In the world of sports, coaches are supposed to have your back. Baseball managers argue with umpires about bad calls until they’re red in the face and coaches will always defend their players in press conferences after games no matter what.
But apparently Jim Calhoun with his Hall-of-Fame resume doesn’t believe in his players.
Even though Kemba Walker may have the NBA written all over him after a Naismith-caliber season, University of Connecticut and its coach thought Walker’s time in Storrs should be over.
UConn retired Walker’s number after the Huskies won a National Championship – the first player in UConn history to have his number retired while still active. But instead of leaving the last year of the years active part blank, the Huskies put 2011 there.
“It was like coach just kicked me out,” Walker said to ESPN. “It says 2008 to 2011 [on the banner], so it was like he’s [saying], ‘Let’s get him out of here.’”
In college sports, you can get four years maximum out of players, and even at a high-powered program like UConn, it should be an initiative to make a player like Walker feel welcomed back.
Even though most probably thought Walker would be out the door after taking a huge step from role player to superstar in a season, this is beyond disgraceful.
Walker didn’t just play great basketball for your program, Calhoun, he won a National Championship in a season where the Huskies were shaky at best in conference play and finished ninth in the Big East with a .500 record.
Although UConn unsurprisingly is bringing in a top recruiting class this year, Calhoun can’t expect anyone of them to replace Walker’s scoring and big game mentality. The step-back jumper in the Big East Tourney in the waning seconds against Pitt is something not even a Hall-of-Famer can teach.
Incoming freshman and former East Aurora point guard Ryan Boatright is an extreme talent and could definitely make an impact eventually, but this places a ton of pressure on a young player. There is a monumental difference between the Upstate 8 and the Big East conferences.
No matter what happens down the road for either Calhoun or Walker, this situation will mare what was one of the greatest tournaments in NCAA history.
This National Championship-winning team was Walker’s. He averaged 13 points a game more than anyone else on the team. By disrespecting a player that damn-near won a championship himself, Calhoun has cemented himself as one of my least favorite coaches in sports.
Although he may be one seedy individual and infractions may follow him wherever he goes, Calhoun should take a page from Kentucky’s John Calipari. After the 2010 season, Calipari was one of the most visible people at the NBA Draft that year when his entire team was taken in the first round.
Because he cared about those young men. Whether it was Patrick Patterson, whom he inherited, or the four freshmen he brought in himself, Calipari gave everything he could to those guys.
While Calhoun may have compiled an impeccable career at UConn, he’s far from the best. He’s recruited some great players and they’ve done him well in the past but he’s still got a lot to learn off the court.
Bill Hopkins is a junior sports communication major from Oswego.
He is the Scout sports editor. Direct comments, questions and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.