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Jim Calhoun is retiring and it's time St. John's fans lauded a legend

<strong>Jim Calhoun</strong> is announcing his retirement after 40 years of coaching between Northeastern and Connecticut.
Jim Calhoun is announcing his retirement after 40 years of coaching between Northeastern and Connecticut.

Steve Jobs built Apple from the ground to become arguably the world's most valuable publicly-held corporation. Oprah Winfrey survived a broken home in Mississippi to eventually transform into a billionaire icon.

Success stories make us smile. They're what keep us pushing forward when the going gets tough.

For Jim Calhoun, the trail to where he stands in his 71st year of life isn't mind-boggling or even globally inspirational. He's a basketball coach, which for some may seem among the most trivial of careers. Sports hasn't changed the way in which the world communicates.

But to a young kid growing up in the same state where he coached, Calhoun was an almighty king. UConn basketball was almost biblical where I come from. I haven't spent two decades pulling against his program for no reason. It hits too close.

Now, a mere 40 years after coaching his first game at Northeastern University, the man's calling it quits. His teams may have caused you anguish and pain throughout the years, but it's finally time to admit inevitable respect.

More, below the fold.

The majority of readers here at Rumble in the Garden are dedicated St. John's basketball fans. Those same people have watched their own team struggle to stay afloat in the strongest conference in America.

Jim Calhoun and his UConn Huskies are and have been a part of that struggle. A big part, in fact. All of those wins he racked up in his 26-year run in the Big East - 618 to be exact - came at a lot of other programs' expense. So, no, the Red Storm isn't alone.

And it wasn't even the countless beat downs that left many feeling sour. It was his uber-competitive personality. It was Marcus Williams and AJ Price stealing laptops. It was the failing APR scores. The recruitment of Red Storm verbal commit, Doug Wiggins, probably didn't help his cause.

Jim Calhoun isn't perfect, and you probably wouldn't expect him to make that claim. In his profession, as with others in this sometimes-twisted society, you need to often step on someone else's toes to get to where you need to be. Getting under some skin isn't against the law, you know.

When it comes down to it, Calhoun was great at his job. He lived for it. If the end goal was to achieve the best results possible, this man is certainly the best candidate to be on the textbook's cover.

Calhoun is one of five coaches ever to win at least three national championships. John Wooden (10), Adolph Rupp (4), Mike Krzyzewski (4), and Bob Knight (3) join him on the list.

And you don't take him seriously? No one said you have to buy him a drink. A token of your respect is the only requirement.

In his public, demanding line of work, Calhoun has done just about as well as anyone ever has. He didn't invent the iPhone. He isn't even a billionaire.

But, darn, could the guy coach a basketball team. And build a program out of virtually nothing. And attract the most talented up-and-coming stars to god-forsaken Storrs, Connecticut.

When Calhoun took the job at Connecticut, the program was nothing. No one believed anyone could win there. It might as well have been the Beulah, North Dakota of college basketball.

Two years later, the Huskies won 20 games. Two years after that, they won 31 and made the Elite Eight. It took twelve seasons to win a title, but the perennial success was already long in place.

The normal humanly reaction to your neighbor having a bigger house than you do is jealousy. That kid in second grade who had more rocks than you - what a cheat. Calhoun has more wins and he has more championships. All of the sudden he's the second coming of Mark McGwire.

Calhoun isn't exactly leaving the Huskies and interim head coach Kevin Ollie the best of situations. After less-than-favorable APR scores were revealed, the NCAA has banned the team from both the Big East Tournament and the Big Dance in 2013.

Perhaps that is making my shift of heart so possible.

I will admit: the first 20 years of my life have been spent disliking Jim Calhoun. But I have another thing to confess: that man with the heavy New England accent actually has my undivided respect.

You know what? Jim Calhoun is an innovator. He, along with select others, contributed to the changing of college basketball.

It's time I change my perspective, even if it's just a touch. And maybe it's time some St. John's fans join me.

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