It has been a big year for basketball at The Birthplace. Springfield College has had a number of prominent hoopers walk down Alden Street and through the Campus Union. In September, the college welcomed Shaquille O’Neal and Yao Ming, as a part of their Hall of Fame inductions.
On Saturday, the list grew larger when Springfield was host to college basketball coaching legend Jim Calhoun, world renowned sports journalists Bob Ryan and Alexander Wolff, acclaimed poet Jack Ridl, and many more. It was a day of true basketball greatness.
The legends came to Springfield College for the first annual New England Basketball Hall of Fame Symposium. It was a day that consisted of a number of panels where there were discussions led by moderators. The first panel, called Innovation, was a powerful and interesting discussion that included topics of coaching, journalism, feminism, racism, and psychology. The panelists were ESPN visionary Carol Stiff, Ridl, and psychiatrist Dr. Donald Pet.
The panel started with Stiff discussing issues of viewership in women’s collegiate basketball. Stiff described the journey that she has been through fighting for women’s collegiate games to be televised. In her time at ESPN, she has been quite successful, as ESPN will broadcast over 300 women’s college basketball games this season.
After lunch and a bit of a social hour where students, faculty, staff and members of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame got to meet and take pictures with Jim Calhoun and Bob Ryan, Calhoun took the podium, speaking in his usual mile-per-minute manner. Calhoun talked about his time at the University of Connecticut, and he described how his coaching was far more than winning National Championships and making good basketball players. His mission was to create humanitarians and grow his athletes into quality young men.
Ridl wrote a poem for Calhoun, and read it aloud for everyone to hear. The poem delivered a powerful message about how Calhoun was open-minded to giving each and every athlete an equal opportunity. The name of the poem is “What If,” and it really defined who Calhoun was as a coach. What if the kid who rode the bench in high school was given an opportunity. Calhoun was willing to give that kid the chance he needed to prove himself.
The final panel of the day was one of particular interest to students in the Communications/Sports Journalism major. The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan spoke with Sports Illustrated’s longest tenured writer of 36 years Alexander Wolff about the status of journalism, the beauty of the field, and some of the work they have completed.
Ryan, who has been writing for The Globe since 1968, spoke with charisma and excitement about his field. He captivated the room, especially the COSJ students, as they took in each and every word, while they envisioned their careers going down a similar path to Ryan’s. He is the goal of sports journalism. He’s a man who transformed basketball writing and is a great role model to young, aspiring journalists.
It was an event that everyone left having learned something new. There was so much information, so much talent across a variety of different fields. Springfield College once again successfully hosted an event that meant so much to many people. We can only hope to have more events like this down the road.