Continued from page 1

“I don’t know anybody tougher,” Blaney said. “He doesn’t use Novocain when he goes to the dentist. He’s a tough guy and usually ‘No’ spurs him on.”

Blaney informed the team of Calhoun’s illness just before Friday afternoon’s practice.

“We wish we could be there to help him, and he wishes he could be there to help us,” said guard Shabazz Napier, a team captain. “Sometimes you have to go on a journey without your captain, and we’re going to do whatever we got to do to fulfill his dreams and fulfill ours at the same time.”

Napier and forward Alex Oriakhi called a players-only meeting to discuss the team’s recent slump.

“It’s tough,” said freshman center Andre Drummond. “We’ve had a couple of downfalls, a couple of roadblocks throughout the way, but that’s life. That’s one of the things you’ve got to get through. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re fighting through it and we’re not going down without a fight.”

Calhoun is No. 6 on the all-time wins list with 867. He has won three national championships at Connecticut and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005. He coached the team to its fourth Final Four and third national title last April.

The subject of Calhoun’s tenure is not new. He said last month he decided to not retire after last year’s national championship in large part because he wanted to see through the NCAA sanctions leveled on him and his program for recruiting violations. The NCAA required Calhoun to sit out wins over South Florida and St. John’s and a loss to Seton Hall for violations that included a finding that the coach had failed to maintain “an atmosphere of compliance” in the program.

He told reporters that the idea of bringing closure to that issue was a “major, major factor” in his decision to come back this season.

Connecticut has gone 9-9 in games that Blaney has coached, including 2-1 during Calhoun’s recent suspension.

Guard Ryan Boatright, who has missed nine games this season while the NCAA investigated his eligibility, said he thinks the team will rally under Blaney. He said both coaches are able to motivate the team, but their styles are much different.

“There’s not as much yelling,” he said. “Obviously the cuss words are down to a (lower) level. It’s a difference.”