College Basketball Nation: Jim-Calhoun-retires

Katz: Ollie happy for chance at UConn

September, 13, 2012
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STORRS, Conn. -- Kevin Ollie was given a chance to be the head coach at UConn.

That's all he wanted.

That's all he got.

Ollie has one season to show he is worthy of being entrusted with a featured role just like he had to do throughout his college career here in the early to mid-'90s. Ollie was given one year to prove himself by Jim Calhoun each of his four seasons and then each of his first six of 13 seasons in the NBA when he was given one-year contracts.

UConn announced Thursday that Ollie would be named the head coach to replace the retiring Calhoun but the contract goes only until April 4, 2013.

But Ollie and Calhoun have no doubt that Ollie will be the head coach for the foreseeable future.

"Oh yeah, I believe I'm going to be the head coach here for a lifetime, for 15-20 years,'' said Ollie after the news conference at Gampel Pavilion. "I don't know if I'll make it to 70, hopefully I'll make it to 50 and then work on the next 20.''

For Andy Katz's full column, click here.

Video: Ollie ready for new challenge

September, 13, 2012
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Andy Katz speaks with new UConn head coach Kevin Ollie about Jim Calhoun's retirement and taking over for a legend.

Video: Kemba Walker on Calhoun's impact

September, 13, 2012
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Kemba Walker discusses the impact Jim Calhoun has made on his career and Calhoun's legacy.

Video: Memorable moments under Calhoun

September, 13, 2012
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"SportsCenter" Express takes you through memorable moments at Connecticut under Jim Calhoun.

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Legendary Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun bid a fond farewell to the basketball program he's built from the ground up in the past 26 years, but he -- as well as UConn athletic director Warde Manuel and new coach Kevin Ollie -- made it clear that farewell will be far from final.

Yes, as of a few minutes ago, Calhoun is officially retired. He won't be astride Gampel Pavilion sidelines on game days next season, or in any of the seasons that follow. But as the Huskies transition into a new era, the 70-year-old made it clear it's not in him to leave the game behind.

"I knew this day was coming," Calhoun said. "But I'd like to be a part of it in a whole different way."

Calhoun assured that his retirement was the first step in a full transition to the Ollie era. But he also pledged to remain involved with players and the team in ways the title "head coach" typically forbids.

"I would never tell Kevin or any of our staff what to do," Calhoun said, as chuckles rose up from fellow coaches, family members and fans in the audience. "But if they sought my advice I would clearly give my advice -- I've been known to do that on various occasions.

"But more importantly, I think for me, our family is a close family. I'm available to Kevin 24 hours a day, I'm available to the staff, and I'll be available to the guys."

Calhoun said he considered himself "one of the luckiest guys on the planet" for being able to retire in relative good health, and said his recent hip injury suffered while bicycling didn't directly cause him to make his decision now. Rather, the bike injury gave him a two-week period when he could do little else but reflect (and be waited on by his wife, Pat Calhoun, he was quick to point out), a period he said helped him realize now was the perfect time to pass the reins to Ollie, whom Calhoun said embodied "everything about this university."

Ollie, a former UConn player and 13-year NBA journeyman who has spent the past three years on the Huskies' bench, may need all the help he can get from his mentor -- "my second father," as he called him -- in the months ahead. Manuel refused to sign Ollie to a long-term deal, instead preferring a one-season trial run to see "quantitatively but also qualitatively what Kevin is like as a coach."

[+] EnlargeJim Calhoun
Jessica Hill/AP PhotoJim Calhoun, who officially announced his retirement Thursday at a news conference in Storrs, Conn., hands the reins over to new coach Kevin Ollie.
It won't be an easy year: Thanks to UConn's academic woes and the NCAA's stricter Academic Progress Rate punishment, the Huskies -- who lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2012 and lost Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond to the NBA draft, as well as forwards Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith to transfer -- are ineligible for postseason competition in 2012-13.

Ollie was emotional in his introduction, thanking his young family and former teammates and coaches and the players with whom he is about to embark on a challenging journey. He also thanked the fans, the "UConn family," promised diligence in the face of challenges ahead and said he wasn't bothered in the least by the lack of a long-term commitment from the university.

"I played the first six years in the NBA without a guaranteed contract, so this is easy," he said. "Whether it's two months, three months, I'm not going to stop until they tell me to stop.

"As I embark on this journey, we're going to take the stairs and not the escalator," Ollie said. "The escalator's for cowards. It's going to be one step at a time, but we're going to get there. ... It's not about X's and O's and winning and losing -- it's about these guys becoming special people. When they leave here, judge me on that. Judge me on that. And the wins and losses will come."

