And that might be good news for Kevin Ollie.
Jim Calhoun headed to New York yesterday to tape an episode of Center Stage for the YES Network, and like Jim Calhoun tends to do, he made some news. First and foremost, he revealed a previously unknown medical issue. Back in May doctors found a growth on his lungs and removed it because they feared it might have been cancerous. So you can add that health scare to the pile of reasons Calhoun considered retirement, but you can also throw it into the pile of cancers he's beaten. That man is a machine.
Even more relevant to this website, Calhoun also said that he wasn't necessarily done being a basketball coach:
"I would never say never," Calhoun said. "I haven't thought about it. ... The situation would have to be right ..."
Now the easy read of that statement for Calhoun's many detractors is going to be that Calhoun shunted off an NCAA-free year on a young assistant and now plans to grab the reigns back in a quest for glory. That rings false to me, as I imagine it will to most UConn fans -- Calhoun has been a tremendous booster of the program, stuck around in 2012 to take an NCAA suspension and has missed the NCAA's plenty of times before (1997, 2001, 2007) as part of building up a team.
Nor do I see him taking another job -- his personality would never work in the NBA and at his age I doubt anyone would want him there. He's also too linked to UConn to go anywhere else in college. He's made it clear that this is his home and he wants to continue to build the program. He's no Larry Brown (whose return to coaching SMU at 72 apparently sparked these remarks) who can jump from school to school.
So what about UConn? Would Calhoun really come back? I doubt it. First of all, this is hardly a definitive statement of interest. Secondly, it's not like Calhoun is unfamiliar with bluster, just because the man says something in an interview does not make it true. He even knows it, because he said this as well:
"Do I think I might be coaching next year? No," he said, "I don't think my wife would let me. You kow me, I don't really have a filter."
Third, he's been so supportive of Kevin Ollie in public and private that I can't see him doing anything to unseat his chosen successor. In fact, I think the most likely read of this is that Calhoun is doing it to help Ollie.
It's not secret that Calhoun and AD Warde Manuel have been having a bit of a power struggle over the future of the program. Calhoun obviously wanted Ollie to get the job (hence the timing of his resignation) and has pushed for him to get a long-term contract immediately. Manuel has been more cautious, giving Ollie a short contract to prove himself and, for now, refusing to make long term guarantees. You can imagine that this all goes away if Manuel gives Ollie a long-term deal over the next month, but if it drags out Calhoun -- by keeping his name out there -- can put a lot of pressure on Manuel. Calhoun is still one of the most popular people in Connecticut -- donors and fans love him -- and if he said he wanted his old job back because Manuel kept it open that'd create a massive headache for the athletic department. Manuel certainly wouldn't be required to give it back, but you can bet there would be pressure and it'd create a circus that Manuel would want to avoid. And the easiest way to avoid all of that headache is by giving Kevin Ollie the contract Jim Calhoun wants him to add.
So could Calhoun return to coaching? Sure -- never say never -- but I just don't see it as a realistic possibility.