After winning 873 games at Northeastern and UConn, Jim Calhoun made the decision to retire shortly before the start of the 2012-13 season. However, even with the move away from the sidelines the Hall of Famer has remained close to the game, serving as a special advisor to UConn AD Warde Manuel and being a fixture at UConn games both home and away.
Thursday it was reported that the coach who provided some unforgettable moments in his dealings with the media (look up his Ryan Gomes-based rant on YouTube) will be on television. According to The Big Lead, Calhoun is one of three former college head coaches who will work in the ESPN studios during the 2014-15 season.
The others: former Kent State, Arkansas and USF head coach Stan Heath and former Brown and Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson.
Given Calhoun’s achievements, most notably building a program that would win three national titles under his watch, he could provide some interesting insight in the studio. But the transition from the sidelines to the studio can be difficult to predict, with some coaches making a smoother transition than others.
What may help in Calhoun’s case is that he’s two years removed from the sidelines, so he won’t be going “directly” from the court to the studio.
ARLINGTON, Texas — “We’re going to stand through this time and we’re going to be there for one another, and we’re going to extend everything we can extend to our family making sure that you come back and be with us.”
Those were the words of UConn head coach Kevin Ollie during his introductory press conference. And while they were partly in reference to former players returning to campus to complete their education, they also had a lot to do with making sure those players knew they would be needed to ensure that UConn would remain a power program.
There were many questions the program had to address during that time. The APR sanctions that resulted in a postseason ban, leaving the program with questions of who would be back to lead UConn through the 2012-13 season. The violations hanging over the program stemming from the recruitment of Nate Miles. There was also the issue of conference realignment, with UConn being one of the schools left behind in the race to land a “golden ticket” to one of the newly christened “Power Five” leagues. Add in a head coach who had no prior experience in said role, and there was quite a bit to be concerned about with regards to the future of UConn basketball.
Those fears have been laid to rest over the last two seasons, with Ollie’s Huskies winning 20 games in 2012-13 and following that up with a Final Four appearance this season. The coaching staff and the players, especially a senior class led by guard Shabazz Napier, gets most of the credit as their hard work and loyalty to UConn has allowed the program to embark on a new era in successful fashion.
But there’s also something to be said for the power of family, with the coaching staff all having experience at UConn as either a player, coach or both. Add in the many former players who continue to return to Storrs, and that has helped the UConn “brand” endure in the face of the uncertainty that threatened to cripple the program less than two years ago. And with regards to the leader of the program, that pride makes the job of “selling” UConn that much easier.
“Recruiting is natural to me,” said Ollie. “Because I’m not making anything up. This is what I believe in. I sat in those same seats, I went to the same classes that [my players] are going to. It’s just a part of me and I love the university, and I want to be here for a long time.”
That aspect of the coaching staff, having members on board who already had a deep connection with the university, helped UConn get through a year in which there were no postseason trophies to play for and the conference in which they’d become a power splintering off into separate entities right before their very eyes.
For some the feeling of powerlessness would take over, resulting in a downward spiral for the program as a whole. That hasn’t been the case at UConn, with the pride in what has been built over the years sparking a refusal to allow that to happen.
“It’s invaluable. I can’t put a price tag on it,” Ollie said when asked about the importance of his staff’s connection to the school, with he and all three assistants having graduated from UConn. “Two of my coaches coached me. Glen Miller coached me my freshman and sophomore years, when I didn’t know anything. Coach Hobbs came in after Glen left and he coached me my junior and senior year. That’s when I really started taking off as a point guard and really establishing myself as a basketball player and a point guard.
“So my coaching staff, I tell them they’re the best in America because they’re young but they’re all UConn guys. They all got their degrees from UConn. It’s a beautiful synergy that we have because we all have that common denominator that we played for UConn. We know what it takes to put that jersey on and the pride that we are playing for each and every night.”
It’s a pride that was first established by Jim Calhoun, who in his time at the school transformed UConn from a program without much of an impact outside of New England to one of the most powerful programs in college basketball. And he’s certainly enjoyed watching his former point guard make the program “his” while also making sure the players understand what’s been built for them.
“I’m so proud of Kevin and I’m so proud of the guys who coach with him, because they have an integral part in this too,” Calhoun told NBC Sports. “Glen Miller, Kevin Freeman and Ricky Moore, and Karl Hobbs. It’s ‘UConn, UConn, UConn’. And Kevin’s done an incredible job of making sure it’s his team, 101%. His fingerprints are more than evident and yet he’s maintained the past of the program.”
