By PAUL DOYLE
The Hartford Courant
6:38 PM PDT, September 13, 2012
— Jim Calhoun was still playing basketball when he married Pat 46 years ago and their life together has been defined by the game.
There was his time coaching in high school before he ascended to a college job in 1972. For more than 40 years, the calendar has revolved around Jim's coaching.
So what will this winter be like in the Calhoun house?
"That's the big question," Pat Calhoun said. "That's the question that I keep asking myself. Basketball has always been very much a part of our lives and I cannot imagine what it will be like to not have a season. I have no idea what it will be like. You'll have to ask me that in April."
Pat Calhoun said she has wondered how her husband will handle sitting on the sideline during a game. Jim Calhoun has missed games for health-related reasons in recent years, but this year he'll be watching games with less of a vested interest.
"It remains to be seen," Pat Calhoun said. "He's never been in that position, as crazy at it seems. Of course, it's not the worst position to be in, certainly."
The Calhouns will now have the freedom of retirement. It's something they've discussed in recent years.
"But going back many years ago, he always said, 'I won't coach when I'm 50,'" Pat said. "And I used to always think it was when he was 50 years old. Then I used to say to him, I didn't realize you meant you were going to be coaching for 50 years. I guess I didn't listen.
"So once we got past that 50 years of age, I realized he was never going to stop coaching. Who am I kidding? So nothing surprises me."
The decision to retire, Pat said, was "100 percent his."
"He knew that I supported him," she said. "He actually knew that I would have preferred that he stay coaching forever if that was possible, fully knowing that obviously it wasn't. ... But It's been a wonderful life for us."
Pat Calhoun said her husband has been leaning toward retirement the past few weeks, but she was still unsure. When she left his office at Gampel Pavilion on Thursday afternoon before the press conference, she had one message for him.
"I said to him, 'Do not change your mind,'" she said.
At his press conference, Jim Calhoun introduced his entire family — sons Jim and Jeff, their wives and the grandchildren — but he was emphatic when it was his wife's turn to stand.
"That's the best recruit I ever got," Calhoun said. "Best recruit."
Ollie, Marshall Reunion
Gampel Pavilion had long since emptied out of television crews and reporters when Kevin Ollie approached his friend and former teammate Donny Marshall with the simplest of requests.
"Let me get a hug — before you tell all my business," Ollie said to Marshall.
So there, with no fanfare, just a few feet from where they sparred more 20 years ago as freshman, Ollie and Marshall embraced.
"Go before I cry," Marshall joked.
But it was too late.
Marshall had already started to shed some tears.
"I don't know why I'm crying — I guess I'm just happy," Marshall said.
For both Ollie and Marshall, it's been a long journey.
The pair met on a recruiting trip in Chicago when they were both in high school and later bonded when they tussled as freshman underneath one of the hoops at Gampel Pavilion.
"Right down there, probably six, eight feet inside that three-point line we got into a fistfight, just me and him," Marshall said Thursday. "That was our freshman year. I don't even know how it happened. That's just who we were — we tried to outwork each other. We were working and someone tried to grab him and then grabbed me. Punches were thrown and then next thing I know we were back in the office and Coach said: I love the passion but now I want you to take that same passion and fight for each other."
From that moment on, they were friends. But as for who won that fight, Marshall points to a third party.
"Coach won; UConn won," Marshall said.
And for Marshall that is clear with Ollie stepping into the head coach role.
"I wouldn't be the one to bet against Kevin Ollie," Marshall said.
Marshall, whose contract with Comcast Sports in Boston ends after this season, has also joked with Ollie about working with him in a coaching capacity.
"I said maybe you should make some room on that that bench," Marshall said. "It is something [Ollie] and I have talked about."
Former UConn players Donny Marshall, Scott Burrell, Steve Pikiell (now coach at Stony Brook) and Kemba Walker were at the press conference, along with former Calhoun assistants Howie Dickenman (Central coach) and Tom Moore (Quinnipiac coach).
Ollie went out of his way to point out Walker in the crowd.
"You are what UConn is all about," Ollie said.
Walker said he is confident Ollie is the right choice to replace Calhoun. Ollie arrived on the coaching staff just as Walker was emerging as a star, and Walker attributes much of his success to Ollie.
