STORRS, Conn. — Jim Calhoun retired as Connecticut’s basketball coach Thursday, closing a 26-year career at the school with three national titles, an upcoming NCAA tournament ban and no apologies.
“I never, ever, ever said that I was mistake free,” Calhoun said. “But I always tried to do the right thing.”
The retirement of the 70-year-old Hall of Famer was announced on the court in Storrs where Calhoun racked up many of his 873 total wins. He thanked everyone associated with the Huskies program — administrators, players, fans and his family — for his team’s success, and played down both his health problems and troubles with the NCAA.
“There have been some bumps in the road but we are headed in the right direction,” he said.
Calhoun will take a transition appointment through next spring as a special assistant to athletic director Warde Manuel. When fully retired, he will become head coach emeritus.
Calhoun has been slowed repeatedly by illness and accidents in recent years, including a fractured hip last month. He said the hip injury didn’t cause him to retire, but gave him time to reflect on whether this would be a good time to leave.
“As I looked at everything. So many things are in place for us to even go farther that we have already,” he said. “So I thought it was an excellent time.”
He takes over a team that returns only five players who saw significant playing time a year ago and failed to qualify academically for the 2013 NCAA tournament.
“I am very honored and humbled to become the UConn men’s basketball coach,” said Ollie. “I cannot put into words how grateful I am to coach Jim Calhoun, who retires today as one of the most legendary coaches in the history of college basketball. Coach Calhoun brought me here to Connecticut as a person right out of high school and has mentored me into the person I have become today.”
Despite the school’s problems and uncertain future, Calhoun — who coached UConn’s latest title winners just last year — got a heartfelt send off.
“This is a day of sorrow, celebration and admiration,” Connecticut President Susan Herbst said.
Players echoed the sentiment.
“Coach Calhoun is a great coach, one of the greatest ever in college basketball, and it was an honor to play for him,” said sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels. “I think everybody’s still in shock right now and just don’t really believe it.”
Ollie is one of more than two dozen players whom Calhoun sent to the NBA, a list includes everyone from Reggie Lewis at Northeastern, to Cliff Robinson, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Rudy Gay and Kemba Walker.