Few things in college sports are more challenging then transitioning away from a legendary tenure. Other powerful basketball schools -- most notably (and recently) Indiana and North Carolina -- have seen pristine programs struggle to maintain excellence for years after the departure of monolithic coaches Bob Knight and Dean Smith.

But Calhoun made it clear he'll never truly lose his passion for the game, or for what he's built in nearly three decades in Storrs. Rest assured, he'll be there every step of the way.

"To me, the gym is a place of comfort, of competition, to seek excellence, a place to grow," Calhoun said. "I'll miss the gym greatly. But I can't and I won't get away from basketball.

"I've already told the guys, I don't want to hear about playing time," Calhoun said. "Talk to Coach Ollie about playing time. But what I do want to hear -- I can look at you in sort of a different way. The personal involvement will still be there. The passion from game to game won't be. Therefore I can objectively look at [players] from a whole different set of circumstances. I'll see them more individually. I'll have more time for them.

"And I will be at practice," he said.

(Stay tuned for more on Calhoun's retirement and the UConn transition from ESPN's Andy Katz.)
Because the Internet is a truly wonderful thing, you do not need to find a television to watch Jim Calhoun's retirement news conference this afternoon. You do not need to sneak out to "lunch" to a bar like it's the World Cup. Indeed, when Calhoun officially steps away from the game -- Calhoun is scheduled to address the media at 2 p.m. ET -- you can watch it right at this very link, on ESPN3, as it happens. Be there.

(In the words of the Fantasy Focus podcast: I'm a company man.)

Podcast: Notre Dame coach Mike Brey

September, 13, 2012
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Notre Dame coach Mike Brey comments on the Fighting Irish's upcoming move to the ACC, the future of conference realignment, Jim Calhoun's retirement and more.

The players who made Calhoun a success

September, 13, 2012
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Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun will announce his retirement Thursday, per ESPN.com’s Andy Katz. Calhoun’s career spans more than 40 years. He’s sixth among Division I coaches with 873 wins. He’s won three national titles.

A variety of talented players helped him achieve those feats. Here’s a list of Calhoun’s top 10 players of all time:

  1. Reggie Lewis -- Before his tenure at Connecticut, Calhoun led Northeastern for 14 seasons. Lewis, who suffered sudden cardiac death in 1993 as a member of the Boston Celtics, averaged 24.1 points per game as a sophomore and 23.8 ppg as a junior under Calhoun. Those Northeastern squads (1984-85 and 1985-86) amassed a combined 48-14 record, won a pair of Eastern Collegiate Athletic North conference titles and reached the NCAA tournament both seasons with Lewis in charge.
  2. Richard Hamilton -- “Rip” was ridiculous in college. That entire 1998-99 squad fed off his bravado. He was relentless. And he didn’t care about anything but winning. He led Connecticut to the national title in 1999, the same year the Huskies went 34-2 and didn’t lose one road game (11-0). The Huskies also defeated a Duke squad that was one of the greatest teams to have never won a national championship. Hamilton, the 1999 Final Four’s most outstanding player, is second on Connecticut’s career scoring chart (2,036 points).
  3. [+] EnlargeUConn's Richard Hamilton and Jim Calhoun
    AP Photo/Doug MillsRichard Hamilton led Jim Calhoun and Connecticut to its first national championship.
    Ray Allen -- One of the greatest shooters in the history of the game, Allen epitomized “textbook form.” And he had that subtle cockiness you couldn’t see in interviews but that always emerged on the floor. He averaged 23.4 ppg as a junior. He was a two-time All-American shooting guard. All of this before he played Jesus Shuttlesworth in “He Got Game.”
  4. Donyell Marshall -- He always looked like he’d gotten out of bed minutes before game time. But that sleepy gaze was deceiving. Marshall might have been Calhoun’s most dominant player. He scored 855 points during the 1993-94 season (25.1 ppg), No. 1 all-time for Connecticut. He also was a consensus All-American that season who blocked 111 shots, then a high mark for the program. And he scored 42 points in two separate games.
  5. Emeka Okafor -- He’s never quite lived up to the expectations in the NBA. But during his three seasons at Connecticut (2001-04), Okafor was one of the most dominant players in the country. He was a monster on defense (his 441 career blocks are in the top 10 in NCAA history). He was a two-time national defensive player of the year and All-American. And above all, he was Calhoun’s anchor on the 2004 squad that won a national title.
  6. Kemba Walker -- Walker dazzled with an unrivaled Big East tournament performance in 2011. He scored 130 points as the Huskies defeated five teams (four of them ranked) in five days. The Huskies, losers of four of their previous five regular-season games, limped into that tourney but managed to grab the crown once Walker donned his cape. And he didn’t stop there. It was just the start of an 11-game winning streak that concluded with the Huskies winning the 2010-11 national championship. Walker also is seventh all-time on Connecticut’s career scoring list (1,783 points).
  7. Chris Smith -- The program’s career scoring leader (2,145 points in four years) led the Huskies to the Elite Eight in 1990 and a 31-win season three years after Calhoun kicked off his term with a 9-19 campaign. In his career, Smith led the team in scoring three times and assists twice. Smith is a legend based on his stats but also because the Bridgeport, Conn., native stayed home and played a key role as Calhoun built the program.
  8. Cliff Robinson -- He turned the headband into a fashion statement with the Portland Trailblazers. But before his lengthy pro career, Robinson led Connecticut to the NIT title in 1988. He averaged 15.3 ppg during a three-year career. He was the leading scorer on Calhoun’s first squad during the 1986-87 season. A year later, the Huskies had won 11 more games (20-14) than they had the previous season thanks in part to Robinson’s 17.6 ppg and 6.9 rebounds per game.
  9. Ben Gordon -- Gordon was Okafor’s counterpart on the 2004 national title team. He was small (6-foot-3), but strong and aggressive. Gordon finished his career with 1,795 points, sixth all-time for Connecticut. He’s also second all-time in made 3-pointers (246). Okafor earned most outstanding player honors in the 2004 Final Four, but Gordon’s 127 points (21.2 ppg) led the field.
  10. Khalid El-Amin -- The Minneapolis product played three seasons for Calhoun, and ended his career with 1,650 points, 10th in program history, and sixth all-time in steals (186). On the floor, he was the aggressive point guard who helped guide the Huskies to the national title in 1999. In his final season with the program (1999-2000), he averaged 16 ppg and 5.2 assists per game.

