The 10 Biggest CBB Stories of 2012 — #4: Jim Calhoun Retires

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 30th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

Few programs are tied as strongly to one coach as UConn is to Jim Calhoun. The 70-year old legend not only won three national championships, nine Big East regular season titles and three conference tournament titles, but Calhoun built the program from scratch and cultivated the UConn brand in his own image. Any discussion of Huskies basketball inevitably reverts to Calhoun’s architectural imprint. The coach and program are inextricably linked.

The stubborn tenacity that defined his coaching style extended beyond the court. There was the famed 2009 press conference (seen above) when he excoriated a freelance reporter who boldly challenged Calhoun’s salary during a national recession, to which he snapped, “Not a dime back!” Or his dogged battle with chronic injuries and various ailments towards the end of his career. So when he called it quits just two months before the start of the 2012-13 season, leaving AD Warde Manuel no choice but to hire his preferred successor Kevin Ollie, it came as no surprise. Calhoun was going to leave on his terms, whether you, the university or the new AD liked it or not.

There is no way to quantify the massive influence of Calhoun’s pioneering effect on the basketball program. He turned a once-dormant Yankee conference inhabitant to a regional and national powerhouse. NCAA sanctions relating to the illegal recruitment of prized prospect Nate Miles taint his legacy, but there’s no point in debating Calhoun’s place in the coaching pantheon. He will go down as one of the game’s best, no questions asked. Knowing Calhoun, and his passion for the sport, It’s hard to believe he will walk away completely without being assured of Ollie’s long-term inheritance of the throne (ed. note: Ollie received a five-year extension yesterday). On an episode of the YES Network’s Center Stage, Calhoun intimated he would be open to a return to the sidelines. Whether he plans to latch on to his long-time home, or rejoin the program in some other capacity, remains to be seen.

Chris Johnson (290 Posts)

My name is Chris Johnson and I'm a national columnist here at RTC, the co-founder of Northwestern sports site Insidenu.com and a freelance contributor to SI.com.


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