Jim Calhoun, who took UConn from just another basketball program to one of the best in the country, seemingly against all odds, officially announced his retirement Thursday.
"I always said that I would know when it was time, whenever that might be," said Calhoun in a statement. "The hip injury really didn't enter into the decision, except that it gave me more time to think about it and the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that this was the right time to move on to the next phase of my life."
Kevin Ollie, who played for Calhoun and has been an assistant the past two seasons, has been named coach. Ollie played 13 years in the NBA.
Ollie will have a contract that runs through April 4, 2013, and will be paid at an annualized rate of $625,000. He becomes the 18th head coach in the history of the program and only the fourth since the 1969-70 season.
"I am very honored and humbled to become the UConn men's basketball coach," said Ollie in a statement. "I cannot put into words how grateful I am to Coach Jim Calhoun, who retires today as one of the most legendary coaches in the history of college basketball. Coach Calhoun brought me here to Connecticut as a person right out of high school and has mentored me into the person I have become today."
Under a transition agreement that runs through next spring, Calhoun, 70, will become a special assistant to athletic director Warde Manuel, providing services to the university in support of men's basketball, the Division of Athletics, the UConn Health Center, and the university at large.
"The agreement runs until March 21, 2013," Calhoun said. "Then we'll look at everything and go from there."
Upon his full retirement from the university, Calhoun will become Head Coach Emeritus.
"Jim has given 26 years of 100 percent effort into making UConn, and UConn basketball, and so many student-athletes into the best they could be," Manuel said in the press release. "I am proud to have worked with him, if only for a brief period of time, and I look forward to his association with us for years to come."
Calhoun won three national titles at UConn, in 1999, 2004 and 2011.
Ten rows of chairs were set up in Gampel, with the first four rows reserved, a testament to what type of day this would be.
Once Calhoun reached the podium, he thanked countless people, including the fans.
"What happened when we got here, this family of four [Calhoun, his wife and two wons] was taken in by the state of Connecticut," Calhoun said. "Most importantly, you trusted us."
Trusted Calhoun to do the job.
"We had to show everyone as a member of the Big East, we had a rightful place at the table," Calhoun said. ..."One of the great stories of UConn, it took no one single person, it took direction. ... It took players all over the country who truly believed we were doing something special here."
Calhoun, during his speech, introduced his family, calling his wife Pat "his best recruit ever."
UConn president Susan Herbst, who spoke first, said "it''s a moment of sorrow, celebration and admiration. ...He's a legend and he's our legend. He brought us tremendous joy."
Calhoun was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.
Calhoun's final record in 40 years as a head coach is 873-380, which ranks sixth on the all-time wins list. He was 625-243 at UConn.
Calhoun has had 27 players drafted by the NBA, including 18 first-round picks, and 13 of those have been lottery picks. Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Caron Butler, and Cliff Robinson have been All-Star selections, while Allen, Hamilton, Scott Burrell, and Travis Knight have NBA championship rings.
Calhoun's coaching tree currently includes five Division I head coaches: Howie Dickenman (Central Conn.), Mike Jarvis (Florida Atlantic), Tom Moore (Quinnipiac), Steve Pikiell (Stony Brook), and Ted Woodward (Maine). Former assistant Dave Leitao, and current UConn assistants Glen Miller and Karl Hobbs also have been head coaches at the Division I level.
"Coaching at UConn has just been phenomenal, there's no other way to describe it," Calhoun said. "I will always be grateful to the University of Connecticut. When I look back and see what we were able to accomplish here, I am extremely proud."
Calhoun was born May 10, 1942, in Braintree, Mass.. Calhoun and his wife Pat were married in 1966 and live in Pomfret. They have two sons, Jim and Jeff. Jim and his wife Jennifer live in Massachusetts with daughters Emily, Katie and son Sam. Jeff and his wife Amy live in Connecticut with daughters Avery, Reese and Peyton.
Ollie and his wife, Stephanie, have a son, Jalen, and daughter, Cheyenne. Born December 27, 1972, Ollie is a native of Los Angeles where he attended Crenshaw High School.
Everyone from the college basketball world is or will weigh in on what Calhoun has meant. And the common theme is what he was able to do at Connecticut.
"The great success achieved by the UConn men's basketball program under Jim Calhoun's leadership helped propel the University of Connecticut onto the national stage," Geno Auriemma, who was out of state and unable to attend the press conference, said in a statement. "His contributions to this University have been positive and will be long lasting. I want to take this opportunity to wish Jim Calhoun all my best in a long, happy and healthy retirement.
Auriemma went on to say: "I have always admired Kevin Ollie as a person and as a player and know that he will make the most of this opportunity. He has had great success in everything he has done and I am confident this will be no exception."
Longtime Big East coach and friend Jim Boeheim told the Syracuse Post-Standard Thursday morning: "I think it's one of the great coaching jobs of all-time. I think the biggest thing for me is when you take over at a Kentucky or Kansas or North Carolina or Duke, it's still a hard job but you've got so many assets and so much tradition. If you do a great job there, it's great. But if you take over a program like Connecticut, which was still coming out of the Yankee Conference, and do what he's done. It's pretty remarkable.''
At Courant.com, by noon, there were more than 80 comments from fans.