Saturday, January 19, 2008

Nate Miles not Cleared by NCAA

According to a source, Nate Miles has not passed muster with the NCAA Clearinghouse. UConn has sent more information in, hoping to get Miles cleared.

Bottom line: At this point, there's about a 99 percent chance Nate Miles never puts on a UConn uniform.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

LaFleur Down Under

UConn assistant coach Andre LaFleur flew all the way down to Sydney, Australia following Saturday's loss to Georgetown to take a look at intriguing, 6-foot-9 forward Ater Majok. However, LaFleur didn't get a chance to watch Majok play, since the Sudanese native was bothered by a knee injury. The injury doesn't appear to be anything serious.

Kansas and Duke are also high on Majok, but UConn is the only school to visit him at his home in Australia so far. The Huskies are trying to line up Majok for an official visit later this season, after he returns to the States to attend the American International School in Virginia.

Majok, who has already made a visit to Maryland, should graduate this spring and hopes to play college ball next fall.

LaFleur wound up spending about 40 hours in the air on the trip. He returned to Los Angeles on Tuesday and took a red-eye to Boston, arriving back in Connecticut around 11 a.m. today.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wiggins: All Apologies

An eventful day at UConn practice today. Some tidbits:

** Jim Calhoun was back (he had returned to practice yesterday) after missing Saturday's game and Monday's practice with what he termed a "gastric problem."

"I feel lousy," he reported. "I lost about eight pounds. I wouldn't recommend the way I did it to people. Right now I'm just run-down."

He added that he believes he's the "carrier" of the malady, since assistant coach Patrick Sellers and team trainer James Doran have both been out sick the past couple of days. Fortunately for the Huskies, no players have been affected.

** Doug Wiggins apologized to Calhoun after telling reporters following his season-high 16-point effort on Saturday vs. Georgetown that he felt more relaxed without Calhoun on the sidelines.

Calhoun said the apology was unnecessary.

"There isn't a kid that's ever played for me or for a lot of coaches that hasn't transferred, in his mind," the coach reasoned. "Dougie was trying to explain why he shot well and he said, 'Coach wasn't here' ... it didn't bother me a bit."

"I had to go to Coach and let him know I didn't mean anything by that," Wiggins explained, before adding, "I just meant that it was less worrying without him being there."

** Calhoun watched the Georgetown game from the coaches' locker room and had some company for a while from ex-UConn greats Ray Allen and Caron Butler, who were playing later that night at the Verizon Center in the Celtics-Wizards game.

Calhoun believed Patrick Ewing, Jr. should have been called for travelling on a key goaltending call against Hasheem Thabeet that allowed Georgetown to tie the game at 69 with 1:45 remaining.

"John Cahill's one of the best officials in the country, but you can't take three steps to the basket. But that's what happens in basketball. You've got to make judgment calls, that's how it goes. It's happened to us on the other end. Bottom line, if we were up by 9, it wouldn't have made any difference."

** As for tomorrow night's battle with Providence at the XL Center, Calhoun noted, "I don't remember an uninteresting Providence-UConn game." He even recalled the old feud between UConn's Tate George and PC's Eric Murdock some 20 years ago over a UConn cheerleader.

Calhoun didn't mention the marital aid that was tossed onto the floor at the Dunkin' Donuts Center by a PC fan a couple of years ago. Nor did he mention his infamous "I (bleeped) up rant" after Ryan Gomes and the Friars torched the eventual national-champ Huskies 66-56 in Hartford in 2004.

Indeed, in the last six games since 2002, neither home team has won in this rivalry.

"We don't seem to mind going into The Dunk, they don't seem to mind coming here. It's been a Helen of Troy series," Calhoun remarked.

** Ex-Husky star and current Celtics commentator Donny Marshall practice with UConn today.

** For what it's worth, seven NBA scouts (a season-high, so far) are slated to be at Sunday's 1 p.m. game with Marquette at Gampel Pavilion.

