Friday, December 23, 2011

UConn Without Jim Calhoun

It will be very interesting to see how UConn reacts without Jim Calhoun on the sidelines over its next three games -- especially with two of them on the road.

George Blaney is a more than competent replacement, a New England Basketball Hall of Famer and former Big East head coach in his own right. He is also extremely different on the sidelines than Calhoun, who constantly stomps and yells and pulls players at the drop of a dime for the slightest mistake.

Quite simply, Blaney's calmer, more reassuring style is seen as a boon if the Huskies win, and as a detriment when they lose. There's never been a better example of this than two years ago, while Calhoun was in the midst of missing six games for "stress-related" issues.

Blaney guided the Huskies to a shocking win over top-ranked Texas at Gampel, and everyone (myself included) believed UConn was playing much more relaxed and free without Calhoun breathing down their necks all game.

A few nights later, UConn lost at lowly Providence, and everyone (including Blaney) missed Calhoun's fire.

"(Calhoun) would have given them a jolt, I'll tell you that," Blaney said after that game. "I would have liked to have had him there, that's for sure."

A few games after that, UConn lost a tough game at Syracuse when the refs granted Jim Boeheim a timeout when replays showed the ball wasn't in a Syracuse player's possession and the timeout shouldn't have been granted.

Had Calhoun been there, he would have no doubt woofed and hollered at John Cahill for granting the timeout. It probably wouldn't have made any difference, but who knows -- maybe the Huskies get a make-up call because of it? Heck, maybe Cahill doesn't grant the timeout at all if Calhoun's there.

Last year, Calhoun missed a game vs. Marquette following the death of his sister-in-law. The Huskies lost in overtime, and Blaney admitted afterwards he could have coached better.

"I probably ran everybody too many minutes," Blaney confessed. "We needed to get a little bit more production, but some of the guys that came in and didn't get it done when they were asked to do it, so we stayed with the guys that were doing it."

This is not meant as a smear against Blaney. The man won 459 games in 30 seasons as a head coach. But there's no question things are very different under Blaney than they are under Calhoun. Sometimes that's a good thing; sometimes it's not.

Overall, UConn is 20-9 in games which Calhoun has either missed entirely or left early. It is 9-9 in games Calhoun has missed altogether, and Blaney is 7-8 at the helm in such games.

More strikingly, UConn has lost five of the last six games Calhoun has missed.

And remember when everyone scoffed at how easy UConn's schedule would be without Calhoun? Well, that's not entirely the case. South Florida is a traditional league doormat, but the Bulls (7-5) have some talent and have played UConn tough the last two times they’ve faced off in Tampa. USF beat the Huskies in March, 2010 and lost on a Craig Austrie last-second shot two seasons before that.

St. John’s (6-5) is a mess, with only eight scholarship players in tow, but Seton Hall may be the surprise of the league. The Pirates are 10-1 behind the superb play of Herb Pope, who leads the conference in both scoring and rebounding, and figure to give UConn all it can handle at the Prudential Center.

Here's the list of games which Calhoun has either missed entirely or left early from over the past 26 seasons. (Games he missed entirely are in bold):

1. Dec. 23, 1990 vs. Fairfield (HCC) W, 94-70 Chest-pain, flu-like symptoms
2. Feb. 22, 1993 vs. Maine (HCC) W, 108-72 Food related
3. Jan. 29, 1994 at Pittsburgh W, 88-67 pneumonia symptoms
4. Feb. 1, 1994 at Syracuse L, 108-95 pneumonia symptoms
5. Nov. 24, 1998 vs. Hartford (HCC) W, 95-58 intestinal virus
6. March 11, 1999 vs. UT-San Antonio W, 91-66 intestinal virus
7. Jan. 3, 2000 vs. Sacred Heart (HCC) W, 83-56 stomach cramps
8. Feb. 3, 2001 vs. Virginia Tech (GP) W, 85-72 light-headedness, flu-like symptoms
9. Feb. 5, 2002 vs. Providence (HCC) W, 67-56 food related
10. February 5, 2003 at Virginia Tech L, 95-74 prostate surgery
11. Feb. 8, 2003 at Providence W, 84-68 prostate surgery
12. Feb. 10, 2003 vs. Syracuse (HCC) W, 75-61 prostate surgery
13. Feb. 15, 2003 at Villanova L, 79-70 prostate surgery
14. Feb. 19, 2003 vs. Rutgers (HCC) W, 87-70 prostate surgery

15. March 20, 2004 vs. DePaul (left and returned) W, 72-55 flu-like symptoms
16. Jan. 16, 2006 at Syracuse W, 88-80 dehydration
17. Jan. 13, 2007 at St. John’s (msg) (left and returned) W, 68-59 flu-like symptoms
18. Jan. 8, 2008 vs. St. John’s (left game) W, 81-65 dehydration
19. Jan. 12, 2008 at Georgetown (missed game) L, 72-69 dehydration
20. Jan. 3, 2009 vs. Rutgers (GP) (left after halftime) W, 80-49 illness
21. March 19, 2009 vs. Chattanooga (missed game) W, 103-47
22. Jan. 20, 2010 vs. St. John's (stress), W, 75-59
23. Jan. 23, 2010 vs. Texas (stress), W, 88-74
24. Jan. 27, 2010 at Providence (stress), L, 81-66
25. Jan. 30, 2010 vs. Marquette (stress), L, 70-68
26. Feb. 1, 2010 at Louisville (stress), L, 82-69
27. Feb. 6, 2010 vs. DePaul (stress), W, 64-57
28. Feb. 10, 2010 at Syracuse (stress), L, 72-67
29. Feb. 24, 2011 vs. Marquette (death in family), L, 74-67 (OT)

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December 25, 2011 at 4:45 PM 

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