As allegations gain steam, Calhoun does his own Big Dance
A former student manager is said to have advised a UConn player as an agent
Calhoun conceded that someone "could have made a mistake"
On Friday he spoke generally about his role overseeing the UConn program
GLENDALE, ARIZ -- Jim Calhoun is officially dancing. Not the dance into the NCAA Tournament, the Big Dance, but rather the sidesteps coaches make when their program is in the crosshairs following allegations of NCAA violations, when a hole has been opened and a program's actions are to be judged.
When Yahoo! Sports first detailed allegations involving UConn's recruitment of former player Nate Miles, Calhoun referenced the "blog" report and selectively focused on Miles' eligibility to play for the Huskies and not the gist of the report, which was that coaches knew that Josh Nochimson, a former student manager and Connecticut graduate, was advising Miles in a way that made him a sports agent and also violated NCAA guidelines.
On Thursday, Calhoun conceded that someone "could have made a mistake," but in the same breath mentioned the size of the NCAA rulebook, as if no one could be expected to understand all those darn NCAA rules. He also intimated that he couldn't be expected to follow the actions of the school's thousands of alumni, as if Nochimson was just any graduate of the school and one who worked within the basketball program for several years, was advising a player he recruited and who, according to Yahoo! Sports, received regular calls from UConn coaches.
Calhoun was forced to clarify those remarks Friday, another round of spin as the school and NCAA begin to look into the allegations. He went from talking about the pressure defense he expects to face Saturday against Missouri in the Elite 8 to defending his program and his legacy.
"I said yesterday, when they asked me could a mistake have been made, my quote was 'in a 508-page manual, a mistake could have been made.' Do I know if any has been made? No, I'm not making judgment one way or the other. I said could there have been a mistake made ... I believe that we always try to do the right things. And all I said, very simply, was out of our 508-page manual it will be up to the judgment of the NCAA did we in fact make or not make a mistake. They are getting information as we speak. And that will be decided by other people, not us."
In addition to the earlier allegations, the Tampa Tribune reported Friday that Nochimson might have paid for a surgery Miles had before he enrolled at Connecticut. That surgery cost between $8,000 and $10,000, the newspaper reported, although the doctor who performed it couldn't say for certain that Nochimson paid the bill.
Calhoun declined to comment on that report Friday, but spoke generally about his role overseeing the Connecticut program.
"Overall, I would assume it is my job to know [NCAA rules]. It is not my job to know what every human being whoever graduated from UConn is doing at every single moment 24 hours a day," he said. "Is it my responsibility according to that 508 pages? Yes. That's what the [internet reports] say. [They] say you are responsible for anybody who graduated from UConn, anybody who represents the athletic interest of UConn, lifetime, all that kind of stuff."
Asked if he felt if he was a distraction to the team, Calhoun responded tersely:
"Did we play yesterday? ... And we won, right? To answer your question simply, no."
Calhoun was treated for skin cancer last summer (for the second time) and he also successfully overcame prostate cancer in 2003. At one moment Friday, he broached the subject of his future beyond this season when framed against those issues and the recent allegations. He was, if you see the world his way, a victim of sorts.
"This team has made this season very joyful for me personally. Has there been some trials and tribulations? Without question. But it seems like for a lot of us in this business, that's part of the job that we do. If you want to be the highlight program, you are going to have to be able to inhale the heat. ... People are going to write, say whatever about you. That's just part of the nature of what we do.
"So I would wait like I do every spring and late in the spring to make any kind of decision about my future. My future right now is I want to coach, and most importantly I want to coach against Missouri tomorrow."
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