STORRS—University of Connecticut Men’s Basketball Coach Jim Calhoun’s health problems, which caused him to miss 11 games last season, helped the 70-year-old, hall of famer reach his decision to retire.
“My hip injury gave me a long time to contemplate,” Calhoun said in front of past and present UConn players, friends, family and media. “As I looked at everything, so many things are in place for us to go farther than we have already. So I thought it was an excellent time.”
Calhoun fractured his hip in August while bicycling near his home in Madison. It was just the latest in a series of health issues Calhoun has faced over the past few years. He broke his ribs falling from a bicycling in 2009 and has survived skin and prostate cancer.
Calhoun, the sixth-winningest coach in NCAA men’s basketball history with 873 victories, passes his torch to former assistant head coach, UConn alum, and NBA player Kevin Ollie with praise and confidence.
“Kevin has all the intangibles and the knowledge,” Calhoun said. “He has a Ph.D in basketball.”
Ollie gladly accepted his new position by thanking all of those who made it possible. He sniffled as he spoke of Calhoun as his second father.
“I am very honored and humbled to become the UConn men’s basketball coach,” Ollie said. “I cannot put into words how grateful I am to coach Jim Calhoun, who retires today as one of the most legendary coaches in the history of college basketball. Coach Calhoun brought me here to Connecticut as a person right out of high school and has mentored me into the person I have become today.”
UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel assured those gathered for the press conference and Calhoun that the team and the university will continue to strive for excellence.
“Our expectations for tomorrow are exactly the same as they were yesterday,” Manuel said. “We will continue to build our program’s success, develop student-athletes, recruit exceptional athletes and build character on and off the court.”
Ollie, who became Calhoun’s assistant coach in 2010, signed a one-year, $625,000 contract that will expire on April 4, 2013.
Calhoun will take a transition position as special assistant to Manuel through next spring. He will provide services to the university in support of men’s basketball, the division of athletics, the UConn Health Center, and the university at large, according to Uconnhuskies.com. The agreement runs until March 2013. Afterwards, he will become head coach emeritus.
Calhoun, a head coach for 40 years, 14 at Northeastern and the last 26 of at UConn, won three national titles and sent over 24 players to the NBA including Ollie, Ray Allen, Emeka Okafor, Rudy Gay, and more recently: Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond.
Calhoun also is the state’s highest-paid employee, signing a five-year, $13 million contract in 2010.
Since Calhoun has not yet submitted his retirement papers, it’s unclear how much his annual pension will be.