If UConn Wins The Title Will Jim Calhoun Retire?Posted by nvr1983 on April 1st, 2011
As he nears the conclusion of his 39th consecutive year as a coach at the Division 1 level and 25th at UConn a single question looms above Jim Calhoun and the program that he helped build: What will he do?. After sanctions were handed out against against UConn and Jim Calhoun a month ago stemming from the Nate Miles fiasco there was quite a bit of speculation that Calhoun’s days in Storrs might be coming to an end particularly given his numerous health issues over the past few years. Less than a month later UConn’s surprising run through the Big East Tournament and now the NCAA Tournament has shifted the focus and now instead of calling for Calhoun to step down the media has been heaping praise upon Calhoun calling this year the most impressive coaching job of his career. With his Huskies sitting just two games away from Calhoun’s third national title, which would tie him with Bob Knight in fourth place for most NCAA championships for a coach, the question has become whether this would be the ideal time for Calhoun to retire when he is at the pinnacle of the sport.
Having coached at the college level since 1972 when he first arrived at Northeastern Calhoun has compiled an exemplary resume only finishing below .500 on four occassions with the last occurring during his first season at UConn (1986-87). Since that time Calhoun has only failed to guide his team to the post-season once (in the 2006-07 season when the Huskies finished a disappointing 17-14), but that doesn’t mean his career has not been through its share of ups-and-downs. One of Calhoun’s defining characteristics has been his resiliency as demonstrated by the fact that he rebounded from a first round exit in the NIT in 1993 to make 3 straight Sweet 16s or another NIT bid in 1997 to make an Elite 8 the following season before winning his first NCAA championship the following season with a histroically underated team led by Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin.
In recent years, Calhoun has been tested by several health scares reportedly battling prostate cancer and squamous cell carinoma along with a variety of other health problems that on the surface appear to be more benign as well a couple run-ins with the NCAA (having a Sweet 16 bid in 1996 vacated due to Kirk King and Ricky Moore accepting illegal benefits and, of course, the Nate Miles saga). Throughout much of it Calhoun has kept a firm face and given no signs of weakness, but recently he has seemed to consider retirement as more of a possibility although he has not addressed the topic directly.
With retirement of more of a possibility it is worth noting the potential pros and cons of retiring after the weekend:
- Going out on top (not only would this give Calhoun the opportunity to hold one more press conference where he could smile about the outcome, but it would also let him retire “on his terms” rather than being forced out like Bobby Bowden was at FSU)
- Kemba Walker is leaving (ok, maybe he could come back for his senior, but don’t count on it and while the younger players are talented the Huskies will be taking a significant step back next year)
- Not having to serve the suspension (there is a possibility that history may “forget” the incident if Calhoun never has to serve it although the logic is somewhat dubious)
Running away from the suspension (there is a not insignificant segment of the media that will spin Calhoun’s departure this way and as we noted before Calhoun has never been one to run from a fight)
Leaving a talented core behind (next year’s Husky team might lack a scorer of Walker’s ability, but they do have talent in the form of Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, and Alex Oriakhi along with the possibility to add Andre Drummond, the #1 prospect in the class of 2012–think Amar’e Stoudamire–the following season)
Leaving UConn to deal with the fall-out (although the other penalties do not seem that severe the coach that follows Calhoun will have to not only deal with the pressure of having to follow a legend, but will do so under the watchful eye of the NCAA while dealing with recruiting restrictions)
The money (he still is under contract for $3 million per year until 2014, which is not an insubstantial sum)
In the end, it will be a decision that Calhoun will have to make with his family and friends. If you hear rumors about his decision in the days following the Final Four, don’t put too much stock into it as emotions run high and low at this time of year even in someone as seasoned as Calhoun. The storybook ending is for Calhount o win the title and ride off into the sunset as one of the greatest college coaches ever without having to endure the embarassement of a suspension for a man who at times has been described as proud to a fault (disclosure: in my limited interactions with him at post-game press conferences he has been extremely forthright and has been more accepting to alternative media journalists such as myself than many other coaches of his caliber that I have been in contact with), but as numerous athletes (most notably Michael Jordan) have shown us public figures don’t live their lives to provide journalists and fans with storybook endings as they are the ones who have to live with not only their legacy, but also the day-to-day existance as individuals who no longer command the spotlight they once did.