By Jon Rothstein
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The Jim Calhoun era is over.
After leading UConn to three national championships (1999, 2004, 2009) during his 26 years with the Huskies, the 70-year old Calhoun will officially retire at a 2 p.m. ET press conference on Thursday afternoon.
Assistant coach Kevin Ollie will be the head coach for the Huskies during the upcoming season but wasn’t granted the three-year deal he desired, according to multiple sources. Ollie instead will be under contract for just the 2012-13 season and then be evaluated at the end of the year.
UConn is ineligible to play both in the 2013 Big East and NCAA Tournaments due to low APR scores.
The Huskies return a talented perimeter with Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels, and freshman Omar Calhoun but will be exceptionally small on the baseline after losing their entire front court after last season.
Sources said that UConn President Susan Herbst and Athletic Director Warde Manuel were apprehensive about making a long-term commitment to Ollie since he’s only been with the Huskies for two years as an assistant. One source said Manuel was hoping to begin a national search for a new head coach next spring and the only two candidates Calhoun discussed with Manuel to replace him were Ollie and Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore, a former UConn assistant from 1994-2006.
Whomever replaces Calhoun will have to rebuild the Huskies’ talent base. UConn has landed two commitments in the Class of 2013 in South Shore guard Terrence Samuel and Long Island Lutheran forward Kentan Facey — but more is going to be needed if the Huskies are to maintain their perch as a national power.
Sources said that if Ollie were eventually to get a long term deal with the Huskies, he would target Iowa State assistant Matt Abdelmassih as a potential lead recruiter. Abdelmassih worked with the Timberwolves when Ollie played in Minnesota and was the point man when the Cyclones signed current Houston Rockets forward Royce White. Abdelmassih also has Iowa State as a top suitor for Rashad Vaughn, the number one shooting guard in the Class of 2014.
In the meantime, UConn will promote Karl Hobbs to assistant coach and Calhoun will still be a part of the school in a fundraising type capacity.
Regardless of whether or not Ollie is the coach beyond this season at UConn, he won’t have a hard time finding work. Well spoken and heavily respected, the former NBA point guard is said to have a job waiting for him in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s front office should he ever leave college basketball, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Should Ollie not be the coach at UConn long term, sources say the Huskies’ top two targets would be Arizona’s Sean Miller and VCU’s Shaka Smart.
Do you think Ollie will have success and stay with UConn beyond the 2012-13 season? Be heard in the comments below…