Jim Calhoun may face some recruiting challenges without assistant coach Andre LaFleur.
Andre LaFleur spent 10 years on Jim Calhoun's staff at UConn. Now he is the associate head coach at Providence. Rumors surfaced over the weekend that LaFleur could leave, and according to the Hartford Courant, when Calhoun was asked about the possibility following Monday's championship parade he would only say "We will have a coaching change."
"The last 10 years have been the greatest of my life," LaFleur said Monday, a couple hours before he was to be introduced at a Providence team banquet. "I played for [Calhoun at Northeastern] and then got a chance to work for and learn from one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. It was a blessing. There is nothing negative about this situation at all. We just won a championship. What better time is there for me to move on and take on some new challenges that I feel I'm very prepared for?"
The "nothing negative about this situation" observation isn't entirely true. Apparently, LaFleur left UConn because a) he thought he might not get a shot at a head-coaching job, and b) if Calhoun retired, he feared a new coach might bring in a new staff. Both legitimate concerns.
But while LaFleur may not have been on the fast track to a big-time gig, he was instrumental in UConn's success. Kemba Walker made a point to thank him personally during his "I'm going to the NBA" press conference last week. Other notable recruits largely due to LaFleur's efforts include: Hasheem Thabeet, Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson, Ater Majok, Gavin Edwards, and the Huskies only high-profile recruit for 2011-2012: Ryan Boatright.
Now LaFleur is in Providence with a new title and a pay bump. He signed a multi-year deal that will pay him close to $250,000 a year, roughly $88,000 more than he made at UConn.
In a press release issued by the school, just-hired Providence coach Ed Cooley said, "I feel Andre LaFleur, like the rest of this staff, is a future head coach. Andre brings a championship attitude. We are very excited to have him as an associate head coach as he is a high-character individual and a person who is destined to bring Providence College to a championship level. I believe we have brought together a staff that will move our program forward and help us compete in the toughest conference in the nation. Anytime you bring together a staff with this much ability, talent, experience and strong values, good things are destined to occur."
LaFleur will join a staff that includes Brian Blaney, the son of longtime UConn assistant George Blaney. And the Friars need LaFleur's recruiting talents. The team went 15-17 (4-14 in the Big East) last season and last won 20 games in 2003-2004 (also the last time they made the NCAA Tournament).
As for the Huskies' staff, the Courant's Mike Anthony writes that the logical step would be for UConn to promote director of administration Glen Miller to assistant coach to join Kevin Ollie. For now, though, the biggest question is who will fill LaFleur's recruiting shoes … assuming, of course, Calhoun returns next season.