SPRINGFIELD — Jim Calhoun isn’t going to retire today.
Tomorrow, or perhaps next week? Well, that’s a different story.
One thing is clear: The longtime University of Connecticut basketball coach is closer to leaving the Huskies than he’s ever been.
A bum hip and a bothersome back may be contributing factors, but it also just might be time.
The 70-year-old Calhoun, still using crutches as he recovers from hip surgery stemming from his bicycle crash Aug. 4, was at the Basketball Hall of Fame on Thursday night to receive an award from that group. Before the event, which was part of the annual enshrinement weekend festivities, Calhoun didn’t actually say he was seriously considering stepping down. But he did come about as close as he ever has to admitting such thoughts, something that didn’t happen even as whispers of his departure circulated over the last three years.
“I maybe … might … think about whether or not I want to keep doing this,” Calhoun said Thursday, qualifying and couching his answer.
I have some strong thoughts on Calhoun, this coming from a lifelong resident who fell in love with the 1988 NIT team in the fifth grade, and ultimately the Dream Team in 1989-90. I don't think I am even a sports writer if Calhoun didn't do what he did at UConn. The effect of that basketball program on this state is profound.
In one sense, the thought of Calhoun leaving UConn is expected. The man is 70-years old with a broken hip and a bad back. The body goes well before the spirit and everything comes to an end eventually. That's life. In another sense, the thought of Calhoun leaving is unfathomable. UConn basketball has become one of the powerhouses in the sport with three national titles -- four Final Four appearances -- and a generation of players and fans that think UConn basketball as the home of champions. There is only one man who built it, coach it, and saw what the men's basketball program could become. Calhoun has delivered one of the incredible building jobs in all of sports at a cow college in northeast Connecticut.
Having traveled a bit on this job, I don't think Nutmeggers realize the depth of the UConn basketball brand. Old-timers are waiting for the balloon to pop, someone to pinch them as they wake up from this quarter century long dream dream. The rest of us? The day I saw North Carolina rush the court after defeating UConn in basketball -- IN BASKETBALL --I knew the Huskies were here to stay. UConn is Duke, is North Carolina, is Kansas, is Kentucky. This wasn't marketing that did this, it was done the old-fashioned way -- winning.
Which leads us to the future. Here's an excellent read from Kevin Duffy in the CT Post about the decision making of Athletic Director Warde Manuel.
It's no secret that Calhoun wants Kevin Ollie to take the reigns someday, and he'd like you to publicly support that idea. It would provide stability for the program, sure. But you don't want to handcuff yourself to one guy, especially someone who has never been a head coach at any level.
You're Warde Manuel. What's your move?
Well, half-a-year into his tenure as athletic director, it doesn't appear Manuel will budge on the possibility of a coach-in-waiting. He simply responded "no" when asked two weeks ago if he'd changed his mind.
Manuel isn't going to make this decision alone. I don't think there is a chance that President Susan Herbst -- who has spent a lot of her tenure on athletics -- won't be a major part of what happens next. Should Kevin Ollie be named the coach? I think a player with his NBA experience, UConn ties, and story coming out of Crenshaw would be a valuable asset on the recruiting trail. He's one of UConn's great success stories.
On the other hand, this is UConn. There isn't going to be a shortage of people who would want that job because if Calhoun has proven anything in his time in Storrs , you can win at UConn -- and you can win big.
What's going to happen? No idea. No one knows, and until Calhoun does the unthinkable and hangs up his whistle, the college basketball world waits.
--- John Silver