What happens Saturday night when UConn faces top overall seed Florida remains to be seen, with UConn looking to move one step closer to its fourth national title. But if these last two seasons under Ollie have proven anything, it’s that the pride he and his staff have in UConn will continue to motivate them as they look to not only sustain what’s been built but add on to it.
“Let me give you a little background to make everybody, not everybody, but just to, not clear the air but I don’t want to get involved in anything with the tournament, with our team playing and all the other things and so on. But what happened is that when [our] good friend Doris Burke and then Andy Katz came over and they started talking, ‘Would you ever do it?’ Yeah, I would. I would think about coaching but it has to be the perfect situation. I don’t have to go hunting for a job. That’s not really what I’m desiring to do. But if something special came along I feel I still have enough zip, power and certainly love for the game, love for competition, that I’d do it. But it’d have to be the right situation for me and for that school. At this particular point I just don’t know if I would find the answer at Boston College. Nothing against Boston College, it’s a great school, it’s a terrific a school in what will be, in my opinion, the best basketball conference in America. You add Jamie Dixon, which you just did. You’re going to be adding Rick Pitino, you’ve got Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski. Great, great thing and I’m sure they’ll do very well but for me it’s just not going to…I have not talked to the people at BC. BC has not talked to me. You could imagine that with all my Boston ties a lot of people have called me. That’s kind of a normal thing, that happens with folks. I will never say never because I love the game and the right situation for me and for the school I would think about. But at this point I’m not interested.”
Calhoun is a native of Braintree, Mass. and began his coaching career at Northeastern before he took over a UConn program, which won three national titles in Calhoun’s 26 years as head coach of the Huskies.
Former UConn head coach Jim Calhoun has “significant” interest in the vacant Boston College head coaching position, according to a report from Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com.
Calhoun is a native of Braintree, MA, just outside of Boston, and began his coaching tenure at Northeastern.
The head coaching position at Boston College came open this week when Steve Donahue and the school parted ways. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the interest isn’t mutual.
Calhoun retired in August of 2012 after a myriad of health complications. He’s beaten cancer three times and has twice had to undergo surgery as the result of injuries sustained in biking accidents. He had surgery on his back in February of 2012, his final season as UConn’s coach, and officially retired after he needed surgery to repair a broken hip.
Calhoun spent 26 years at UConn, has a career record of 873-380 and is one of just eight coaches with 800 career wins.
What makes this report so intriguing is that there is a lot of bad blood between UConn, particularly Calhoun, and Boston College. Calhoun was not happy with BC when the school made the decision to leave the Big East for the ACC back in 2003, and there are quite a few people out there that believe it was BC that was the most vocal opponent of UConn’s inclusion into the ACC during the most recent round of conference realignment.
UConn hosting “Heart Of A Champion: A Tribute To Jim Calhoun” Sunday evening
Jim Calhoun, the coach who transformed Connecticut basketball from a decent program in New England to a true national power from 1986 – 2012, will be honored this evening.
Prior to Calhoun’s coming to Connecticut, the school had reached just two NCAA Tournaments since 1967, and were hardly contenders from a national perspective. In his 26 seasons at the helm, however, Calhoun led the Huskies to 18 NCAA Tournaments and three National Championships.
Many former players and coaches will be in attendance, along with avid Husky alumni and fans. During his tenure as coach, Calhoun sent nearly 30 players to the NBA.
Here at Gampel for tribute to Jim Calhoun. Jeff Adrien, A.J. Price, Tom Moore, Andre LaFleur among the early arrivals.
Stanley Robinson spoke with Dave Borges of the New Haven Register, and called Calhoun a “father figure” for him.
It isn’t just players that excelled under Calhoun. Many coaches had their careers elevated as a result of assisting Calhoun. Names such as the aforementioned LaFleur (associate head coach at Providence), Moore (head coach at Quinnipiac), Steve Pikiell (head coach at Stony Brook), Kevin Ollie (current coach at Connecticut), Howie Dickenman (head coach at Central Connecticut State), and many others studied under Calhoun.
To give you an idea of just how big a ceremony this will be, Gavin Keefe tweeted out a picture of what Gampel Pavilion, the site of so many memorable moments for Husky basketball under Calhoun’s watch, looks like: