STORRS – Had a chance to chat briefly with Athletic Director Warde Manuel today about the Jim Calhoun/retirement stir created over the last couple of days. Manuel, who plays it close to the vest, said he has not spoken to his head coach about a possible retirement.
“I don’t deal in hearsay,” Manuel said, “Until I hear something different from him, Jim is my coach.”
Does he have a plan in place if Calhoun does retire between now and the start of the season?
“Haven’t thought about it,” Manuel said. “… We’ll figure it out.”
Manuel said he would hope to have Calhoun remain a part of the program after he retires, “if he wants to, yes, I would like that.”
Calhoun, who I’m told met with school president Dr. Susan Herbst earlier this week, and Manuel are at an impasse here, as they have been for several months. Calhoun, 70, wants Kevin Ollie to succeed him as head coach and could perhaps force the school’s hand by retiring at the last possible moment. But Manuel has stated and re-stated his determination to preserve his options, to see what established coaches might be available before committing himself. Those familiar with the AD’s thinking say he has high regard for Ollie, but questions whether UConn, with its high national profile, is the place for a first-time head coach.
Coach-in-waiting is not happening. If Calhoun were to retire this month, perhaps Manuel could offer Ollie the job as an interim, a one-year “audition” of sorts, but whether Ollie would accept that, or whether it would satisfy Calhoun, would be the key questions there.
Calhoun, who is recovering from his fractured hip and using crutches, was at Gampel several times this week, and received his community service award at the Hall of Fame on Thursday night. He was not on campus Friday. Those around him are saying they believe him when he says he is close to a decision, but think he is probably not quite there. On good days, it seems certain he will coach this season, on other days not so much. The drama is far from over.