Jim Calhoun, the man who led the UConn Huskies to three national championships over 26 seasons, retired on Sept. 13 at the age of 70. Replacing him as the Huskies new college basketball coach is assistant Kevin Ollie.
Calhoun led his team to a national championship just two years ago, knocking off the Kentucky Wildcats in Houston. However, at the press conference after the game everyone wanted to know if he was ready to hang it up. This was even with a suspension in waiting at the start of the 2011-12 season.
“I’ve said before that I took full responsibility as the head coach, for anything that happened within our program,” Calhoun said at the time. “So, therefore, I accept that responsibility. I said my own personal and private thoughts would be kept personal and private.”
He then returned with a team he believed was better than the one he took to the national title. It wasn’t, as the loss of Kemba Walker was never replaced. Calhoun then had to take a leave of absence when he underwent back surgery. With another injury in the offseason following a bicycle accident, Calhoun decided it was time to step away.
“It’s time,” Calhoun said. “It’s time to move forward. There’s been a lot of things swirling around for some time. It’s time to move forward.”
In his 40-year college basketball, Calhoun won 873 games and went to the Final Four on four different occasions. Before Calhoun arrived at UConn, there was no tradition at the school. They now stand as one of the premiere basketball schools in the country.
“I think what Jim did at UConn is maybe the most significant athletic accomplishment in the 30-plus years of the Big East,” said former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese. “I know what UConn was. People were yelling and screaming about why we were adding UConn [in 1979, when the Big East was formed]. No person on the face of the earth could have accomplished what Jim did at UConn.”
His replacement, Kevin Ollie, played for Calhoun and went on to the NBA. He returned to UConn to serve under Calhoun as a coach and now takes over one of the biggest programs in the NCAA. If there is one plus he brings, it is his NBA career.
“These kids want to make it to the NBA,” said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. “He’s been there, he’s made that his career and that’s a big part of recruiting. He has that experience he can pass on.”
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