Last September former UConn head coach Jim Calhoun announced his decision to retire, handing over a program he built into one of the nation’s best over to Kevin Ollie. And starting point guard Shabazz Napier was none too thrilled with the move, as the man he regarded as a “father figure” would no longer be his coach.
With Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond in the NBA and Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith having transferred, would Napier be the next to go?
In a story written by Kevin Duffy of the Connecticut Post, Napier discussed his thought process in the immediate aftermath of Calhoun’s decision to retire.
“When (Calhoun retired), I felt betrayed,” Napier said Thursday. “The way (the coaching staff) went about it, I felt it was wrong. It just seemed like a planned process. And that’s the reason I felt like it was kind of selfish in a way. That’s the reason I planned on transferring.”
Calhoun had arrived at the decision to retire roughly a week before he signed the papers. Napier, who learned the news online, spent the next week weighing the option of a transfer. He was upset that Calhoun, a “father figure,” allowed his retirement to go public without first informing his players. He was distraught, unsure of what would come next.
Ultimately Napier decided to remain in Storrs, and it’s a decision that has benefitted both the player and the program. The senior point guard was a guiding force on a team that managed to win 20 games last season despite dealing with a postseason ban and a lack of depth (especially in the front court). And with the postseason ban now gone, Napier’s expected to lead the way for a team expected to contend in the American Athletic Conference.
But there are still questions to be answered, despite the presence of sidekicks such as guards Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun and forward DeAndre Daniels. The front court once again has issues, with freshman Kentan Facey yet to be cleared by the NCAA and senior Tyler Olander suspended indefinitely following his arrest on a charge of driving under intoxication. Those issues currently leave the Huskies with Phil Nolan and freshman Amidah Brimah as true post players, and that lack of depth could get them in trouble against talented (and deep) conference foes Louisville and Memphis.
UConn dealt with similar issues last season due in large part to Napier’s leadership. And had he not decided to stay the course, who knows where the Huskies would be today.