Jim Calhoun retires from UConn...

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Jim Calhoun retires from UConn...

From Comcast SportsNetSTORRS, Conn. (AP) -- As Jim Calhoun stood in his office at Gampel Pavilion, waiting for his final news conference as Connecticut's basketball coach, Pat Calhoun turned to her husband and gave him one final piece of advice."Don't change your mind," she said.Calhoun had stayed on at UConn through cancer and a recruiting scandal. He refused to retire after winning a third national championship in 2011 because he didn't want a new coach to serve his NCAA suspension. He came back again to finish last season after another absence, this one for spinal surgery.But on Thursday he finally retired -- on his own terms, with a hand-picked successor and no apologies."I never, ever, ever said that I was mistake free," Calhoun said. "But I was always trying to do the right thing. It didn't always work that way, but I was always trying to do the right thing."The 70-year-old Hall of Famer, on crutches after breaking a hip last month, made the announcement on the court in Storrs where he racked up many of his 873 total wins.He thanked everyone associated with the Huskies program -- administrators, players, fans and his family -- for his team's success, and played down both his health problems and troubles with the NCAA."There have been some bumps in the road," he said. "But we are headed in the right direction."Calhoun will take a transition appointment through next spring as a special assistant to athletic director Warde Manuel. When fully retired, he will become head coach emeritus.Calhoun has been slowed repeatedly by illness and accidents in recent years, including the fractured hip. He said the injury didn't cause him to retire, but gave him time to reflect on whether this would be a good time to leave."As I looked at everything. So many things are in place for us to even go farther that we have already," he said. "So I thought it was an excellent time."With just a month to go before the start of practice, there also was no time for a national search for a replacement. Assistant coach Kevin Ollie, who played point guard for Calhoun from 1991-95, but has never been a head coach at any level, will be the Huskies' new coach.Athletic director Warde Manual, who had balked at Calhoun's suggestions earlier this year to name Ollie as a coach in waiting, decided not to tag him with an "acting coach" label. He instead offered Ollie a contract that runs only through next April 4, with a pro-rated value of 384,615."I haven't seen him coach," Manuel said. "He's never been a head coach. This is a commitment to him to see what he is like as a head coach."Ollie, who played his way from the USBL to a 13-year NBA career, said he's not afraid of the challenge."I'm used to it," he said. "My first six years in the NBA, I didn't have no guaranteed contract. This is easy. This is exactly where I want to be at."Ollie takes over a team that returns only five players who saw significant playing time a year ago and failed to qualify academically for the 2013 NCAA tournament.Guard Ryan Boatright said the team didn't want to play for anyone other than Ollie, and will take it upon themselves to make sure his new coach gets to keep the job."He's a great person, and he loves us," Boatright said. "I wouldn't rather have nobody else than KO."Ollie is one of more than two dozen players whom Calhoun sent to the NBA, a list includes everyone from Reggie Lewis at Northeastern, to Cliff Robinson, Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Rudy Gay, Ray Allen and Kemba Walker.Walker, who attended the news conference, said that will be a big part of Calhoun's legacy."He's showed us how to work," Walker said. "He's pushed me to be the best player and person I could be. He's one of the most special men in my life."Calhoun also will be remembered for turning a regional program into a national power -- winning an NIT championship in 1988, national titles in 1999, 2004 and 2001, 10 Big East regular-season championships and seven Big East Tournament titles."The thing that stands out to me is it's one thing to take over a Duke or a Kentucky and build it and win games and win championships," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who went into the Hall of Fame with Calhoun in 2005. "But 26 years ago Connecticut wasn't even thought of in the college basketball world. He's turned them into one of the top programs in the country. I think it's really, to me, the greatest building job that anybody's ever done."Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell, who played for Calhoun from 1987 to 1991 said his influence goes beyond the basketball program. Calhoun, he said, made people aware that there was a University of Connecticut."When I went here, the number-one question we got, everywhere, was: Where is UConn? Isn't that in Alaska?" he said. "Nobody asks that anymore."

PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

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PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

He may have been left off of the NFL Network's Top 100 list, but Jamie Collins isn't flying under the radar at Pro Football Focus.

On PFF's list of the top 10 defensive players in the AFC, the Patriots linebacker came in at No. 8 and was given the description as the top linebacker in the conference.

Collins' versatility within the confines of the Patriots defense is what makes him so valuable, PFF's John Kosko explains: 

"He doesn’t dominate in any one role like Luke Kuechly does in pass coverage and run defense, but he is very good at all facets of the game. Collins has the athleticism to cover TEs and HBs effectively, the explosiveness to rush the passer, and the size and strength to defend the run. 

"The former Southern Mississippi linebacker is arguably the most versatile player in the NFL, and allows Bill Belichick to employ a defense that confuses opposing quarterbacks. With the only knock against Collins being his 34 missed tackles the past two seasons, the Patriot is the best linebacker in the AFC."

Collins graded out as the No. 5 linebacker in football last year, per PFF's numbers. He ranked behind only Carolina's Luke Kuechly, Minnesota's Anthony Barr, Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman and Seattle's KJ Wright. 

Fellow Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower earned the 10th-highest grade for linebackers last season, according to PFF -- a grade that likely would have been higher had his snap-count (602 in 2015) approached that of Collins (792).

While Collins is a rare physical talent, the argument could be made that it's Hightower who is the more important player to the Patriots defense given his prowess as a pass-rusher and run-defender. He also has myriad responsibilities as the extension of the team's coaching staff in the defensive huddle. 

In order to slow down opposing passing games, many Patriots defensive packages employ either five or six defensive backs and just two linebackers. Lucky for them, they have two of the best in the conference.

Both Collins and Hightower are entering contract years this year, and finding a way to keep them in-house figures to be near the top of the list of priorities for the Patriots front office.