The UConn basketball coach is in the middle of his fifth medical leave in eight years. Why won't he just retire?
UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun missed his third straight game on Saturday. He's recovering from spinal stenosis, a painful back condition that recently left the coach bedridden for three days, and has since prevented him from boarding a plane or performing the stressful duties associated with coaching, including standing for long stretches of time, arguing with referees, and shouting over the din of a crowd. This is the 69-year-old's fifth medical leave in the last eight years, a track record that includes three cancer-related scares and one hiatus ascribed to an undisclosed ailment. A lot of people will look at these facts and say it's time for Calhoun to retire. But that's not likely to happen. The Hall of Fame coach who transformed UConn from an after-thought Big-East program into a three-time National Champion will almost certainly return to the sidelines. "There's no question," Calhoun told ESPN recently. "I've talked to the people at UConn and president (Susan) Herbst. I just want to get a resolution on my back."
The issue of when coaches should retire, either because of age, health issues, or the combination of the two, has been bandied about quite a bit in recent years, in cases involving collegiate coaches including Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno, Rick Majerus, Urban Meyer, and Calhoun. It's not a black-and-white issue, not least because many people feel uncomfortable with the idea of forcing someone to abandon the profession they love. The issue is further complicated when a coach is successful and beloved—when they contribute exceptional value to a university, both as a figurehead and a recruiting tool, even if they're not winning championships.