Thursday, September 13, 2012

Warde Manuel, Current Players, Pat Calhoun, and Holding out Hope for Big East Tourney

So what is Warde Manuel looking for as he evaluates Kevin Ollie this season?

“I’m looking to see how he is on the sidelines, how he handles decision-making, how he does substitutions and things that are normal in the course of a game,” he said. “How does he handle a loss with a team, how does he motivate them the next day to come back and play. How's he handling practice and the staff and all the things that come with being a head coach at this level.  I want to see it, because I can’t turn to somebody and say, ‘Hey, how did he do? How was he as a head coach?’ I need to see that. It really, truly is a long-term plan. I want to see where Kevin is before I extend that long-term contract. But I love Kevin, I’ve enjoyed working with him the past six months. I see why Jim believes in him so much, but I want to see it myself before I would make that determination.”

*** R.J. Evans is a Connecticut kid who, as a graduate student, is getting one season to live out a dream and finally play for his hometown school.

He probably thought he’d get a chance to play for the legendary Hall of Fame coach, too. But that’s not to be now.

“There’s no hard feelings with me,” Evans said. “Coach Calhoun made the decision, he’s part of our family, so I’m behind him 100-percent. He made the best decision for him. Tomorrow’s a new day, Coach Ollie’s our coach and we’ll go from there.”

Evans added that, in Calhoun’s new role as special assistant to AD Warde Manuel, he’ll still have a big presence with the team.

“In essence, he’s still my coach,” Evans said. “I don’t really see him as not being my coach anymore.”

Sophomore DeAndre Daniels at least got to play one season under Calhoun.

“I wanted to play for Coach Calhoun all my years that I’m here, but he has to do what’s best for him and his family,” Daniels said. “That was him retiring, so be it. Coach Ollie’s from L.A., too, so we had a real bond. He’s one of the other reasons I came here.”

Sophomore guard Ryan Boatright said he found out about Calhoun’s retirement through a text message from Daniels Wednesday evening.

“It was a shocker to everybody,” Boatright said, “but I believe Coach had to do what’s best for him, his family and his health. We’re still going to have to pull together and perform. KO’s a great coach, I love to play for him. We’re all going to miss Coach Cal cussing us out on the sidelines, but he had to do what’s best for him.”

Getting used to Ollie as head coach won’t be a problem, according to Boatright.

“Everybody’s comfortable with KO,” he added. “We probably talk to KO more than we talk to Calhoun, anyway.”

*** Pat Calhoun, Jim's wife of 46 years ("the best recruit I ever got,” according to Jim), said the decision was pretty much known within the last couple of weeks.

“It was 100-percent his decision, it will always be 100-percent his decision,” she said. “He knew that I supported him. He knew that I would prefer he stay coaching forever if that was possible, fully knowing that, obviously, it wasn’t.”

Still, even she wasn’t completely convinced he’d go through with it.

“I’ve always said that, until I saw him up there (on the podium), I’d never believe it,” she admitted. “When I left him in the office today, I said to him, ‘Do not change your mind.’”

And now that he's retired, can Pat do anything to keep her husband off bicycles?

"I'm hoping we can stay with the indoor spinner, but that's probably wishful thinking on my part," she said. "I'm hoping he at least goes for a thicker tire or something. I don't know, training wheels, I'm not sure."

*** UConn is still holding out hope that it could play in this year's Big East tournament, though a league source said it's still a "very remote" chance.

UConn's last chance will likely come at a league presidents' meeting in early November in Chicago. The league's bylaws have not been amended to exclude teams banned from the NCAA tournament from the conference tournament, though the presidents agreed this would be the case back in March.

*** Geno Auriemma was out of town on Thursday and unable to attend the press conference, but he issued a statement:

"The great success achieved by the UConn men’s basketball program under Jim Calhoun’s leadership helped propel the University of Connecticut onto the national stage. His contributions to this University have been positive and will be long lasting. I want to take this opportunity to wish Jim Calhoun all my best in a long, happy and healthy retirement.

I have always admired Kevin Ollie as a person and as a player and know that he will make the most of this opportunity. He has had great success in everything he has done and I am confident this will be no exception."

And here's what football coach Paul Pasqualoni had to say:

"Obviously Coach Calhoun is a great coach, everybody here will miss him and what he has done. I think Coach Ollie, if that is the direction the university goes in, . Obviously Jim Calhoun is a legendary coach, a guy I have tremendous respect (for) his toughness. I have tremendous respect for his coaching ability. He has won every place he has ever been. He won here early in his career. I remember when he came here it was probably a so-so first year. The next year they were on the rise and never stopped getting better. It is one thing in sports, in high level I-A athletics and pro sports, it is one thing to get there, to bring your program, to elevate your program but it is a whole another thing to keep it there. What I admire the most about Coach Calhoun is the same thing I admired about Coach Osborne when he was at Nebraska. Not only did these coaches get their programs to the top at the highest level, they kept them there and that is a true sign of greatness to me."

*** Ollie's salary of $625,000 is "annualized" -- meaning, essentially, it's pro-rated. So, he'll actually earn $384,615 this season. On top of what he's already earned on his assistant coach's salary, of course.

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