Calhoun avoids answers about report

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun declined to directly answer questions Wednesday in the wake of a Yahoo! Sports report documenting improprieties in the recruitment of former guard Nate Miles.

Calhoun met with media for 15 minutes at the University of Phoenix Stadium, site of the NCAA West Regional, and read from a prepared statement. Then he fielded questions but said he hadn’t seen the story in its entirety.

Yahoo! Sports reported that Josh Nochimson, a former Huskies student manager turned sports agent, provided Miles with lodging, transportation, meals and representation from 2006 to 2008. UConn’s basketball staff was in constant contact with Nochimson during a nearly two-year period up to and after Miles’ recruitment. Five UConn coaches traded at least 1,565 phone and text communications with Nochimson, including 16 from Calhoun.

Former UConn assistant Tom Moore told Yahoo! Sports he knew Nochimson and Miles had talked, also a violation. As an alumnus and former associate of the men’s basketball program, Nochimson is defined by the NCAA as a representative of “athletic interests.”

The NCAA plans to investigate the matter. UConn officials said earlier Wednesday that they would conduct their own probe. Moore’s current employer, Qunnipiac University, will also examine the situation.

After the news conference, in a stadium hallway, Calhoun was again questioned about the report.

“Right now all I know is that some words were written about us,” Calhoun said. “We should react to that and have someone else look into it. I’m not going to do that. The university administration is going to do that.”

Pressed further, Calhoun gritted his teeth.

“I haven’t read [the report],” he said. “I’ve been given pieces of exactly what was said.”

Calhoun was asked to respond to those “pieces.” Calhoun opened his mouth and began to speak, but the words never came. Instead he was whisked away by media relations director Kyle Muncy.

“He can’t answer any more questions,” Muncy said.

Calhoun shrugged and walked away.

Connecticut, the No. 1 seed in the West Region, takes on No. 5 Purdue on Thursday.

Calhoun said he learned of the report around 5:30 a.m. when athletic director Jeff Hathaway called him.

Calhoun’s first public comments about the story – or, as he incorrectly called it, the “blog” – came during a previously-scheduled news conference that was supposed to focus on the Huskies’ game against Purdue.

Calhoun, 66, appeared rattled and focused his comments on issues not mentioned in the report. He talked at length about how Connecticut had done everything in its power to ensure that Miles would be eligible before signing him to a national letter of intent, and about how Connecticut wouldn’t have to forfeit any games as a result of the allegations, because Miles – who was expelled in October – never played a game for the Huskies.

The Yahoo! Sports story focused on excessive phone calls, illegal benefits and contact between coaches, Nochimson and Miles.

Calhoun said over the course of his 37-year career that he has had no NCAA violations.

When Calhoun walked onto the court for shoot-around Wednesday, the mood seemed solemn. The players appeared to mope through drills and the 200 or so fans in attendance, for the most part, sat in silence.

“I woke up excited to be here, and then I turned on the TV and it ruined the mood,” said Tana Hart, a Connecticut fan who lives in Phoenix. “I just don’t understand why all of this had to come out now, during the NCAA tournament.”

Calhoun said he met with his team Wednesday morning to tell them to pay no attention to the story.

“I told them that [the] university is taking care of it,” Calhoun said. “As far as we’re concerned, we’re here to beat Purdue. If you vary from that, you will look back and say, ‘I was worried about something that really didn’t affect me one way or the other, and we let an opportunity slip by.’ ”

The Huskies said they aren’t concerned about the situation becoming a distraction.

“We don’t let stuff like that bother us,” forward Jeff Adrien said. “We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in our lives. We know how to block it off. We are mentally tough.”

Jason King is a college football and basketball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Mar 26, 2009