** Check out tomorrow's Register for an advance on the UConn-PC game (7 p.m. at XL Center).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

10 Years After, Welsh Still Remembers Calhoun's Call

Tim Welsh had just landed the Providence College head coaching job in April, 1998, and not long after his introductory press conference, a fellow Big East coach called to wish him well and offer some advice.

Who was it that called? Was it Jim Boeheim, Welsh’s self-described “mentor,” for whom Welsh had been an assistant at Syracuse from 1988-91? Nope, not yet. Was it John Thompson, Steve Lappas or any of the other big-name head coaches in the Big East? Uh-uh.

It was Jim Calhoun on the line. Welsh had coached against Calhoun once, while with Iona in the NIT, but he didn’t really know him that well. That didn’t stop Calhoun from offering the new member of the Big East coaching fraternity some help.

“He said, ‘Listen, I’m going to try to beat your brains in on the court, but any time I can help you professionally, about the league, anything that goes with the business or being a coach in this league, I want to extend my hand out to you,’” Welsh recalled. “That’s the type of classy guy he is. I always remember that about him.”

Calhoun offered Welsh some advice that day. He knew that the Providence job was a great one, knew that the Friars are essentially the professional sports team of Rhode Island and that there’s great interest in the team. But he also knew it wasn’t an easy job, Providence being a small school with substandard facilities and no on-campus arena. He warned Welsh that there would be pitfalls.

“He knew there’s a lot of people there that expect a lot,” Welsh recalled. “He just said you’ve got to just handle it, that’s all. You can’t get too crazy about it, you’ve got to just do your job, coach your team and run your program the best way you can. There’s always going to be expectations, sometimes they’re fair, sometimes they’re unfair, but he said just coach your team, run your program the right way, the way you know how to do it, and good things probably will happen to you.”

Now in his 10th year at PC, Welsh is the third most-tenured coach in the Big East, behind just Boeheim and Calhoun. But that advice Calhoun gave to him nearly 10 years ago is particularly relevant today. Welsh has two years left on his contract, but the school has been reluctant to offer him an extension. Many view this season as make-or-break for Welsh, who has led the Friars to the NCAA Tournament twice but has no wins to show for it. In fact, in Welsh’s 10 years, the Friars have won exactly one Big East Tournament game.

Entering Thursday night’s PC-UConn battle at the XL Center, the Friars are 11-5, 2-2 in the Big East. They lost their first two conference games (Marquette and DePaul) on the road, but bounced back to beat Rutgers and South Florida at home. Their starting point guard, Sharaud Curry, has been out all season with a stress fracture in his foot and may not play at all.

There were high expectations for the Friars entering this season, but it won’t be easy to live up to them. If they don’t, Welsh will feel the heat – and could very well lose his job.

No better time to heed those words from Jim Calhoun 10 years ago.

Calhoun back at practice

Jim Calhoun was at today's UConn practice, which ran for a little over two hours. The coach had missed Monday's practice and missed Saturday's game with Georgetown due to flu-like symptoms. He was hospitalized briefly Saturday night.

Monday, January 14, 2008

No practice for Coach Calhoun

Not to overdo the this, but ... Jim Calhoun did not attend UConn's practice this morning. The Huskies practice again tomorrow morning, but it's not known if Calhoun will attend.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Calhoun resting at home

Jim Calhoun is resting at home and feeling much better today after checking into the UConn Health Center’s John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington last night due to dehydration.

Calhoun missed yesterday's 72-69 loss to Georgetown in Washington, D.C. due to flu-like symptoms. Associate head coach George Blaney took over the reins for the game. Calhoun addressed the team before and after the game but watched it from the coaches’ locker room.

Upon returning to Bradley International Airport last night, Calhoun was brought to the hospital for precautionary reasons. He was treated with IV fluids and released before midnight.

UConn director of sports medicine Dr. Jeff Anderson reported that Calhoun was feeling much better today, according to a team spokesman. The Huskies didn’t practice today and are due for a 9:30 a.m. practice Monday. It is not known yet whether Calhoun will attend tomorrow's practice.