UConn Men's Basketball: Calhoun returns from bout with flu

Matt Stout

Forget Atkins and South Beach. Jim Calhoun just found the newest diet to hit the UConn men’s basketball team.

But trust him — you don’t want to try it.

“I lost like eight pounds,” Calhoun said Wednesday following the Huskies’ practice, his second back with the team after being hospitalized Saturday night with flu-like symptoms. He spent the following two days recuperating at home, wiped out from his bout with dehydration and stomach sickness that kept him off the sidelines for UConn’s 72-69 loss at Georgetown. “I wouldn’t recommend the way I did it. I’m just worn-down.”

Still, Calhoun was like his usual self at Gampel Pavilion — and so were the Huskies. With the 65-year-old coach providing instructions, the team ran through its drills, ran through its prep work for tonight’s game against Providence College at 7 pm. at the XL Center and, naturally, it just plain ran.

“You’re going to get yelled at more,” sophomore Hasheem Thabeet said half-jokingly of Calhoun’s return. “But we’re just happy to have him back.”

So was Calhoun. Though tired, he said the gastric problems that plagued him for the last seven or eight days — starting when he left early in the second half of the team’s 81-65 win over St. John’s last Tuesday — seem to be gone, as well as the temperature he had late last week.

He said he wasn’t sure if it was exactly the same illness that affected him both games, though “it could have been the early signs of it because I had chills and that kind of stuff.” But he was appreciative of team doctor Jeff Anderson’s advice that if he tried to coach Saturday, he was “going to just drop.”

Despite losing to the Hoyas, the whole experience might make the Huskies stronger for it.

“The guys on the team, we’ve done a good job of staying together, knowing that Coach has been ill,” said sophomore Doug Wiggins. “Now we’re like, ‘We don’t have Coach.’ We gotta use each other, to help each other get through the tough times during a game. I think everyone’s understanding that.”

“I watched the team really play hard,” Calhoun said of the Georgetown game, which he watched a part of with Caron Butler and Ray Allen, who played later that night in a Washington Wizards win. “And just down the stretch, (Georgetown) made a couple 3s and we had a couple bad breaks. … But that’s what happens in basketball.”

Unfortunately, the Huskies also got a lesson in what happens with stomach bugs. In the last few days, Calhoun said several people around the program have gotten sick, including a trainer, the team’s ticket manager and assistant coach Pat Sellers, who’s been out the last two days.

“Thank God none of our kids have been hit by it,” Calhoun said, later adding, “I think I was the carrier, to be honest with you.”

It doesn’t matter to the Huskies. Though they have confidence in associate head coach George Blaney, who stood in for Calhoun, they know they need their head coach behind them as Big East play intensifies.

“I think there’s no question that we need Coach, without a doubt,” said junior A.J. Price. “He’s been on people’s minds during games when he’s not on the sidelines, I’m sure. So it’s just good to have him back, to see he’s feeling much better.”

Reach Matt Stout at 425-4250 or