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UConn's Calhoun out indefinitely

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  February 3, 2012 03:28 PM

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A flare-up of a back problem that first started bothering him last August has sidelined University of Connecticut menís basketball coach Jim Calhoun, perhaps for the remainder of the regular season.

"I first had back spasms last summer," said Calhoun told the Globe by from his Connecticut home today. "They diagnosed it as scoliosis and we discussed the options and we treated it, but in the last few weeks it has come back."

Associate head coach George Blaney will move into the role as head coach during Calhounís absence.

Calhoun, who has been in bed the past few days while taking medication to ease the pain, said that the only realistic option remaining is to have a surgical procedure to correct the problem.

"The doctors are waiting for things to quiet down and we will probably have the surgery in the next few weeks."

Officially, the malady is called spinal stenosis, which is located in the lower back area.

"Last summer, Jim had some significant back pain and has seen two excellent back specialists," said Dr. Peter Schulman of the UConn Health Center and Calhounís primary health care physician. "The initial approach recommended to him was stretching, physical therapy and exercise, and that was successful for several months. It turns out that there is some degenerative problem in the lumbar vertebrae and itís impinging on the nerves. It has led to significant back pain and some symptoms in his lower extremities.

"Jim has been able to manage it with the physical therapy and stretching, but over the last several days, things have become worse and he is not able to deal with this on a day to day basis, so other options need to be considered. Right now, he is physically unable to coach."

Calhoun, who has missed stretches of time during previous seasons as he has dealt with high blood pressure and recovered from three bouts with cancer, was low-key about what he was dealing with, especially the pain.

While not making any specific statements about a time frame for his return, he did concede that any surgical procedure will pretty much wipe out the remainder of this season.

Beyond that, questions also must be raised about his future.

Calhoun, who will turn 70 in May and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005, has 867 career wins - sixth on the career list.

He won his third national championship at UConn last spring and spent the summer deciding whether he would return.

But it has been anything but a smooth ride for Calhoun, who was suspended for the first three games of the Big East schedule for NCAA violations. The Huskies also lost three scholarships this season because of the programís poor academic record.

Although the Huskies were a pre-season Top-10 pick, the year has been filled with obstacles and set backs, which now includes a four-game losing streak.

Also included in this seasonís profile was controversy surrounding freshman guard Ryan Boatright, who has been suspended twice - once for his mother accepting improper benefits and another time for being accused again of accepting benefits.

Going into Saturdayís game against Seton Hall, UConnís record has dipped to 4-5 in the Big East and 14-7 overall.

"This stinks," said Calhoun.|

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