There aren't many things that Coach Jim Calhoun is as passionate about as the game of basketball, but humanitarianism is on the short list.
On Monday, those worlds crossed paths again as Coach was recognized for his humanitarian work by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with the 2012 Mannie Jackson - Basketball's Human Spirit Award.
Coach stands with the members of the Speed Demons a walking group at a 2008 Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation event.
Coach Calhoun is well known in the Connecticut community for the plethora of outreach programs he participates in every year. From the Calhoun Cardiology Research Fund at the UConn Health Center to his Calhoun Challenge Ride and Walk, Coach has made a lasting impact on many lives, using his prominent position in the community to raise funds and give back to those in need.
He has been a national spokesman for Autism Speaks, raised funds for the American Cancer Society through Hoops for Hope and served as honorary chair of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, all with one goal in mind: to help others.
"The award means a great deal to me because it honors those of us who give back as we should to others," Coach said. "There's probably very few things in my life, excluding my family and basketball, that I get more pleasure out of doing than to be able to help others."
Coach Calhoun is one of three recipients of the award this year, which is given to community leaders at the professional, amateur and grassroots levels. Coach is this year's recipient for the amateur sector, while Phoenix Suns guard Grant Hill represents the pros and Dr. Richard Lapchick, founder and director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, represents the grassroots.
"I'm honored to receive this award, particularly given the fact that one of my favorite collegiate and pro basketball players, Grant Hill, and Richard Lapchick, who has done an awful lot for collegiate athletics, are also being honored," Coach said. "And most importantly, it is named for Mannie Jackson, who I think epitomizes a truly successful student-athlete and is one of the more successful sports business people in America."
Previous recipients of the prestigous award include Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, former NBA stars David Robinson, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning and Bob Lanier, The V Foundation for Cancer Research, and current NBA players Chauncey Billups and Samuel Dalembert.
Award winners are selected by a committee that includes Jackson himself. Criteria includes "embracing the core values of the game through hard work, dedication, and resilience; striving to continuously improve the community they serve, and making an ongoing commitment to others." Jackson said that this year's three recipients were well deserved.
"We are proud to honor three of the most deserving selections since the award was established," he said. "Having known all three personally, I admire their sustained work and contributions to both the game of basketball and their communities."
The three men will be recognized on September 6, during an event prior to the annual Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies in Springfield, Mass.