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UConn's Calhoun to call it a career

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: theday.com

Published September 12. 2012 6:15PM   Updated September 13. 2012 3:56PM
Sean D. Elliot/The Day
UConn head coach Jim Calhoun yells at his team after a defensive lapse against Harvard in the second half of men's college basketball action in this Thursday, December 8, 2011 file photo.

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Men's basketball coach to announce retirement today

UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun, who elevated the Huskies from a solid New England program to elite national status during his Hall of Fame career, will officially announce his retirement today during an afternoon press conference in Storrs.

Multiple sources indicated that assistant coach Kevin Ollie, a former point guard at UConn, will be hired as head coach.

Calhoun, 70, leaves an impressive legacy, winning three national championships and 17 Big East regular season and conference tournament titles during his 26 years in Storrs. His 873 career wins rank sixth all-time in Division I and he went 625-243 overall at UConn. He coached 40 years, the first 14 at Northeastern University.

The direction of the program was forever changed on May 15, 1986, when Calhoun was introduced as UConn's 17th head coach.

Known for his passion and fiery intensity, the often combative Calhoun enjoyed a good fight, whether it was his battles with the media or Big East Conference foes. Former assistant Tom Moore once said that Calhoun wakes up in the morning throwing punches.

His players responded and remained fiercely loyal to Calhoun even after leaving UConn. A large turnout of former Huskies showed up for Calhoun's all-star charity basketball game in August at Mohegan Sun Arena.

"I was in the trenches with him for 10 years," said former UConn assistant Howie Dickenman, now head coach at Central Connecticut State University, on Wednesday. "I'm going to the press conference out of respect for him and to tell him I love him. I really sincerely mean that.

"He's taken young men and turned them into grown men. That's evident by all the former players that turned out for his all-star game. That's a true indication of the respect that they have for him."

Calhoun grew up in Braintree, Mass., graduated from American International College and began his coaching career in 1968 at Old Lyme High School, where he spent just one year.

During the last few years, Calhoun contemplated stepping down but always found motivation to return to the sidelines. He elected to come back after UConn won its third national championship in 2011, partly because the program was still dealing with fallout from the being penalized by the NCAA in 2010 for committing eight major rules violations. He served a three-game suspension last season for a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

Calhoun dealt with various health problems during his career, battling cancer three times and missing eight games last season because of a lower back problem. He returned to lead the Huskies to an NCAA tournament berth.

Calhoun is still recovering from a broken hip suffered during a bicycle accident on Aug. 4. He hinted in recent weeks that he was ready to step down.

But those health problems played only a minor role in his decision, according to a source who said Calhoun decided that it was time to start a new phase of his life. He's expected to assume a yet-to-be-determined role at UConn.

Calhoun leaves behind a program that is dealing with a one-year postseason ban due to a sub-par Academic Progress Rate.

This will be the first college head coaching job for Ollie, who played at UConn from 1991 to 1995 and spent 13 seasons in the NBA, He's been an assistant for two years. He turns 40 in December.

Ollie is expected to receive a one-year contract, according to sources, in what amounts to a trial season. Glen Miller, George Blaney and Karl Hobbs will remain on staff, but roles likely will change.

"I'm excited for Kevin," Dickenman said. "He will do a fantastic job. He's motivated and has boundless energy and handles people the right way and he's a teacher of the game."

g.keefe@theday.com

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