Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun is expected to announce his retirement at a news conference Thursday, multiple sources told ESPN.com.
Calhoun, who coached the Huskies to three national titles, will be replaced by assistant coach Kevin Ollie, the sources said.
Terms of Calhoun's exit and Ollie's agreement were not finalized Wednesday.
A source close to Calhoun told ESPN.com that the Hall of Fame coach has had a lot of time to think about his retirement over the past month. Calhoun fractured his hip in early August after falling off his bicycle.
That program was nothing before Calhoun. Has he built them up enough that they'll continue to be a great program without him?
Kind of ****ed up timing, no? Honestly I never like the guy. Thought he was a slimey coach... But respect to a guy who could build at a place like UConn to what is probably now a tier below the blue bloods, and he always beat Duke.
It's not just how they survive without Calhoun but they are in a dying conference too. Talk about crossroads.
Anything about their recruits? I'm a fan of Omar Calhoun.
Oh and apparently there's a rumor swirling around that Shaka wanted that job. Interesting to see what happens here. He could keep that program afloat.
I've never been a huge fan. I know a handfull of guys who've played there, some personally before they went there, mainly Marcus Cox, but a couple others, and then I met a bunch of guys while they were there because I had a friend on the football team, followed by my brother who was a "supplier" of sorts to a lot of guys on the team.
For one, he was cheating. Getting kids to come out to farmland in the middle of nowhere to play basketball can't be easy, but he always figured it out, and I know for absolute sure how he did it. Frankly, that doesn't bother me that much, but it is something. For anyone who's ever been to Uconn, it really and truely is in the middle of nowhere. It's got a nice party atmosphere. Spring weekends there are nuts. But it's not a mecca of culture by any stretch of the imagination.
My second gripe is that he was always a huge who's next kind of a guy. I'm sure I'm a little hard on him for this because it had an impact on two guys I knew personally, the aforementioned Cox, who was a big time prospect and could've gone anywhere, got talked into Uconn, which at the time I didn't think was a great idea, but after showing some promise as a Frosh, he did something to get into the doghouse, and Calhoun's doghouse was pretty deep, and he would often just let guys die in there. He did a similar thing with my guy Rashamel Jones. Rash is on the shortlist of best HS players I ever saw. He had a big Frosh season too, including a big game on ESPN against Florida State where Dickey V was going nuts calling him the next in the great line of UConn stars, following Ray Allen. Of course Rash turned his ankle badly, wasn't really quite ready yet to start the following season, gave up minutes to newcomer Rip Hamilton, and never really got it back. The same thing happened to Rash's star recruiting backcourt mate, Ricky Moore. Then again it's hard to blame Calhoun too much for that particular calousness when he won a national title with those guys backing up Rip and El Amin, but it's still always bothered me, again in part to the fact that I knew the guy pretty well.
And my final criticism is mainly that he's an awfull offensive coach. I say this with a pretty good foundation. I'm pretty much a lifetime Nutmegger (that's someone from Connecticut), and I've watched tons upon tons of UConn basketball. I've seen them in person tons of times. As many of you know in here, I'm a fixture at the Big East tournament for one, and with so many friends up there over the years, I've seen them there too. And in college I actually rode the pine against them once. He's all read and react offensively, which is somewhat high minded, but it doesn't dictate anything to his players, and you end up with a ton of standing around. It kills guys who aren't instinctive, and made someone like Rudy Gay look horrible. It simply didn't behoove his players to be the best they could. And honestly, it's a huge part of the reason why he won titles mainly when he had guys who were elitely creative, like Kemba, and Khalid. His offenses gave guys way too much freedom, and it only worked when he had those special special guys who could really excel in that freedom. Some guys, like Gay, shrunk in it, other guys can't handle it's responsibility, like their current PG, Shabazz Napier.
All that said ... I have a huge amount of respect for the guy. He's one of the best defensive coaches of all time in my opinion. His 2-2-1 full court low risk, cause discomfort, style press is something that uniquely simple, and yet incredibly effective. I've tried to replicate it even on the middle school level to a great degree of success, even though I do it from a different alignment, it's notion of looking agressive but not leaving a ton of holes, then periodically throwing agressive looks at you, like trapping out of the second pass, or at a certain depth up the court, is brilliant and obviously wildly effective.
Secondly, his players consistently play hard. Probably has a lot to do with my gripe above of his somewhat shoddy treatment of players. But he obviously gets effort out of his guys. Always has. It's also probably a function of himself, he too is an exceptionally tough old irish bastard. He reminds me of one of my old HS coaches. He's come back from injuries and illness himself many times.
Thirdly, the guy turned out to be a great recruiter. He got his share of true blue chippers, but he also stumbled upon more than his share of guys who wound up being a hell of a lot better than anyone anticipated. Okafor, for one. Hilton Armstrong. Even his more highly recruited guys turned out to be undervalued some in the recruiting process, and were actually better than advertised. Ray Allen, Kemba, these guys were All Americans, but turned out to outperform even those lofty class ranks. Either a nod to his development skills in practice, or a nod to his eye for talent, but either way a nod to him.
And finally, the guy has been great in the press for his time at UConn. Not maybe from the press's perspective all the time, but in terms of entertainment. His openly ripping into dopey media questions for years has been a source of local amusement for me. He's like a Bobby Knight light, which I don't know if people know nationally. But he's a crotchety old straight shooter type who won't hesitate to call out the media when something stupid gets asked.
