|Calhoun leaves with a proud yet complicated legacy in college basketball. (Getty Images)|
Jim Calhoun is leaving Connecticut at exactly the right time ... but only because he doesn't have a DeLorean with a flux capacitor. In other words, a year ago would've been better. Or last month. Or yesterday. But today is still better than tomorrow. So good for Jim Calhoun.
And good for Connecticut, too.
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No, losing a coach a month before the start of official practice isn't ideal, but at least the guessing game is over. UConn fans won't have to spend another day wondering when the legend who has been leading their school's most high-profile team for the past 26 seasons will finally retire. They now have an answer. The day is Thursday. Assistant Kevin Ollie is expected to take over on what amounts to an interim basis. We'll see where things go from here.
But regardless of where things go from here, at least that chapter is over. The post-Calhoun era at Connecticut can now get underway. Given that it was coming someday anyway, Thursday is the next best available day for it to come. So good for Jim Calhoun for walking away.
But he's hardly walking away gracefully.
And I don't mean that literally.
That's not a joke about his fractured hip.
When I write that Jim Calhoun isn't walking away gracefully, what I mean is that he's not exiting gracefully. Because he's not. He's leaving a mess behind bigger than the glare from his three national-championship rings, which reminds me -- the guy was one helluva basketball coach. He won three NCAA tournaments with three completely different cores, the first led by Rip Hamilton, the next by Emeka Okafor, the last by Kemba Walker. Calhoun is one of college basketball's all-time great coaches. Don't ever let anybody tell you otherwise.
But he really is leaving behind a mess.
The UConn basketball program is still on probation because the school was caught -- first by Yahoo! Sports, then by the NCAA -- using a booster turned agent to buy a recruit. Say what you want about John Calipari, Scott Drew or any of the other coaches who turned up on our list of perceived cheaters last month, but none of them have ever been caught leading a program that worked with a booster/agent to secure a commitment from a prospect neck-deep in extra benefits. Calhoun, on the other hand, was caught leading a program that did exactly that, and the Huskies remain on probation because of it. So that's a stain.
Also a stain: UConn can't play in this season's NCAA tournament because of its terrible APR score that's a result of subpar academics. Also a stain: Calhoun is considered by most to be the primary reason Jeff Hathaway was run out of Connecticut a year ago, meaning the basketball coach basically fired his athletic director 13 months before his exit. Also a stain: The timing of this decision essentially forced UConn to promote an unproven assistant to the position of head coach at a time when the roster is depleted and the team is setup to lose a bunch of games, which is almost certainly why Calhoun is walking away in the first place. You really think he'd be retiring if UConn was eligible for the NCAA tournament and in possession of enough talent to advance in the bracket? Please.
That's all part of Calhoun's legacy, too.
That's also part of this story.
And it's why it would be wrong to spend this space waxing poetically only about how Calhoun made college basketball relevant in New England, about how he built a program out of nothing in the middle of nowhere, about how he signed and developed Rip, Emeka, Kemba and dozens of other NBA Draft picks, the last being Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb. That's some of story, and that portion of the story is really impressive. It's why Calhoun is in the Hall of Fame, and deservedly so. But the other part of the story is about a bully who apparently didn't demand the same type of excellence in the classroom from his players that he demanded on the court, about a stubborn man who walked away only when his body failed him yet again, about a rule-breaker who left a program on probation, banned from the NCAA tournament and without the kind of talent necessary to compete in the Big East.
Read that last (really long) sentence again.
Either way, life after Jim Calhoun is about to begin.
The official announcement comes Thursday.
Congrats to Kevin Ollie on the promotion.
Also -- good luck.