STORRS, CT–I went down and visited Jim Calhoun at UConn on Wednesday. I like Jim Calhoun. We have been friends for more than 20 years. In a lot of ways he has a lot of Jerseyguy in him. What you see with Calhoun is what you get.
What I saw on Wednesday was different though. He is a month into his recovery from the fractured left hip he suffered riding his bike near his summer home in Madison, CT. He is at the crutches stage, which will lead to a cane, which will bring us back to the Jim Calhoun who has recovered from broken ribs, cancer and an assortment of other injuries in a Hall of Fame career which has brought 3 national championships to UConn, given Calhoun more than 800 career wins and put him in the Hall of Fame.
At the age of 70, he could easily walk away and do something else related to basketball other than coach the Huskies’ men’s team as he has done for the past 26 years. But he has a stubborn streak that stretches from his nose to his toes.
The bike accident was his second–he broke ribs the last time. After his latest fall, his son Jeff was wondering how to transport the bike back to Calhoun’s house. “Just leave it outside,” said his wife Pat. “Maybe someone will steal it.”
Calhoun has waffled all summer about whether he will return for the final two years of his contract “I’m pretty certain that there will be some sort of announcement within the next two weeks,’ he said with a smile.
Calhoun wants to come back. He wants to leave. That is his conflict. He wants his former player and current assistant coach Kevin Ollie to get the job.
Ollie’s critics–maybe that is too strong-his doubters say that Ollie is not ready. No head coaching experience.
Please. There is enough experience on the UConn staff to coach every team in the Big East. Calhoun will be available, George Blaney, who has been with Calhoun for the last 12 years has more than 30 years head coaching experience, Glenn Miller, Karl Hobbs.
The ideal way for this to end is for Calhoun and Ollie to step together on a podium sometimes in the next two weeks and announce the next phase of UConn basketball will now begin.
The first year could be a rough trip since the NCAA mandated probation because of UConn’s failure to meet minimum APR graduation rates will keep the Huskies out of the post season play.
That sounds like a free play no risk type of situation for the Huskies. Let Ollie get used to being a head coach, let the Huskies get used to life without Jim Calhoun, at least on a daily basis.
Calhoun’s legacy is secure. He will always be part of UConn culture. He poured the foundation for UConn as a national program in men’s basketball.
Did he make some mistakes? Sure he did. Did he bend some rules? Sure. Everyone bends and breaks rules Few coaches actually cheat. Calhoun is not a cheater.
He looks for the edge. Always. I remember playing a round of golf with him in South Carolina one summer when I said I would match my hackers game to his semi serious game. No strokes. All I wanted to do was hit from the forward tees, while he played from the back tees.
Calhoun looked at me, thought about it and agreed. The first hole was a Par 5. He hit a Calhoun drive about 265 dead center. I rode 100 yards to the forward tees and hit a career drive which put me about 15 yards ahead of him. He then went on and parred the hole I continued my Tiger Woods moment and was on the green in three, then made about an 5 foot putt for birdie.’
Hole 2 was a long Par 4. Calhoun again hit a drive straight and long. He got in the cart and looked at me and said, ‘You’re up MRS. Blaudschun’.
Pure Calhoun. It has always been that way. Always will be. Calhoun made UConn a better place. He can still do that. Now it is time to move on for both Calhoun and UConn.
© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.