Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Despite Winning 3rd Title, Calhoun Unlikely to Retire
HOUSTON – Jim Calhoun could go out on top, holding up his National Championship trophy in one hand and giving the finger to the NCAA and his many detractors Johnny Cash-style.
At 68, almost 69 years old, the UConn coach could ride off into the sunset knowing he is one of only five coaches with three or more NCAA titles after his Huskies beat Butler, 53-41, Monday night at Reliant Stadium.
He could retire to the golf course and the bike trails, safe in the knowledge that he is a member of an exclusive club that includes John Wooden (10 titles), Adolph Rupp (4), Mike Krzyzewski (4) and Bob Knight (3).
He could go out a winner, the way Pete Sampras did after capturing the 2002 U.S. Open and Rocky Marciano did upon finishing his career undefeated in 1955.
He could….but he probably won’t.
“Simply it’s going to be what I feel passionately, can I give the kids everything humanly possible that I can,” Calhoun said in the afterglow of his third championship. “If I can, I’ll coach as long as I can keep on doing it. If I decide that I don’t, then I’ll move on to something because I do have an incredible life with my family and friends and other things that I do.”
As things stand now, the coach of the reigning national champions must sit out the first three games of next year’s Big East season.
That was the punishment the NCAA meted out to Calhoun for failing to monitor and promote an atmosphere of compliance in the Nate Miles case.
Calhoun is still dogged by allegations that he was knew Miles, a former recruit,had accepted thousands of dollars in payments from Josh Nochimson, a UConn manager-turned-agent.
In a report that surfaced Friday, The New York Times quoted Miles saying that Calhoun was explicitly aware of the payments. (Ironically, Miles also said he would demand to be paid for any future interviews.)
“I took full responsibility for secondary offenses that took place in my program,” Calhoun said. “There was some people that felt it was a great time to take cheap shots. That was the only hurtful part. People I like. People I don’t know…”
It’s possible the NCAA could re-open the Miles case.
But Jim Calhoun has beaten cancer multiple times. The NCAA as a threat seems to pale in comparison.
“He’s a battler and I think he holds the bar high,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of Calhoun before the Huskies eliminated the Wildcats in the national semifinals.
Exactly. He’s a battler.
And that’s why it’s unlikely Calhoun will let the NCAA, The New York Times or anybody else force him out before he’s ready to go.
“You can write what you want, you can say what you want to say,” he said. “I know who I am, where I’m going, what I’ve done.”
In an interview before the Final Four, Jeff Calhoun, Jim’s son, said he thought his father would probably stay at least to finish his current contract, which runs through the 2013-14 season.
“I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t still there for two more years at least,” Jeff said of his father. “He could be there five. He’s young physically. He’s much younger than 68. Mentally, he hasn’t relaxed. He’s an amazing guy because he finds a way to keep the chip.”
Now he has a chip, his third title and a young, talented team that makes him happy.
“The kids gave me much more joy because of the death of my sister-in-law, my college roommate, some other things that have been happening within our family,” Calhoun said. “The gift of trust, the gift of faith they had in me, their inability to ever give in. That’s what I got into 40-some years ago when I became a high school teacher/coach. I couldn’t ask for a better gift. It reaffirms everything I believe I’ve done in my profession.
“When I walked out [Monday night], saw Ben Gordon, all the kids came to our game, Charlie [Villaneuva], Rip Hamilton, all those guys, it reaffirms that this is a great, great job to have.”
That sound to you like a guy who’s ready to hang it up?
Consider that even though the Huskies will lose Kemba Walker to the NBA, they have scoring sensation Ryan Boatright of Illinois coming in next year to a team that should be among the Top 10 or 15 in the preseason poll.
Assuming no one leaves early for the NBA, freshmen Jeremy Lamb, Roscoe Smith and Shabazz Napier will all be a year older and more experienced, as will 6-9 sophomore Alex Oriakhi.
“I would love for coach to coach me, but you know, whatever happens,” Lamb said after scoring all 12 of his points in the second half.
A year from now, UConn could be the favorite to land in-state sensation Andre Drummond, a 6-10 center from St. Thomas More (Conn.) ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2012.
So there it is.
Jim Calhoun could ride off into the sunset a winner and a three-time champion, giving the NCAA the finger as he goes.
But knowing the fighter, the battler and the lifer he always has been, he probably won’t.
**Kemba’s halftime speech lifts Huskies to national title
**Walker, Mack to put friendship aside in NCAA final
**UConn can win first title of Marinatto Era in Big East
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.