Jim Calhoun was one of the greatest college basketball head coaches of all-time; from taking the Connecticut Huskies to heights they have never seen to him being enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, he was always at the top of his game. Today, Calhoun retired after 40 years of service on the bench (26 years at UConn) and it will be absolutely difficult to fill the void that his departure will create.
A class act in every since of the phrase Calhoun ranks sixth (873 wins) on the NCAA‘s all-time list for wins by a men’s basketball head coach trailing only the likes of Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight, Jim Boeheim, Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp. From 1972-1985 Calhoun did a tremendous job while coaching at Northeastern, but it was at Connecticut where he truly left his mark.
During his 26-year tenure as the Huskies head coach he turned UConn from a perennial Big East doormat into a powerhouse that ranked near the top of basketball’s best conference year-after-year.
While at UConn Calhoun took the Huskies to 18 NCAA Tournaments, winning 48 games, advancing to 13 Sweet 16′s and nine Elite Eights. But of course we must not forget about the four Final Four appearances (1999, 2004, 2009, 2011) his Huskies made and the three national titles which they claimed (1999, 2004, 2011).
We also can’t forget about what a great recruiter he was. he coached several future NBA stars such as Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Rudy Gay, Emeka Okefor, Caron Butler, Clifford Robinson, the late Reggie Lewis, Donyell Marshall, Kemba Walker, Ben Gordon and Charlie Vilanueva; not to mention NBA rookies Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb.
Without Calhoun’s coaching knowledge and recruiting expertise none of those guys would have probably ever decided to take the trip to Mansfield and in enroll in the University. However, since Calhoun’s reputation grew and grew as the years went on he was able to get the top flight recruits to come and play ball for him.
His replacement, Kevin Ollie is yet another UConn alum who played in the NBA (15 seasons with 12 teams) and also served as one of his assistants for the past two seasons. There is no telling if Ollie can keep this train rolling but he will definitely have his hands full attempting to do so.
Jim Calhoun retires at the age of 70, but the writing was on the wall for some time now, as he missed a total of 27 games since the 2003 season due to a variety of health aliments.
Just one month ago he fractured his hip in a bicycle accident and that appeared to be the last straw for a living coaching legend. Calhoun will be missed on the bench, but I’m more than certain he will attend his fair share of Huskies’ games this season, and beyond.