There has been so much chatter the last couple of days about whether or not UConn coach Jim Calhoun will return to the bench or not this season, and it’s much deserved.
We know a couple of things for sure: 1) As of right now, UConn is banned from postseason play this season due to low APR scores (although they’re still lobbying to have their ban dropped). 2) The Huskies have lost several key players from last seasons team to other schools and the NBA, and will face one of the most challenging seasons in recent history. And 3) Their 70-year old head coach is recovering from a fractured hip that he suffered in a bicycle accident, and has had multiple surgeries over the last few years.
Calhoun has talked about his legacy and leaving Storrs for a couple of years now, but news broke this week that he will make a decision within the next few weeks on his future, and with all of the reasons I just listed, the chances of him returning aren’t looking all that great. That’s why I think Calhoun needs to return to the Huskies, and lead them for at least one more season.
I understand Calhoun, the sixth winningest coach in Division 1 history, is only getting older and if his program is sanctioned, he may not have much motivation to stick around this season. But I think that’s exactly why he should return to coaching.
Calhoun has one of the best recruits in the nation coming to play for him in Omar Calhoun, as well as talented returnees in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, but other than that, it’s a team of inexperienced and new players, who likely won’t bring UConn the success they’re accustomed to achieving. The team is made up of a combined 6 freshmen/sophomores, which means they’ll struggle, and potentially have one of the worst years of Calhoun’s tenure. Which is why he has to stay and make a difference!
Moral is clearly down in Storrs. With the departures of Alex Oriakhi (Missouri) and Roscoe Smith (UNLV), Calhoun needs to take a stance and instill integrity back into the program that he’s bound to be leaving in the near future. While recruiting’s probably a drag for a 70-year old man recovering from hip surgery, send out assistant coach Kevin Ollie to try and restore talent into the program, while setting himself as a leader, and great candidate and replacement to someone who’s almost irreplaceable.
Calhoun has stated that he would like for Ollie to replace him, but with a new athletic director in Warde Manuel running things as of late, Calhoun’s request may not be met.
It’s clear that Calhoun’s nearing the end of the road, and if he does decide not to return this season, who can blame him? But keep in mind, he will unquestionably pass both Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith on the all-time wins list if he coaches this season, and there’s an outside chance he can still catch Bobby Knight, who is just 27 wins ahead of him.
In the last decade, Calhoun has won 27 or more games in a season 5 times, and even though he doesn’t have his most talented team this season, he wasn’t expected to win a national title in 2011, but that didn’t stop him.
Calhoun has always been a man of integrity, and one of the grittiest coaches in basketball history. There aren’t many things he can do to improve his legacy, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt it if he came back for at least one more season.
What do you say Jim?
For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth