There hasn't been much good news for the UConn men's basketball team in recent weeks but this certainly qualifies: coach Jim Calhoun, who has missed 10 games this season (seven because of serious back issues), had successful surgery on Monday, according to the school.
The two-hour procedure was performed at New York's Beth Israel Hospital and involved removing a "large extruded disk fragment" that had been pressing against Calhoun's spine, the school said.
Calhoun, officially diagnosed with spinal stenosis, had been sidelined for almost the entire month of February. The condition is often associated with aging and arthritis. Calhoun is 69.
“I am very fortunate to have been treated by three of the very best surgeons,” the coach said in a statement. “My heartfelt thanks to them and the entire Beth Israel community, who have made every effort to ensure my stay is as comfortable as possible. Lastly, thank you to the people across Connecticut and beyond who have reached out to offer their support. It means a great deal."
His availability on the bench remains in question; there was some speculation that he might return for the regular-season finale Saturday against Pitt, while other reports suggested he might be done until the Big East or (god willing) the NCAA Tournament.
The university said there is no timetable for his return though Calhoun's surgeon, Dr. John Knightly, notes that disk and decompression surgery can have a short recovery time, even as an outpatient procedure.
“It depends on how quickly he responds; he’s not 18,” Dr. Knightly said via the AP. “But he’s not going to be doing any heavy bending and lifting, so he can be driving as soon as he’s off pain medication, and can be up and walking around quite quickly.”
Knowing Calhoun, he'll return sooner than later. He's beaten cancer three times, so a little back trouble, in his mind, is nothing more than a nuisance.
“It takes a lot to bring Coach Calhoun down,” Alex Oriakhi told the AP. “I definitely think this is really nothing for him. That’s a man who fell off his bike, broke his ribs and kept riding. I definitely think you’re going to see him back soon. This is just a little bump in the road, but he’ll get through it.”