Sunday, February 23, 2003

UConn coach back on bench


Calhoun wins16 days after cancer surgery

The Associated Press

STORRS, Conn. - Jim Calhoun's return to the Connecticut bench 16 days after prostate cancer surgery was successful and dramatic.

Ben Gordon scored 18 points and Emeka Okafor dominated inside with 12 rebounds and nine blocks as the Huskies held on for a 77-69 victory over St. John's on Saturday.

The 60-year-old Calhoun had expected to take three to four weeks off but felt strong enough to come back to lead the Huskies against St. John's in the penultimate home game of the season.

He walked onto the floor of Gampel Pavilion amid deafening cheers from the sellout crowd of over 10,000. Signs in the stands heralded his return and in the student section, seven shirtless men had "Calhoun" spelled out on their bare torsos.

St. John's coach Mike Jarvis was among the many greeting Calhoun with handshakes and hugs as he made his way to the UConn bench. A few of the St. John's players also walked over to shake his hand.

Calhoun's doctors said the cancer was detected very early and is very treatable. Since his Feb. 6 surgery, Calhoun has eased his way back with treadmill workouts and has been the recipient of a steady stream of get-well cards and e-mails.

He returned to practice full time this week, running the Huskies through their paces on Thursday and Friday.

Now in his 17th season at Connecticut, Calhoun has led the Huskies to national prominence, peaking with the 1999 NCAA title. With a career record of 640-292, including 14 seasons at Northeastern, Calhoun is eighth among active Division I coaches in victories.

The Huskies went 3-2 under assistant coach George Blaney, the longtime head coach at Holy Cross. The Huskies, the defending Big East champions, have four regular-season games remaining.

Saturday's game also marked the return of starting point guard Taliek Brown, who broke his left index finger in the Huskies' 95-74 loss at Virginia Tech on Feb. 5. He finished with four points and a blocked shot.




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