I had a chance to speak to UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun briefly tonight at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. (A gorgeous building and museum, quite worth the trip…though I miss those conveyor belts).
We’ll have a story in tomorrow’s Journal Inquirer, but here are a few of the highlights.
Calhoun, as many of you have seen, spoke to Mark Blaudschun for a story on SI.com and seemed to indicate for the first time he might be leaning toward retiring. He also told Blaudschun that he wouldn’t be surprised if some kind of announcement were made in the next two weeks.
Calhoun backed off that prediction just slightly Thursday, but still sounded as if his retirement was an actual possibility soon.
“Unless we have something, there’s no sense saying anything. Other situations called for me to say something,” said Calhoun, referring to previous off-seasons in which UConn was being hurt badly in recruiting by rumors of Calhoun’s retirement and the coach therefore decided to formally announce his return. “I have a two-year contract. Well, now a year and nine months.”
Still, the 70-year-old coach just might retire before starting season No. 27 at UConn (and season No. 41 as a Division I head coach).
His back is better, though the surgery last season took its toll. His broken hip is better, though he’s still not back to work full-time and is still struggling to get around.
But the closest Calhoun came on Thursday to saying he’d actually leave his post was when he mused that he “maybe…might…think about whether or not I want to keep doing this.”
That’s far from an “I’m finished.” However, it’s a lot closer than he’s ever come with his words before.
Thursday night was in his former college town (He’s an AIC man, lest we forget) to receive the Mannie Jackson Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame. Calhoun was in good spirits surrounded by a number of other basketball greats as well as his wife Pat, son Jim and a number of UConn coaches and officials. Calhoun is still on crutches because of his hip, though he swears he’s a week away from using only a cane.
“It’s always nice coming back here. It was nice to be named in the first place,” Calhoun said of his induction in 2005, “and it’s nice to come back.”
Calhoun says he hasn’t met with UConn AD Warde Manuel lately about his future (Calhoun says Manuel is currently touring some basketball practice facilities as UConn finalizes plans for its own), but is in relatively constant contact with UConn President Susan Herbst.
“The good thing is Susan, Dr. Herbst, is incredibly accessible,” Calhoun said. “And I think she has the same interests (as me). She realizes what basketball does at UConn. She realizes what all of our sports programs do.”
Calhoun obviously would like to see assistant coach Kevin Ollie take over when he does step down, and was hoping for some assurances from Manuel that would be the case.
There has been so such guarantee made, though it would seem Ollie is the top candidate.
Calhoun also seems to believe in Herbst’s judgment.
“Susan has helped me in many, many ways because she’s on my…she’s on the side of us going forward,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun, for the first time in my memory, spoke openly Thursday about what he might do upon retirement from coaching. He’d like to continuing working with/at UConn for a time, and thinks he has a lot to offer.
“I’ve got plenty of things that I want to accomplish,” Calhoun said.
“There’s certain things that I could probably do better in a different position than the head coach,” Calhoun continued. “Because I would take the vested interest I have, biased interest, and get rid of that. And be able to do it the way it needs being done.
“I think fund-raising is a giant part of it. We need to get the money to get this project (basketball practice facility) off the ground. I want that building to be something where when you walk in you say ‘Wow! This is UConn!’
“And I think there’s other things,” Calhoun said. “I’ve talked to people out at the hospital (UConn Health Center). There’s things I want to do there. I’ve spent a lot of time at the hospital and on the board.
“I’ve got a feeling there will be a lot of things for me to do,” Calhoun said.