Video: Examining Jim Calhoun's legacy

September, 13, 2012
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Andy Katz looks at Jim Calhoun's legacy as the head coach of the UConn Huskies.

Video: Andy Katz on Jim Calhoun

September, 12, 2012
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Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun will announce his retirement at a news conference at 2 p.m. Thursday, the school confirmed Wednesday night.

Top 10 moments of the Jim Calhoun era

September, 12, 2012
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After 26 years, three national titles and 873 total career wins, Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun is, at long last, calling it a day.

There have been a few times in the past few seasons when it made sense for Calhoun to retire, when folks like your humble author looked at his situation -- maybe he was going through health problems, or suffering a sudden recruiting dry spell, or being penalized by the NCAA, or winning his third national title in immensely unlikely fashion -- and thought "Yep. It's time." And each and every time Calhoun would prove us wrong.

He did that a lot. He turned a little-known Yankee Conference regional entity and struggling Big East also-ran into a national brand with a fervent statewide fan base. He toppled the 1999 Duke Blue Devils, college hoops royalty, to win his first national title. He did it again in 2004. Seven years later, in 2011, when few thought Kemba Walker and Co. had any chance to one day cut down the nets, Calhoun completed his legacy. Along the way, he was always himself -- brash, defiant, irascible, playful, intimidating, all of it.

Calhoun's legacy, his larger curve of success and recent NCAA troubles, will be discussed widely in the coming days, before and after he announces his retirement at a news conference Thursday. In the meantime, here's a look back at some of the marquee moments -- and best quotes -- of his career.

(Note: I want to give a special thank you to the Hartford Courant sports section, whose excellent archive of Calhoun moments was crucial to the quick assemblage of this piece.)

10. The hiring, 1986: In 1979, UConn was one of seven founding members of the Big East Conference. But before Calhoun took the job, the Huskies averaged a mere 15 wins a season. At his introductory news conference, Calhoun was asked if UConn could -- gasp -- one day become a national power. His response? "It's doable." Yes, yes it was.

9. "Not a dime back!", 2009: In a 2009 postgame news conference, a freelance reporter writing about Connecticut's statewide budget shortfall asked Calhoun if he, the highest-paid public employee in the state, should give up part of his salary. Things did not end well for that freelance reporter.

