AP Interview: Manuel says no coach-in-waiting
Connecticut Athletic Director Warde Manuel said Monday he has no
plans to name Kevin Ollie or anyone else as a coach-in-waiting for
the men’s basketball program.
Coach Jim Calhoun, who turns 70 this month, is expected to
return next season, but has not made his final plans public.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, Manuel
said he is operating under the assumption that the Hall of Fame
coach will be back, noting that Calhoun has two years left on his
”I don’t sit here wondering on a day-to-day basis who is going
to be my coach next year,” Manuel said. ”Unless something changes
that I don’t foresee … Jim’s our coach and I’m moving forward in
He would not disclose the conversations he and Calhoun have had
about the future of the program, but said the plans don’t currently
include naming a successor while Calhoun is still coaching.
A coach in waiting has been suggested as a way to bridge the gap
between administrations, and assure potential recruits of
continuity in the program. Ollie, who played at UConn and spent 13
seasons in the NBA, before being hired as an assistant in 2010, has
been mentioned as a logical successor, and has said he would want
”Jim’s going to participate in the future direction of the
program when he decides that he’s not going to coach anymore,”
Manuel said. ”But at this time, I haven’t made a commitment to a
coach in waiting. That doesn’t mean that in the future I wouldn’t
change my position. But right now, I’m not naming a coach in
waiting for men’s basketball or any program.”
Calhoun said he’s fine with that decision.
”Warde and I are on the same page,” he said in a telephone
interview Monday evening. ”We’re both working for the success of
this basketball program.”
Asked if he had made a final decision to return or was leaning
toward coming back, Calhoun said, ”I’m not leaning on anything
right now, I’m working. I’ve got a recruit on campus right now and
another one coming in this week and I think, quite frankly, we’ve
had a pretty good 25-year run, and I’m working as hard as I can to
make sure this school has another good 25 years.”
Manuel acknowledged that hiring a new basketball coach would
likely be one of his biggest decisions as the school’s athletic
director. A former football player at Michigan, Manuel compared
Calhoun to Bo Schembechler. He said as Schembechler did in Ann
Arbor, Calhoun has earned the right to help shape the direction of
UConn’s basketball future.
”It’s because he has a tremendous understanding of what it will
take to have a program be successful and who the next person could
be,” he said. ”That being said, I feel like we wouldn’t be doing
ourselves and our fans and this university a great deal of service
if we did not open up that consideration and make sure whoever we
are hiring is the best candidate to move us forward.”
Connecticut faces a ban from next year’s NCAA tournament because
it failed to meet academic standards put into place in October.
Five underclassmen have left the Huskies since the NCAA last month
denied the school’s request for a waiver of those requirements.
Manuel argues the new rules were applied retroactively, which
didn’t give the school the opportunity to avoid a ban by improving
Under the new rules, a school must have a two-year average score
of 930 or a four-year average of 900 on the NCAA’s annual APR,
which measures the academic performance of student athletes. But
the NCAA plans to use data from 2009-10 and 2010-11 in determining
Connecticut men’s basketball scored 826 on the APR for 2009-10.
School officials have said it will come in at 978 for 2010-11. The
scores are expected to be about 975 for 2011-12, thought the grades
are still coming in.
Manuel said the school could see the scores drop again because
players left after learning UConn won’t qualify for next year’s
tournament. But he said the school has worked hard to avoid falling
into a vicious cycle.
”Even with the transfers and student athletes going pro, this
should be a one-year issue for us,” he said.
Manuel also said that UConn will begin in the next week tearing
town its old on-campus football stadium, Memorial Stadium, to make
way for its new basketball practice facility. But he said the
school is still working to raise the needed money (estimated at
between $35-40 million) to fund the facility.
”We are hoping at some point this year to be in a financial
position to put a shovel in the ground and break ground on the
actual construction,” he said.