Calhoun's return to UConn uncertain
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Jim Calhoun's latest medical condition isn't going to end his career at Connecticut.
That's how emphatic UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway was about Calhoun's abrupt departure from coaching the Huskies. Hathaway said Calhoun's condition wasn't career ending before the Huskies (12-6, 3-3 Big East) beat St. John's 75-59 Wednesday, one day after Calhoun took an indefinite medical leave of absence.
Later, Hathaway confirmed that Calhoun's leave of absence has nothing to do with his current contract negotiations and will not affect the agreement that is in place.
"The people that cover this beat know, when we have contracts signed, we release them," Hathaway said.
The two sides have agreed in principle on a new four-year contract. Neither side has signed the contract, but that isn't abnormal in negotiations with an existing coach, certainly one who is a Hall of Famer and two-time national champion. The two sides have been working on the final wording of the deal. His current contract ends on June 30.
Throughout Wednesday's walk-up to the game against St. John's, the staff seemed confident that Calhoun would return to the team in due course. But Hathaway said that Calhoun wouldn't return until he had been given the clearance by his personal physician, Dr. Peter Schulman of the University of Connecticut Health Center. Hathaway indicated that Calhoun wouldn't return with conditions. Once he's ready to return in full, he will be back. Whether that takes days, weeks or months is unknown.
"Until then, [associate head coach] George [Blaney] will coach the team," Hathaway said. "We'll put no artificial deadlines on anything."
Blaney said he plans to take this stint on a day-to-day basis.
"I appreciate everybody telling me how good I am and all that kind of stuff," he said. "But, the guy's a Hall of Fame head coach, and it's his team. I want him back as soon as possible."
Outside of saying that Calhoun didn't have a recurring cancer issue (he has had three bouts) or cardiac problem, UConn didn't divulge Calhoun's condition. Hathaway said that would be up to Calhoun. Blaney said that Calhoun, 67, told him that he needed to listen to his doctor on this one.
"He said he knew the doctor was serious and he knew he had to listen," Blaney said. "He said, 'I'm listening this time.'"
This is the 22nd time Calhoun has missed a game or left one early because of health concerns.
The timeline for Calhoun's absence moved rather quickly. Neither Hathaway nor Blaney said Calhoun had showed any signs of needing to take a break prior to his regularly scheduled doctor appointment Tuesday. Blaney said that Calhoun called him from the hospital Tuesday afternoon and told him he wasn't going to be attending practice and that he needed a break. Blaney said he hadn't spoken to Calhoun since then, while Hathaway said he did speak with Calhoun early Wednesday. He said he also spoke with Dr. Schulman.
Blaney characterized Calhoun as his usual "cantankerous self," while Hathaway said he sounded like a coach who wanted to coach his team. Blaney said he wasn't sure if Calhoun would watch Wednesday's game, but that it seemed that would be against the doctor's orders. Blaney said earlier Wednesday that he was told he had to stay away from the team and his job, meaning that he wouldn't be checking in to his office either until he was cleared. He wasn't hospitalized and is believed to be resting at home.
Once it was apparent that Calhoun was going to take a break, Blaney called veteran players Kemba Walker, Stanley Robinson, Gavin Edwards and Jerome Dyson into his office. He said he told them that he needed their help with the younger players because they had gone through this before last March, when dehydration forced Calhoun to miss the NCAA tournament's first-round win over Chattanooga.
During Wednesday's shootaround the Huskies were upbeat but did hear from various voices, unlike normal practices where Calhoun is the dominant presence. UConn moved Beau Archibald from director of basketball operations up to assistant coach once it got approval from the NCAA to do so during Calhoun's absence.
Blaney said that he considered making a starting lineup change in Calhoun's absence, with Edwards in place of Charles Okwandu, but instead decided against it and said he would keep Edwards off the bench.
No. 21 UConn fell out of The Associated Press Top 25 this week after losing three straight games. The Huskies host top-ranked Texas on Saturday.
Andy Katz is a senior college basketball writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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