ARLINGTON, Texas -- It wasn’t all that long ago that the Program that Calhoun Built appeared to be in a precarious position. There was the Hall of Fame coach abruptly stepping down because of health issues, the NCAA smacking UConn with a postseason ban because of subpar academics and the Huskies heading into a new league that many didn't even realize existed.
“I had no idea what conference they were in at the start of the season,” said former UConn point guard Khalid El-Amin.
Shabazz Napier stuck around despite the postseason ban, and new coach Kevin Ollie quickly won over new UConn athletic director Warde Manuel, receiving a five-year, $7 million deal just months into his tenure as Calhoun’s replacement.
“I wasn’t sure right away,” Manuel admitted of Ollie shortly after UConn dispatched Kentucky 60-54 on Monday night to capture its fourth national title in the past 16 years. “But I am now.”
It’s not as though UConn is completely in the clear, though. Napier is gone, and he was the kingpin in the rapid resurgence of UConn basketball. Don’t be surprised if DeAndre Daniels tries his hand with the NBA draft, either. Louisville leaves the American Athletic Conference this season; Cincinnati and Memphis will each take dips with key departures; and Ollie’s long-term future in Storrs could be in question.
The NBA is coming. Manuel knows it, Calhoun knows it and the NBA community knows it.