"KO has been through it all," Walker said. "He's one of the people that you would love to get advice from. Whatever KO told me, I made sure that I was submerged in it and I soaked it all in. That's why I'm where I'm at today."
Walker has been working out in Storrs and has been playing with the current UConn players. Asked to evaluate the 2012-13 Huskies, Walker said he is optimistic.
"They have great guys," Walker said. "Shabazz [Nappier] and Ryan [Boatright], those two guys are going to be the two leaders of the team this year. For me, just being around those guys, I can tell that they're going to be great. They both want to listen, they both want to help this team try to win basketball games. Hopefully those guys will try to lean on me and hopefully [Ollie] to get some advice."
Burrell, who grew up in Hamden and will forever be known as the player who hit Tate George with a beautiful pass to set up "The Shot" against Clemson in 1990, is impressed with the firepower of both Calhoun and Ollie.
"[Calhoun] might coach in a wheelchair if he didn't decide to do this," Burrell said. "He still looks great to me. People say he looks older but I think he looks the same to me. What else could he do? He's won three national championships, he's been successful. He'd done everything he's been asked to do here. He brought UConn to the next level, to the highest level basically.
"I think Kevin's up for the task, he knows what kind of challenge it's going to be and obviously he's taking this job and going right at this challenge. He'll be great at this job. He's a great motivator, knows how to play, knows how to talk to kids and he'll have fun doing it."
Ollie Will Get Help
With Ollie's promotion to head coach, Karl Hobbs was moved from director of basketball administration to an assistant position. Hobbs is a former head coach at George Washington, joining George Blaney and Glen MIller as assistants with head coaching experience.
"We have a very experienced and mature staff," Miller said. "These are all UConn guys. We're a tight-knit group, and we're all really anxious and excited to move forward."
Miller played under Calhoun at Northeastern and began his coaching career as an assistant under Calhoun at UConn before coaching at Connecticut College, Brown and Pennsylvania. He calls Calhoun a father figure who helped shape his life.
And he expects Calhoun to still be involved in the program.
"He's going to be around a lot." Miller said. "He's not going anywhere. To me, this is an outcome that's good and I'm just really happy for him. He still wants to have his handprints on this program and he'll serve as a great asset to the program moving forward, and he'll continue to be a great mentor to all of us."
As for Ollie's ability to fill the head coaching role, Miller said the transition will be seamless.
"We have a world of confidence in Kevin," Miller said. "You know, his 13 years in the NBA ... he played for some of the greatest basketball minds in the game and he's got a ton of experience and he's got a ton of potential. I think he's a star in the making and we're just behind him."
Hobbs is equally optimistic:
"You look around and see all these banners and number of years," Hobbs said. "To play in the postseason that number of years, it's just phenomenal. ... I'm very enthusiastic about having Kevin. I think the beauty is that Coach Calhoun has left a legacy and a foundation and so there is a foundation that can be built upon and Kevin is the right choice, in my opinion, for the simple fact that he's the greatest motivator out there."
Manuel: Observation Tower
So what will athletic director Warde Manuel be looking for as he spends the next six months evaluating Ollie? It may be less about wins and losses and more about the process.
"There's a quantitative analysis," Manuel said. "I like to win and Kevin does, too. There's no doubt about it. Any of our coaches who line up for UConn, they go out there to win. We're not just here to participate in games.
"But it's those qualities. I'm looking to see how he is on the sidelines, how he handles decision-making, how he does the substitutions and the things that are normal in the course of the game. How does he handle a loss with the team? How does he motivate them the next day to come back and play? How's he handling practice and the staff and all the things that come with being a head coach at this level?
"I want to see it because I can't turn to somebody and say, 'How did he do as a head coach?' I need to see that. It really truly is a long-term plan. I want to see where Kevin is before I would extend that long-term contract."
Manuel did say he has developed a strong rapport with Ollie and he has confidence in his ability to take over the program.
"I love Kevin," Manuel said. "I've enjoyed working with him. I see why Jim [Calhoun] believes in him so much. I want to see it myself. ... But the commitment is there and he knows he has the opportunity."
Courant staff writer Matt Conyers contributed to this story.
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