NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Head coach Jim Calhoun reacts on the sidelines against the Syracuse Orange during the quarterfinals of the Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Kevin Ollie may one day succeed Jim Calhoun as UConn's head basketball coach, but he won't be doing it as UConn's coach-in-waiting. At least not yet.
New UConn athletic director Warde Manuel spoke with the Associated Press and said that as of now he has no plans to name a coach-in-waiting to follow the Hall of Fame coach:
"Jim's going to participate in the future direction of the program when he decides that he's not going to coach anymore. But at this time, I haven't made a commitment to a coach in waiting. That doesn't mean that in the future I wouldn't change my position. But right now, I'm not naming a coach in waiting for men's basketball or any program."
Furthermore, Manuel said he's working under the assumption that Calhoun will return to the sidelines next year:
"I don't sit here wondering on a day-to-day basis who is going to be my coach next year. Unless something changes that I don't foresee ... Jim's our coach and I'm moving forward in that direction."
The AP also reached out to Calhoun, who said he was fine with the decision. Calhoun still has not reached a decision about returning next year, but said for now he was dealing with recruits and working on the future of the program and making sure its next 25 years would be as strong as the last 25.If Calhoun really is fine with this, then it's hard to argue with Manuel's logic. No one is sure exactly what the future holds, but it's hard to see any scenario in which UConn could not hire Ollie if they wanted him to be the next coach.
I understand the argument for naming a coach-in-waiting: it gives a sense of continuity, especially for recruits, but I'm not terribly persuaded by that argument. I find it hard to believe that a removable, speculative job title is going to have more of an impact that is more persuasive than whatever assurances Calhoun and Ollie are already giving behind closed doors on the recruiting trail.
If you add in Ollie's inexperience in the coaching profession it makes even more sense. Why foreclose the option of a national coaching search now? UConn fans who watched the team miss the tournament in 2010, win it in 2011 and experience misadventure after misadventure in 2012 should know better than anyone that a lot can change in just a year or two. Yes, Calhoun has made it clear he wants Ollie to follow him, but Ollie will be there. A national search can start at home.
One final thing: Manuel has only been UConn's AD for a handful of months. Even if he wanted to name Ollie a coach-in-waiting it probably makes sense to give things a little time as he gets the lay of the land in Storrs. Better to take a little longer to make the right decision (even if that ultimately means choosing Ollie) than to rush into a poor choice because of pressure to act too soon.