Jim Calhoun reflects on past, present and whether he will retire
Calhoun says he expects to make announcment on his future in next two weeks
Calhoun, 70, hasn't made a decision, but sounds like he's ready to step away
With 873 victories, three national titles, Calhoun is one of game's greatest coaches
STORRS, Conn. -- Jim Calhoun is more than a month into his latest rehab program and as usual he is pushing the envelope. "About another eight days,'' says the University of Connecticut basketball coach, sitting in a chair in his office at Gampel Pavilion, "and I can move to a cane.''
There are no baby steps for the 70-year-old Calhoun as he recovers from a fractured left hip he suffered after falling off his bike near his summer home in Madison, Conn. That has never been his way. He's worked hard at his rehab with sessions at home, starting with a walker, then moving to crutches and sessions in the pool at UConn. All at a fast pace.
Calhoun is back at work in a limited capacity, knowing that the clock is ticking on not only his recovery, but also on a much larger issue: whether he will return to UConn for his 27th season.
Calhoun says that he has not made up his mind, but his manner suggests something different. He is more relaxed, at peace with what he has done and what he still wants to do.
"I would be very, very surprised if I didn't have something to say within the next two weeks,'' he said as he talks more about the past than the future. Calhoun said he has not decided whether or not to retire, but he sounds like he might be ready to step away. Although the competitive part of him thinks he could coach for another two years, the practical side realizes that this might be time.
"I could have walked away last year,'' said Calhoun, referring to when UConn won the national title in April 2011, the last crowning moment in a Hall of Fame coaching career that has produced 873 wins and three national championships, making him one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history. "But I walked off the stage [in Houston], there were 70,000 people and we had all those guys back. I couldn't do it. I thought we could do it again. We had the players. We had a team that won 53 games in two years. We've had 25 consecutive winning seasons. That's hard to do.''
He came back and the Huskies didn't come close to repeating, finishing with a 20-14 record and losing to Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Off the court problems only added to the misery. First, Calhoun was handed a three-game suspension by the NCAA for violating recruiting rules. Then, there was a bout with spinal stenosis, a painful arthritic condition that required surgery and forced Calhoun to miss several games in the middle of the season. Finally, the NCAA banned the Huskies from next season's NCAA tournament for poor academic performance. The Big East has added to the ban by barring the Huskies from the conference tournament in New York City, a decision that new UConn president Susan Herbst is quietly trying to fight.
Calhoun absorbed all of that and was ready to move forward this summer when he hit a patch of sand and fell off his bike, fracturing his hip and requiring surgery and the insertion of a rod and pins in his left leg for support.
Calhoun says he has waffled on his decision on whether or not to return for months. "Depends on how I feel sometimes," he said. "But I'm very close to knowing. I'm just going to wake up one morning and I will know what is the right thing to do. I always said if I ever come here and say, 'Jeez I'm not sure, I will know it's time.'''
Calhoun has made it clear that he would prefer the line of succession to include former Husky point guard and current assistant coach Kevin Ollie. When asked if new UConn athletic director Warde Manuel had already designated Ollie as the next coach would there still be any indecision about his future, Calhoun smiled and said, "That didn't happen. It's a university decision and I have confidence they will do the right thing.''
Calhoun has been at UConn for nearly a third of his life. He grew up in suburban Boston and was the quasi head of his household after his father died when he was 15. Often combative, Calhoun has taken on a me-against-the-world stance.
But when talking about UConn and the legacy he will leave, Calhoun softens. When asked about how people should remember his tenure with the Huskies, Calhoun said, "I always tried to do my best. I hope they say I left this a better place. We built a family here and from a basketball standpoint I think we took away a lot of the inferiority complex that existed here. The thing people always said was why UConn couldn't do it. I think we changed that. When I came here, no one really knew about this place. UConn was North to Alaska. Now it is a program.''