If Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun is truly remorseful for his program’s violations of NCAA rules involving a former recruit, he has an odd way of showing it.
Because when the usually talkative coach is asked about Nate Miles, who received more than $6,000 in improper benefits from an agent who was also a Huskies booster before being expelled in October 2008, he answers tersely and vaguely or lets Connecticut issue a statement.
But with his third-seeded Huskies playing eighth-seeded Butler in Monday night’s national championship game less than two months after being hit by NCAA sanctions, it’s no wonder Calhoun feels entitled to skirt the topic.
“I’ve said before that I took full responsibility as the head coach, for anything that happened within our program,” a glaring Calhoun said when asked about Connecticut’s NCAA violations with Miles during a Sunday afternoon press conference. “So, therefore, I accept that responsibility. I said my own personal and private thoughts would be kept personal and private.”
Translation: I’m not sorry.
Of course the 68-year-old Calhoun isn’t, because there’s a major difference between simply accepting responsibility and actually being remorseful. If anything, he seems more defiant than ever after a New York Times report late last week in which Miles alleged Calhoun knew about his improper benefits.
If Calhoun’s regretful, you’d never know it. But there’s a reason why.
“I don’t think he cares about that,” Connecticut freshman forward Tyler Olander said of Calhoun and the Huskies’ violations involving Miles.
And why should Calhoun care? Because if the NCAA really cared about cracking down on its epidemic of rules’ violators, Connecticut wouldn’t have even been part of this NCAA tournament.
The Huskies should have been banned from the postseason this year as part of their punishment. That’s right, no Kemba Walker show in the Big East tournament, either.
Instead, the NCAA, in its typical toothless fashion, penalized Connecticut in late February for the Miles violations by suspending Calhoun for a mere three of his team’s Big East games next season, took away only one scholarship annually for three years and put the program on three years probation during which Calhoun can still recruit off campus.
So with the NCAA once again refusing to make an example of one of its high-profile coaches, Calhoun, who is in his 25th season at Connecticut, knows he doesn’t have to be apologetic in the midst of his pursuit of college basketball immortality, which he can achieve by beating Butler.
A victory would make Calhoun just the fifth coach in Division I history to win three national championships and might be enough for him to decide to conveniently retire after this season to escape the penalties’ effects.
“It would say a lot,” Connecticut sophomore forward/center Alex Oriakhi said of Calhoun potentially winning another national title.
Like don’t worry about breaking NCAA rules because the penalties will take years to be levied and be so insignificant that your “One Shining Moment” can still happen. It’d be just another black eye in what’s already been a year of embarrassment for the NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert.
Don’t forget that the NCAA made Connecticut and Calhoun vacate its Sweet 16 run in 1996 after two players accepted plane tickets from an agent. But he’s insisted all along he’s not a cheater.
“Quite frankly, I’m pretty comfortable with who I am,” Calhoun said. “Have I made mistakes? Yes. Do I have warts? Yeah, I do, like all of you. But I know who I am and I’m comfortable with what I’ve done.”
Yet Calhoun’s silence about whether he is legitimately repentant is telling, just like it was after his press conference Sunday afternoon.
While riding in a golf cart in the bowels of Reliant Stadium, he looked away at a wall when he saw the reporter who asked whether he was remorseful about the NCAA violations involving Miles.