Jim Calhoun returns to coach UConn

Updated: March 4, 2012, 2:20 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

STORRS, Conn. -- Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun was on his feet, tie loosened, screaming encouragement at the Huskies as he coached them to a 74-65 win on Saturday.

Not bad for someone who had back surgery five days ago.

Earlier, Calhoun received a prolonged standing ovation as he walked on the court before his first game since taking indefinite medical leave on Feb. 3.

He missed the Huskies' past eight games because of his spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine normally associated with aging and sometimes with arthritis.

Calhoun told ESPN.com early Saturday that he was sore from the surgery but was ready to go. He said the pain that had been shooting down his leg was gone. He wasn't at practice Sunday, but is expected back Monday in advance of Tuesday's Big East tournament game.

But before UConn hosted Pittsburgh in the team's regular-season finale on Saturday afternoon, the 69-year-old Calhoun officially made his return. He waved to the crowd and then participated in the team's senior day activities, handing out framed jerseys to the three walk-on seniors on the Huskies.

The operation Monday in New York involved removing a large disk fragment that had been pressing on a spinal nerve, the school said. The surgeons decompressed the area around the nerve.

Calhoun
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Calhoun arrived at the empty arena shortly after 9 a.m. ET, walking on the court with his top assistant, George Blaney, who has led the team in his absence. The Huskies went 3-5 with Calhoun away.

Calhoun spent much of the first half on the bench, but occasionally paced the sideline, and let the referees know when he thought they had made a bad call.

Calhoun said Friday that he had been advised by his doctors against returning.

"I just couldn't stay away any longer," he said.

Information from ESPN.com's Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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