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September 12, 2012

UConn's Calhoun retires

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Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

After 26 years as coach at Connecticut, Jim Calhoun will reportedly announce his retirement Thursday.

According to NBCConnecticut.com, which first reported the story, Calhoun, 70, is finalizing the details for his exit from the program, and according to the website he will speak to his players Thursday before a scheduled press conference.

Calhoun won 873 games in 40 seasons as a coach, the final 26 with Connecticut, where he won three national titles and had four Final Four appearances. His health has declined in recent years and it has forced the coaching veteran to take five leaves of absence from the team, including three for cancer treatments, as well as a fractured hip in August.

Rivals.com national basketball analyst Eric Bossi said that replacing Calhoun will be no easy task.

"It is going to be awfully tough (to find a replacement)," Bossi said. "Calhoun was an institution and absolutely made UConn basketball what it is today.

"It is a top tier program -- some may even feel it is an elite program -- and to think someone can step in and keep it there could be unreachable expectations."

Despite former head coaches Glen Miller, Karl Hobbs, and George Blaney on staff, speculation has surfaced that assistant Kevin Ollie will be named as the head coach. Ollie reportedly was Calhoun's first choice to succeed him.

Ollie was recruited to UConn from Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw. After graduating in 1995, he played for 11 NBA teams during a 13-year career before returning to the school in 2009 as an assistant.

Hiring Ollie could help stabilize the recruiting base, Bossi said.

"I am not sure that they could find a guy who is a better fit to lead the program," Bossi said. "I have seen him work his way up and he has gained a lot of respect around the country.

"I know that the kids he has worked with at the NBA camps have loved him and he has proven to be a big-time recruiter already as well."

The program currently has two commitments from the Class of 2013 which have yet to sign: four-star power forward Kentan Facey from Glen Head (N.Y.) Lutheran, and three-star shooting guard Terrence Samuel from Brooklyn (N.Y.) South Shore.

Bossi thinks that keeping current players on the roster, as well as recruits, will be a tough task.

"Ollie is a guy with no head coaching experience, so some kids may want to transfer," he said. "And even if players were being recruited by Ollie, they were essentially coming to Connecticut to play for Calhoun.

"There are a lot of things working against anyone stepping into this situation and while it is an attractive job there are red flags."

Leading players Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond were both selected in the NBA Draft and veterans Alex Oriakhi, Roscoe Smith, and Michael Bradley all transferred following last season.

Junior Shabazz Napier, sophomore Ryan Boatright, and freshman Omar Calhoun will be asked to shoulder the load in the backcourt while Connecticut will turn to Deandre Daniels at the forward position.

The Huskies are expected to be ineligible for next year's NCAA and Big East tournaments because of poor academic performance.



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