Jeff Carr

Year: 1975 - 1979
Position: Center
Hometown: Hartford, CT

Jeff Carr played the Center position for the Huskies from 1975 – 1979 and is a member of the UConn Basketball All Century Ballot. I met with Jeff in November of 2003 when he shared many basketball memories from his youth, as a college player and some post-collegiate experiences.

Jeff grew up in the Charter Oak Terrace Housing Project in Hartford, Connecticut. In sixth grade he was very tall and thin and was already wearing a size 13 sneaker, but he wondered if he would ever develop. He was uncoordinated so he played basketball in the back yard but not in any organized sports groups. During junior high he started going to the Southwest Boys Club and hung around the basketball court, where the older boys who played there started to include him. Though they continued to make fun of him, the kids told Jeff they were going to toughen him up. He’d skip gym class in junior high because there were some really good athletes and Jeff was self conscious as he was still pretty clumsy at 5’11”.

He went to Bulkley High School and his freshman year he topped 6’4”. He was under pressure to play sports and he joined the football team and got a taste of what it was like to play on an organized team. Then basketball season came and he wasn’t sure he wanted to join, but due to peer pressure, he did. It was a big high school and he wanted to be part of something while there, and after he joined the sports team he became a part of the athletic “clique”.

During that year he got a call from a basketball coach at Robinson Prep School in West Hartford, CT wanting him to transfer. Jeff didn’t know what a prep school was. The headmaster was on the board at the boys club where Jeff had been playing and people at the boys club told the headmaster about Jeff’s talent. Jeff was confused—he was getting comfortable and well liked at the big high school and the prep school had a grand total of 100 students. He didn’t want to go to a prep school and wear a uniform when he came from the project. What would everyone think? His mom thought the prep school would be good academically so she suggested Jeff tell the basketball coach that he’d transfer and he did.

Soon all of Bulkley High new that Jeff would be leaving and he got a call from his guidance counselor. “I didn’t even know I had a guidance counselor. I had never been to him before and now he wants to give me guidance?” he said. The head coach of the varsity basketball team asked the guidance counselor to try to talk Jeff into staying. Jeff said, “When I was playing freshman basketball, the head coach saw me in the gym and he never came to me and said hey you’re a big kid you’d be a good player here. I never heard any encouragement so I made up my mind I was leaving Bulkley.”

When he went to Robinson he started out as a freshman. Jeff was like god at the school, because of his size and potential. At a prep school, there is no age limit so Jeff, now 6’6” and not extremely knowledgeable about basketball, was playing against some experienced 20-21 year old developed men since the teams included some post-graduate players. There was some good talent out there so it elevated Jeff’s game.

As a freshman at Robinson, Jeff started on the varsity team. The team won the New England Basketball Championship and Jeff began to really like the sport. By his sophomore year, he was 6' 8” and his body was getting stronger. This year his team lost in the semifinals of the NE Basketball Championship. In his junior year, a new, stronger coach was brought in and Jeff became the focus of the team; the ball had to go to Jeff all the time. This year they won the NE Basketball Championship.

One day toward the end of his junior year, the coach asked him if he’d thought about what college he was going to attend. “I’m like, what are you talking about? The coach said, ‘Well you know you’re going to have to go to college right?’ I said, ‘I am?’ I hadn’t even thought about it. I soon started receiving letters, about 100, from colleges around the country; colleges I didn’t even know existed. I received letters from Yale, Harvard, Hawaii. I went for a recruiting visit to the University of Minnesota. It was the experience of my lifetime. I was overwhelmed, which helped me to make up my mind to stay close to home. UConn coaches were also interested.” Jeff went to UConn to watch a basketball game at the Field House. “I saw a sign by one of the fans saying ‘Rowe Must Go’”. The team had lost in the National Invitational Tournament the year before. All the fans started chanting “Rowe Must Go”. The fans were into it, they were unhappy. Jeff felt this school has a good program and he realized the fans put a lot of pressure on the coach to win. Going to that game helped him make his decision to go to UConn. His senior year at Robinson was another good year and Jeff was the Most Valuable Player of the NE Basketball Tournament and his team won it again.

