By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press
STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun returned to the Huskies bench on Saturday, less than a week after undergoing back surgery.
The Hall of Fame coach received a prolonged standing ovation as he walked on the court before UConn (17-12, 7-10 Big East) hosted Pittsburgh in the team's regular-season finale on Saturday afternoon. He waved to the crowd and then participated in the team's senior day activities, handing out framed jerseys to the three walk-on seniors on the Huskies.
Calhoun took an indefinite medical leave on Feb. 3 and missed the Huskies' last eight games because he has spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine, normally associated with aging and sometimes with arthritis.
The operation Monday in New York involved removing a large disk fragment that had been pressing on a spinal nerve, the school said. The surgeons decompressed the area around the nerve.
The Huskies went 3-5 with Calhoun on medical leave.
Calhoun arrived at the empty arena shortly after 9 a.m., walking on the court with his top assistant, George Blaney, who has led the team in his absence.
Calhoun spent much of the first half on the bench, but occasionally paced the sidelines, and let the referees know when he thought they had made a bad call.
Calhoun said Friday that he had been advised by his doctors against returning.
"I just couldn't stay away any longer," he said.
The Huskies seemed inspired by his play and jumped out to a 36-22 halftime lead.
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