Jim Calhoun‘s non-announcement announcement that he plans to return to the Connecticut sidelines for the 2011-12 season was no shocker to anybody. If it wasn’t the interminable wait for a ‘final’ decision that tipped you off, it was the well-placed leaks from key recruits and their families; if you still weren’t convinced, surely the announcement that superstar center Andre Drummond had chosen to reclassify to the Class of 2011 and play for the Huskies this coming season clinched it. Regardless of when you believed he’d be back, Calhoun will coach his team this season at the rather ripe age of 69 years old (he turns 70 next May) and, despite some health issues in the past, he shows few signs of slowing down. And, in fact, his team will be on the short list of contenders after North Carolina and Kentucky most likely to cut the nets down next April in New Orleans.
Why Would Calhoun Give This Up?
We know that with his third national title last season, the curmudgeonly coach passed Kansas’ Phog Allen (66) as the oldest coach to win a college basketball national title, but with a stacked team returning and a few more gray hairs on top of his head, it got us wondering who his senior citizen peers are within the other sports. Here’s the list of oldest coaches to have won a title in each of the major team sports:
- MLB – Jack McKeon (2003), 72 years old
- NCAA Football – Bobby Bowden (1999), 69 years old
- NCAA Basketball – Jim Calhoun (2011), 68 years old
- NFL – George Halas (1963), 68 years old
- NHL – Scotty Bowman (2002), 68 years old
- NBA – Phil Jackson (2010), 64 years old
Calhoun’s championship last season falls right into the middle of that list, but if he were to win another one next spring a mere five weeks shy of his 70th birthday, he’d trail only the inimitable Jack McKeon as the oldest head coach to win a major title in American team sports. All due respect to McKeon and our friends in Major League Baseball, but Calhoun’s hands-on approach in teaching 18-21 year-old players is a completely different job than delegating those duties to a coaching staff to train older professionals — from our viewpoint, the daily demands on Calhoun’s energy are considerably more.
Currently there are only three Division I head basketball coaches older than Calhoun, and none of that trio has a realistic shot at winning a national title: Jackson State’s Tevester Anderson
(74 years old), Loyola Marymount’s Max Good
(70 years old), and Miami (Ohio)’s Charlie Coles
(69 years old). Within the other major sports, Penn State’s legendary head football coach, Joe Paterno
, is still churning along at the ripe age of 84, recently telling recruits that he thinks he can coach another four seasons
. Despite PSU’s preseason college football ranking of #25, but it would be a major shocker if the Nittany Lions find themselves playing a BCS national championship game soon.
at age 80 (!!!) is back from retirement
managing the Florida Marlins again, but they’re out of the pennant race this season and appear to be several years from another World Series appearance. Florida Atlantic’s Howard Schnellenberger
is 77 years old and Kansas State’s Bill Snyder
is 71, but again, those programs have little to no chance of winning BCS titles anytime soon. With Joe Torre (71 years old) and Bobby Cox (70 years old) both now retired, there are no other MLB managers currently older than Calhoun, and the oldest head coaches in the NBA (Paul Silas, 68 years old), NFL (Tom Coughlin, 65 years old), and NHL (Terry Murray, 61 years old) are all looking up at the UConn head coach’s backside.
Calhoun certainly has more than his share of detractors, but his longevity and continued success at an age when most coaches are already retired or well on their way is nothing short of admirable. If he can ride this group of young Huskies to yet another championship in 2011-12, he will have been oh-so-close to achieving something almost unprecedented in American team sports — a septuagenarian championship.