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AP Photo/Ed ReinkeA 77-74 victory over Duke in 1999 gave Jim Calhoun his first national championship.
8. "The Shot," 1990: Four years after his hiring, Calhoun had the Huskies in their first NCAA tournament in more than a decade, when, with one second remaining and the Huskies trailing 70-69, UConn's Scott Burrell heaved a full-court pass. It found UConn forward Tate George, who turned, released, and swished a shot just before the buzzer, stunning Clemson and giving Calhoun his first marquee moment at the program. (YouTube it. He looks young.)

7. The first national title, 1999: UConn was very good in 1999 -- it went 34-2, featured Richard Hamilton (who averaged 21.5 points per game) and Khalid El-Amin and won the Big East regular season and tournament titles -- but it nonetheless entered its national title game matchup with an Elton Brand-led Duke team as a considerable underdog. No matter: UConn took down the Blue Devils in a 77-74 thriller, one that cemented Calhoun's status as one of the nation's elite coaches.

6. Six overtimes with Syracuse, 2009: We all have those sports moments that are stamped into our memories forever; I'll never forget where I was when I watched Connecticut and Syracuse battle for six consecutive overtimes -- six overtimes! -- in the 2009 Big East tournament. The Sporting News called it the "game of the decade." Though he later learned to accept the game's remarkable place in history, immediately afterward ("Never have I been involved in a greater test of what an athlete has inside," he said days later), at his postgame news conference, Calhoun was his usually defiant, hypercompetitive self:

"I'm not exhausted. The players are probably exhausted. I'm not -- I could practice right now. Foul shooting, probably. I'm sure in the summertime I'll look back and say what a historic battle it was. Right now it's a loss."

5. The (in)famous Ryan Gomes quote, 2004: After the eventual national champion Huskies lost to Providence on Jan. 24, 2004, thanks in large part to Waterbury, Conn., native Ryan Gomes' 26 points and 12 rebounds, Calhoun was asked -- not for the first time -- if he had missed Gomes' star potential when passing on him during recruitment. Calhoun unleashed a legendary, and actually self-effacing, verbal fusillade:

"It's the dumbest [bleeping] question I've ever heard. I've explained it 1,000 times. I [fouled] up. I didn't take Ryan Gomes. Does that make you happy? Jesus Christ almighty. ... It took 18 months to sell the kid to Providence. It's been written about. It's been talked about. Don't shake your [bleeping] head. You asked a question. I'm telling you how I feel about it. I took Emeka Okafor and Caron Butler. They're not bad. I can't take every player. We have 13 scholarships. ... And if you want me to say I [fouled] up, I [fouled] up. Write it. ... You want me to say I [fouled] up? For the fifth time, I [fouled] up. So put it five times."

Amazing.

4. The second national title, 2004: If Calhoun's first national title placed him in the game's highest current coaching echelon, his second national title -- in which Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon began the season ranked No. 1, and finished it that way, too -- placed Calhoun in the broader historical pantheon. Along the way, UConn toppled another very good Duke team in the Final Four before dominating Georgia Tech in the championship.

3. The Indiana upset, 2008: The 2007-08 season was a relatively average one, by Calhoun's standards; the Huskies finished 24-9 but were bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Still, Calhoun experienced one of the most fulfilling moments of his career on Jan. 26, 2008, when his team -- which was missing Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins thanks to suspensions -- rallied to upset then-No. 7-ranked Indiana 68-63. After the game, Calhoun explained the perspiration on his clothing, and came as close as a guy like him ever could to tears:

"This sweat that you see wasn't the game. The sweat was me hugging every single one of those kids. Quite frankly, they deserved more than a hug from me. They deserve a hug from the state of Connecticut. They deserve a hug from the university. They deserve a hug from our fans. ... To do what we did is certainly the greatest win I've had since the national championship team [in 2004] beat Georgia Tech. It could even beat the Duke game when we came back from down seven [in the 2004 national semifinal]. It takes a lot to really, really win me over, because I always look for that perfect game. But when you have a perfect heart and perfect effort, you can't ask any more of the kids. ... I'm not going to break down and cry. That's not who I am. But the pride I feel in them, the hugs I gave to them are why athletic competition brings out things in people that are very, very special."

[+] EnlargeJim Calhoun
AP Photo/Bob ChildJim Calhoun called his 2004 induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame the "greatest honor I've ever received."
2. The third national title, 2011: Before the 2011 season, no one expected all that much from UConn. The Huskies went just 18-16 in 2010, and lost three talented seniors (Stanley Robinson, Jerome Dyson, and Gavin Edwards) in the offseason. And then, from the first tip of the Maui Invitational in November, something funny happened: Kemba Walker became a bona fide star, while the rest of an unheralded group -- including forward Alex Oriakhi and silky wingman Jeremy Lamb -- emerged as the perfect complements to Walker's do-everything leap. UConn faltered mid-season, and Calhoun was saddled by the Nate Miles recruiting scandal.

