Just in case there was any confusion, Jim Calhoun reiterated again Thursday that he will return to UConn to coach next season. Appearing on the Dan Patrick Show, Calhoun repeated what he had said just two days before: "I plan to come back. I have recruiting trips set up."
Calhoun was on ESPN Radio hours after the Huskies won their third national championship and his sentiments about his future sounded a lot like what he told Patrick. “I fully plan on coaching basketball next year. You know, once again, we’ll have time in the next couple of months as I settle down, as we kind of look over everything, and I fully expect that I would. … I’ve always been in love with basketball, I’ve never fallen out of love with basketball, but this team reaffirms me that kind of what we’re doing is worthwhile because the kind of kids you have.”
But the 68-year-old coach did offer some insight into the part of his job that hasn't been quite as memorable as UConn's run through the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. Calhoun spoke about the sanctions handed down by the NCAA for recruiting violations, specifically that he will be suspended for the first three games of the conference schedule in 2011-2012.
"I volunteered, just to let you know Dan and this is the first time I publicly have said this, to sit out the games this year because I took full responsibility for anything that happened within my program whether I agree or disagree with the NCAA is not important," Calhoun said. "... The answer was no. ... I would have liked to have done it at the end of the season. I thought that would have been more fair because why start it up next year again?"
That's a good point. Why not suspend Calhoun when the punishment was handed down? It's not the same as the NCAA suspending five Ohio State football players -- including starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor -- for the first five games next season, even though the sanctions were announced last December, a week prior to the Buckeyes bowl game.
The NCAA said that the Ohio State players weren't suspended for the Sugar Bowl because the "student-athletes did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred." Reading between the lines: the NCAA were possibly concerned that fans and viewers might be less inclined to watch the Ohio State-Arkansas match-up if one of the country's best players, Pryor, was on the bench.
That wasn't the case for UConn, however. At the time the punishment was announced on Feb. 23, the Huskies were 19-7 (8-7 in conference) and in the middle of losing three of four to end the regular season. There was no indication that this team would do much in the Big East Tournament, much less the NCAAs. Maybe the NCAA thought the punishment would be more severe to start next season, when every team had a clean slate, instead of allowing Calhoun serve his suspension immediately, when it appeared that UConn wasn't a threat to contend in either the conference or national tournaments.
Knowing what we know now, I wonder if the NCAA would reconsider Calhoun's offer. If they had, the coach would have missed the final three games of the regular season. Perhaps that would have affected the Huskies' subsequent 11-game winning streak that culminated in a third national tile. Then again, UConn went 1-2 in those games. Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference, in which case there would have been more stories about how the NCAA let Calhoun and the program off too easy.