The way I figure it, the scalpel used on Jim Calhoun's fractured hip during surgery Saturday night may as well be used to engrave in stone that he'll 100 percent, for sure, take-it-to-the-bank return for his 27th year asUConn men's basketballcoach.
As his UConn players, past and present, began filing into Mohegan Sun Arena for the Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic, word spread that only a few hours earlier, Calhoun's bike had slipped on some sand near his summer home in Madison, forcing a nasty fall. Given that Calhoun broke five ribs after falling over the handlebars in the 12th mile of a 50-mile charity bike ride in 2009 — he still finished the race — it almost seemed as if someone was playing an inappropriate joke.
But no, it was true.
Anybody who has biked along the Connecticut shore, at the Cape, around Newport, knows that sand can be the mortal enemy of the cyclist. "He also has those shoes that are tied in, clip-ons," associate coach George Blaney said.
The spill had to hurt a septuagenarian plenty. Yet as Calhoun, the toughest, meanest son of a gun in the valley, rests today at John Dempsey Hospital at the UConn Health Center in Farmington, the last thing I expect him to allow is this news lede:
STORRS — A fractured hip suffered in a biking mishap has forced Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Calhoun, 70, to retire after 40 years at Northeastern and UConn. The three-time NCAA champion and sixth winningest coach in college history…
Not going to happen. No way. He's so freaking stubborn that he'll win the Tour de France before he quits because of this.
When Calhoun's knees went, so did his ability to run marathons and pound pavement. He turned to biking to satiate his cardiovascular fix. And if it is true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, well, Calhoun could use his love of biking to coach until he's 100. Like we said, if it doesn't kill him first.
Athletic director Warde Manuel has said he expects Calhoun to return next season, and while Calhoun has said nothing publicly to the contrary, he also hasn't said flatly that he'll be back. And given the uncertainty over his successor, of what direction the school might turn, that in turn has lead to a streak of uncertainty.
"I can't picture Coach Calhoun retiring, to tell you the truth," Kemba Walker said. "I'm pretty sure he's not thinking about retirement right now. His hip is broke. He's thinking about recovering."
Do you think after this painful incident, he'll use it as a motivating source to say, "Screw you," to the critics, "I'm not retiring"?
"Maybe, maybe, that's how he is," Walker said, breaking into a laugh. "He's a tough guy."
Still, Kemba, you might be the perfect guy to tell him to hang up the pedals.
"Nah, he's got to stay in his shape," Walker said.
If not Kemba, then Blaney, his trusted confidante, has got to be the man.
"We've had that conversation," Blaney said. "Have you ever tried to tell him to do anything?"
Yeah, and it never works out so well.
"He's always going to want to win, always going to want to compete," Jeremy Lamb said. "If anything, this would be something to let him know he needs to rest his body sometimes. I know he's going to fight. I don't know if this will make him coach more or retire more. I just know he is one strong man."
Manuel received word of Calhoun's injury on his ride to the casino. And given that it has been one thing after another since he has taken over as athletic director, Manuel could be forgiven for smiling gently and wondering if he could go one day without another unforeseen encounter.
"My thoughts and prayers are with Jim for a speedy recovery," Manuel said. "He has had some bad breaks the last year or so, and we just have to hope he'll have a speedy recovery."