Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

September 13, 2012

Source: UConn men's hoop coach Calhoun to retire

BRISTOL, Conn. — Jim Calhoun is leaving Connecticut the same way he coached it to three national titles - on his terms.

The 70-year-old Hall of Famer scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m. Thursday to announce his retirement, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Calhoun's move had not yet been made public. WVIT-TV in Hartford first reported the expected announcement.

Assistant coach Kevin Ollie, who played for Calhoun and was his hand-picked successor, will be introduced as the Huskies' new coach. The person familiar with the deal said Ollie will receive a one-year contract.

Calhoun racked up 873 collegiate wins - 625 of them at his beloved UConn, where he ran the men's program for 26 years and won three national titles.

Recently, though, Calhoun has struggled with health problems, including a fractured hip that required surgery and left him on crutches after a bicycle accident last month.

Ollie will take over a Huskies team that is ineligible for the 2013 NCAA tournament because of its failure to meet national academic standards, one of several off-court problems that hit UConn late in Calhoun's tenure. Ollie is one of more than two dozen players whom Calhoun sent to the NBA, a list that also includes Ben Gordon, Kemba Walker, Rudy Gay and Emeka Okafor.

The Huskies will open this year with just five players who saw significant playing time last season.

Before fracturing his hip, Calhoun fought off cancer three times and missed eight games last season because of 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, Calhoun 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 with NCAA rules, an issued that dated to recruiting violations in 2008.

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

After coaching in high school in Connecticut and Massachusetts, he was hired to coach Northeastern in 1972.

Calhoun spent the next 14 years at the school, transforming the team from Division II program to a mid-major power with five appearances in the NCAA tournament.

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 over Duke.

In 2004, the Huskies started and ended the season at No. 1, beating Georgia Tech in the NCAA championship game 82-73.

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

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

It was one of several health issues that marked his time 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.

Calhoun also was hospitalized in 2009 after breaking several ribs during a charity bike ride and he missed seven games in the 2009-10 season for an undisclosed stress-related medical reason.

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 for the Huskies.

Besides accusations that his staff improperly contacted recruits, gave them improper benefits and 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, two heading for the NBA and three transferring.

Ollie has never been a head coach at any level. He played at UConn and spent 13 seasons in the NBA before being hired as an assistant in 2010.

Calhoun, the state's highest paid employee, signed a five-year, $13 million contract in 2010.

Under that deal, once he retires he is due either a $1 million cash payment or another 5-year job in the athletic department with a $300,000 a year salary.

 

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