UConn AD: No coach-in-waiting
STORRS, Conn. -- Connecticut athletic director Warde Manuel said Monday he has no plans to name Kevin Ollie or anyone else as a coach-in-waiting for the men's basketball program.
Coach Jim Calhoun, who turns 70 this month, is expected to return next season, but has not made his final plans public.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, Manuel said he is operating under the assumption that the Hall of Fame coach will be back, noting that Calhoun has two years left on his contract.
"I don't sit here wondering on a day-to-day basis who is going to be my coach next year," Manuel said. "Unless something changes that I don't foresee ... Jim's our coach and I'm moving forward in that direction."
He would not disclose the conversations he and Calhoun have had about the future of the program, but said the plans don't currently include naming a successor while Calhoun is still coaching.
A coach in waiting has been suggested as a way to bridge the gap between administrations, and assure potential recruits of continuity in the program. Ollie, who played at UConn and spent 13 seasons in the NBA, before being hired as an assistant in 2010, has been mentioned as a logical successor, and has said he would want the job.
"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."
Calhoun said he's fine with that decision.
"Warde and I are on the same page," he said in a telephone interview Monday evening. "We're both working for the success of this basketball program."
Asked if he had made a final decision to return or was leaning toward coming back, Calhoun said, "I'm not leaning on anything right now, I'm working. I've got a recruit on campus right now and another one coming in this week and I think, quite frankly, we've had a pretty good 25-year run, and I'm working as hard as I can to make sure this school has another good 25 years."
Manuel acknowledged that hiring a new basketball coach would likely be one of his biggest decisions as the school's athletic director. A former football player at Michigan, Manuel compared Calhoun to Bo Schembechler. He said as Schembechler did in Ann Arbor, Calhoun has earned the right to help shape the direction of UConn's basketball future.
"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," he said. "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."
Connecticut faces a ban from next year's NCAA tournament because it failed to meet academic standards put into place in October. Five underclassmen have left the Huskies since the NCAA last month denied the school's request for a waiver of those requirements.
Manuel argues the new rules were applied retroactively, which didn't give the school the opportunity to avoid a ban by improving its performance.
Under the new rules, a school must have a two-year average score of 930 or a four-year average of 900 on the NCAA's annual APR, which measures the academic performance of student athletes. But the NCAA plans to use data from 2009-10 and 2010-11 in determining eligibility.
Connecticut men's basketball scored 826 on the APR for 2009-10. School officials have said it will come in at 978 for 2010-11. The scores are expected to be about 975 for 2011-12, thought the grades are still coming in.
Manuel said the school could see the scores drop again because players left after learning UConn won't qualify for next year's tournament. But he said the school has worked hard to avoid falling into a vicious cycle.
"Even with the transfers and student athletes going pro, this should be a one-year issue for us," he said.
Manuel also said that UConn will begin in the next week tearing town its old on-campus football stadium, Memorial Stadium, to make way for its new basketball practice facility. But he said the school is still working to raise the needed money (estimated at between $35-40 million) to fund the facility.
"We are hoping at some point this year to be in a financial position to put a shovel in the ground and break ground on the actual construction," he said.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press