The Day – Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic canceled again

While a Connecticut summer sports institution, the Travelers Championship, continues to play, another will be sidelined for a second year in a row.

The Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic, which featured a biennial all-star basketball game featuring many former UConn greats, as well as a pair of annual celebrity golf events at Avon Golf Club and Mohegan Sun Golf Club, is again canceled.

The event, which typically takes place in early August, was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The basketball game at Mohegan Sun Arena, which started in 1999 and raised millions of dollars for Pat and Jim Calhoun Heart Center, had actually been put on hold before the pandemic. Former stars who had played in the game for many years, including Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Caron Butler and Charlie Villanueva, were simply getting older, crowds were dwindling and the event was losing its spark in recent years.

The last time the match was held on August 10, 2018, Allen, Hamilton, Rudy Gay, Khalid El-Amin and Hilton Armstrong were among the participants, along with former UConn female stars like Svetlana Abrosimova, Carla Berube and Ashley Battle. But younger stars like Kemba Walker, Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb didn’t show up. The reported attendance was 5,323.

Event planners were planning to hold special UConn basketball-focused events at the Mohegan Sun Convention Center instead of last summer’s game, including a possible Q&A session with Walker and Calhoun, but this had to be removed due to the pandemic. No such event was planned for this summer.

And although golf has been the only sport that has largely continued over the past 15 months, including travelers, there simply weren’t enough onboard sponsors and other logistical hurdles to allow Celebrity golf events resume this summer.

According to Peter Gold, whose Gold marketing firm Orluk & Partners is helping coordinate the event, golf events “maybe” could return next year. The all-star game, not so much.

“Probably unlikely at zero,” Gold said of the odds. “At least not in the form we know it. What it will look like in the future is uncertain.”

Gold noted that perhaps in the years to come, a Calhoun-Dan Hurley event emerges. Gold also hosts some of Hurley’s public events, although the coach’s summer camp has been canceled for the second year in a row.

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