As Jim Calhoun celebrates 70th birthday, challenges lie ahead

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Jim Calhoun is in a much different position this year, celebrating his 70th birthday Thursday, than he was one year ago, celebrating his 69th.

One year ago, Calhoun was coming off a national championship with his Kemba Walker-led Connecticut Huskies, set to return guard Jeremy Lamb for what many were expecting would be a stellar sophomore season.

But this year, it’s a different program.

Not only have questions continued to linger about his health, following a leave of absence this past season that was spurred by persistent back problems, but there has been a mass exodus of talent and the Huskies have been banned from the 2012-13 postseason.

After the NCAA handed down the ban, related to Connecticut’s non-qualifying Academic Progress Rate, it left no doubt that the underclassman Lamb and freshman Andre Drummond would bolt for the NBA draft.

It also opened a unique opportunity for forward Alex Oriakhi, who left to join Frank Haith at Missouri for his senior season, taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows seniors to transfer without having to sit out a year if his team is facing an APR-related ban.

Roscoe Smith and Michael Bradley have also departed.

The Huskies have three players signed to come in the fall from the Class of 2012: New York City native Omar Calhoun and recently committed 6-10 forward Phil Nolan, and German forward Leon Tolksdorf.

This isn’t about penning an obituary for the Connecticut program. It’s more about a realization that, as Bob Dylan put it, the times, they are a-changin’.

The pieces of the national championship team have all but been wiped out. The APR ban means a perennial fixture in the NCAA tournament will not be there.

And all of this comes on the backdrop of a 70th birthday of the long-time head coach. Let’s see where the Huskies go from here.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_