UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun makes retirement official

STORRS, Conn. — Jim Calhoun retired as Connecticut’s men’s basketball coach Thursday, closing a 26-year career at the school with thanks to everyone who helped him turn UConn from an athletic backwater into a power that won three national titles.

The retirement of the 70-year-old Hall of Famer was announced on the court in Storrs, where Calhoun racked up many of his 873 total wins.

In thanking administrators, players, fans, and his family, Calhoun said he feels blessed and is grateful that ‘‘you trusted us.’’

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Calhoun, a native of Braintree, Mass., will take a transition appointment through next spring as a special assistant to athletic director Warde Manuel. When he is fully retired, Calhoun will become head coach emeritus.

Calhoun has been slowed by health problems in recent years, including a fractured hip last month.

‘‘The hip injury really didn’t enter into the decision, except that it gave me more time to think about it and the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that this was the right time to move on to the next phase of my life,’’ he said in an official statement.

Assistant coach Kevin Ollie, who played point guard for Calhoun from 1991-95, will be the Huskies’ new coach. His contract runs through next April 4 and he will be paid $625,000.

Ollie takes over a team that returns only five players who saw significant action a year ago and failed to qualify academically for the 2013 NCAA Tournament. UConn’s ban from the postseason culminated a series of problems the program has had with the NCAA in recent years.

‘‘I am very honored and humbled to become the UConn men’s basketball coach,’’ said Ollie. ‘‘I cannot put into words how grateful I am to coach Jim Calhoun, who retires today as one of the most legendary coaches in the history of college basketball. Coach Calhoun brought me here to Connecticut as a person right out of high school and has mentored me into the person I have become today.’’

Despite the school’s problems and uncertain future, Calhoun — who coached UConn to its latest title in 2011 — got a fine send off.

‘‘This is a day of sorrow, celebration, and admiration,’’ Connecticut President Susan Herbst said.

Players echoed the sentiment.

‘‘Coach Calhoun is a great coach, one of the greatest ever in college basketball, and it was an honor to play for him,’’ said sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels. ‘‘I think everybody’s still in shock right now and just don’t really believe it.’’

Ollie is one of more than two dozen players whom Calhoun sent to the NBA, a list that includes Reggie Lewis at Northeastern, and Cliff Robinson, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Rudy Gay, and Kemba Walker at UConn.

Associate head coach George Blaney plans to stay on and help Ollie.

Calhoun was hired by UConn in May 1986, after spending 14 years at Northeastern where he transformed the team from a Division 2 program to a mid-major power with five appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

He won an NIT title in his second season in Storrs.

His teams won 10 Big East regular-season championships and seven Big East tournament titles.

In 1999, Calhoun coached the Huskies to a 34-2 record and their first NCAA championship, a 77-74 upset over Duke.