Almost immediately after he was hired back in 2010, the assumption was made that Kevin Ollie — a former UConn Husky and a 13-year NBA veteran — was brought in to be Jim Calhoun’s coach-in-waiting.
Ollie could very well end up being Calhoun’s successor, but he won’t spend the remainder of Calhoun’s tenure with the Huskies — his contract ends in the summer of 2014 — with a label or a guarantee. That much we know after Warde Manuel, UConn’s athletic director, spoke to the AP in a story that was published late on Monday night.
“Jim’s going to participate in the future direction of the program when he decides that he’s not going to coach anymore,” Manuel said. “But at this time, I haven’t made a commitment to a coach in waiting. That doesn’t mean that in the future I wouldn’t change my position. But right now, I’m not naming a coach in waiting for men’s basketball or any program.”
“It’s because he has a tremendous understanding of what it will take to have a program be successful and who the next person could be. That being said, I feel like we wouldn’t be doing ourselves and our fans and this university a great deal of service if we did not open up that consideration and make sure whoever we are hiring is the best candidate to move us forward.”
Calhoun is quoted in the story as agreeing with Manuel, and what choice does he have? He already ran off one athletic director in the last year, and based on Manuel’s comments — “I don’t sit here wondering on a day-to-day basis who is going to be my coach next year,” Manuel said — it appears as if Calhoun will be back next season. He might as well keep the peace publicly. His program has enough issues right now.
Most legendary coaches want to handpick their successor, as Matt Norlander pointed out earlier this afternoon:
Many legends want to do that, to extend their legacy by giving the baton to a friend, confident the successor’s track record will by proxy extend their own. But ADs have to look beyond that, eliminate that sort of sentimentality/subjectivity and go for the hire that best serves the school, no matter what the outgoing coach says.
But the tricky part for Manuel is that he needs to find a replacement that can rebuild UConn, not someone to continue to carry the torch for the program. The Huskies are banned from the 2013 tournament, have lost quite a bit of talent to transfer (Roscoe Smith and Alex Oriakhi) and the NBA (Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond), and are non-traditional powerhouse playing in Nowheresville, CT, in a conference that is continually decreasing in relevancy.
Finding a suitable replacement could end up determining whether or not UConn ever returns to prominence as a basketball school. Think about it like this: Jim Calhoun finishes out his contract and UConn hires a replacement that struggles through six years and can’t get the Huskies off of the ground. By then, it will be 2020, nine years since the last Husky national title and more than a decade-and-a-half since they won a regular season Big East title.
How many recruits will think of UConn as a powerhouse program?