Connecticut Post (Sunday)

How good is Saint Mary’s? Just ask Joey California

- david.borges@hearstmedi­ @DaveBorges

ALBANY, N.Y. — The UConn men’s basketball team has played Saint Mary’s exactly one time in its history, back on Dec. 17, 2006, in Hartford.

But there is one UConn player who is very familiar with the Gaels, heading into Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Round of 32 bout at MVP Arena.

Joey Calcaterra played against Saint Mary’s six times during his four seasons at the University of San Diego before transferri­ng to UConn this season. San Diego competes in the West Coast Conference, which Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga have dominated over the years, sharing the regular-season title this season.

“They try to slow the pace down, make us work in the halfcourt on defense,” Calcaterra said of the Gaels, who outlasted VCU 6351 in an opening-round game prior to UConn’s 87-63 dismantlin­g of Iona.

So, “Joey California” does the scout work for Sunday’s game against the California­based Gaels, right? Not quite. That job belongs to UConn assistant Luke Murray.

“We’ll get back to the hotel tonight and talk through it,” Calcaterra said in the happy Huskies’ locker room after the game .”I’ve had some conversati­ons with Coach Luke, because he’s got the scout for us, giving him some tips. But, we’ll lock in on them (Friday night).”

Saint Mary’s (27-7) is led by guards Logan Johnson, a fifth-year, and Aidan Mahaney, a freshman, who averaged 14.7 and 14.5 points per game this season, respective­ly. Calcaterra is familiar with several of Saint Mary’s players, as well as 22nd-year coach Randy Bennett, whom he saw in the hallway at the

Patrick Smith/Getty Images media hotel earlier in the week.

“Real good dude, really represente­d the WCC well the last couple of years,” Calcaterra said. “So, looking forward to it.”

Of course, Calcaterra hasn’t had the greatest success against the Gaels. He’s averaged just 4.3 points per game in those six games, hitting double figures just once (11 points on Feb. 22, 2020).

“Tough team to play against,” Calcaterra shrugged. “The past couple of years, we allowed them to slow us down. Tough team to play, but I’m excited to do it with this team.”

Sunday night's 8:15 p.m. title game against New London.

“Obviously, it is a challenge to get there every year,” said Tim Kohs, who doubles as Mercy athletic director. “It's great for the kids. It's great for the program. It's a little weird when you think about that's it a year ago this weekend that my dad passed away. I try not to think about it.

“You don't dwell on the day. Your dad is gone. You miss him. You wish it wasn't the case. I know it's coming up. Maybe it will be a little different when we're down there.”

It was Sunday afternoon, March 20, 2022. The brothers were in the stands together just after the tip of the second half of the Class MM finals between Sacred Heart Academy and St. Joseph at Mohegan Sun Arena.

They had been chatting with Dave Rudini, who they hadn't seen in years. Rudini's dad Frank had coached football with Larry McHugh at Xavier and his own daughter Katherine was playing for St. Joseph's.

Mike's cell phone rang. It was his wife Robin. “What's up,” Mike said. “It's dad,” she said. Art Kohs was the founding father of Xavier athletics, a passionate supporter of Xavier and its sister school Mercy. Even calling Art a legend along the two-mile patch of Randolph Road between the two schools seems inadequate.

“He was supposed to go to lunch with a friend,” Mike said.

Robin received a call. Art hadn't shown up.

Robin tried herself. Art didn't pick up the phone. She went to his place in Cromwell. His car was there. Robin knocked on the door. She could hear the dog barking. She had passed a policeman directing traffic nearby, so she went back to him.

“They did a wellness check,” Tim said. “He was on the floor. It mostly likely was a heart attack. He had been slowing down, wasn't moving around very well. But he had been fine. It was completely unexpected.”

Arthur Kohs was 84. “My father was the first hire at Xavier,” Mike said. “The founding father of Xavier athletics. We'll call him the patriarch.”

His nickname was the King.

To say he was there at Xavier from the start is not an overstatem­ent. He interviewe­d for the job at St. Pius Church because the school was still under constructi­on.

Art picked the Xavier colors, black and white. He picked the nickname, the Falcons. He initiated the athletic programs. As AD he hired the coaches. At the start, he coached soccer, basketball and baseball himself. He continued to coach basketball and reached the state semifinals in 1969 and 1975.

“He loved his family and he loved his school,” Mike Kohs said. “That was his life.”

Art had played soccer, winning multiple state championsh­ips, under Tom Nevers at Hale-Ray High in East Haddam. After playing on a national champion team at Springfiel­d College, he coached soccer, basketball and baseball at Hale-Ray. The school won soccer state titles under Art in 1961 and 1962.

“He was hired at Xavier in March 1963, the same day our older brother (Todd) was born,” Mike said.

Tim said his dad called himself more of a soccer guy and he officiated the game at the NCAA Division I level. The boys, however, never saw him coach anything other than basketball in high school. After he retired as AD in 1997, the gymnasium was named in his honor. Art did continue as an assistant under Mike.

What was it like coaching with your dad?

“He was like he always was,” Mike said. “He said what was on his mind, whether I agreed with him or not. People would say they loved coming to the games for the sideshow of my father and me. Him yelling at me. Me yelling back at him.”

Mike laughed. Tim laughed.

Todd, Mike, Tim all played at Xavier. Paula Kohs Drake, who played at Mercy, went on to score 2,000 points at Stonehill and for a time served as Tim's assistant. She now lives in North Carolina

Mike's son Stephen was an outstandin­g player at Xavier.

“My father never missed a Xavier game when he played,” Mike said. “Actually, my parents didn't miss any of their grandkids games. I know he loved watching Stephen, because all the others were granddaugh­ters.”

Art's wife Carolyn, who died in 2017, babysat all her grandkids. She was a constant presence at all their youth games, carefully tracking schedules.

“My mom would never play favorites,” Tim said. “If there were three soccer games, she'd be at one for 10 minutes for Leah (Paula's) daughter, 10 for Lauren (Mike's daughter) and 10 for Avery (his daughter).”

Avery and Lauren were teammates on Mercy's two-time state soccer champions in 2021 (cochamps) and 2022. Avery runs the point for her father's basketball team that will seek a state championsh­ip against a New London team led by the brilliant Nalyce Dudley.

Tim Kohs has coached Mercy to state titles in 1996, 2013, 2018. Anyone who follows state high school basketball won't forget Maria Wesleyj's 3-point shot at the buzzer to win the 2013 state title.

A year after his dad's death, five years since Mercy's last state title, a decade after the miracle shot, Tim Kohs finds himself again at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

“Of course, I'll be there,” Mike Kohs said.

Of course, he will. And, as Tim Kohs said, maybe those emotions will be different when he gets there.

 ?? ?? UConn’s Joey Calcaterra reacts after scoring a basket in the first half against Iona during the first round of the NCAA Tournament at MVP Arena on Friday in Albany, N.Y.
UConn’s Joey Calcaterra reacts after scoring a basket in the first half against Iona during the first round of the NCAA Tournament at MVP Arena on Friday in Albany, N.Y.
 ?? Xavier Athletics ?? Art Kohs, who crafted the Xavier athletics program from the time the school was opened in 1963, died one year ago. He was 84.
Xavier Athletics Art Kohs, who crafted the Xavier athletics program from the time the school was opened in 1963, died one year ago. He was 84.

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