UConn coaching legend retires

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Storrs - posted Fri., Sep. 14, 2012
Coach Jim Calhoun smiles during the press conference where he announced his retirement on Sept 13. Photos by Steve Smith.
Coach Jim Calhoun smiles during the press conference where he announced his retirement on Sept 13. Photos by Steve Smith.

In a press conference on the floor of Gampel Pavilion – where thousands of baskets have been made by his players over his 26-year career – coach Jim Calhoun announced his retirement on Sept. 13. Calhoun built the men’s basketball program at UConn into a powerhouse, notching three NCAA championships during his tenure. Calhoun's career record is 870-380, and 625-243 as coach at UConn.

“I'm one of the luckiest people alive,” Calhoun said, “because I've had a chance to touch our players' lives. I coached our teams, and allowed our teams to be a vehicle to shine a light on this very special university.”

The coach said he hopes he will be judged for his good character, in response to a question about what he hopes his legacy will be. “I think people who know me will determine my character, and others will determine my legacy,” he said. “I never said I was mistake-free. I think the purpose I always had was headed in the right direction. I was always trying to do the right thing.”

Calhoun said he made the decision to retire while recovering from his recent hip injury. “It gave me a lot of time to contemplate some of the things in my life,” he said, adding that while thinking of his family and the program, he knew that it would be in good hands.

“As I looked at everything, so many things are in place for us to even go farther than we have already,” Calhoun said. “I thought it was an excellent time. I really feel that the university is in excellent shape. I thought it was the right time for me. I have a lot of things I know I can do and help, and I know who's in place, and that's very important.”

Calhoun was asked what kept him going for his 26 years. He said his father's death, when Calhoun was just 15, was what caused him to turn to athletics, and he wanted to provide a similar opportunity for young people facing any of life's difficulties.

“It's the place that I feel the most comfortable,” he said. “With basketball... all you needed was a boy, a ball and a dream. Therefore, I could deal with the thoughts that I had. So, it became home to me – the gym. It's a place of comfort, a place of competition, a place to seek excellence, and a place to grow.”

Calhoun will remain at UConn as a special assistant to Athletic Director Warde Manuel. He will, he said, remain personally involved with the players.

“I'll see them more, individually,” he said. “I'll have more time for them. I will be at practice. I feel I can do a lot for the entire university, including basketball, going forward.”

Glastonbury resident Kevin Ollie – a former UConn and NBA player, and Calhoun's assistant – is taking over the reins of the team, and was signed to a one-year contract.

Ollie was emotional as he thanked Manuel and the other UConn officials for his new position. “I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but right here,” he said. “This is my dream job. I was made for this job.”

He also thanked his family and friends and spoke about the importance of his athletes' character.

“You are all the most loyal guys I know,” Ollie told his players. “We're going to work hard. I'm going to push you all, and you're going to say I'm crazy sometimes, but it's a good crazy because you are going to know that I believe in you all. I want you all to be better – not only in basketball – I want you to be better men.”

“Kevin Ollie epitomizes what we want a UConn athlete and a UConn student to be about,” Calhoun said. “Kevin is a great basketball player, and he's an even better person.”

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