Jeff wasn’t well known going into UConn because Robinson Prep School didn’t get a lot of press. “I had to gain recognition. My work was cut out for me,” he said. Jeff’s coaches and teammates helped him to get grounded his freshman year and it was a huge adjustment. He had been told he’d be backing up John Thomas who had bad knees. After watching John play, Jeff knew that John’s knees were not going to keep him from playing every game. Jeff had to work hard to work his way into the starting line up. “I played as hard as I could during practice, good defense and grabbing as many rebounds as I could and by the third game, I was in the starting lineup.”

During his freshman year the team went to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Sweet 16. “We played Hofstra our first game. It was my best game ever; I had 17 points and 15 rebounds. Towards the end of the game I was called for a foul. I jumped in the air, the referee called a technical foul on me. I thought I blew the game. We went to overtime and someone fouled me at the very end of overtime. I made the foul shot and the game was over, we won. I was now recognized as a real player by my teammates.”

His sophomore year was an okay season but they didn’t make it to the NCAA Tournament. Then Coach Rowe retired. The assistant coach, Dom Perno, took over and they had a losing season. It was the first losing experience Jeff ever had. His junior year was a bit better and in his senior year, there were high expectations with a new good freshman class coming in and some experienced seniors, but the first game one of the seniors got hurt and was out for the season. They made it to the NCAA Tournament but had to play a real tough team. They played a good game but just didn’t win. Jeff stayed another year to finish some credits he needed to graduate with a degree in Sociology and was a graduate assistant for the team.

Jeff said that the coach’s job is really tough. Trying to get the kids to listen and accept their role, trying to keep the kids grounded, out of trouble and all the kids have egos from being the big fish, superstars in high school. The kids aren’t thinking about what it takes to win, they are thinking about themselves. All of this makes a coach’s job that much more difficult.

Jeff thinks that Coach Calhoun does a good job of keeping kids under control. He said that Dee Rowe used to tell the kids that they are representing the University, their families, themselves and the fans, and it’s not about representing only themselves. “I brought the lesson Dee taught us into my personal life,” he said.

The following summer Jeff was introduced to an agent who brought him to New Jersey for a tryout for the National Basketball Association. Jeff didn’t make the team. It was suggested he go out of the country for a tryout to make a team. Jeff said, “What do you mean a tryout? They don’t know if they want me?” He said forget it, he’ll just go to work like everybody else. He wanted to stay home and play in leagues around Connecticut, and he still does.

Jeff worked for three years at Mansfield Training Center as a counselor. He left there and became a driver and sales person for Coca Cola. Then he went to Long Lane School in Middletown, where he had completed an internship while a junior in college. He took a social workers’ exam and had his name put on a list waiting for a job in that field of work. While waiting for a job, he continued to work at Long Lane for ten months as a youth services officer then he got the call from a parole officer who told Jeff there was a job available for him. He came back to Hartford to work as a parole officer and has been there ever since, for fifteen years in Hartford where he grew up. He said there is never a dull moment. “Kids who are on probation are my responsibility. They are committed to us for having committed crimes from something as simple as truancy to killing people. We put them in residential placement and then we put them into community programs. Then we supervise them in the community.”

Jeff spent time as an assistant basketball coach at Trinity College, a Division III school, for eight years during the 1990’s. He also has coached a neighborhood travel team; Marcus Camby, an NBA player with the Denver Nuggets, was on one of Jeff’s teams.

He now lives in Bloomfield with his wife, Beverly, his step son, Bryant, who is in his third year at Northwest Catholic School and his son, J C (Jeff’s initials), who is 11 years old and currently enjoys playing soccer instead of basketball, but he’s already 5 feet tall and wears a size 9 sneaker, so maybe basketball will come later.

Jeff continues to watch all the UConn games and he’s dedicated to the school. “I will appreciate the education and what UConn did for me for the rest of my life. Playing basketball affected my whole entire life so I appreciate that. I don’t know what might have happened to me if I didn’t go there and play basketball.”

Jeff’s thoughts on the current UConn team making it to the Final Four in 2004 are that since they got to the Sweet 16 last year, they should be in the Final Four this year. They have brought in some better players and he has confidence in them. He says it should happen.

Jeff’s thoughts on how things have changed over the years from when he was there are that the expectations are different from his time. His team was expected with CT players to win the Eastern College Athletic Conference and make the NCAA, not win it. Now expectations are to go to the Final Four. “Connecticut fans are serious and I decided to take my basketball serious too.”