UConn Basketball: Will the Program Ever Return to Pre-Sanctions Status?

Jimmy KelleyCorrespondent IApril 11, 2012

UConn's future is tied directly to Jim Calhoun's health and ability to coach.
UConn's future is tied directly to Jim Calhoun's health and ability to coach.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

UConn basketball has been one of the most well-respected programs in college basketball over the last two decades. The program was able to reach this status thanks to the hard work of coach Jim Calhoun, who took a program with regional acclaim to the national stage.

All of Calhoun's work could be undone in less than a year depending on how well the Huskies can recover from the sanctions handed down by the NCAA this past week. The 2011-12 season already saw a decline in success for the program due to a series of unfortunate events.

  • Ryan Boatright was suspended for the first six games of the season for receiving improper benefits.
  • Calhoun was given a three-game suspension for "failing to create an atmosphere for compliance." This suspension came from an ongoing investigation dating back to the early 2000's.
  • Boatright then missed three more games while the NCAA reopened its investigation into his eligibility.
  • Calhoun took a leave of absence to deal with his spinal stenosis. He would end up missing almost a month of basketball.
  • After making it to the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament, UConn earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, but lost in the second round to Iowa State.

Since the season ended, things have only gotten worse for UConn. Star guard Jeremy Lamb announced that he will enter the NBA Draft and Andre Drummond is expected to follow suit. Alex Oriakhi has already been given his release from the program and several players could follow his lead.

With all of this happening, what does the future look like in Storrs? Unfortunately, the answer is not one Huskies fans will like.

The future of this program is tied directly to its Hall of Fame coach. While Calhoun has been a staple of the program, his declining health and advancing age make it hard to picture him coaching very much longer.

Three of the five players in this picture will likely not play for the Huskies in 2012-13.
Three of the five players in this picture will likely not play for the Huskies in 2012-13.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Uncertainty over Calhoun's future has already taken a toll on the program. The Huskies only have one incoming recruit for next season, having lost out on top New England targets Kris Dunn and Nerlens Noel.

Dunn's decision is especially telling considering he is a native of New London, Connecticut and a good friend of Drummond. The fact that UConn can't even hold on to the best player in its own state does not bode well for the future.

Associate head coach George Blaney is getting old as well, so the future of the head coaching position is especially cloudy. Kevin Ollie has been a staple on the staff since 2010-11 and is the primary recruiter for the program.

Ollie is the logical successor to Calhoun since former assistant Tom Moore took the job at Quinnipiac in 2007 after 13 years at Calhoun's side. Ollie could easily follow that path if Calhoun continues to show little intent to step down.

2012 has already set the UConn program back at least three years, but that number could climb if Calhoun continues to miss large chunks of the season and the program fails to bring in quality recruiting classes.

If UConn is going to return to a position of national prominence, they will need to evaluate the future of Calhoun and recruit impact players.

Players can only build on the foundation a coach builds, and this foundation's cracks are beginning to show.