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

Feb 3, 2012, 6:46 PM EDT

spt-1202030-calhoun AP

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.

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