SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) – Jim Calhoun’s basketball career has come full circle and just about every step of it now will be preserved for posterity.

Connecticut’s winningest coach on Tuesday unveiled a permanent exhibit honoring him and the UConn program at the Basketball Hall of Fame. Calhoun, 63, has led the Huskies to two national titles and 15 Big East titles and has been named Big East coach of the year a record four times.

He is entering his 20th season at UConn and has spent his entire coaching career in New England.

“It’s an incredibly humbling experience,” he said. “As someone who loved athletics growing up – football, baseball and basketball – I started to really fall in love with the game of basketball. It’s a game with which a dream, a ball and a hoop and anything was possible.”

Calhoun, a native of Braintree, will be officially inducted in September.

He played college ball at American International College in Springfield and has watched the Hall of Fame grow from a small room on the campus of Springfield College to a sprawling downtown complex.

A crowd of more than 100 greeted him with applause and whistles as he walked toward the podium set up in the Hall atrium.

High above him on the domed ceiling were the portraits of former inductees, giants of the game whom he will join in six weeks.

“The pictures up there mean a lot to some of you folks, but to me, they’re bigger than life,” he said. “They’re the people that I idolized growing up.”

Calhoun coached at Northeastern for 14 years before taking the job at UConn and has compiled a career record of 703-210.

He picked up his 700th win on March 2 with an 83-64 win over Georgetown, becoming one of seven active Division I coaches with 700 or more victories. He has the third-most 30-win seasons in Division I history.

This past season, he passed John Wooden to move into the top 20 on the NCAA all-time Division I coaching wins list. Calhoun’s exhibit in the Hall’s “Coaches & Teams Gallery” features original uniforms, trophies and other memorabilia and is next to Wooden’s exhibit.

“That’s pretty heavy company I think,” Calhoun said. “I couldn’t think of any coach that I’d rather be beside than John Wooden. He is the coach in my lifetime, certainly. The reason a coach gets inducted into the Hall of Fame is rather simple. He gets incredible support by the institution he’s involved with, gets incredible support from the community.”

A number of Calhoun players have found success at the next level in the NBA, including Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Donyell Marshall and Cliff Robinson.

The bonds of the UConn family are long, strong ones.

Calhoun will be inducted in September along with his friend and Big East coaching colleague Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, longtime coach and broadcaster Hubie Brown, former LSU women’s coach Sue Gunter and Brazilian star Hortencia Marcari.

As Calhoun pulled down the curtain on his exhibit, officially opening it to thousands of daily visitors, the coach stood back and quietly took it all in.

He said it gave him goose bumps as big as golf balls. His wife, Pat, who has been at his side his entire career, watched the proceedings from the sidelines. It was an emotional moment for her, as well.

“When I was walking down the stairs and heard the applause, I had goose bumps,” she said, her eyes welling up. “I thought, My God, they’re cheering for him.”‘

One floor below the gallery, the Hall’s full-size basketball court was alive with the sound of bouncing balls. Dozens of boys and girls ran all over the court, playing the game that Jim Calhoun fell in love with as a boy.

And it seemed they had everything they needed – a ball, a hoop and perhaps, even a dream.

AP-ES-07-19-05 1727EDT

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