Calhoun trying not to overshadow UConn's new coach
CROMWELL, Conn. -- Jim Calhoun says he was in the shower at 7 a.m. last week when the phone rang.
It was Connecticut's new head coach, Kevin Ollie, seeking advice on how to handle some red tape with the admissions office.
The 70-year-old Calhoun retired as a coach last month, but he hasn't stepped away from UConn. Instead, he is carving out a new role at the school as a fundraiser, an advocate for UConn basketball, and a mentor to Ollie, his hand-picked successor who has never held a head coaching job at any level.
"I'm not going away," Calhoun said Monday as he appeared with Ollie at a local chamber of commerce breakfast in Cromwell. "The state of Connecticut, you've got me for life."
Calhoun said he plans to travel with the team for its season-opening game against Michigan State in Germany and for a November tournament in the Virgin Islands. But at 6-foot-5, the Hall-of-Fame coach said he also knows he casts a large shadow. He said his biggest problem will be making sure he doesn't overshadow what is now Ollie's program.
To that end, Calhoun said he won't be on the floor for UConn's traditional "First Night" celebration to open practice, and he doesn't want to attend most games. He joked that sometime in the dead of winter, perhaps when UConn is playing Syracuse, he plans to send Ollie some sand from a tropical location.
"It's all fun and games right now," Calhoun said after the breakfast appearance, where he was the featured speaker and Ollie gave only brief remarks. "But pretty soon, you and I both know, first time we don't play well or something, if I'm sitting right there, It's just not a good thing."
One of Calhoun's main tasks will be helping to raise the money for UConn's planned $40 million basketball training center. The school has raised $22 million so far, and needs $32 million to break ground.
He also plans on doing some things his schedule wouldn't allow over the past 40 years, such as visiting NBA training camps and games to reconnect with former players.
He said the visits will be personal to talk about family and catch up with old friends. But he also wants the program's former stars to be invested in UConn, and do their part to make sure it stays an elite program.
"I'm not going out to say, `I would like you to give a donation," he said. "I'm going to talk about keeping (the program) in the family."
He said he's working with the training center's planners to make sure it includes a locker room just for basketball alumni, so they feel welcome to use it and help mentor the next generation of Huskies.
Athletic Director Warde Manuel said he's comfortable with the new role Calhoun has taken, and with how the transition to Ollie has been working.
"There's not been a lot of tension in the process because of the transition and that's what I like about it," Manuel said.
And Ollie, who played point guard for Calhoun from 1991-95, said he's not worried about his former coach's shadow.
"I don't think it's a big shadow," he said. "I think coach is always there with me, on my side. He wants to see this program succeed and go forward."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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