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Could Calhoun walk away after NCAA title game?
Following an investigation into the recruiting of Nate Miles, a prep star who was expelled before ever playing a game for the Huskies, the NCAA slapped the program with a loss of scholarships and sentenced Calhoun to its version of house arrest _ a three-game coaching ban next season.
More than once, Calhoun slipped mocking references about NCAA rules and violations into answers about unrelated questions, proving he still felt the sting of that punishment. In a more serious moment, he conceded, “Last year wasn’t the most enjoyable coaching, yet I really liked my kids.
“Bottom line is we can all survive what we need to survive if we know who we are. Have I made mistakes? Yes. Do I have warts? Yeah, I do, like all of you. But I know who I am, and I’m comfortable with what I’ve done.”
What Calhoun has done, first as a local kid taking the reins at Northeastern University in Boston in 1972, then again at Connecticut in 1986, was build programs from the bottom up with little more than sweat equity.
His pitch to recruits shortly after landing on campus at Storrs, Conn., was, “How would you like to play at Georgetown or Syracuse?” It was only after their eyes lit up that Calhoun would add, “just not actually for Georgetown or Syracuse.”
If he’s guilty of the NCAA’s formal judgment _ a lack of institutional control _ it’s likely because after more than four decades in the business, Calhoun no longer maniacally attends to every detail himself, delegating more of the work and responsibility to assistants. Where he was once THE program, now he’s the leader of one of the most successful and established programs in the country.
If the cost was a hit to his reputation, Calhoun hardly seemed fazed.
“All I aspire to is when you talk about the great programs, that you always include Connecticut. That is almost my everyday goal, to get us to be one of those elite programs. Have we been over the past 20 years? We have the fifth- or sixth-best record over the past 20 years. That’s what I aspire to be,” he said, “fully entrenched as one of the elite programs.
“Is that too much to take on?” Calhoun asked, then answered a question only he could answer. “It’s what I wanted to take on.”
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org
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