Joe Wirth | Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Amidst praise and adulation from seemingly every media outlet, University of Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun retired last week. Beginning his coaching career at Northeastern, he accepted the UConn job in 1986, and has been one of the most prolific coaches of the past 20 years. He turned the Huskies from doormats of the Big East into one of the perennial powerhouses.
Calhoun has three national championships, and has coached numerous first-round NBA draft picks. His accomplishments should be lauded, but they do not tell the whole story.
Absent from Calhoun’s retirement coverage was the fact that his program has been marred by off-the-court issues.
For example, when A.J. Price and Marcus Williams were each charged with felonies for stealing laptops around campus in 2004 and 2005. These were serious incidents, but they were allowed to rejoin the team after a suspension.
There have also been issues in the classroom, as the program’s graduation rate has been under 30 percent for most of the past decade. The list goes on, but, as long as Calhoun won, people turned a blind eye to his indiscretions.
Coaches like Calhoun, Rick Pitino, Bob Huggins and Jim Boeheim are treated as gods of the coaching profession, but they run dirty programs. Instead of lambasting these coaches for breaking rules, one often hears announcers praise them for overcoming suspensions and sanctions.
While Huggins was head coach at the University of Cincinnati, his team maintained a 0 percent graduation rate, while during his current tenure at West Virgnia, he has yet to crack the 50 percent barrier.
Boeheim has repeatedly been under NCAA investigation, and has had players struggle in the classroom with a 54 percent graduation rate. He also had Bernie Fine, who is under investigation for child molestation charges, as a long-time assistant.
Pitino has had a sub-50 percent graduation rate during his time at Louisville, and his players have also had trouble with the law. One such incident took place in 2009 when Terrence Jennings and Jerry Smith were arrested, and, in the process, assaulted a police officer.
Pitino’s reaction? “Anytime you defy a police officer, it’s serious,” Pitino told ESPN.com. But neither player missed any games for the arrests.
As these coaches enter into the twilight of their careers and get closer to retirement, there will be praise for their achievements. Regardless of their long list of on-court accomplishments, their legacy should be a tarnished one.
Contact Joe Wirth at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.