With Connecticut's NCAA tournament hopes in jeopardy in the wake of a controversial loss to second-ranked Syracuse on Wednesday night, the Huskies got a dose of much-needed good news this afternoon.
Coach Jim Calhoun has returned to his position after a seven-game leave of absence as a result of an undisclosed medical condition. He'll coach the Huskies in a critical bubble game against Cincinnati on Saturday.
"I am excited to return to the team and my coaching staff," Calhoun said in a statement released this afternoon by the school. "I appreciate the hard work by the staff and team in my absence and am looking forward to being back on the court for practice this afternoon and moving forward.
In the short term, this is obviously great for the Huskies. At 14-10 overall and 4-7 in the Big East, UConn is on the fringes of the at-large picture at this point, and the return of a hall of fame coach could give the Huskies the jolt of energy they need to finish strong and perhaps scrape back into the tournament.
In the long term, it's hard to know what to make of this because we don't know anything about Calhoun's health scare. It's silly to speculate until Calhoun or someone close to him chooses to reveal some of the details, so we can only take it at face value when he says he's "ready to move ahead from this point at full speed."
Connecticut went 3-4 in seven games under interim coach George Blaney, slipping to 11th in the Big East despite being ranked in the top 15 before the season.
The Hartford Courant already has a poll on its site asking fans whether Calhoun's return will be enough to rally the Huskies back to the NCAA tournament. So far 55 percent say yes, 45 percent say no, but surely all of them are happy he'll be back on the sideline.