For Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, the first weekend of the NCAA tournament started with a trip to the hospital, where he was treated for dehydration. The second week started with a nationally televised news conference, where he tried to defend his program against alleged recruiting violations.
Calhoun did not deny the report by Yahoo! Sports -- stating that former guard Nate Miles was provided with lodging, transportation and meals between 2006 and 2008 by former Connecticut student manager turned sports agent Josh Nochimson -- and said the university had begun an investigation into the matter. He declined to characterize his relationship with Nochimson, other than to say he remembers Nochimson as "a good kid" who "worked hard."
Calhoun was not nearly as spirited as he was in a news conference that made headlines earlier this season, when he defended his $1.6 million salary. But he did try to downplay the report, referring to Yahoo! Sports as "a blog" and saying he was "more worried" about Purdue and specifically Purdue guard E'Twann Moore. The top-seeded Huskies face the fifth-seeded Boilermakers in the West regional semifinal on Thursday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Although Calhoun said he had not read the complete report, he became aware of it Tuesday at 11 p.m. and was on the phone by 5:30 a.m. PST on Wednesday with Connecticut athletic director Jeff Hathaway. At breakfast Wednesday, he said he told his players: "Fellas, you probably are going to see something on TV. It is something that occurred a year or two ago, whatever it may be. Just to let you know very simply, the university is taking very good care of it. They will look into it.
"As far as we're concerned and I'm concerned, we are here to beat Purdue and I want you to know that. If you vary from that ... you will look back and say, 'I was worried about something that didn't really affect me one way or the other' and yet we let opportunities slip by."
For Calhoun, who has beaten cancer twice, this represents another struggle, though perhaps one of his own making. He reflected Wednesday on his health issues, the death of his father, and coaching in Boston in the mid 1970s, when the city was consumed with racial turmoil. "I have been through a couple things in my life," Calhoun said. "I have learned how to stand up to those things. ... All I know is to go forward, stand up and be counted."
It is hard to find motivational material in alleged NCAA violations, but the Huskies will clearly try. "We trust in each other, believe in each other," said center Hasheem Thabeet. "The key for us right now is to stay together."