Calhoun: Legacy can wait until after Final Four
Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun compares himself to an old car –
once shiny, new and well-liked by everyone, he’s had his share of
dings to his reputation during the later part of his 39-year
”The shine will wear off the car…and you’ll get some nicks
and dents and bumps,” Calhoun said Monday. ”And hopefully when
it’s all said and done, they’ll look back and see what the heck you
did for your kids, for your university, for your community.”
This week, the Hall of Fame coach, who already has two national
titles on his resume, will take his program to a fourth Final Four,
after a year that saw many critics calling for his job.
Those calls came after the Huskies failed to make the tournament
in 2010, and the NCAA issued a report that found several major
recruiting violations in the UConn program.
The criticism grew loud again in February after UConn finished
this regular season with losses in four of its last five games. The
losing streak came as the NCAA hit the team with sanctions that
included a three-game conference suspension for Calhoun for failing
to create an atmosphere of compliance in the program – a suspension
he will serve if he returns next season.
”I think that affected him,” said Central Connecticut coach
Howie Dickenman, a longtime friend, who coached under Calhoun for
10 seasons. ”Up until that point – he’s been coaching for 39
years- his reputation had been sparkling. To have it tarnished a
bit, that hurt him.”
But over the last three weeks, Calhoun has steered his Huskies
on an amazing run – five wins in five days to secure a Big East
championship, and four more wins to earn a trip to the Final
”I felt like I was in the corner because the sweat equity that
we all have – my players, my coaches, the university – has put into
UConn basketball over the past 25 years is pretty deep and rich.
And to have people over a couple-of-months period dismiss us, I
took that personally,” Calhoun said after the win over Arizona on
Sunday. ”If I take something personally, I’m going to do
everything humanly possible to make sure that your perception is
wrong. These kids allowed that to happen.”
Calhoun is 68 years old and has survived several bouts with
cancer and other health issues. There are many who now wonder if
this will be his last season, an opportunity to go out on top, no
matter how the team finishes in Houston.
”Any legacy stuff I can look at later,” he said Monday.
”Right now, I just can’t wait to get this team to the Final Four
to have them see something that they’ve never experienced in their
life, even though they’ve been through some great things.”
Dickenman said it’s that drive to teach and see his players
succeed that he believes will keep the coach in Storrs next year
and beyond. And Kentucky coach John Calipari, who will face UConn
in the Final Four on Saturday, said he would be stunned if Calhoun
announces his retirement.
”It’s what he does, he coaches,” he said. ”He gets kids
better. He wins.”
Calhoun says has come to accept that there will be a public
perception of him that he doesn’t agree with, or even recognize,
and he’s come to terms with the idea that he can’t please
”If I please my God and my family, then that’s very important
to me,” he said. ”And then please my players. Please my players
and my university – then I’m fine. You have to develop that. If you
don’t, it’s going to make coaching long-term wise, very