Head coach Jim Calhoun officially announces retirement
Jim Calhoun speaks at a press conference on Thursday, Sept. 13, officially announcing his retirement. Calhoun is set to be replaced by assistant coach Kevin Ollie, who signed a one year contract. KEVIN SCHELLER/The Daily Campus
After much speculation and weeks of rumors, the announcement everyone in Storrs was waiting for finally came. Men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun has officially retired.
Immediately prior to a press conference to discuss the future of men's basketball, Calhoun officially declared his retirement via a press release from UConn Athletics.
"I always said that I would know when it was time, whenever that might be," Calhoun said in the release.
During the actual press conference, Calhoun was calm and collected, without much visible emotion. This did not, however, mean that he wasn't grateful and contemplative of his time at UConn.
As he thought back to all the games that he had coached, he mentioned being glad to have been a part of a loyal fan base. Calhoun expressed multiple times how happy he was to see so many fans brave the brutal, long Connecticut nights under awful conditions to cheer on the Huskies.
"Every time I walk in Gampel Pavilion and the students stand and clap as I walk in, I get chills," he said.
Calhoun started his time as head coach of UConn back in 1986. Prior to that, Calhoun had coached for 14 seasons at Northeastern University. When he came to the university, UConn was but a blip on the radar in the world of college basketball.
Fast forward 26 years and UConn is the dominant basketball power in New England, and one of the premier basketball programs in the country. Since the Huskies first won a national championship in 1999, the Huskies have won two more.
No other school has that many within that span. Duke and the University of North Carolina both have two a piece. The Huskies' rival, Syracuse, only has one.
In his career, Calhoun boasted a record of 873-380. His record makes him sixth on all-time in NCAA history, and the only active coaches with more wins than Calhoun are Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim.
Calhoun also brought the Huskies to four Final Fours in his 26 years of coaching.
All that success isn't too bad for an institution that started as a minuscule regional basketball program. Once in the shadows of UMass, Boston College and even Providence College, the Huskies skyrocketed to what many would consider "the seventh blue blood" basketball program.
When asked what Boeheim thought about Calhoun's rebuilding job at UConn, he had very high praise for the now-retired head coach. He referred to Calhoun's tenure with UConn as, "The best building job in college basketball history."
Boeheim also thinks that Calhoun does not get the praise he deserves from national media. "No question in my mind, he's underrated," Boeheim said.
With the UConn Huskies, Calhoun won 17 Big East Championships, 10 regular season championships and seven conference tournament championships.
During the press conference, president Susan Herbst made glowing remarks to make about the retired men's basketball coach.
"He's a legend, and he's our legend," Herbst said of Calhoun.
Calhoun said that the hip injury was not the reason that he chose to retire at this time. He said that he is actually healing quite well, despite the crutches that he's still uses a month later.
He did, however, say that the injury gave him ample time to think about his future and the future of UConn men's basketball. As he was thinking, he came to the realization that now is the best time for him to retire.
The man set to replace Calhoun is assistant coach Kevin Ollie. Ollie played for the Huskies under Calhoun from 1991-1995, spending his final two years as team captain.
From there, the 39-year old went to the NBA, where he spent 13 seasons in the NBA until he retired after the 2009-2010 season as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Ollie started his time as an assistant coach with the Huskies in the 2010-2011 season and continued through the 2011-2012 season.
"I am very honored and humbled to become the UConn men's basketball coach," Ollie said in the release.
It was also revealed that Ollie will be head coach until April 4, 2013 and will be paid $625,000 during that time.
Calhoun had nothing but praise for Ollie. During Ollie's time as a player and an assistant coach, Ollie had much interaction with Calhoun and Calhoun said that Ollie is going to be the right man for the job of men's basketball coach at UConn.
"Any foxhole you need to jump in, there's your guy," Calhoun said of Ollie during the press conference.
While Calhoun was straight-faced and seemingly all-business, Ollie was very emotional and broke into tears during his speech to the media.
Ollie said that to coach basketball at UConn was his dream job and that he was overwhelmed to have that kind of an opportunity.
Although Ollie was both ecstatic and overflowing with gratitude and emotions, he made clear to both those in attendance and the rest of the college basketball world that he is a winner and that he is going to try his best to get the Huskies another National Championship at some point.
"That was a great time at the White House and hopefully we'll be back soon," Ollie said.
Calhoun will still be with the university in an advisory role and said that his phone is open to both Ollie and the players 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That being said, Calhoun did not want to interfere with Ollie as a coach.
"I don't wanna hear about playing time," Calhoun joked. "Go talk to Ollie about that."
Despite his occasionally rough and sometimes-angry appearance, Calhoun will be dearly missed by players.
There were several players in attendance to express congratulations to Calhoun, among them former UConn guard and current member of the Charlotte Bobcats, Kemba Walker.
Walker said that when Calhoun first told him of his retirement that he couldn't believe it. But Walker thinks that the program is in good hands under Ollie and the rest of the coaching staff.
Also in attendance at the press conference were several students. Though the event was not listed as a public event, the university did not prevent students from entering Gampel Pavilion and actually ushered students to their seats.
One of the students in attendance, Chib Uche, a 1st-semester actuarial sciences major, hasn't been around UConn for very long.But he said that coach Calhoun was an immense part of his childhood. Uche said that he showed up at the press conference to show his support for a coach who meant so much to him, as well as fans of UConn basketball in general.
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