No Coach-in-Waiting for UConn

College basketball fans across Connecticut can take a deep breath and relax.

UConn athletic director Warde Manuel told The Associated Press Monday that he is not sitting around "wondering on day-today basis who is going to be my [men's basketball] coach next year." Manuel is working under the assumption that Jim Calhoun will be back.

"Unless something changes that I don't foresee . . . Jim's our coach and I'm moving forward in that direction," Manuel told the AP.

COMMENTARY

Isn't it great that someone at UConn finally came out and said it? The suspense was killing me. How about you?

Actually, I'm being sarcastic. From the moment Iowa State knocked UConn out of the NCAA Tournament (emphasis on knock out), I've said Calhoun would return to coach the Huskies next season. Yes, I know he's turning 70 later this week. Yes, I know all about those health problems – including the back issues that sidelined him so long this past season.

But it would not be like Calhoun to walk away from UConn – not right now. Not with a postseason ban in 2013 looking like a certainty. Not with all the chaos surrounding the UConn roster right now.

Back in March, it was written that Calhoun must make a decision about his future "now." He couldn't be "ridiculously slow" like he was last year, it was written.

Well, almost two months have passed and Calhoun hasn't said much about his personal situation. But I will stick with the same thing I wrote on this site on March 19.

That was this: "Why does Calhoun have to say anything? He has two years remaining on his contract – a contract that was extended with the knowledge of an NCAA investigation into the Nate Miles recruiting case. If former athletic director Jeff Hathaway wanted to fire Calhoun at that point, maybe he had enough justification in 2009 or 2010."

Calhoun's tenure is not going to end with a firing. The national media, with its constant commentary about what Calhoun is going to do, may want a firing or a white flag in the form of retirement.

But how in the world could Manuel, who just moved into his office on March 19, possibly do that. Talk about a bad PR move. That would be a classic – especially as a first major decision at a new school.

Hasn't it been rather obvious that Calhoun is still working, still coming to the office, still recruiting and still planning? In the middle of all this mess, UConn got a commitment last week from Phillip Nolan, ranked 30th among power forwards in the Scout.com rankings.

With all the negative publicity around UConn, its academic situation, transfers and other distractions, it was hard to imagine the Huskies having any success in recruiting – maybe for a long period of time. But assistant coach Kevin Ollie and Calhoun got it done.

In recent weeks, Calhoun has been the level-headed voice of reason for UConn. While elected officials have inappropriately whined about the injustice of the NCAA, Calhoun admitted mistakes were made and said UConn has to pay the price. That's the sensible way to approach what has happened to the men's basketball program. All the appeals by UConn and all the headlines generated by elected officials have been embarrassing.

Think about it. We've been down this path with Calhoun before.

"I'm doing everything I normally do every spring," Calhoun told The Hartford Courant Monday after Manuel's comments were published by the AP. "I have two years left on my contract. Warde and I have been having discussions about a lot of things, including the future of UConn basketball. He's the athletic director, and we're working together."

Manuel also told the AP that he has no plans to name Kevin Ollie or anyone else as "coach-in-waiting." Calhoun told The Courant he is fine with that.

That shouldn't come as a surprise either. As we said before, Manuel moved into his office on March 19. As he made the transition from the University of Buffalo, he was around the program at a few home games and the Big East tournament. But he hasn't had the time or the opportunity to evaluate Ollie, let alone get to know him well.

Manuel can't possibly know right now that KO is the right guy – and that's nothing against Ollie.

Calhoun's desire to have a say in the future of the program is understandable and he has earned it. But the naming of a coach-in-waiting isn't important enough to make it a deal buster at this point.

Ollie has had two great years of experience under Calhoun and George Blaney since returning to UConn after his NBA career. I don't doubt for a minute that Ollie will be a head coach some day. Is he ready now? That's hard to say. Is he the only choice for UConn? Absolutely not.

Any good athletic director has a short list of coaching candidates tucked away in a desk drawer. If Manuel doesn't have a written list, he certainly must have one scribbled in his head.

Timing could be everything. I have no idea who is on Manuel's list, so this simply is an example. Sean Miller's name has been kicked around in some rumor circles. What if Miller becomes frustrated with his situation at Arizona and decides he wants to move back closer to home? What if that happened right at the time Calhoun decided to step down? Does anyone want to tell me that Manuel shouldn't at least consider a Sean Miller-type of candiadate?

Calhoun is going to leave big shoes to fill – whenever that day comes. Right now he has two years left on his contract and the only announcement he has to make is the one when he has decided to retire.

So, relax right now. Forget the speculation. Calhoun and Manuel said they share the common goal of building a strong future for the program. That's about all UConn fans can demand at this point.

Jim Calhoun remains on the job. He could change his mind in August. He might pack it in a couple of days before the start of practice in October. But he might be around another two years – or more.

Nothing has really changed.

When Calhoun knows the time is right, he'll let us all know.


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