UConn embarrasses Calhoun in return

Jim Calhoun returned for this ?

The Connecticut coach came back Saturday afternoon after a 23-day undisclosed medical leave of absence with the vigor he's been known for throughout his Hall of Fame career.

The 67-year-old had the same quick trigger when he pulled freshman Alex Oriakhi from the game after just one possession, the same fire while screaming at the top of his lungs for referee Earl Walton to "call it both ways."

It was the same old Calhoun roaming the sidelines and yelling at associate coach George Blaney, who was 3-4 while running the team for the last three-plus weeks.

Even in the postgame news conference, it was the same old Calhoun when he challenged a local writer and his line of questioning.

The only problem: This is the same old Huskies.

It's a team that scored just 48 points, a season-low and also the fewest by a Calhoun club since 2002, against a mediocre Cincinnati team.

"We didn't even play well," admitted Bearcats forward Ibrahima Thomas.

It's a UConn group that can't shoot the ball, has virtually no bench and is short on leadership.

"I'm embarrassed," Calhoun said over and over after the 60-48 loss. "It was one of the worst performances I've had in my 24 years here.

"I'm embarrassed by the way we played. And I'm rarely embarrassed by one of my teams."

You'd think that UConn would play with a sense of urgency and unparalleled intensity with the Huskies' coach back on the bench for the first time after his future was uncertain.

I expected them to come out and take it to a Bearcats team that has lost three of its last four and is in the bottom half of the Big East standings.


The Huskies came out flat in the first 20 minutes, went into the break tied at 22 and then showed even less fortitude in the second half.

"There's no explanation for why we played like that," said UConn sophomore point guard Kemba Walker, the one player singled out by Calhoun for his effort.

"I have no idea. I was embarrassed, too. For him to come back and for us to perform like that, I'm embarrassed, also."

UConn is now 14-11 overall and 4-8 in the Big East. Barring a miraculous ending to the season, which has just six regular-season games remaining, the Huskies are headed to the NIT.

This is even worse than 2006-07 when the Huskies finished 17-14 overall and didn't even go to the NIT because that group could use youth as a valid excuse.

"This is how we've been playing all year," UConn senior big man Gavin Edwards admitted. "We came out with no energy, and it doesn't matter what the occasion is."

Only those closest to Calhoun know the extent of the medical issues that forced him to watch the last seven games on television.

Calhoun has had his medical problems.

He's overcome prostate cancer and a couple of bouts of skin cancer as well as breaking several ribs in a bike accident last summer.

However, he maintained this is not cancer or heart related. Countless sources indicate that it is stress related and may be linked to high blood pressure, but unlike in the past, he hasn't gone into specifics.

That's his choice.

He didn't look any different before, during or after the loss Saturday -- other than the fact that maybe he dropped a few pounds during his hiatus.

Other than the fact that usually at home he's smiling after a win.

But that may not change anytime soon.

If this is an NIT club, and Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Edwards all graduate, what does that mean for next year?

It means there's likely to be far more embarrassment.

The incoming recruiting class is decent, but not by UConn standards.

Let's face it: Recruiting has slipped since Tom Moore left a few years ago to take the head job across the state at Quinnipiac.

The Huskies will bring in a couple of Top 100 kids in guard Jeremy Lamb and forward Roscoe Smith, but Calhoun knows full well that unless he can pull in one of the few remaining big-time uncommitted seniors, it's not going to get any better.

It'll be Walker, Oriakhi and a bunch of inexperienced freshmen that come in without a whole lot of hype.

Just thinking about that lineup has to be stressful enough for Calhoun to deliver his walking papers once this year is over.

However, Calhoun is stubborn.

A year ago, he admitted to contemplating retirement. However, he wasn't going to let a Yahoo! Sports investigation determine his fate, and he also believed he had a team that could advance deep into the NCAA tournament.

That's no longer the case.

Calhoun and athletic director Jeff Hathaway don't exactly hang out with each other, and there's no natural choice to keep the program in the Calhoun family.

Former Calhoun assistants Dave Leitao and Glenn Miller are unemployed, Karl Hobbs is hanging on at George Washington and Tom Moore hasn't done quite enough yet at Quinnipiac to warrant succeeding Calhoun.

Then you've got Ted Woodward, who is doing well at Maine and Steve Pikiell, a UConn alum who has turned things around at Stony Brook.

But let's be honest.

None of those guys can get this job now if Calhoun calls it a career after this season.

And that's exactly what may happen.