UConn coach Jim Calhoun has always been a little off.
He regularly subs players out in the first minute of games if they make mistakes. Occasionally, he ignores his players during timeouts when they are playing poorly. He’s even made an art form out of bickering with referees.
However, on Saturday afternoon against South Florida, Calhoun did something that has to make us wonder if he’s truly lost his marbles. With the Huskies tournament hopes on the line, Calhoun decided to make a statement to his star players.
In a must win match-up, Calhoun sat seniors Stanley Robinson, Gavin Edwards and Jerome Dyson for the final 15 plus minutes of the second half.
After Calhoun sat his star seniors, the reserves came in and played well, cutting a double-digit lead down to five, 63-58, with 4:25 to play. Everyone expected Calhoun, having already gotten his message across, to turn to his senior stars at that point, but he did not.
The Huskies would go onto lose 76-68, all but closing the door on the possibility of an at large bid to the Big Dance.
Why would Jim Calhoun choose to this moment to send a message to his star players?
It was been an extremely disappointing season for the 17-14 Huskies, perhaps the most disappointing in Calhoun's time at Connecticut. They are big on talent, but short on consistency and heart. With at least five players with a good chance of playing at the next level, Dyson, Robinson, Edwards, sophomore guard Kemba Walker, and freshman big Alex Oriakhi, the Huskies would seem to be a lock for the tournament.
However, they have proven to be an enigma. They have looked fantastic at times and downright pitiful at others. They followed up a victory over then No. 1 ranked Texas with three straight Big East losses. More recently, they followed up three straight Big East wins, including victories over top ten teams Villanova and West Virginia, with three straight conference losses to finish the season.
The Husky players, especially Robinson and Dyson, need to shoulder much of the blame for the disappointing season. They have played uninspired basketball for far too much of the year, but Calhoun needs to shoulder some of the blame as well.
As the coach, it is his job to get the most out of his players. Clearly, he has not been successful in doing so this season. Furthermore, while I would normally applaud the decision to sit your best players in order to send a message, Calhoun picked the wrong time to do so. It was an attempt to get the best of out of his players, but one that was ill timed.
If Calhoun had put Dyson, Robinson, and Edwards on the floor Saturday afternoon maybe they would have won, maybe they wouldn’t have. Either way, Calhoun did not give his team the best opportunity to win the game, and may have cost them the opportunity to go dancing later this month.
Jim Calhoun, you’re a Hall of Famer and a legend, but have you completely lost your mind?