WEST HARTFORD - Jim Calhoun says he tried, but just couldn't get rid of the itch to coach basketball.
Almost exactly five years after announcing his retirement from UConn, the 75-year-old Hall of Famer started work Thursday at the tiny University of Saint Joseph, a Division III school that won't even begin admitting men until next fall.
“I terribly missed the coaching on a daily basis,” Calhoun said. “I missed the association with the kids.”
Calhoun is still employed as an adviser at Connecticut and can't take the job of head coach at Saint Joseph until that contract runs out in March. Until then, he has title of consultant to the program and adviser to the president.
He said that will involve being the program's architect, developing the facilities, putting together the schedule and recruiting athletes who will begin playing in the 2018-19 season. He said he's already heard from a number of high school coaches and prospects from as far away as Israel.
Calhoun has won 873 games during a 40-year coaching career, leading UConn to three national championships in 26 seasons with the Huskies.
He retired in 2012 and since then has split time between UConn and as an analyst with ESPN. He said he thought being around basketball would satisfy him, but it did just the opposite.
“It actually created a thirst,” he said. “It really did.”
Bill Cardarelli, Saint Joseph's athletic director, said when that subject came up during a recent conversation with his old friend, he decided to take a chance.
“I said, ‘Jim why don't you coach with us, I mean we're starting a men's program,’” Cardarelli recalled. “And he said, ‘I'm intrigued.’”
Terms of the Calhoun's deal with the school weren't announced. He joked that it was in line with Catholic teachings that poverty is a virtue.
Calhoun said former UConn assistant coach Glenn Miller will join him at Saint Joseph. Miller also is a former head coach at Penn and Brown.
Calhoun said a final decision on becoming the coach likely will come in the spring. But he said he won't recruit any player to the school on false pretenses.
He also said he planned to be in a gym somewhere looking at talent on Thursday afternoon.