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Legendary Coach Jim Calhoun Steps Down as Coach of USJ Men’s Basketball Team

Jim Calhoun was formerly introduced Sept. 28, 2017 as a consultant to the new men's basketball program at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Jim Calhoun announced Thursday that he will step down as head coach of the basketball program at West Hartford’s University of Saint Joseph.

By Ronni Newton

It’s been more than four years since an announcement was made with great fanfare that Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun had been hired to build the men’s basketball program at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, one of several teams that USJ was adding as they began to admit men as undergraduates for the first time, and on Thursday afternoon the university announced that Calhoun will be stepping down.

In September 2018, Calhoun officially inked his contract, and along with associate head coach Glen Miller has led the Blue Jays to a record of 47-17. Miller will immediately step into the role of acting head coach, USJ said.

“It’s just the right time,” Calhoun, 79, said in a statement Thursday. “I’m healthy, my wife (Pat) is healthy, and the USJ men’s basketball program is healthy. We built this program starting from scratch about five years ago, and now the team is in a good place. We’ve got a great new facility and accomplished a lot on the court the past few seasons. I plan to be involved with the University, but there are a lot of things that I would like to do, and it’s time to spend more time with my wife and family.”

Jim Calhoun showing his legendary intenstiy as he, coached the USJ men’s basketball team to victory in their first ever game on Nov. 9, 2018. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Not only have the Blue Jays won nearly 75% of their games during Calhoun’s tenure, but they also won a trip to the 2020 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) championship, and in the second season earned a trip to the NCAA Division III tournament. Calhoun’s coaching record over the course of his entire 44-year career – which includes 26 years at the helm of the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team – is 920-397 (0.699), making him the third all-time in career wins among those who have been head coaches for a minimum of 10 years at the NCAA Division I level.

When he took over as head coach, USJ President Dr. Rhona Free said Calhoun told her the university’s existing gym was “charming.” She agreed an expansion was needed, and with Calhoun’s support and inspiration, a greatly-expanded and renovated state-of-the-art O’Connell Athletic Center was dedicated in September 2021.

Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Calhoun, USJ’s head men’s basketball coach, at the ribbon cutting for the addition to the O’Connell Athletic Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“Coach Calhoun has stayed longer and done more for USJ than I could ever have hoped when we first talked to him about launching our men’s basketball team and with it, the transition to coeducation almost five years ago,” Free said in a statement Thursday. “No student-athlete could have a better coach and advocate – he monitors and cares about their performance and success in every aspect of their lives. While nobody can replace Coach Calhoun, we’re fortunate that Glen Miller has been here throughout and can continue to build the program and lead this team to another successful season.”

The presence of the legendary coach brought national attention to the school, and enrollment has continued to grow.

USJ Director of Athletics Amanda Devitt said Calhoun’s legacy has had an immense impact on the campus community. “More importantly, his big personality, his wonderful wit, and his deep love for our student-athletes have changed countless lives. We are forever grateful for his influential work at USJ,” she said in a statement.

USJ men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun (fourth from right) and President Rhona Free (fourth from left) with officials and donors following the ribbon cutting for the state-of-the-art addition to the O’Connell Athletic Center. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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