The UConn basketball team reacted to the news Friday that coach Jim Calhoun will take an indefinite medical leave of absence due to a lower back condition.
Associate head coach George Blaney informed the team prior to practice at Gampel Pavilion.
"Everybody was devastated," freshman Ryan Boatright said.
Calhoun will definitely miss Saturday's game against Seton Hall in Hartford and Monday's trip to Louisville.
He has been dealing with spinal stenosis, a condition that leads to severe pain and hampers mobility, for the last few months. His back problem worsened during a road trip to Georgetown earlier this week. UConn lost, 58-44, Wednesday.
He missed practice Thursday and talked to Blaney Friday about his plan to go on medical leave.
"They tried treating it with rest and exercise, which he does all the time, and it was feeling better most of the year," Blaney said. "He had different twinges at different times. But when we went to Washington the other day he really was having trouble. … It started hitting his leg.
"Then when he got off the plane, he really had trouble getting in the car and going home. .... Today he decided he was not going to coach and take it day by day."
In an interview with the Associated Press, Calhoun said that he experienced back pain last summer and visited a neurologist. He went to physical therapy.
But his condition didn't improve.
"The bottom line is I'm going to need some work done," Calhoun told 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."
Here's some more reaction from Blaney and the Huskies:
-- Blaney met with team captains Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi and sophomore Jeremy Lamb prior to practice and then informed the rest of the team.
"It was a shock," Napier said. We all felt like that he was in the best shape of his life. ... He came back from Georgetown, which gave him a headache and more problems. He didn't feel right the next morning.
"It's tough. We all wish him good luck."
Freshman Andre Drummond: "I just think he needs to get his rest and hopefully he'll feel better by Monday.
-- Blaney says he's never met anyone as tough as Calhoun who's missed 17 games during his career while dealing with various medical issues including three bouts of cancer. He's been out for four other games for different reasons -- three for an NCAA suspension earlier this season and one to attend a family funeral last February.
The Huskies went 2-1 without Calhoun this season and 11-10 overall.
"I don't know anybody tougher," Blaney said. "He doesn't use Novocain when he goes to the dentist. He's a tough guy.
"… I just hope he recovers. My wife had back surgery 30 years ago and it's not very comfortable."
-- UConn has issues on the court, too. The Huskies are mired in a season-high four games losing streak. They've averaged just 57.3 points in the last three games.
Blaney says the best cure for their problems is just to play harder.
"My main goal right now is to get us to play together and get us to play hard," Blaney said.
-- It's unlikely that Blaney will stick with the same starting lineup that was used against Georgetown. Freshman Ryan Boatright and sophomore Roscoe Smith replaced Napier and Oriakhi in the starting lineup Wednesday night.
"I don't know that yet," Blaney said. "Probably not."
-- Napier on UConn facing adversity: "It hit us negatively, But right now we're staying positive. We know we've still got nine more games left in the season. We've just got to take one practice, one game and one day at a time."
-- Napier was asked what's been wrong with his game lately. He's gone 0-for-16 and scored just five points in the last two games.
"If I knew, I'd let you know. I don't know, man. I talked with coach Blaney today. We had a real intimate talk, emotional. We just want to be back on target.
"We all hate losing. It's the worst feeling in the world. Sometimes you have to go through these rough edges to sharpen your game up."
Boatright is keeping the faith. He believes the Huskies can overcome the adversity and go on a run.
"A lot of people are doubting us...," Boatright said. "I feel like we're going to put it together and make a run."