With the reports yesterday coming from ESPN and other sources that former Connecticut Huskies basketball coach Jim Calhoun is interested in talking to Boston College, Chestnut Hill was the focal point of college hoops discussion for about an hour or two.
Some of the same people who, a day earlier, said that Boston College was a bad job for hot coaches to take then reported that a national championship coach allegedly had interest. Irony can be so ironic.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Boston College didn’t leak anything about this; the news had to have been from Calhoun’s camp. Brad Bates is not one to spill his guts to the press like his predecessor, who appeared to crave media attention, and as we have seen in previous coaching searches, Boston College has no need or desire to leak their internal affairs. Nothing can or should be attributed to BC Athletics unless Bates speaks it himself; all else is opinion and speculation.
Anyway, the word is that he is interested in the job — which I’m not even sure I believe — but that the job (er, Boston College) is not interested in him. Since we abide by our own axioms around here, that cannot be attributed to the school. However, it makes sense.
The clamoring of some fans for Calhoun intensified yesterday when Virginia Tech hit a home run by hiring Marquette’s Buzz Williams. Even the junior members of the Soaring to Glory family are amongst them.
But the Hall-of-Famer is probably not going to be the next coach here, and there are reasons why that have nothing to do with his age, 71 years young. (Though that too will probably be a factor.)
Preface: Say what you will about the man’s winning ability, which is unquestioned: this is about why Boston College wouldn’t likely be interested in him. You can think it’s unfair, stamp your feet, whatever. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with it: I’m just stating what I believe to be true.
• Calhoun was not a squeaky-clean coach. Bruce Pearl is one of ours, a Boston College alumnus, and movers-and-shakers here didn’t want him for that same reason. It makes sense that they’d view an outsider like Calhoun with NCAA violations to his name with equal or greater skepticism. Even short of official sanctions, his recruiting practices in the past have not met universal praise. One would think Boston College is not naive enough to believe their next coach must or will be a saint, but Calhoun has a reputation.
• He turned a blind eye to academics. Calhoun left Kevin Ollie with a team ineligible to make the NCAA Tournament in his first season because UConn’s APR (Academic Progress Rate) was too low. Graduation rates were nothing to write home about, especially near the end. Guys ditching for the NBA or not, this is basically the exact opposite of what Boston College typically looks for in a coach. The kids have to be smart enough to get through admissions, too: just ask Jim O’Brien about that. This may be the biggest strike against Calhoun as far as Boston College is concerned, as the school takes its academics and student-athlete graduation rates very seriously.
• Calhoun held quite a grudge against Boston College. Not just for the school passing him over long ago, but basically any Boston College fan who remembers the Big East days knows how Jim Calhoun spoke out angrily about the school for leaving the conference. Calhoun, annoyed at “how [we] left,” said he would not schedule the Eagles again as long as he was there. This went on while his school and state sued Boston College. A lot of the bad blood left with Gene DeFilippo, but not everybody has forgotten. (Years later, Gene would stick up both middle fingers by blocking Calhoun and the Huskies’ entry into the ACC, which makes one wonder even further why he’d be interested in coming to the enemy in the first place.)
If you ask any Eagles fan why they would be interested in Calhoun, the long and short version of the answer is that he wins, period, close quote. Boston College basketball is almost totally irrelevant after its worst three-year stretch ever, and this would be a titanic splash.
Yet, one cannot deny that Boston College is not the type of school to make a splash, nor are they likely to change their approach with regards to the qualities they seek in candidates any time soon. Calhoun is a winner with baggage, and the school in which he is allegedly interested tends to go for “character” guys and are less interested in turning Boston College into a basketball factory. To focus only on the winning and ignore everything else is just not a realistic view of the way our school does things.
Perhaps no name presently “available” has the resume of Calhoun, and again, nobody will doubt he wins. Yet, when it comes to rebuilding the program, it is important to remember that he is not the only answer. Furthermore, Brad Bates’ list of coaches is not confined to the few names we have heard in the media. Let the process play out.