UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun has retired after 26 years and three NCAA championships. As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, Calhoun says this is the right time to move on.
After thanking everyone he could, Calhoun said a recent hip injury didn't affect his decision other than to give him time to think. "It gave me a lot of time to contemplate some of the things in my life. And I looked around, looked at our staff, looked at Kevin, looked at our kids, our players, Susan, Larry, Tom, Ward, and knew that we were headed in the right direction." The "Kevin" Calhoun mentioned? That's Kevin Ollie, the man who will replace him as UConn's next head coach. Ollie played for Calhoun in the early 1990s before a professional career of his own. He'll be paid $625,000 a year. And the "Susan" he mentioned was UConn President Susan Herbst. "He raises money, he inspires people, young people, but most of all he's generous with his heart. I can't tell you how many young men, students, former students, staffers, fans, have told me that Jim is like a second father to them." Calhoun started at UConn in 1986. He had 25 straight winning seasons and three championships. He acknowledged bumps in the road, including a recent recruiting scandal and low student grades that led to a ban from post-season play this upcoming year. And he acknowledged the team's community of fans. "Without you, UConn basketball wouldn't be UConn basketball. I know many times that you think that it goes unnoticed, but every time I walk in Gampel Pavillion and the students stand and clap as I walk in, I get chills." In the end, though, Calhoun said the time was right for him to leave -- especially after missing games last season due to injury. "I missed 11 games and I just didn't want anything to get in the way. And I'm at a point where I have incredible amounts of energy, I have a lot of things I know I can do and help, and I know who's in place." Calhoun, who is 70, will continue as a special assistant to the athletic department through next Spring. For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.