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Former Huskies react to Blaney's retirement

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: theday.com

Published June 13. 2013 7:00PM   Updated June 13. 2013 7:42PM

News of George Blaney’s retirement spread quickly on Thursday.

Several former UConn Huskies shared their reaction on Twitter.

Here’s what they had to say:

Kemba Walker: “Congrats to Coach Blaney on his retirement. Taught me a lot during my college days. One of the best guys I’ve ever been around.”

Jeff Adrien: “Congratulation to Coach Blaney on his retirement. One of the best teachers to the game of basketball.”

Hasheem Thabeet tweeted twice:

“Congrats to Coach Blaney on his retirement. Im so happy for him. It was great to be coached by him. History.”

“ I was Coach Blaney favorite Tanzanian. LOL The Only Tanzanian he knew at that point.”

 -- And here’s some reaction from the college basketball world:

ESPN’s Jay Bilas; “One of the truly great basketball minds and an even better person. No one I respect more.”

ESPN’s Seth Greenberg, a former Virginia Tech coach: “George Blaney is one of the great ambassadors for the game of college basketball. Great coach, teacher, mentor and better person. #class”

-- Here’s hoping that Blaney, a first-class coach and person, enjoys his retirement after 43 years in the coaching business, including the last 12 at UConn.

 -- After making his decision to retire, Blaney called an old friend, Jud Heathcote, the former Michigan State head coach, yesterday.

Heathcote always used to tell Blaney that he would retire when he had a bad team.

“I’m not taking your advice, because we had a really, really good team,” Blaney told Heathcote, “and I’m going to (retire). I just think it’s the right time. I’m happy with it.”

 Blaney filled in as head coach whenever Jim Calhoun was on a medical leave of absence, including the 2009 NCAA tournament first round game against Tennessee-Chattanooga in Philadelphia. Calhoun was sick and in the hospital.

UConn won by 56.

When Calhoun called Blaney the next morning and informed him that he would be ready to coach the next game, Blaney didn’t say a word.

“He tells the story all the time, that I wasn’t too excited about him getting out of the hospital,” Blaney said. “It was a big thing to me that he had enough faith in me that he allowed me to coach and it was a big thing that the players responded. But it was always Jim’s team. I tried to do what he would have done. I had to do it in my own personality and how I do things.”

-- Blaney thoroughly enjoyed coaching all the talented players that came through UConn during his tenure. He remembered when Emeka Okafor showed up on campus the summer before the center's freshman season.

“To this day, I remember the first week I was here. Emeka had come up for summer camp. Usually 9 o’clock at night they started playing games.

"Jim was out on the road and I went in and was watching him play. I watched Emeka play for five minutes and I walked out and walked into (Calhoun’s) office and left a note on his desk.

I said, `Emeka. Oh My God.’ He was just that good.”

“It was just so fun to go to practice every single day and have that kind of talent. To be wowed by guys at practice sometime, they’re just that good.

-- What was the highlight of Blaney’s career?

He pointed to UConn’s last two national championship games.

“To step on the floor for the national championship, that probably was as good a feeling as any that I’ve had,” Blaney said.

 

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