UConn's Jim Calhoun retires

Updated: September 13, 2012, 2:26 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun announced his retirement Thursday.

Calhoun, who coached the Huskies to three national titles, will be replaced by assistant coach Kevin Ollie. Ollie begins his tenure as UConn's coach with a one-year, $625,000 contract that runs through April 4, 2013.

"I always said that I would know when it was time, whenever that might be," Calhoun said Thursday in a statement released by the university. "The hip injury really didn't enter into the decision, except that it gave me more time to think about it and the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that this was the right time to move on to the next phase of my life."

UConn said Calhoun would serve as an assistant to athletic director Warde Manuel until March 21, 2013 and upon his full retirement will become head coach emeritus.

"Am I going to miss coaching basketball? Of course," Calhoun said in a statement. "But I'm making sure I get my fix by watching the workouts. I have no doubt that Kevin and the staff will do a great job."

Ollie played at UConn and spent 13 seasons in the NBA, before being hired as an assistant in 2010.

"I am very honored and humbled to become the UConn men's basketball coach," Ollie said in a statement. "I cannot put into words how grateful I am to Coach Jim Calhoun, who retires today as one of the most legendary coaches in the history of college basketball. Coach Calhoun brought me here to Connecticut as a person right out of high school and has mentored me into the person I have become today."

George Blaney, who has served as Calhoun's top assistant at Connecticut for the past 11 seasons, said Thursday he plans to stay on as the team's associate head coach to assist Ollie. The 72-year-old former head coach at Seton Hall and Holy Cross has served as acting head coach at UConn on numerous occasions, most recently when Calhoun missed eight games late last season with back problems.

Calhoun, 70, won 873 games in 40 years as a head coach, first at Northeastern and the last 26 years at UConn, where he put four teams in the Final Four, winning national titles in 1999, 2004 and 2011.

Calhoun has two years remaining on his contract and previously had stated that he wanted Ollie to be his successor. UConn recently was ruled ineligible for the 2013 NCAA tournament due to poor Academic Progress Rate scores.

Calhoun told ESPN.com this past summer that whenever he retired, he would mimic Dean Smith's plan of waiting right until the start of the season. Smith ended his tenure at North Carolina prior to the 1996-97 season, when UNC named longtime assistant Bill Guthridge as his successor.

Calhoun, elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005, is a three-time cancer survivor and missed eight games last season while suffering from a painful spinal condition. He returned just four days after having back surgery to coach the Huskies in their regular-season finale and the postseason.

UConn finished the year 20-14, losing to Iowa State in the first-round of the NCAA tournament.

In addition to his medical leave, he served a three-game suspension at the start of the Big East season last winter for failing to maintain an atmosphere of compliance in his program, an issue that dated back to recruiting violations in 2008.

Calhoun, a native of Braintree, Mass., played college basketball at American International College in Springfield, where he was a team captain and leading scorer his junior and senior years.

After graduating in 1968, he began his head coaching career at Old Lyme (Conn.) High School before moving back to Massachusetts, where he coached at Westport High School and then Dedham High School.

After leading Dedham to a 21-1 record in 1972, he was hired as head coach at Northeastern.

Calhoun spent the next 14 years at Northeastern, leading the team from a Division II program to a mid-major power with five appearances in the NCAA tournament. He compiled a 245-138 record and a spot in the school's Hall of Fame.

Calhoun was hired by UConn in May 1986, and won an NIT title in his second season. His teams won 10 Big East regular-season championships and seven Big East tournament titles.

In 1999, he coached the Huskies to a 34-2 record and their first NCAA championship, a 77-74 upset of Duke.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on Thursday expressed his admiration for Calhoun and the job he did at UConn.

"Jim has been absolutely incredible. He's an amazing competitor and clearly one of the best coaches ever," Krzyzewski said. "For 40 years as a college head coach, his teams played with his spirit and the results were unmistakable -- championship-level performances. He is a true giant in our game and a dear friend. Certainly, he will be missed."

In 2004, the Huskies started and ended the season at No. 1, beating Georgia Tech in the NCAA championship game 82-73. The Huskies, led by Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, won their six tournament games by an average of more than 17 points.

In 2011, UConn finished the regular season ninth in the Big East before reeling off a remarkable 11 consecutive wins during the postseason, including a 53-41 victory against Butler in the national championship game.

Calhoun's only loss in the Final Four came in 2009 to Michigan State in the national semifinals. Calhoun missed the Huskies' first NCAA tournament game that season after being hospitalized for dehydration.

That was one of several health issues that marked his tenure at UConn, where he missed 29 games, and left another 11 because of illness. He successfully battled prostate cancer in 2003 and skin cancer twice, most recently in 2008.

In May 2010, the program was cited by the NCAA for eight major rules violations. The allegations came at the end of a 15-month investigation into the recruiting of former player Nate Miles, who was expelled from UConn in October 2008 without ever playing a game for the Huskies.

Besides accusations that his staff improperly contacted recruits, gave them improper benefits and improperly distributed free tickets to high school coaches and others, Calhoun was cited for failing to maintain an atmosphere of compliance.

The accusations led to the resignations of two assistants, and a promise from Calhoun to make things right. He told reporters that the idea of bringing closure to that issue was a "major, major factor" in his decision to come back after the 2011 championship season.

Calhoun also faced criticism for his team's performance in the classroom. His team failed to qualify academically for the 2013 NCAA tournament under rules passed in the fall of 2011.

UConn sought a waiver citing improved scores in 2011-12, but that was rejected and five underclassmen left the Huskies after last season.

Sophomore guard Jeremy Lamb and freshman center Andre Drummond departed for the NBA, a move both were expected to make even if UConn had been eligible for the tournament.

Alex Oriakhi transferred to Missouri for his senior season, citing the NCAA decision. Sophomore forward Roscoe Smith transferred to UNLV and redshirt freshman center Michael Bradley left for Western Kentucky.

Calhoun is well known for his support of many charities, and has raised millions to help build the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health Center.

He also is the state's highest-paid employee, signing a five-year, $13 million contract in 2010.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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