University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun will take an indefinite medical leave of absence, effective immediately, according to an announcement from the school’s sports information department.
Calhoun has been dealing with spinal stenosis, a painful lower back condition that is worsening of late. Associate head coach George Blaney will lead the Huskies (14-7, 4-5 Big East) in Calhoun’s absence.
A three-time cancer survivor, the 69-year-old Hall of Famer has dealt with numerous health issues over the last decade. This will be his third leave of absence since Feb. 2003.
Calhoun has been treated for stenosis over the last few months according to his primary health care physician, Dr. Peter Schulman of the school’s health center.
“Last summer, Jim had some significant back pain and has seen two excellent back specialists,” Schulman told the New Haven Register. “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 it’s impinging on the nerves. It has led to significant back pain and some symptoms in his lower extremities.”
Calhoun will not be on the bench on Saturday when the Huskies take on Big East rivals Seton Hall. He will be evaluated daily as treatment options are explored.
“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,” Schulman said. “Right now, he is physically unable to coach.”
A three-time cancer survivor, Calhoun has dealt with numerous health issues over the last decade. In 2003, he took a leave of absence after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but returned to coach the team only 16 days after having his prostate removed. Then, in 2008, Calhoun underwent treatment for squamous cell carcinoma. One year later he broke five ribs in a fall at a charity bike event, and just last January, Calhoun left the team for nearly one month for health reasons.
Calhoun led the Huskies to their third national championship last April and owns a 618-233 career record with Connecticut. He is currently No. 6 all-time in wins with 867 for his career.
On Wednesday, the Huskies lost their fourth straight game, scoring fewer than 50 points for the third straight outing in an ugly 58-44 defeat at Georgetown. The 44-point output was the lowest for a Connecticut team since a 59-42 loss to Syracuse in 1999. After the game, Calhoun said his team was “stuck in mud. And our wheels are spinning, particularly offensively.”