And that's my take beyond the "he's got 3 titles" case, which is it's own thing.
Last edited by Thorpesaurous : 09-13-2012 at 11:24 AM.
And a related note, between this, and Notre Dame's defection yesterday, Big East basketball has taken yet another huge hit these past couple days. It's really sad. There's so little left. And it's unfortunate that if you don't play football, you're apparently not allowed to play basketball either.
I fully expect UConn to take a pretty harsh step back between the sanctions and now a major coaching change, although I feel Kevin Ollie could be a very good coach.
The Big East should abandon the idea of scavenging these mid majors from all over the country, albeit good ones like SDSU, and just pick up the rest of it's northeastern catholic basketball heritage bretheren and run the conference through that. Merge with the Atlantic 10, cherry pick from my beloved MAAC. And make a basketball exclusive conference that doesn't play BCS football. Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, St. John's. You'd probably have to give up Louisville and Cincy, which you may have to anyway the way football is going. Pick up UMass, Temple, St. Joe's, Butler, Charlotte, Dayton, Duquesne, Fordham, GW, Lasalle, Rhode Island, The Bonnies, VCU, Xavier, Richmond, St. Louis. Maybe grab Iona, Manhattan, Sienna, Cannisius from the MAAC.
You've got some nice natural rivals there. You're feeding off the northeast catholic basketball traditions. You've got a ton of small catholic, really good academic schools in the mix there. Those schools could maybe increase their profile playing so many games in and around Manhattan and Philly and DC, increase their recruiting prowess. Keep the tourney at MSG.
I've been coaching middle school CYO (that's Catholic Youth Organization) basketball for almost a decade.
I grew up playing just outside the fringes of that CYO culture, which in New England and New York, and the northeast in general, is kind of a thing. I was cut from a number of CYO teams in my youth, and often wound up on other travelling teams that wound up competing with those kids at a very high level. The way it worked was that kids who went to private catholic elementary and middle schools had an obvious head start to make teams, and then a certain number of kids who lived in the parish district could also make the time, but it was pretty limited. And coaches would offer scholarships to elementary schools to inner city kids, whose parents were more than happy to get their kids into the Catholic school tract, to get them on the hoops teams.
Those elementary schools fed the local catholic high schools. Schools which consisted of maybe a couple hundred kids, but perhaps the 4 of the top 20 HS basketball players in the state. They'd also get kids from NY to transfer and do the travel, like my guy Rashamel Jones who I mentioned above, and his backcourt mate, Earl Jones, who wound up at Rutgers, and later transferred to Iona.
Those catholic schools are direct feeders to these small New England Catholic Universities, which offer a really premium education, I played at one myself as a walk on. But if you were a good HS basketball player at one of these local HSs, and you had a desire to play in college, these schools had a relationship where they'd hold a spot if possible for the kid, knowing that down the road when a better player came through, the coaches would sort of coax him in that direction.
It's a weird sort of cottage version of what the national AAU system has become, and frankly it sort of grew out of that. And it happens all over the northeast. Bobby Hurley's vaunted St. Anthony's teams have had an unusually high percentage of guys go to Seton Hall, for example. Most of those storied New Jersey HS programs come out of this system. And a few years ago when St. Anthony had that national title, and then two years ago with St. Pat's, a lot of it stemmed from other churches having to close their doors, like Patterson Catholic (Tim Thomas' school) and them getting an influx of talent.
So does your CYO teams compete play in AAU tournaments or do you guys have your own league?
Most leagues around here will have a 10 - 20 teams, some specifically CYO, and others more like all star travel teams that do participate in the league as well. We all play in one league over the course of the winter, but the all star teams are removed from the postseason tournament, because the winners are sent to state parochial tournaments, then to regionals, New England's for us.
We play in the one CYO Parochial league (that's sort of the point), then one of the Catholic High Schools, St. Joe's in Trumbull CT, which has a rich basketball history, does a second league. And then there are various Church Tournaments. Usually 8 teams invited, single elimination over the course of a long weekend, Thursday through Sunday. We do ours in February just before State parochials. A lot of teams do them over the Christmas Holidays. Some teams try to cherry pick to win their tournaments. Ours is usually pretty strong, and we invite a non-parochial travel team or two, but our team is usually pretty good so our focus is to win our parochial, win state, and make it to New England's, which we actually won a couple years back, so we treat our tournament more as a prep for our actual goals rather than a victory parade. I get that approach too though.
A lot of the very best kids will play on more than one team by the way.
They may play for their church, then get cherry picked onto one of the premier travel AAU teams, and then they'll play based on who's going to the better tournaments on a given weekend. It's something I don't really care for. I'd say I wouldn't allow it on my team, but frankly our suburban white kids, who are actually pretty damn good, aren't the type that are being headhunted for very often, so it's not something I've run into much. I did have one 6-8 kid who was on my team but left to join an AAU squad. He was terrible, and I tried to get him to stay by pointing out that I had a lot more practice time and could actually improve him, but it didn't work.
The advantage of the AAU scene is more visability and better comp overall. The CYO scene generally has more practice time available because we're playing out of schools and have more access to the gyms.
Coach Calhoun was one heck of a coach and mentor. I just remember that he was such a positive role model on many of us UConn alumni. Even if we did not play basketball well enough to make the squad, he was always there to offer some advice. I am just glad that he will still be around campus.