The University of Connecticut men’s basketball team gave fans everything they could possibly wish for—a run of five wins in five days to take the Big East tournament and then a sweep through the NCAA tournament for another national championship. The string of wins included unbelievably exciting finishes (except for the final game against Butler—a team that for some reason, couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean while standing on a pier last Monday night).
Similarly, Coach Jim Calhoun has accomplished everything he could have wished for as a basketball coach. He’s in the Basketball Hall of Fame. He’s won three national championships and he ranks among the best college basketball coaches of all time, in every respect. He’s now making noise about returning. But the fact is, now is time to go. Retire. Say farewell. Get out while the getting is good.
If Calhoun decides to stay, fans will quickly notice that he won’t be pacing the sidelines for the first three Big East games next year. He’s getting an involuntary mini-vacation courtesy of the NCAA for, as the New York Times reported, failure to monitor and promote an atmosphere for compliance… [The NCAA] stated that he got away with it because the university “failed to monitor the conduct and administration of the men’s basketball program.”
UConn also must forfeit three men’s scholarship—one each through the 2012-13 season—and serve a three-year probation with restrictions on calls and contact with recruits. And worst of all, two assistant coaches “resigned”—sacrificial lambs and patsies whose careers are now ruined in order to take heat off the Big Honcho, Calhoun. Then, in a final insult to fans and taxpayers, the school bestowed upon the coach a new, $13-million contract. Where’s the outrage? Oh, I forgot. It’s all about “the Ws.”
The recruit at the center of the scandal, Nate Miles, is a sad case indeed. According to news reports that came as the Huskies were preparing for the Final Four, Miles is either now willing to talk to the NCAA, or he’s not. No one is sure. He now claims Calhoun knew full well of everything that went on with his interaction with the program.
Miles is what prosecutors call “an unreliable witness.” To extend the metaphor, Miles would never be put on the stand. He’s changed his story, initially refused to talk to the NCAA, and reportedly demanded to be paid for media interviews. Anything Miles says should be taken with not a grain, but a pillar, of salt. So Calhoun probably gets a pass there.
While the sycophants in the Connecticut sports media gave short shrift to the sanctions against Calhoun’s program since they were imposed, it’s not a stretch to say UConn emerged from the “cheaters side” of the semi-finals. Kentucky’s John Calipari has a special knack for going from one school to another, only a step ahead of the NCAA and leaving his former school to clean up his mess.
To make things worse, a recent report showed that Calhoun’s program graduated a pathetic 31 percent of its ballplayers, among the worst of all the schools in the tournament. And that doesn’t count those who left school early to enter the NBA. New UConn President Susan Herbst took one for Calhoun in this case, saying the dismal performance by Calhoun’s players in the classroom is her problem now. That’s noble. But Herbst has barely unpacked her bags. Calhoun owns this one. The report speaks volumes about Calhoun’s priorities and he certainly should be held accountable.
The accusations and straight facts that work against Calhoun and his program are serious. He should take the opportunity during this post-national championship euphoria to say goodbye.