After 26 years and three national championships at the University of Connecticut, Coach Jim Calhoun is stepping aside.
On Thursday afternoon, Coach Calhoun announced his retirement from coaching, putting an end to a coaching career that spanned 40 years and saw the Hall-of-Famer rack up 873 total wins.
"It's time to move forward," Coach said in a news conference at the University. "There's been a lot of things swirling around for some time. It's time to move forward."
Coach Calhoun offers a smile after he announced the end of his 40-year college coaching career.
Coach walked into Gampel Pavilion Thursday with the help of crutches — though he ditched them for his final news conference — the result of hip surgery just a month ago. He battled back pain last season and missed several games after surgery for Spinal stenosis. Three times during his 26 years at the helm of UConn Basketball, Coach beat cancer. Each time he came back for more.
Coach said that injuries and ailments didn't play a role in his decision to leave the sidelines, but was willing to give that hip injury credit for affording him the time to think about what came next.
"It gave me a momentary pause because I couldn't do anything. It gave me time to think. I looked around and knew everything was headed in the right direction," he said. "As I looked at everything, so many things are in place for us to even go farther than we have already. So I thought it was an excellent time. I really feel the university is in incredible shape."
That direction is with former UConn player and assistant coach Kevin Ollie at the helm of the 2012-2013 Huskies. Ollie played for Coach Calhoun from 1991-1995 and went on to have a 13-year NBA career before returning to UConn as an assistant in 2010. He served in that post for the National Championship 2010-2011 season, as well as last year.
"Kevin Ollie, simply put, epitomizes what we want a UConn athlete to be all about," Calhoun said. "Kevin is a great basketball man, and even a better person. I am incredibly proud of Kevin and this staff."
Coach Calhoun will move into a temporary role as special assistant to UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel, as Ollie conducts his first season as coach. After that season is complete, Coach Calhoun will transition into fully retired role as head coach emeritus.
"Jim is the seminal figure in the history of this program and UConn athletics, one of the legends of college basketball, period," Manuel said. "It's never easy replacing a legend. This will be a transition that's tough, but he's going to be by my side, he's going to be there for Kevin and for this university. That will make it a little bit easier."
Kevin Ollie, who played for Coach and served as an assitant on his staff the last two years takes over as Huskies coach.
The role is an appropriate one given the indelible mark Coach left on the Connecticut basketball program. When he left Northeastern to become UConn's head basketball coach in 1986, Connecticut was a regional stalwart without a national identity. Many questioned its inclusion in the Big East. But in 26 years, Coach Calhoun changed the program's reputation and branded UConn as a national college basketball powerhouse.
"I think what Jim did at UConn is maybe the most significant athletic accomplishment in the 30-plus years of the Big East," said former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese. "I know what UConn was. People were yelling and screaming about why we were adding UConn [in 1979, when the Big East was formed]. No person on the face of the Earth could have accomplished what Jim did at UConn."
Those accomplishments included four Final Four trips and National Championship wins in 1999, 2004 and most recently 2011, just two seasons ago. Only five Division I coaches in history have one three National Championships, one of many short lists Coach leaves the game with his name on.
Coach holds up the severed net after capturing his third NCAA Tournament Championship.
In addition he led the Huskies to 10 Big East regular season titles and seven Big East tournament titles. Under his watch, Connecticut appeared in the NCAA Tournament 19 times and his 873 career wins — of which 625 came at UConn — is sixth most in Division I history.
"We were going to have something to say about the future of basketball in the Big East," Coach said. "The first step is to believe you can be special. I have been blessed with so many people who believed in that dream. This could only have been accomplished with a collective effort. That's the story of UConn."
The future of UConn Basketball beyond Coach Calhoun is uncertain, but University President Susan Herbst assured on Thursday that with Coach's help, the program will transition into a new era with the same expectations and goals Coach Calhoun always held them to.
"Every single person can learn from his intensity, his passion and his unbelievable desire to win," she said. "I can't tell you how many students, former students, staffers, fans tell me he's like a second father to them. He's a legend and he's our legend."
To read the entire transcript of Coach's Retirement Press Conference, click here.
- UConn Coach Jim Calhoun Announces Retirement (UConnHuskies.com, September 13, 2012)
- UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun makes retirement official (AP, September 13, 2012)
- UConn's Jim Calhoun says farewell to college coaching (USA Today, September 13, 2012)
- Jim Calhoun Retirement Press Conference Transcript (UConnHuskies.com, September 13, 2012)
- Passion for Victory That Knew No Bounds (New York Times, September 13, 2012)
- Jim Calhoun's final news conference without incident or tears (CBS Sports, September 13, 2012)
- Comments on Head Coach Jim Calhoun's Retirement (UConnHuskies.com, September 13, 2012)
- Jim Calhoun knows it's time to go (ESPN.com, September 13, 2012)
- Calhoun makes exit on his own terms (Philadelphia Inquirer, September 13, 2012)
- Jim Calhoun leaves complicated legacy, but an indelible mark (SI.com, September 13, 2012)
- Calhoun's style was tough to beat (ESPN.com, September 13, 2012)