That would be a difficult legacy to follow in any case, but is compounded further by the fact that the program is currently suffering from a transfer epidemic and lack of recruiting due to penalties for the team’s failure to meet NCAA academic standards.
As Calhoun’s successor, however, that is precisely the task that new UCONN head coach Kevin Ollie faces. It certainly will not be an easy job, but many feel that Ollie is just the man the Huskies need to bring them back to success.
Here are three ways UCONN can succeed with Ollie at the helm and return to the forefront of the college basketball world as quickly as possible.
Ollie takes over for Calhoun after 26 years as head coach.
Ollie played for Calhoun at UCONN for four years, starting at point guard for three of them and serving as a team captain twice. Following a 13-year NBA career, Ollie spent the past two seasons as Calhoun’s assistant.
The Huskies’ new coach understands his predecessor’s strategies and coaching style, and anyone who follows college basketball understands how successful they have been.
As a point guard in his playing days, Ollie was in charge of running Calhoun’s team on the floor—now he needs to do it from the coach’s box.
Things need to change at UCONN, but those things mostly relate to off-court behavior as opposed to on-court performance.
The transition into a new coaching era will be much smoother for the Huskies if Ollie keeps the majority of Calhoun’s on-court philosophies in place, rather than trying to change the team’s playing style.
Oriakhi chose to leave the tumultuous UCONN program and transfer to Missouri.
Thanks to the NCAA penalties, which ban UCONN from the 2013 tournament, many of the Huskies’ best players have left early or transferred.
In the meantime, recruiting for a team that is ineligible for the NCAA tournament and bid farewell to its legendary coach less than two months before the start of the season is certainly not an enviable assignment.
Ollie and his staff need to live in the second tier of recruits until the program regains its eligibility and reputation. They need to build a solid squad of hard-working, over-achieving and coachable players.
If UCONN can build a solid foundation of that type of player over the next couple years, the Huskies will be in perfect position to land some star recruits and launch themselves back to prominence once the scandal is in the past.
Calhoun leaves the UCONN program embroiled in scandal.
Unfortunately, when a coach and his staff commit violations that cause a public scandal and draw penalties from the NCAA, it’s the program, not the individual, that suffers the long-term consequences.
We have seen it time and again with John Calipari, first at UMASS and then at Memphis—the success of the program leads to lucrative opportunities for the head coach, who is free to leave for greener pastures while his suspect practices leave the program to pay fines, lose eligibility and struggle to recruit.
While age and health issues were indubitably the major factors leading to Calhoun’s retirement, the recent scandal surrounding the UCONN program surely contributed.
For UCONN to recover, Ollie needs to run a tight ship—recruit honestly, demand the academic success of his student-athletes and ensure that his program graduates its players.
The sanctions will then be lifted, the program will regain its respect and the right kind of recruits will be attracted to the high academic standards. In the long run, Ollie and the Huskies only stand to benefit from doing things the right way.