GLENDALE, Ariz. – University of Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun, under increasing fire in the wake of a Yahoo! Sports report documenting recruiting violations, bristled Friday when asked if he thought he should temporarily step aside.
Calhoun glared at a reporter, who asked if the coach thought he had become a distraction to his team. Calhoun sat still in his seat for a few moments. Finally, he leaned forward.
"Did we play yesterday?" said Calhoun, referring to a Sweet 16 victory over Purdue. "And we won right? So to answer your question simply, 'No.'"
Calhoun had spent nearly 30 minutes talking about UConn's Elite Eight matchup against Missouri before being asked about improprieties in the recruitment of former guard Nate Miles. Yahoo! Sports reported Wednesday that former student manager turned sports agent Josh Nochimson had provided Miles with extra benefits and that five UConn coaches, including Calhoun, had exchanged more than 1,500 phone and text messages with Nochimson. Former UConn assistant coach Tom Moore said he knew that Nochimson and Miles had talked, which also is a violation. Because of his ties to the school, Nochimson is defined by the NCAA as a representative of "athletic interests."
Calhoun became agitated Friday when a reporter stated it was a coach's job to stay abreast of NCAA recruiting guidelines. Calhoun said earlier this week it would be tough for any coach to be familiar with every rule.
"Do you think every NCAA investigator knows what's in every one of those 508 pages [of the rules manual]?" Calhoun said. "You think so?"
The reporter nodded his head.
"Overall, I would assume it's my job to know," Calhoun said. "But it's not my responsibility to know what every human being who ever graduated from UConn is doing at every single moment 24 hours a day."
On Friday, the Tampa Tribune reported that Nochimson paid for Miles to have surgery on his toe in 2007. Calhoun declined to comment on the story.
"I have no response," he said. "Thank you."
Nochimson gave Miles lodging, transportation, meals and representation from 2006 to 2008, Yahoo! Sports reported. UConn's basketball staff was in constant contact with Nochimson during a nearly two-year period up to and after Miles' recruitment.
Miles was expelled from the university in October 2008 without ever playing a game.
The NCAA has asked UConn to conduct its own investigation. Once the school turns its findings over, NCAA investigators will proceed with their own probe.
Calhoun said he is concerned his reputation might be damaged.
"Depending on the source, it can be very hurtful, definitely," he said. "No one likes to have their integrity [questioned]. I've done this for 37 years. As far as any NCAA violation Jim Calhoun has been accused of – not a kid in the program – not a plane ticket or anything of that nature.
"So after 37 years I guess it is somewhat hurtful. Not that someone said it [happened], but to not give it time to see if something really did happen."
Calhoun, who missed the Huskies' first-round NCAA tournament game against Chattanooga due to illness and has twice battled cancer, said he can't help but ponder retirement.
"I'll wait like I do every spring to make a decision about my future," Calhoun said. "My future right now is that I want to coach – and, most importantly, I want to coach against Missouri tomorrow."