UConn, NBA great Ray Allen coaching the game he loves

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Ray Allen was back home Friday night, so to speak: less than an hour away from where he became a household name playing for UConn and 10 minutes from his crowning achievement in the sport of basketball.

Ray Allen was on the sidelines at Springfield College’s Blake Arena. But he wasn’t shooting the deep three-ball. Instead, he was coaching Gulliver Prep, a high school team out of Pinecrest, Florida in the famed Spalding HoopHall Classic.

And yes, coaching is something Allen has taken a liking to. He gets to teach the game that’s been so good to him.

“Coaching is about trying to put yourself in those shoes and allow them to understand what I want for them,” Allen said. “You certainly have to have patience. I don’t want them to play like me. I want them to learn to prepare. Once they start understanding that, then everything they want kind of falls into place. I almost love the adversity in losses more than wins.”

Allen’s Gulliver Prep team fell to Notre Dame High of West Haven 64-46 Friday night. Gulliver spent a lot of the second half down by more than 20 points.

This is Allen’s second season coaching at Gulliver Prep, and he has learned a lot along the way, including coaching his own son, Ray III, a 6-foot-2 senior guard.

“Every day I learn something. I’m learning to develop more patience, learning that when these kids come into the gym, they are dealing with so many issues, more than what I had,” Allen said. “I want them to have more than basketball, figure out how to channel that in class, to social media, to girlfriends, to family, to social life in general, to now focus on basketball, take all that, ball it up and then let’s go to war on the court.”

Allen, now 47, was a dominant force at UConn, scoring 1,922 points in just three seasons, earning All-American laurels twice. He shot nearly 45 percent from the 3-point line for his career and remains the only member of the UConn men’s basketball team to ever have his number retired (34).

During his stellar 18-year NBA career, Allen averaged 18.9 points per game, finishing with 24,505 points. He was the NBA’s all-time 3-point shooter for more than a decade (2,973) until Steph Curry passed him in December of 2021.

A two-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics (2008) and the Miami Heat (2013) and a 10-time NBA All-Star, Allen was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018 at Symphony Hall, a short drive from Blake Arena.

“These grounds are so sacred for me,” Allen said. “It’s almost like when you move through Springfield, into Hartford, it’s like seeing ghosts, on a regular basis. … We practiced last night and I told the boys, ‘You don’t realize the iconic feet that have walked through this building (the Hall of Fame), people that you have admired, taught you the game, some people they don’t even know had an impact on you in the game of basketball.’

“All my kids, including my coaches, are basketball heads. To be at the Hall of Fame, to go there and enjoy this experience is once in a lifetime and I’m glad I could share it with them.”

Of course, more than 20 seasons of playing college and professionally combined meant a lot of coaches have impacted Allen’s basketball prowess.

“When I’m saying things it’s Coach (Jim) Calhoun, it’s Doc Rivers, it’s Erik Spoelstra, George Karl, Bob Weiss and Bob Hill. It’s Jeff Lynch. my high school coach. It’s every coach that ever touched hands on me,” Allen said.

Allen relayed a story back when he was recruited. He initially verbally committed to play at Alabama. He then decommitted and made his remaining official college visits.

“It’s so difficult when you’re 17 years old and you have to make a decision to go to college and a lot of times, people make that decision for the moment, for the next year and in many cases, making that decision for that moment or that year is always a bad decision and you have to think about how you want to set yourself up for your life,” Allen said.

He cut the five official visits down to three: after Alabama, it was to Storrs then to Lexington, Kentucky. He chose Storrs in the end and he helped change the culture for UConn, helping the program become a constant on the national stage in the 1990s.

Of course, learning some things from another Hall of Famer didn’t hurt.

“The other thing about Calhoun is he never promised me anything. He didn’t tell me he would make me an NBA player,” Allen said, “He said, ‘You come here, you will have an opportunity to get better and grow .If you have dreams or aspirations of going to the next level, stay focused and be ready to put the work in.’ And he was right.”

Before they head back down to Pinecrest, Gulliver Prep will visit the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, “a magical place” as Allen refers to it, the Birthplace of Basketball.

Now Allen gets to continue to teach the game that helped make him one of basketball’s all-time greats.

“The experience (at the Hall of Fame) is incredible,” Allen said. “For them to say that they have been here and get a glimpse of it, a spectacle, a stage to feel that for them, now when they go back home, it’s ‘I need to work on this, I need to make sure this happens, I need to focus here.’….When the moment comes, you have to be ready and you have to stay ready.”

[email protected]; @nhrJoeMorelli

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