Jim Calhoun’s hurting, but badly enough to call it a career?

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Health issues aren’t anything new to Jim Calhoun. Since 1994, he’s missed 17 games due to various ailments, including prostate cancer surgery, pneumonia, and an undisclosed problem that caused him to miss seven games during the 2009-10 season. (He wasn’t at four others due to an NCAA suspension and a family funeral.)

Most of those have come in the last 10 years, which makes one wonder if his latest malady – spinal stenosis – will cause the Connecticut men’s basketball coach to retire in the near future.

For now, he’s only taking an indefinite leave of absence to deal with the back pain. Depending on how he feels and what his doctors tell him, he could be back. But there’s no getting around the fact that he just can’t be on the sideline.

From the AP:

“The bottom line is I’m going to need some work done,” Calhoun told the AP. “In January the shooting pains were getting worse and after one plane ride I couldn’t even get up. I tried to hide it. I’m taking medicine right now for the pain and they are waiting for things to quiet down and I’ll meet with the doctor next week. “I told (president) Susan (Herbst) about it and said I could make it through the season that there were only 3 1/2 weeks left. But it’s just so bad, even getting through practice. Now I’m going to see what the next step is. The bottom line is I’m hurting.”

There was considerable speculation last spring and summer that Calhoun might retire. The Huskies had just won their third NCAA tournament featuring a team Calhoun loved coaching. But, for various reasons, he decided he wasn’t done coaching and returned to lead a team that had enough talent to return to the Final Four.

An up-and-down season makes that seem unlikely (it’s all on the players now). Calhoun’s return is a similar question mark, though perhaps it shouldn’t be.

From CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish:

Never mind when Calhoun might return.

I’m debating if he’ll ever return.

I’m doubting he should.

Is it really rational to think next season will be smoother? Or the one after that? Or the one after that? Again, Calhoun is 69 and will be 70 next season, then 71, and you know how age works, right? I don’t have to count for you. Calhoun will, like all of us, get older every year. And he will, like most of us, watch his health further deteriorate with time. If he couldn’t make it through 2012 without a health issue, the smart money says he probably won’t make it through 2013, either. And when you combine that with a struggling team and NCAA and APR concerns, well, it makes it reasonable to wonder if we’ve seen the last of Jim Calhoun.

Calhoun’s not the type to fade away. He’s a guy who does things on his own terms and has accrued enough power and influence at UConn to ensure he’ll retire when he’s ready.

But health issues are a different sort, especially when it comes to nagging, debilitating back pain that makes sitting on chairs and standing in gyms daily torture. (Not to mention the non-health issues Parrish mentioned.) But if anyone can return just to spite their own back problems, it’s Calhoun.

This hardly seems like the way Calhoun’s career would end. He’s too damn tough. And wants to win too badly.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Stanford loses key veteran guard to stress fracture

Marcus Allen
AP Photo
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Stanford guard Marcus Allen will be out indefinitely after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot, the school announced on Monday evening.

“We want to make sure Marcus is fully healthy before returning to the court,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said in a statement. “Marcus played at a high level during our summer exhibition competition in Italy, where he was one of our leading scorers. We will certainly miss him as we continue to prepare for the season, but we are fortunate that this happened now and he will be back before he knows it.”

The loss of Allen is a potentially brutal blow in an already-thin back court. The 6-foot-3 Allen started 23 games as a sophomore last season, averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 boards. But he averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 boards as the Cardinal made a run to the NIT championship and looked poised to be able to replace the departed Chasson Randle’s production this year.

What’s worse is that without Allen, Stanford does not return a single player in their back court that averaged more than 11.5 minutes. Sophomore Robert Cartwright looks poised to step into the starting point guard role, but neither Dorian Pickens nor Christian Sanders looked like they were ready for that kind of role in the Pac-12 last season. Dawkins does return Malcolm Allen, Marcus’ twin brother, who sat out last season with a broken wrist.

The good news is that Stanford’s front court is strong enough to carry the Cardinal until Marcus is healthy. Rosco Allen, Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey will be able to hold their own against any front line in the Pac-12, while Grant Verhoeven and freshman Josh Sharma will provide adequate depth.

Utah lands top-75 center Jayce Johnson

Larry Krystkowiak
AP Photo
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Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.

Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.

Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.