Is Jim Calhoun Ready to Call It Quits?

And If He Decides to Retire, Who Might Step Up to Fill His Shoes?

If you are still caught up in the glow of the men’s basketball national championship, you may have forgotten one important thing. 

Jim Calhoun still hasn’t said he’s coming back next year.

Honestly, I’m one of those people who forgot. The 2010-2011 season was such a success and Calhoun seemed so, well, happy that it seemed like fait accompli that he would be back.

When I saw an article in The Hartford Courant this week with the headline, “Jim Calhoun Says No Decision on Future As He Receives Winged Foot Award,” my first thought was, “Winged Foot Award? Huh?”

But quickly thereafter I realized, “Wow, Calhoun hasn’t said he’s coming back? I swore he had.”

It’s not uncommon for a coach to wait a couple months to determine whether he will come back after the season is over (if he’s old enough to be in that boat), but something about this past season just made it seem like the natural choice.

Back in 2009 when Calhoun made a more expected run to the Final Four, there were quite a few rumors that a championship title would be how he would choose to bow out. Of course that didn’t happen and Calhoun obviously ended up returning. If he had walked away then – with a championship – I wouldn’t have been surprised. In fact, I expected it.

The only thing I believed that kept Calhoun around long enough for this miracle title to happen was the complete lack of a successor. It was a very tumultuous time for his coaching tree.

Dave Leitao, maybe the most notable of Calhoun disciples, was falling after a quick ascension from DePaul to Virginia and an ACC Coach of the Year award in 2007. Leitao resigned (read: forced out) after the 2009 season.

Glenn Miller was on a similar rise as Leitao, going from Brown to Penn and making the NCAA tournament in 2007. The next two-plus years Miller had a 23-43 record and was fired in the middle of the 2009-2010 season after an 0-7 start.

That eliminated both of the leading candidates. The only other was Quinnipiac coach, and long-time Calhoun assistant, Tom Moore. But of course, in 2009, right during their title run, Yahoo! reported on the Nate Miles recruiting violations for which Moore figured prominently as an offender.

I honestly believe one of the major reasons Calhoun came back after 2009 was because he didn’t feel comfortable handing over the program to anyone else. The discussions at the time actually revolved around an outsider taking over. Calhoun will vociferously fight for one of his guys to take over when he steps down – whenever that may be.

If you notice, a recurring theme with Calhoun during this debate over retirement is his mentions of Glenn Miller, and even more, Kevin Ollie. Ollie has received constant praise after just one year as an assistant and Calhoun has said outright he thinks Ollie will be a tremendous coach.

Right now, Ollie’s main asset is as a recruiter. He brings two very important things to potential recruits: 1.) NBA experience, and 2.) a thoughtful, articulate African-American presence. The first qualification is important to the kid; the second is important to his parents.

If I were a betting man, I’d say Calhoun comes back. Andre Drummond, the top player in next year’s recruiting class (2012), is from Connecticut and UConn is his expected destination. He’s received comparisons to Kevin Garnett and certainly would’ve skipped college if he could have.

Calhoun wants to coach him, along with a more experienced Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb, because that could be a quickly reloaded title run.

Then expect to hear from Calhoun soon and with the name Kevin Ollie.


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