NCAA Basketball Tournament -  UCONN v Iowa St

Jim Calhoun still has an ‘itch’ for the game


Talk to former college athletes, and many will tell you that the biggest competitor on their team was not a player, but rather a coach — the head coach. The sport they coach and the kids they mentor are their profession and, ultimately, winning is how any coach will be judged.

It has been just over a year since Jim Calhoun announced his retirement, and the former Connecticut coach says he is content in his retirement from coaching. This past April, he spent some time at The Breakers in Palm Beach, FL with his family and grandchildren, something he wouldn’t have been able to do as a head coach.

He is happy, but like all competitors, he still has that itch that just won’t go away.

Calhoun told Dom Amore of The Hartford Courant:

It seems like I have to tap-dance for people to believe I’m happy But I’m happy. … I gave up the keys to the car for all the right reasons. I felt it was the right time. … But it’s hard to be swimming in a particular direction and then have to stand. You don’t know kind of what to do. You’ve done something for 40-something years, I’m used to waking up at five o’clock in the morning and solving problems, setting up my day mentally.

The holder of the keys is rising star in the coaching profession Kevin Ollie, who has did a remarkable job in his first year at the helm of Connecticut, considering that the Huskies were ineligible for postseason play. Calhoun has no qualms of Ollie as head coach — in fact, he heavily endorsed him to take over the program after he retired — but the longtime coach of Connecticut from 1986-2012 misses having basketball and his players in his life on a daily basis:

I truly believe the void of basketball is one I’m having a difficult time filling. I spent a few minutes out there this morning talking to [Shabazz Napier]; I spent some time with Tyler. I miss the game, the game itself, the way guys can improve…[T]here’s a little itch there, about basketball and the kids. I’ve talked to people, I don’t know how to scratch that itch. I will. I’ll find a way to scratch that itch.

Currently, Calhoun serves as a special adviser to athletic director Warde Manuel. In this way, he is still very much connected to the university and daily happenings, but it’s obviously not the same as roaming the sideline during practices and games as head coach.

Calhoun isn’t sure what the next step is for him. He has toyed with the idea of coaching a national team overseas, in discussions with satellite radio about having his own sports talk show, and spoken with TV networks about becoming a college hoops analyst. However he may be able to scratch the “itch” he currently has, “it would have to be the right situation,” he explained.

For the time being, Calhoun can enjoy the bit of quiet time he is receiving. But, make no mistake about it, he is a competitor in ever sense of the word, so don’t be surprised if he finagles his way back into the game in some capacity. Anything to rid himself of the “itch.”

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Syracuse wins, Miami loses, Valentine is nation’s best?

Denzel Valentine
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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(This will be updated throughout the day.)

GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse 74, No. 25 Texas A&M 67

The Orange got 20 points from Michael Gbinije and 15 points and five assists from Trevor Cooney as they won the Battle 4 Atlantis title on Friday afternoon. We wrote on this game earlier. Are the Orange for real this year?


Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: 32 points, nine boards, six assists

No. 3 Michigan State beat Boise State 77-67 in the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy out in California, but the result of that game is less important than the result of Valentine’s night. A night after notching his second triple-double of the season, Valentine took over another way on Friday, hitting five straight threes in the span of about five minutes to put the Spartans up double-figures in a game they were struggling to take control of.

In three games against high-major competition, Valentine is now averaging 30.0 points, 10.7 boards and 9.3 assists. He has been, unequivocally, the best player in college basketball this season.

No. 10 Gonzaga 73, No. 17 UConn 70: Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis made some big plays down the stretch as the Bulldogs held on to win a game they led by as much as 21 in the second half. Kyle Wiltjer scored a team-best 17 points for Gonzaga, which finished third at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Rob Dauster wrote more about the Bulldogs and their second-half performance here.

Alabama 64, No. 20 Wichita State 60: Not only did the Shockers drop their second straight at the AdvoCare Invitational, but they also saw Anton Grady leave the game on a stretcher after being involved in a scary second-half collision. He was awake and alert shortly after leaving the court. While the Shockers’ losses to USC and Alabama don’t help them from an NCAA tournament standpoint, the bigger issue is the team’s health.


Quincy Ford, Northeastern: Not only did he score 24 points in the upset win over No. 15 Miami, but he hit the game-winning jumper, too. Video here.


Wichita State’s bigs: Five of them (Anton Grady, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Bush Wakumota, Eric Hamilton) finished a combined 3-for-21 from the floor with 14 points and 14 fouls. Wakumota shot one of the worst threes you’ll ever see with Wichita State down 62-60 with 10 seconds left.

Grady suffered a scary neck injury late in the game, but early reports sound positive.


  • Jamal Murray went for 21 points and three assists without a turnover at No. 1 Kentucky rolled over South Florida. The big question: How bad is Tyler Ulis’ elbow injury?
  • Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart both had 13 points as No. 8 Villanova knocked off Georgia Tech to win the Preseason NIT, 69-52.
  • No. 23 Xavier raced out of the gates against USC and led by as much as 32, going on to win 87-77 in Orlando. Trevon Bluiett led four Musketeers in double figures with 16 points and James Farr added 12 to go along with nine rebounds off the bench.


  • Stanford finished third at the Preseason NIT with a 69-66 win over Arkansas, closing the game on a stunning 21-1 run. Rosco Allen scored eight of his career-high 25 points during that run, and Marcus Allen’s goal-tended layup with 2.6 seconds remaining gave the Cardinal the lead for good.

Good luck Goodluck: UNLV’s Okonoboh to transfer

Goodluck Okonoboh
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UNLV sophomore Goodluck Okonoboh is transferring out of the program, a source told

The 6-foot-10 center was the No. 31 recruit in the Class of 2014, but he never was able to find a place in the UNLV rotation. He averaged 2.9 blocks as a freshman, but is a career 34 percent free throw shooter that never proved he could be more than just an athlete.

With Ben Carter getting eligible and UNLV landing Stephen Zimmerman this season, Okonoboh’s minutes dried up. He played just 19 minutes total against UCLA and Indiana.