was a great rebounder and a corner shooter. He was a very good passer. He couldn't jump very high."