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

coaching career.

”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

Four.

”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

everyone.

”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

difficult.”