I have no special insight in to the mind of Jim Calhoun. I don't know the man personally, and well, I imagine it's tough to get inside the mind of a 68-year-old three-time cancer survivor who built a national brand out of nothing and now has the choice of going out on top or fighting like hell to reach a higher peak.
What I do know are a lot of the factors I'd be considering if I was Calhoun. This isn't a complete list, and I certainly can't say what Calhoun will give the most weight to, but it is a start, and please feel free to add your own ideas in the comments. Reasons to stay will be up tomorrow.
Reasons to Leave:
Going out on top: Very, very few people get the option to go out on top in sports. Championships can only be won by one team each year and so much chance is involved that you can never be sure you'll get back to the top of the mountain. The list of people who have gone out on top is a short one -- it's basically just John Elway -- and you can see why. When you're on top of the world it's easy to talk yourself into the notion that you'll be able to get back to where you are. It just doesn't work like that though. Calhoun, I suspect, knows this. He's indicated in the past that he would have retired if UConn won it all in 2009 and the in almost 40 seasons of coaching, he's only made it to the top of the mountain three times.
Protecting the legacy: Going out on top may be almost impossible, but even staying near the top isn't easy. You can have a debate about just how bad things looked for the program back in October, but it's pretty clear the program had fallen a long were in 18 short months since the 2009 Final Four. There was something magic about this year's team, but that's hard to recreate and if the players underperform for the next few years and Calhoun gets tired you might be seeing a much less glorious exit. Plus, Calhoun has to consider the next point.
Dealing with the NCAA: In January Calhoun has to take a three-game Big East suspension, plus, although very little seems to have come of it, Nate Miles is still out there making headaches for UConn. If Calhoun leaves now the unserved suspension becomes a minor footnote in his story. If he sticks around it becomes a massive media headache he'll be asked about for most of next season.
Picking his successor: Calhoun has three years left on his contract, but if he opts to leave early he has the chance to take a five-year consulting gig with the school that pays $300,000 a year. That sounds like the type of gig that would let him hand-pick his successor and monitor the program into the future. Two things to note here: this option is around for as long as Calhoun is (as long as he doesn't finish the entire contract) and Calhoun has the choice of either taking the job or taking a $1 million payout.
Uncertainty with the team: This year was special but that was because Kemba Walker was special. There is a lot of talent on this team and there are certainly high hopes going forward but nothing is guaranteed. Shabazz Napier's casual attitude toward shot selection was endearing this year but it won't be when he's playing 30 minutes a game 10 months from now, and Jeremy Lamb was great but you can bet he'll get a lot more attention without Kemba to drive the line. Oh, and Enosch Wolf is UConn's second-best big man. I think UConn will do pretty well next year, but it's far from a guarantee.
It just may be time to go: This strikes me as the least convincing reason, if only because this year's team seemed to revitalize Calhoun, but let's face facts, the man is 68 and has had to fight off cancer several times. He's had a nearly 40 year career and he just might want to call it a day. That doesn't really sound like Calhoun to me, but 18 months ago this wouldn't have been the craziest answer in the world and with time to think it might get more appealing.