Jim Calhoun extends medical leave

Updated: February 16, 2012, 10:23 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

STORRS, Conn. -- Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun will miss at least two more games while he receives treatment for his ailing back, the school said Wednesday.

Calhoun has sat out four games because of spinal stenosis, including Wednesday's 80-54 win over DePaul. He also will miss Saturday's game against Marquette and Monday's game against Villanova.

"I am happy that we seem to have located the problem and I am currently moving forward with treatment," Calhoun said in a statement. "We have to give that treatment time to see whether or not it is effective."

Calhoun, who has been experiencing back pain since last summer, took an indefinite leave of absence Feb. 3.

The Huskies (16-9, 6-7 Big East) are 2-2 since then, with wins over Seton Hall and the Blue Demons, and losses at Louisville and Syracuse. UConn has lost six of eight, and has won just four times in 2012.

"I'm hoping by the middle of next week, we will have a much clearer picture of where we are and when I can look forward to getting back to doing what I do," Calhoun said.

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spine, normally associated with aging and sometimes with arthritis. If physical therapy and medicines aren't effective, surgery may be considered.

A school spokesman told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that Calhoun is trying to avoid surgery with alternative treatment, but this doesn't rule out the possibility of surgery at some point.

Associate head coach George Blaney, who has been leading the team in Calhoun's absence, said the coach is sounding stronger, but nobody has a timetable for his return.

"I would love to have him back, he would love to be back, I'm hoping that he's back," Blaney said. "I want him to take care of his back first, and get to a place in his mind that he feels comfortable enough to coach. And whether it's going to take what he's doing now or whether it's going to take a procedure, we don't know yet."

Calhoun has had a history of health problems. He is a three-time cancer survivor, overcoming prostate cancer in 2003 and skin cancer twice, most recently in 2008.

Calhoun has missed 25 games during his career at UConn, 21 for medical reasons. He has had to leave another 11 games because of health problems. His last extended medical leave came in 2010, when he missed seven games with stress-related issues.

He missed three games earlier this season because of NCAA sanctions.

"We're just dealing with what we have now," point guard Shabazz Napier said. "We have a lot of issues on our plate and we're taking it one game at a time, one game at a time, one practice at a time."

Calhoun told ESPN.com on Feb. 7 that his back problem is just another obstacle that he will overcome. This is his most recent setback, but he said it's not going to force him to retire.

"There's no question," Calhoun said by phone Feb. 7. "I've talked to the people at UConn and president (Susan) Herbst. I just want to get a resolution on my back."

Calhoun is sixth among coaches on the all-time wins list with 868. He has won three national championships at UConn and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005. He coached the team to its fourth Final Four and third national title last April.

He will get credit for any games the Huskies win while he is out on medical leave.

Information from ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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