Jim Calhoun, who 26 years ago took over perhaps the
weakest program in the Big East and transformed it into one of the most
prominent in the nation, is retiring.
As first reported by NBC Connecticut, Calhoun is expected
to formally announce his retirement after 40 years of coaching – 26 at UConn –
at a press conference on Thursday.
It is expected that assistant coach Kevin Ollie will take
over the head coaching reins, at least for the interim.
Calhoun has waffled on his decision since last season
ended in March, saying that he intended on coaching out the final two years of
his contract but reserved the right to change his mind. A broken hip suffered
in a bike accident in early August may have been the final straw in determining
that, at age 70, it was time.
Calhoun won three national titles at UConn and took the
team to four Final Fours. He finishes with 873 career wins (sixth on the
all-time list) – 625 of them at UConn. He was inducted into the Naismith
Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.
The Huskies won the national championship in 2011 behind
a miraculous performance by Kemba Walker, but have otherwise been hit with
plenty of controversy in recent years. Low Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores will
keep UConn out of the postseason this year. A few years ago, the program was
also docked scholarships due to recruiting violations.
Calhoun has also battled numerous health problems in
recent years, from cancer (prostate and skin) to broken ribs and a broken hip
from bike accidents.
As he has indicated in the past, Calhoun is expected to
remain with the program in some capacity. According to his 2010 contract
extension, he was due to receive either a one-time payment of $1 million or
secure employment in a full-time position in the athletics department for a
maximum of five years at an annual salary of $300,000.
Ollie has never been a head coach at any level and has
only been a UConn assistant for two seasons since retiring from a nomadic,
13-year NBA career. However, Calhoun has been privately lobbying for Ollie to
be named as his successor, though first-year athletic director Warde Manuel has
balked about naming Ollie a “coach-in-waiting.”
According to reports, Ollie will be given a one-year
contract but will not be labeled an “interim” head coach. Associate head coach
George Blaney will remain on the staff, as well as assistant Glen Miller.
Director of basketball operations Karl Hobbs will be bumped up to assistant
status, as well.
Ollie has drawn rave reviews among recruits. Contacted
Wednesday evening, Kareem Memminger, the AAU coach of recent UConn commit
Kentan Facey, said: “If Kevin takes over, we will still honor the commitment. Anybody
else, we’ve got to look at it.”
Ollie has huge shoes to fill. Calhoun is one of only five
college basketball coaches in NCAA history to win three national titles (1999,
Calhoun began his collegiate coaching career at
Northeastern in 1972 and took that program to the NCAA tournament five times
before taking over the reins at Storrs in 1986.
After a 9-19 inaugural season, Calhoun’s UConn teams
never finished below .500 again over the next 25 years. They won the National
Invitational Tournament in 1988, and two years later won their first Big East tournament
title while riding a “dream season” to the Elite 8.
UConn won seven more Big East tourney titles under
Calhoun and 10 regular-season championships. The program reached the Sweet 16
13 times under Calhoun and got to the Elite Eight nine times.
Labels: George Blaney, Jim Calhoun, Kareem Memminger, Kemba Walker, Kentan Facey, Kevin Ollie, Warde Manuel