Storrs, CT – Jim Calhoun has decided to call it a career.
The longtime Connecticut men's basketball coach made the announcement Thursday at a press conference, at which time the school also named assistant Kevin Ollie as the Hall of Famer's successor.
Calhoun spent the past 26 years at Connecticut and transformed a middling program into a perennial national power. He guided the Huskies to a record of 625-243 with seven Big East Tournament titles and three NCAA Tournament championships.
"I feel so blessed today to have had the opportunity to coach at UConn," said Calhoun at Thursday's press conference. "I coached our teams and allowed our teams to be a vehicle and a light for this university."
The 70-year-old Massachusetts native joined UConn in the spring of 1986 after 14 seasons at Northeastern, where he took a Division II team and turned it into a top Division I mid-major. In 40 years as a collegiate head coach, Calhoun finished with a record of 873-380. He is one of just eight Division I coaches to eclipse 800 career wins and currently has the sixth-most all-time victories.
"Am I going to miss coaching basketball? Of course," Calhoun stated Thursday. "But I'm making sure I get my fix by watching the workouts. I have no doubt that Kevin and the staff will do a great job."
It took the Huskies just four years to win their first Big East title under Calhoun, doing so in 1990. The ultimate success in the NCAA Tournament took a few more years.
The Huskies finally won it all in 1999 with a stunning victory over Duke, then added a second title in 2004 against Georgia Tech before the most-recent championship just two seasons ago. The 2011 squad first won five games in five days to capture an unlikely Big East tourney title, then carried that momentum into the NCAA Tournament and beat Butler for the crown.
"Coaching at UConn has just been phenomenal, there's no other way to describe it," Calhoun added. "I will always be grateful to the University of Connecticut. When I look back and see what we were able to accomplish here, I am extremely proud."
Kemba Walker was the star of the 2011 team and one of numerous Huskies to develop into NBA-caliber players. Others to star in the NBA included Cliff Robinson, Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Caron Butler, Ben Gordon and Rudy Gay.
Ollie also played for Calhoun and spent 13 seasons in the NBA. He first joined Calhoun's staff as an assistant for the 2010-11 season.
"I am very honored and humbled to become the UConn men's basketball coach," said Ollie, who received a contract only through the 2012-13 season at $625,000. "I cannot put in words how grateful I am to coach Jim Calhoun, who retires today as one of the most legendary coaches in the history of college basketball. Coach Calhoun brought me here to Connecticut as a person right of high school and has mentored me into the person I have become today."
A two-time team captain for the Huskies, Ollie will inherit a team that is ineligible for postseason play in 2012-13 because of academic deficiencies.
Calhoun is a three-time cancer survivor and is stepping down after numerous other health issues. He took a leave of absence last season due to a bout with spinal stenosis, a lower back condition that causes severe pain and hampers mobility, then suffered a fractured hip while bike riding in July.
"The hip injury really didn't enter into the decision, except that it gave me more time to think about it and the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that this was the right time to move on to the next phase of my life," Calhoun stated.
His final team went 20-14 and lost its first NCAA Tournament game -- a 77-64 second-round setback to Iowa State. He is a four-time Big East Coach of the Year and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Calhoun will remain with the university in an agreement that runs through next March and will serve as a special assistant to athletic director Warde Manuel.