|Manuel is burdened with one of the toughest AD tasks out there: replacing Jim Calhoun and appeasing everyone while doing it. (AP)|
Fortunately, it seems Manuel and Calhoun are in healthy standing right now, and I'm interested to see how the dynamic plays out going forward. Manuel made news late Monday when the Associated Press ran a story stating the new UConn AD is wide open to possibilities when it comes to replacing Calhoun.
This flies in the face of the idea that current UConn assistant Kevin Ollie would step in once Calhoun steps out. Manuel's not close to committing to that right now, and to say so publicly is significant. There's no way previous AD Jeff Hathaway ever makes this sort of comment.
Calhoun's replacement could come anywhere from this spring to summer 2014, the end of Calhoun's contract. When it comes to Calhoun's coaching arrangement, he's calling the shots, and though I don't expect it to happen, if you told me he was still running the program in five years, it wouldn't be a huge shock. I do think, however, he's much more likely to step aside at the end of his deal with Manuel now running things and cleaning up the mess in that athletic department.
Calhoun's not yet said he's returning to coach for 2012-13, but given he didn't make an announcement last season, I think we can assume -- barring health scares -- Calhoun will be back again, coaching in what will amount to a UConn season of little consequence or significance.
Below, an excerpt from the AP story:
"I don't sit here wondering on a day-to-day basis who is going to be my coach next year," Manuel said. "Unless something changes that I don't foresee ... Jim's our coach and I'm moving forward in that direction."
He would not disclose the conversations he and Calhoun have had about the future of the program, but said the plans don't currently include naming a successor while Calhoun is still coaching. ...
"Jim's going to participate in the future direction of the program when he decides that he's not going to coach anymore," Manuel said. "But at this time, I haven't made a commitment to a coach in waiting. That doesn't mean that in the future I wouldn't change my position. But right now, I'm not naming a coach in waiting for men's basketball or any program."
It's the right play. No reason why Manuel shouldn't keep all options open and see what kind of candidates he can lure in as the job gets closer to having an opening. UConn as a program fascinates me, because we have no idea what it will be without Calhoun. Is it still a top-10 national outfit? Maybe, but consider the location, the uneasy, less-appealing-by-the-week league it's connected to, and the job could be a pretty tough one.
The dramatic part of this decision -- and I live in Connecticut, so let me harp that this decision is a massive one; Calhoun means a lot to millions, and they'll side with him -- is Calhoun's desire to name his successor. Jim Boeheim's done it at Syracuse with Mike Hopkins. The tactic is sometimes the right one, as it alleviates pressure on a coach and an AD, but it also boxes them in, too. (It can unfairly eliminate candidates of many walks before they get a chance for an interview.)
Manuel's not taking that approach right now, nor should he. Give Calhoun input, but don't let him handpick the next coach. Many legends want to do that, to extend their legacy by giving the baton to a friend, confident the successor's track record will by proxy extend their own. But ADs have to look beyond that, eliminate that sort of sentimentality/subjectivity and go for the hire that best serves the school, no matter what the outgoing coach says.
Few cases are as tricky as UConn's. Calhoun's almost always gotten his way since he's been there. Judging Manuel's comments, the final decision tied to his career there will not be his own, nor should it.