We know who’s going to replace Jim Calhoun as the UConn Huskies head coach – Kevin Ollie, who played under Calhoun for four seasons (1991-1995) before going on to play in the NBA for over a decade as a backup point guard. But after 26 years of mostly successful times, it’s hard seeing anyone making the quick transition, continuing a legacy of excellence.
Because with the excellence, come the problems. Great head coaches rarely leave on their own terms, and while Calhoun isn’t being forced out of his position, there’s a feeling that it’s about time, and just because of his health or simply growing tired of basketball. These guys are 100% college basketball, with every fiber in their bodies. But sometimes, the situation takes a twist.
Calhoun was suspended three games last season for failing to create an atmosphere of compliance within his program. The Nate Miles scandal, which was mostly about severing ties with a booster, didn’t help as well. UConn not being able to play in the NCAA tournament, leading to Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond leaving early to the NBA, while Alex Oriakhi, Roscoe Smith and Michael Bradley left to other universities. A good time to leave, a bad time to start your head coaching career.
But health was probably the main reason. Calhoun is a three time cancer survivor, twice dealing with skin cancer, most recently in 2008, and a successful battle with prostate cancer in 2008. There were his bike accidents, breaking ribs in the past and most recently breaking a hip back in August. On February 3, 2012, Calhoun took a medical leave of absence from coaching as a result of spinal stenosis. It’s been rough on him these past few years, and maybe the body couldn’t take much more.
Calhoun joined the UConn staff in 1986, and turned the program into a national powerhouse from the mid 90’s onwards, winning the program’s first three national titles. First in 1999, the Huskies first final four, beating Duke in the final, led by Rip Hamilton. In 2004 came the second final four and the second title, led by Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor, beating Georgia Tech in the final. In 2009, UConn lost their only final four game under Calhoun, but went back to the national title game two years later, beating Butler in a terrible game, led by Kemba Walker, claiming the school’s third national title.
The school had only one Elite Eight appearance before Calhoun (1964), nine after he leaves. He’s missed the NCAA tournament 10 times during his time, but only three times since 1997, which was pretty much the big turning point for the program, taking the next step forward in the goal for national dominance, while there was nothing really there before he arrived.
Calhoun compiled a 618-233 (72.6%) record while at UConn and a career record of 873–369 (70.1%), including his 14 years as the Northeastern Huskies head coach. A husky when he began his career, a husky when he ends it.