HARTFORD, Conn. — Jim Calhoun, who has written a memorable postscript to his Hall of Fame coaching career at the University of Saint Joseph, will step down effective immediately as the men’s basketball coach.
“You’ve got to know when it’s time,” Calhoun told The Hartford Courant Thursday. “We’re a really good team. The program is in great shape, we’re going in the right direction, now’s the time.”
Calhoun, 79, who led the UConn men to three national championships, has had numerous health issues through the years, overcoming cancer and heart disease, but said he and his wife, Pat, are in good health right now. He will turn the program over to Glen Miller, who has been his associate head coach, and plans to spend the holidays with his family and head to Hilton Head, S.C., where he has a vacation home.
“Back home in Pomfret, there’s a very happy woman right now,” Calhoun said. “Pat said, ‘I’ve got you back.’ ”
Calhoun retired from UConn after 26 seasons in September 2012 and spent the next several years working in TV and on other projects, including his various charitable causes. When Saint Joseph transitioned to co-ed and began making plans to start a Division III men’s basketball program, Calhoun was asked for advice. One thing led to another, and he ended up taking on the task in the fall of 2017, a move that brought national attention to the small West Harford campus before a game was played.
With Calhoun on campus, Saint Joseph’s enrollment surged beyond expectations for both male and female students. The school reached its goal of 900 in 2018, four years ahead of its projections.
Calhoun hired Miller, his long-time assistant at UConn, and they built a team, nearly all freshmen, that went 16-12 in their first year, losing the GNAC final.
In his second year, the Blue Jays went 26-3, including a 25-game winning streak, reaching the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament. Meanwhile, with his presence as a spark, Saint Joseph was able to complete a $15 million renovation of its facilities on campus. The school played four games during the COVID-19 pandemic-marred 2020-21 season, winning two. Calhoun said he did not want to step aside off that note, and before this season began, he said he had no plans to stop coaching.
Calhoun and his team opened the new arena with victories over Maine-Augusta and Alvernia on Nov. 6 and 7. The Blue Jays, ranked ninth in the DIII preseason poll, won at Babson on Wednesday night in what will be the last of Calhoun’s 920 career victories at Northeastern (1972-85), UConn (1986-2012) and Saint Joseph, where he leaves with a record of 47-17, his highest winning percentage.
At UConn, Calhoun turned a struggling program that had been near the bottom of the Big East into a national power, winning the NIT in his second season, reaching the NCAA’s Elite Eight in his fourth season and winning national titles in 1999, 2004 and 2011. The players he left behind were an integral part in the Huskies’ fourth championship in 2014. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2005.
Miller, 58, who was a highly successful Division III coach at Connecticut College and later a head coach at Brown and Penn, has often taken over for Calhoun when health problems forced him off the court.
Calhoun, who met with with his team Thursday afternoon to deliver the news, said he will remain a presence with Saint Joseph and be available to take on tasks from university president Rhona Free. Saint Joseph plans a virtual news conference on Friday.
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University of Saint Joseph basketball coach Jim Calhoun smiles in his office in the newly opened Beekley Center for Student Health and Wellness, on Sept. 29, 2021, in West Hartford, Connecticut. His men's basketball team is 3-0, ranked ninth in Division III, but at 79, he has decided it is time to turn the coaching chores over to Glen Miller. (Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/TNS)