For the second time in as many seasons, Jim Calhoun is heading into the start of the academic year unsure of whether or not he will remain the head coach of the UConn Huskies.
And based on what he told SI.com on Thursday, it seems like retirement is a real option for Calhoun:
“I would be very, very surprised if I didn’t have something to say within the next two weeks,” he said as he talks more about the past than the future. Calhoun said he has not decided whether or not to retire, but he sounds like he might be ready to step away. Although the competitive part of him thinks he could coach for another two years, the practical side realizes that this might be time.
“I was on a recruiting trip to Washington and as I was going around and talking to people and doing things, I said to myself, this could be the last recruiting trip I ever take,” Calhoun said. “I know I have plenty of things I want to do. I have plans. I’m just going to go with how I feel. I will know.”
A month ago, there are few that would have believed that this was a possibility, but that was before Calhoun hit a patch of sand on a bike ride by his Madison, CT, summer home and fell, breaking his hip. That crash happened on August 4th. Calhoun is still more than a week away from graduating to a cane and getting off of his crutches. Calhoun still has the drive — he was out on the recruiting trail throughout the month of July — and the passion and the fire that made him a three-time national champion, but the fact of the matter is that he is 70 years old.
And no amount of drive and passion and fire can change the fact that 70 year old bodies are brittle.
Calhoun loves the program that he has built at Connecticut. Part of the reason that he is still making a push to finish out the final two years on his contract is that he doesn’t want to leave the program that he built from scratch in a state of disarray. (2013 postseason ban aside, UConn is still recruiting like an elite program. The two players they have committed for the Class of 2013 are ranked 62nd and 112th by Rivals.) He wants to make sure that when he leaves, UConn is still an annual national title contender.
But here’s the catch-22: it’s not a secret that Calhoun wants current assistant coach Kevin Ollie to be his successor. UConn athletic director Warde Manual has publicly said that he does not want to name a coach-in-waiting. If he waits two more weeks to announce his retirement, Calhoun could force Manuel’s hand. Would Manuel be able to find a more suitable candidate for the job than Ollie (who doesn’t have any head coaching experience but would be bolstered by a staff with three former Division I head coaches and frequent visits from Calhoun)?
It would be a perfect situation for Ollie, who would get a year of on-the-job learning while playing a season with house money thanks to the postseason ban.
I think Calhoun is coming back, but I tend to agree with UConn beat-writer Kevin Duffy. There’s a better chance of Calhoun retiring than a lot of people truly believe.