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Jim Calhoun still has 'itch' to coach but is 'happy' in retirement

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Jim Calhoun remains a prominent, active figure on campus in Storrs, Conn. (USATSI)
Jim Calhoun remains a prominent, active figure on campus in Storrs, Conn. (USATSI)

Time often flies, but in this case it really has felt like a year since Jim Calhoun retired. In that 12-month span how has one of the most distinguished men in the profession handled retirement?

He misses the game, of course. The one-year anniversary of Calhoun stepping down, which came on Sept. 13, 2012, prompted the Connecticut media to revisit the man and see how he's doing. It's not like he's been persona non grata, by the way. Calhoun is still paid hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by the university; is the special adviser to UConn atheltic director Warde Manuel; still occupies an office in Gampel Pavilion that he uses every week.

The 71-year-old Calhoun told the Hartford Courant he's content but hasn't put off the idea of coaching in a different capacity, should the right circumstances prevent themselves.

"It seems like I have to tap-dance for people to believe I'm happy," Calhoun says. "But I'm happy. … I gave up the keys to the car for all the right reasons. I felt it was the right time. … But it's hard to be swimming in a particular direction and then have to stand. You don't know kind of what to do. You've done something for 40-something years, I'm used to waking up at five o'clock in the morning and solving problems, setting up my day mentally."
...
In short, Calhoun is still part of the scene, but "without a whistle."
And that still isn't easy. "With all those things I'm doing and things I've done the last year," he says, "I truly believe the void of basketball is one I'm having a difficult time filling. I spent a few minutes out there this morning talking to [Shabazz Napier]; I spent some time with Tyler [Olander]. I miss the game, the game itself, the way guys can improve. I gave the keys up to the car for all the right reasons. … But there's a little itch there, about basketball and the kids. I've talked to people, I don't know how to scratch that itch. I will. I'll find a way to scratch that itch."

Calhoun also said this past spring was the first time he was truly detached from college basketball. From thinking in a coach's mindset. From being able to relax, enjoy life and truly step away from the profession that made him a millionaire at least 10 times over and made him one of the biggest figures in Connecticut state history.

Living in Connecticut, I can tell you Calhoun is still very much a part of the UConn identity, and that's catalyzed through and and the university. This is still a transition phase. There was one really interesting note that came about in this pause to reflect on Calhoun's step-down: Shabazz Napier nearly transferred last fall. He told the Connecticut Post he wasn't happy with how everything played out.

"When (Calhoun retired), I felt betrayed," Napier said Thursday. "The way (the coaching staff) went about it, I felt it was wrong. It just seemed like a planned process. And that's the reason I felt like it was kind of selfish in a way. That's the reason I planned on transferring."

The Post's story notes Napier found out Calhoun was retiring online and was personally affected/insulted that Calhoun didn't get to the players first. Fortunately for the Huskies, Napier opted to stay. He had a big year last year and will be one of the best point guards in the nation this season, most likely. He maintains a good relationship with Calhoun and current Huskies coach Kevin Ollie.

Next up for Calhoun is what will likely be the last truly big hurrah for him at UConn while he's alive. On Saturday UConn will hold "Heart Of A Champion: A Tribute To Jim Calhoun" at Gampel Pavilion. It'll be the last, latest example that UConn and its most famous coach haven't yet fully moved on, nor should the, necessarily, because Calhoun still brings influence, attention and money to the school and state in many ways.

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