The UConn men’s basketball team is set to play Rutgers Saturday night. It could be a good game and there are plenty of interesting aspects to the on-court battle.
But this will be UConn head coach Jim Calhoun’s first game back after a three-game suspension and that’s the big news. On a conference call with reporters Friday, Calhoun shed some light on his time away and also his decision to return this season and face the NCAA as opposed to retiring and getting away.
Calhoun opened his little chat with the “Horde” with joke.
“Unfortunately you have to hear my voice again. I’m back,” Calhoun said. “It sounds like a horror movie but I am back.”
After, however, he seemed pretty honest about his time away and the state of his team.
— Calhoun said he contemplated doing an Al McGuire (1977 Marquette) and retiring immediately after winning the title. But “finalizing” the NCAA investigation and punishment was part of the reason he returned for a 26th year in Storrs.
“When I contemplated over the spring and summer about what I was going to do, and had grandeur a little bit of being Al McGuire and that’s it. We had a national championship and we had done some great things. But I felt there was something hanging out there and we needed to get finality on that.
“My own personal feelings about the NCAA situation are my own personal feelings. The university still, myself included, were penalized and I wanted to make sure I was the guy that sat out, I was the guy that finalized it.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s something that’s in the past. What was done, was done. It is what it is.”
Calhoun added that he felt UConn “needed” him for at least another year (he didn’t say 2011-12 would be his last season, though).
“I love my university. I love my life there. I love my players. The reason I’m saying that is I always feel I need to be there when they need me,” Calhoun said. “And finish something that like it or not _ and I didn’t like it, necessarily _ that I was part of. Let’s finish it, let’s move on.”
— As for Saturday’s game, there will be at least one change in the starting lineup and maybe two.
Calhoun said sophomore Niels Giffey would start at small forward. DeAndre Daniels had been the team’s starting three lately.
In addition, he said that Tyler Olander may replace Alex Oriakhi at the four.
“Simply, he’s got to play better,” Calhoun said of Oriakhi. “I love Alex to death. I told him that yesterday at practice. He’s struggling; we all know that.
“He’s strong, he’s willing, he’s a great kid,” Calhoun added. “But he’s got to do more. And he knows that.”
— Point guard Shabazz Napier didn’t practice Thursday and Calhoun wasn’t sure if he’d practice much late Friday. Still, the coach said he’d be ready Saturday night.
“He’s pretty hurt,” Calhoun said.
Napier already had a bum foot and appeared to hurt his leg Tuesday night against Seton Hall.
— It’s not all on Oriakhi, but UConn obviously needs its big men to be better than they were against the Hall.
“If we have no inside game, we’re not going to have any outside game,” Calhoun said. “They’re just going to out and play Jeremy’s (Lamb) jump shot, and take away the drive of Ryan (Boatright) and Shabazz. We can’t operate like that.”
— Calhoun on watching the Huskies from his home: “When I yelled, the television did nothing. That was the only problem. It did not react. I didn’t get a T from it,” Calhoun said. ‘