WAMC's Ian Pickus speaks with author Peter F. Burns about Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun's long tenure at UConn -- and what his retirement will mean for the program.
When the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team takes the court tonight in its season opener, an exhibition against American International at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, it will mark the first time in more than 25 years that Calhoun won’t be on the sidelines as head coach.
As was the case before he arrived, it may be hard to count UConn as a national force without the man who led the Huskies from relative anonymity to four Final Fours and three national championships, including an improbable 2011 title that put him in the rarest of company.
Calhoun was a master recruiter and an expert cultivator of NBA talent who helped put UConn on a par with blue chip palaces like Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina.
He was also autocratic to a fault and a legendary grudge holder who has been accused of skirting NCAA rules to win. Indeed, when the Hall of Famer retired in September, the cancer survivor left in declining health — and with his program facing a ban from this season’s NCAA Tournament.
What no one can argue with is 873 wins over 40 years of coaching.
UConn alum and Loyola University-New Orleans political science professor Peter Burns is the author of Shock the World: UConn Basketball in the Calhoun Era, published by Northeastern University Press — appropriately, the place Calhoun began his coaching rise.