Calhoun: ‘Someone could’ve made a mistake’
GLENDALE, Ariz. – University of Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun said Thursday that he may have made errors during the recruitment of former Huskies guard Nate Miles.
“Could I have made a mistake? Sure.” Calhoun said. “The [rules] manual is 508 pages. Someone could’ve made a mistake.”
Calhoun’s comments came less than an hour after his team advanced to the Elite Eight with a 72-60 victory over Purdue – and nearly 48 hours after a Yahoo! Sports report chronicling NCAA violations that occurred during UConn’s pursuit of Miles. Later, the Tampa Tribune and Tampa’s 1010 CBS Sports Radio reported that former UConn student manager turned sports agent Josh Nochimson paid several thousand dollars for Miles to have surgery in December 2007.
During a postgame interview with Yahoo! Sports and The New York Daily News, the Hall of Fame coach said he feared the allegations of recruiting violations could be damaging to his reputation.
“I’ve heard the expression that clear skies don’t fear thunder,” Calhoun said. “I feel very good after talking to my athletic director and talking to the people working on the situation right now.
“But could it be hurtful? Yeah, it could be hurtful.”
Yahoo! Sports reported Wednesday that Nochimson provided Miles with lodging, transportation, meals and representation from 2006 to 2008. UConn’s basketball staff was in constant contact with Nochimson during a nearly two-year period up to and after Miles’ recruitment. Five UConn coaches traded at least 1,565 phone and text communications with Nochimson, including 16 from Calhoun.
Former UConn assistant Tom Moore told Yahoo! Sports he knew Nochimson and Miles had talked, which is also a violation. Because of his ties to the Huskies’ basketball team, Nochimson is defined by the NCAA as a representative of the school’s athletic interests.
The NCAA has asked UConn to conduct its own investigation. Once the school turns its findings over to the NCAA, association investigators will move forward with their own probe. Miles was dismissed from the program in October 2008 without playing a game.
During Thursday’s interview, Calhoun said the recruitment of Miles was done “in partnership with a private legal firm and with the NCAA Clearinghouse and our compliance people.”
Calhoun indicated, if violations indeed took place during Miles’ recruitment, they went unnoticed by all three groups.
“Does that mean [a violation] couldn’t appear?” Calhoun said. “I never say never.”
NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn issued a statement Thursday that refutes Calhoun’s suggestion the NCAA is culpable in Miles’ recruitment because new information has come to light.
“NCAA member institutions and prospective student-athletes share responsibility to provide all applicable information to the NCAA for review during the initial eligibility process,” Osburn said.
“The NCAA Eligibility Center determines a prospective student-athlete’s eligibility to compete in college athletics based on the Association’s academic and amateurism requirements.
“During this process, the NCAA evaluates all the information provided and reviews further if appropriate. In this instance, the NCAA did not receive the information or any further indications associated to the claims made in the recent Yahoo! story.”
When asked about the excessive phone calls to Miles and Nochimson, Calhoun indicated he and his staff have a difficult time interpreting what is permissible and what is not.
“It was three years ago, the kid [Miles] was a senior in high school. There were actually two years when he was a senior, because he was a five-year guy.
“I have a tough time with the NCAA book at times. There’s a fine line there with some these things.”
Yahoo! Sports reported UConn exceeded NCAA limits on phone calls to Miles and his family. A school can make one call per month when a prospect is a junior in high school and two per week when he is a senior. UConn made 30 in December 2006; a violation no matter what Miles was classified.
Yahoo! Sports worked directly with the NCAA to determine the exact definitions and clarifications of all rules cited in the story.
In his 37 years as a head coach, Calhoun said he has not committed any violations.
Also on Thursday, a new report by Yahoo! Sports indicated that assistant coach Andre LaFleur engaged in two lengthy phone conversations with Nochimson while Nochimson shadowed blue-chip UConn recruit Ater Majok in 2008.
Nochimson and LaFleur traded three phone calls, including conversations of 13 and 44 minutes, during the Kentucky Derby All-Star Festival in Louisville, Ky., phone records show.
Calhoun wasn’t asked specifically about this latest report after Thursday’s game.
While Connecticut’s off-court issues continue to create a buzz, the Huskies dominated the Sweet 16 showdown with Purdue.
The No. 1 seed in the West Region, Connecticut used an 11-4 scoring run midway through the second half to turn a 44-40 lead into a 55-44 cushion. The Boilermakers would never threaten again.
The Huskies, who got 15 points and 15 rebounds from center Hasheem Thabeet, will face Missouri on Saturday in the Elite Eight.
Connecticut guard A.J. Price said the situation surrounding the alleged recruiting violations didn’t have a negative effect on the team.
“If you look back at our track record, every time we’ve faced adversity, we’ve come out and performed,” Price said. “We come out with that us-against-the-world-mentality. Today was no different.
“We’re mentally tough. We play for a tough coach. It trickles down from him, all the way through the team.”
Calhoun on Thursday found himself living by the advice he normally gives his own players.
“I tell the kids all the time not to bring their problems in the locker room,” Calhoun said. “So why should I bring any situation that’s possibly distracting to me into our locker room?
“I told them that anything they read or see has nothing to do with the game. It’s something you can’t control. I told them to think of this as just something that happened, something that the coach will take care of, like he always does.”