Long-term uncertainty at UConn doesn't bode well for recruiting

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
Most potential UConn targets want assistant Kevin Ollie to replace Jim Calhoun as the head coach. (US Presswire)

Jim Calhoun made Connecticut basketball what it is today. Sure, the Huskies were one of the founding schools of the Big East Conference and had made multiple NCAA tournament appearances.

But Calhoun took UConn from a program with success in the region to a national powerhouse that competed on a yearly basis with the North Carolinas and Kentuckys of the world. The Huskies won three national titles under his watch and produced nearly 30 NBA players during his tenure. He was able to attract coast-to-coast talent to Storrs -- not exactly a national hot spot -- and finish with top-notch recruiting classes annually.

What will happen now that Calhoun is announcing his retirement on Thursday afternoon? Will the players suddenly stop coming? Will the program take such a hit in stature that it is no longer a consistent contender for five-star recruits?

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For the class of 2013, the Huskies currently have commitments from New York natives Terrance Samuel and Kentan Facey. Neither is a consensus top-100 prospect, but both players had multiple high-major offers.

Although we were unable to reach Facey by phone or text message, Samuel told CBSSports.com he doesn't think Calhoun retiring will change his pledge to the Huskies. Moreover, he said he would like to see assistant coach Kevin Ollie replace Calhoun as the head coach.

As for Facey, he took a visit to Connecticut while Calhoun wasn't even there; it was during the time he took off for his hip injury. Prior to the visit, many thought he might scrap the trip since Calhoun would be home. However, with Ollie hosting Facey and AAU coach Sam Memminger, the trip was still enough to woo Facey to be a Husky.

"If KO takes over, we'll honor commitment," Memminger told the New Haven Register. "Anybody else, we've gotta take a look at it."

You see, Ollie -- a former player under Calhoun and a 13-year NBA veteran -- has been one of the better recruiters in the Big East since becoming an assistant before the 2010-11 season. He played a major role in getting top-40 prospect Omar Calhoun to Storrs, as well as securing commitments from Samuel and Facey. Moreover, potential Connecticut targets have told various media outlets they would still consider post-Calhoun UConn if Ollie is named the head coach.

The Connecticut Post contacted 15 recruits during the summer, and the paper reported that many of them promoted the idea of having Ollie stay on board for the long term.

The uncertainty surrounding the program could be enough to push potential recruits to other schools, and it seems the long-term uncertainty isn't going away despite Calhoun announcing his retirement. Our own Jeff Goodman reported that Ollie would become the interim head coach -- but would be reevaluated after the season.

The odds are stacked against Ollie; he's taking over a team one month before the season -- a team with diminished talent that can't make the NCAA tournament, mind you. The chances Ollie will blow everyone away in his debut season are not that high, and that puts his future at Connecticut up in the air. Calhoun wanted Ollie as his successor; the administration has reservations.

If Connecticut wants to continue recruiting at a high level, though, it needs to be able to promise recruits stability in the program. As things stand, that's a promise the coaching staff can't make.

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