With Andre Drummond in the fold, there's little doubt that Jim Calhoun will be back on the bench next season. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Even with just three days until the fall semester at UConn begins, Jim Calhoun has yet to officially declare his intentions for the 2011-12 basketball season, leaving only breadcrumbs of information at recruiting visits and public appearances this summer that would seem to lead to a 26th season in Storrs.
Consider Andre Drummond's college basketball landscape-shaking tweet around 8 p.m. ET Friday to be all the indication you'll need. And the only one you'll most likely get.
Drummond, Rivals.com's No. 2 player in the Class of 2012 and a prospect already projected to land inside the top three in next year's NBA draft, instantly catapults the Huskies from a contender to among the elite in the most star-studded college season since the Kevin Durant and Greg Oden co-headlined 2007 campaign. And if the NBA somehow sticks a stricter age limit into the next CBA -- which might also explain Drummond's mysterious, last-minute about-face -- well, a billion titles may not be so farfetched.
But until that happens, the Huskies will go forth with this unholy alliance expecting the freshman phenom to grace the hardwood at Gampel and The Morgue for but one season. (And unlike past potential one-and-doners, like Hasheem Thabeet and Rudy Gay, there's zero chance at a second go-round here, unless restrictions are imposed.)
For Calhoun, one-and-done is a pretty appealing proposal
While I never believed that Calhoun would walk away now, after the most satisfying moment of his long and storied career, his silence, to some, signaled doubt. Doubt that, after tangling with the NCAA's armed forces and seeing his name dragged through the mud -- including recently, when blame, whether warranted or unwarranted, for Jeff Hathaway's "retirement" was thrown at his feet -- and the death of his sister-in-law, he'd be able to withstand the seemingly never-ending emotional onslaught. Doubt that Father Time was becoming a more fearsome opponent than anything the Big East could throw at him.
Calhoun is 69, well past the time when the Social Security checks can start rolling in, and his basketball obituary has already been queued up. His proclamation procrastination could very well be just the process of a coach with 1,200 games already behind him needs to commit to yet another year at the whiteboard.
With a third national title in the trophy case and a (presumed) hand-picked successor at his ready, now would be as good a time as any to step away -- a storybook ending to his rags-to-riches climb from the mean streets of Braintree, Mass.
That is, unless he ends his career by doing what only two other head coaches have done in the past two decades, and what only seven coaches have ever done since the advent of the NCAA Tournament: win back-to-back titles.
The lure of a potential repeat is always strong for any coach -- likely strong enough to bring Calhoun back to the bench before Friday's big announcement. Now, it's burly enough to land a pro wrestling gig.
With Drummond in tow, the Huskies are now in title-or-bust mode.
UConn already had the makings of a strong team. Despite losing their frontman, the Huskies' backing band had matured enough during 2011's miraculous 11-for-11 postseason run that a strong showing in the preseason Top 25 was all but assured.
But another national title? A proposition not nearly as shocking as last season's roller-coaster ride to the top but one that still would've been met with askew looks from most outside of the Connecticut border.
UConn wasn't the best team in the country last season. It was merely the team playing the best basketball at the end.
However, with Drummond now in the mix, the nagging questions surrounding the remaining pieces of the championship core become mere footnotes to one of the best top-to-bottom rosters in the country.
While Alex Oriakhi found a home at center late last season, the stocky 6-9 forward would've been a liability against teams with a more true 5, and relying on him to pick up some of the low-post scoring slack now that Kemba Walker's kamikaze drives up the gut are gone wouldn't have been the wisest of ideas. Although he and Drummond may not be a perfect frontcourt pairing on paper - Drummond's reportedly questionable midrange game could wind up clogging up the paint, where the offensively challenged Oriakhi does all of his work - Oriakhi will be able to do all the dirty work down low, freeing up Drummond to be the freak-of-nature athlete that he is (much like he did for Kemba; if Oriakhi was five inches taller, he'd be the perfect complement for Drummond).
Decisions will be easier for Shabazz Napier in his first season as the starting point guard now that he'll have a player capable of being the best pick-and-roll dive-man in the country rolling to the rim. DeAndre Daniels, once a key to the season, is now a luxury. And Jeremy Lamb no longer has to shoulder the burden of being The Guy on offense. While Lamb still figures to be the first option in the offense, a 6-foot-11 Amare Stoudemire clone isn't a bad secondary protocol.
Only the games will show us if the band of merry men can perform without revolving around Walker, but a player with more perceived potential than Walker - or any other UConn player, for that matter -had before they landed in Storrs will certainly help fill some of the void.
And that one player is likely enough to wash away any lingering doubt that Calhoun may still have about a return.
There might not be any convincing left to do; Drummond's out-of-nowhere announcement proves that the staff is obviously still churning. His silence could be just another middle finger just for the hell of it.
But in fewer than 140 characters, Andre Drummond said what Calhoun hasn't been able to in four months: He's back.