On Thursday afternoon, University of Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun made an announcement that rocked the college basketball world. After 40 years of college coaching and 26 years transforming Connecticut from a regional talent to a national college basketball powerhouse, Coach Calhoun is retiring from the game.
He leaves an indelible legacy at Connecticut where he won 625 games, took the team to the NCAA Tournament 19 times, win 10 Big East titles and seven Big East tournament championships, guided the Huskies to four Final Fours and took home three National Championships, one of just five Division I coaches to reach the top of the mountain three times. In 2005 he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
During his 40 years in the college ranks, coach earned the respect of his peers and his players. As news of his retirement made its way around the college basketball landscape, he received an outpouring of support and goodwill. Below is just a sample of what they're saying.
University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst:
"Every single person can learn from his intensity, his passion and his unbelievable desire to win. 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."
New UConn Coach Kevin Ollie, a former player and assistant for Coach Calhoun
"I cannot put in words how grateful I am to Coach Jim Calhoun, who retires today as one of the most legendary coaches in the history of college basketball. Coach Calhoun brought me here to Connecticut as a person right of high school and has mentored me into the person I have become today."
NBA veteran Ben Gordon, who played for Calhoun from 01-04:
"Anyone who knows Coach Calhoun knows how much passion he has for the game. He poured his heart and his whole life into being the head coach at the University of Connecticut and establishing greatness in the program. He's had a great career. Being in the Hall of Fame and winning three championships. There really wasn't much left for him to accomplish."
University of Syracuse Men's Basketball Coach Jim Boeheim
"The thing that stands out to me is it's one thing to take over a Duke or a Kentucky and build it and win games and win championships. But 26 years ago Connecticut wasn't even thought of in the college basketball world. He's turned them into one of the top programs in the country. I think it's really, to me, the greatest building job that anybody's ever done."
Former Big East Conference commissioner Mike Tranghese:
"I think what Jim did at UConn is maybe the most significant athletic accomplishment in the 30-plus years of the Big East. 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."
Fellow Basketball Hall of Famer and former NBA coach Larry Brown:
"I love Jim. I was so lucky to have coached some of his kids in the NBA. Everyone I coached that played for Connecticut played the right way. They played hard and respected the game -- and they respected coaching. And believe me, they all loved him."
NBA standout Kemba Walker, who played for Calhoun from 08-11:
"He's showed us how to work. He pushed me to be the best player and person I could be. He's one of the most special men in my life."
Duke University Men's Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski:
"He's an amazing competitor and clearly one of the best coaches ever. For 40 years as a college head coach, his teams played with his spirit, and the results were unmistakable -- championship-level performances. He is a true giant in our game and a dear friend. Certainly, he will be missed."
UConn Women's Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma:
"The great success achieved by the UConn men's basketball program under Jim Calhoun's leadership helped propel the University of Connecticut onto the national stage. His contributions to this University have been positive and will be long lasting. I want to take this opportunity to wish Jim Calhoun all my best in a long, happy and healthy retirement."
UConn sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels:
"Coach Calhoun is a great coach, one of the greatest ever in college basketball, and it was an honor to play for him. I think everybody's still in shock right now and just don't really believe it."
Former UConn Men's Basketball Coach Dee Rowe:
"When I walked in his sneakers, we dreamed of the postseason and being the best in New England. Maybe, once, do what Holy Cross did in 1947 [when the Crusaders brought the region its first NCAA title]. Jim dared to pursue excellence. He dared to dream. What he's done is simply miraculous, because he did it in Storrs, Connecticut, where you ... don't have restaurants or movie theaters or clothing stores, not like Lexington or Chapel Hill. No one had ever done it before, and no one will ever do it again."
University of North Carolina Men's Basketball Coach Roy Williams:
"Jim is one of basketball's most competitive coaches and his ability to get his teams to play hard every game made him one of the finest we've ever known. He's a friend and I'll miss competing against his teams and seeing him on the recruiting trail. He has left an enormous legacy at Connecticut, one that he was so instrumental in building. I truly admire the fact that he built his Hall of Fame coaching career from the ground up and retires as one of the giants in our game. I will really miss him."
BIG EAST Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco:
"The BIG EAST Conference congratulates Jim Calhoun on his Hall of Fame career. His contributions to the University of Connecticut in basketball and to the University in general are enormous and lasting. He built and maintained an outstanding program for almost three decades. Jim has been a winner at the highest level during that period. His passion for the game and for his players has been unmatched. Jim Calhoun has always been proud to compete in the BIG EAST. We wish Jim and his wife Pat only the best in retirement."
Michigan State University Men's Basketball Coach Tom Izzo:
"The thing I love about Jim Calhoun is that he always says what's on his mind. He also possesses the ability to be tough and demanding one second, and hug a player the very next. That's an important quality for any successful coach, and he was one of the best at it. I love when a successful coach can go out on his own terms, and I'm happy that Jim is doing this his way and is at peace with his decision. I also applaud the University for their support of Jim and allowing him to make this decision."
NBA veteran Richard Hamilton, who played for Coach Calhoun from 96-99:
"I played four years for Jim Calhoun. I can go through anything."
University of Kentucky Men's Basketball Coach John Calipari:
"The basketball speaks for itself. People judge different things, but I'm more impressed with how he had an impact on the campus. The special ones transform the campus. It was a crappy campus, and now 25 years later it's one of the nicest in the country. What happened to the campus, to the athletic department, that's what he was able to do there. There's no way that happens if he isn't doing what he did in basketball there."
Former UConn player (87-91) Steve Pikiell, current coach at Stony Brook:
"When I went here, the number-one question we got, everywhere, was: Where is UConn? Isn't that in Alaska? Nobody asks that anymore."
University of Florida Men's Basketball Coach Billy Donovan:
"He's got great perseverance, not just in his coaching, but in his personal life. As a coach, you want your team to embody your personality and your passion. His teams did that. They embodied who he was as a man. That's probably the best compliment you could give to a coach as it relates to his players -- that they played the game and competed like he competed in every area of his life."
Gordon, one of 18 Calhoun players picked in the 1st round of the NBA Draft:
"The one thing I've always said is that, if you decide to play for Calhoun, he's either going to make or break you. He demanded the very best out of you. That was something I needed as a college kid. As long as you had thick skin and rolled with the punches, you'd be OK."
Villanova University Men's Basketball Coach Jay Wright:
"Jim Calhoun was always willing to be a mentor to me from my earliest days as a head coach at Hofstra University. His advice was especially helpful to me at the Final Four in 2009. He is one of the all-time greats in our profession."
University of Pittsburgh Men's Basketball Coach Jamie Dixon:
"You knew what you were going to get with his teams. You knew they were going to fight and battle. Even if they started out slow, you knew they were going to make a run. There were times when he'd get mad and bench five guys, then those same give guys would come back in a few minutes later and make a run on you."
Former Boston College Men's Basketball Coach Al Skinner:
"Jim was a tremendous competitor. He forced you to bring your A-game. I truly enjoyed our competitions. Jim helped sustain and maintain the dominance of the Big East in college basketball."
Former St. John'sUniversity Men's Basketball Coach Lou Carnesecca:
"Jim Calhoun will be missed. He is a great coach who built that program into a basketball powerhouse. His fans and his players will sorely miss him. He did a great job."