But his team never lost a single tournament game -- not in Maui, not in the Big East, and not in the NCAA tournament -- as Calhoun earned his third national title and the deserving coronation to his career. After the game, longtime UConn assistant George Blaney called his friend "One of the greatest coaches that ever was." After a career of almost nonstop success, Calhoun's legacy didn't need the validation of a third title. But he saved his best coaching job for last.

1. Hall of Fame induction, 2004: After his second national title, Calhoun was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He called his speech he gave the "hardest speech I've ever written," because the Hall of Fame was the "greatest honor I've ever received." In that speech, in that unmistakable Boston accent, Calhoun -- a gifted coach, an occasional bully, with a record of success and a recent history of NCAA trouble, and everything else that he was and is to Connecticut and the sport -- eloquently described why we all love this game all too well:

"Basketball is a game that has blessed me. It's a game that's consumed me, that's given me so much. Basketball doesn't care what color your skin is. It doesn't care what language you speak or what religion you practice. It doesn't care if you're big or small, fast or slow. It simply asks you to play, to compete, to lose with dignity, to win with humility, to make your teammates look good, and to respect your opponent.

"The game asks that you work to improve, that you put something into it, and that you also give something back to it. The game is universal. It is a language that unites all of us."

Calhoun's turnaround legacy impressive

September, 12, 2012
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University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun is expected to announce his retirement at a news conference Thursday.

Calhoun leaves the sport as one of its most prolific winners. Let’s take a closer look at his coaching history.

The final tally
Calhoun finishes with a career record of 873-380 over 40 seasons of coaching at the NCAA level (26 seasons at Connecticut, 14 seasons at Northeastern).

His 873 career wins rank sixth-most in Division I, and Calhoun ranks second all-time in games coached, trailing only Bob Knight.

Since the 1989-90 season, Connecticut has 580 wins, fifth-most in Division I, trailing only Kansas (668), Duke (657), Kentucky (624) and North Carolina (602).

NCAA prominence
Calhoun is one of five coaches to win three Division I men’s basketball national championships. The others are John Wooden (10), Mike Krzyzewski (4), Adolph Rupp (4) and Knight (3).

Calhoun's 49 NCAA men’s basketball championship tournament wins rank fourth, behind Krzyzewski (79), Dean Smith (65) and Roy Williams (61), although he’ll likely soon be surpassed by Jim Boeheim, who has 48.

The Huskies’ 46 men’s basketball championship wins are 14 more than any other Big East team.

The cap on Calhoun’s career was the 2010-11 season, when the Huskies, who were unranked in the preseason top 25, won the national title.

That made the then-68-year-old Calhoun the oldest coach to win a Division I men’s basketball title.

Those Huskies were one of three teams in the past 15 seasons to win a national title despite being unranked in the preseason, along with Syracuse in 2003 and Florida in 2006.

Big East legacy
In terms of Big East history, Calhoun ranks among the most statistically prominent coaches. He ranks second in Big East history with 311 wins, trailing only Boeheim’s 402.

Calhoun was the first coach to be named Big East coach of the year four times.

Big shoes to fill
Calhoun's assistant and former Huskies standout Kevin Ollie likely will be named Calhoun's successor.

It won't be easy matching what Calhoun brought. Last season, he missed 11 games and the team's play suffered.

The Huskies went 15-8 with Calhoun on the bench and allowed only 62.4 points per game. They were 5-6 in the 11 games he missed and yielded almost 69 points per game.

The difference was in transition defense, with the Huskies allowing four more points per game in transition (12.7) than with him (8.7).

Video: Vitale on Calhoun's legacy

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
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Dick Vitale joins "SportsCenter" to discuss Jim Calhoun's legacy and his retirement at Connecticut.

Video: Digger Phelps on Jim Calhoun

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
8:15
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Digger Phelps joins SportsCenter to talk about UConn head coach Jim Calhoun, who is expected to announce his retirement tomorrow.
After various reports throughout Wednesday evening hinted that Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun was nearing retirement, ESPN.com's Andy Katz confirmed that Calhoun is set to announce the end of his career during a Thursday press conference.

Stay tuned to this space for our impending reaction and memories of the legendary coach's career.

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