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Was Jim Calhoun’s return his last game in Gampel Pavilion?

Jim Calhoun

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun acknowledges the crowd as he enters before his team’s basketball game with Pittsburgh in Storrs, Conn., on Saturday, March 3, 2012. Calhoun missed the Huskies last eight games and had back surgery last Monday.(AP Photo/Fred Beckham)


UConn’s hopes of making the NCAA Tournament live to see another day.

With Jim Calhoun back on the bench for the first time in more than a month -- eight games, to be exact, in which UConn went 3-5 -- the Huskies jumped out to a big first half lead before hanging on down the stretch for a 74-65 win over Pitt on Saturday afternoon.

There is reason for UConn fans to be optimistic about this performance. While beating Pitt isn’t exactly a banner victory this season, UConn still looked dominant in the first half. After the Panthers clawed their way back into the game in the second half, erasing a 14 point lead and taking the lead with four minutes left , UConn didn’t fold. Resiliency has not exactly been this team’s strong suit, and seeing them survive a late collapse in Calhoun’s return to the bench probably isn’t a coincidence.

Bubble talk and the potential for UConn to turn this thing around is fun and all, but the most interesting part of Calhoun’s return to the bench is that it may have been the final game that he coaches in Gampel Pavilion.

The man is old. He’s get back problems he’s a cancer survivor, he’s battled exhaustion in recent years. And no one remembers that he also crashed a bike and broke five ribs three years ago. With all of the controversy surrounding the UConn program, including the likelihood that they are not allowed to compete in the postseason in 2013, and with a team that looks like it is going to have a number of defections to the NBA and, potentially, a few players transfer out of the program, what is there for Calhoun to hang around for?

Isn’t it possible that he made the return to the bench in the final home game of the season to coach the program he built at home one last time? Given that he blew off Andy Katz for a postgame interview on ESPN and sent interim head coach George Blaney to the press conference -- likely to avoid having to answer this very question -- is only going to further speculation.

Its quite possible that this was Jim Calhoun’s Senior Night.