JOHN DOHERTY: Crucial for coaches to care for selves

2013-11-11T21:00:00Z 2013-11-12T03:52:04Z JOHN DOHERTY: Crucial for coaches to care for selvesJohn Doherty Times Columnist
November 11, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

It's just more than three years since I last wrote about this topic, but with the circumstances of the last two weeks, it demands attention again.

Back then, my subjects were coaches like Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio.

I wasn't writing about Xs and Os — not my department — or the sometimes contentious interaction between coaches and sports medics — which is.

Instead, I was looking at the medical state of the coaches themselves. At the time, Dantonio had just suffered a heart attack in the aftermath of an overtime victory against Notre Dame.

The latest cases in point? Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, Denver Broncos coach John Fox and Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak.

Clifford sought care Thursday night at a Charlotte hospital due to chest pain. On Friday, he had two stents placed in his heart. By Sunday, he was back at practice.

Also in Charlotte — where he has his permanent home — Fox was released from a hospital on Friday after having heart valve replacement surgery. He won't be returning to work as quickly as Clifford did. Nor should he. His procedure was far more invasive than Clifford's.

Kubiak won't be returning to work any time soon either. If you were watching NBC's Sunday Night Football just nine days ago, you know why. On national television, Kubiak, just 52-years-old, suffered a stroke.

Just as the first half ended, a camera caught him suddenly wincing and grabbing his head with both hands. He then attempted to walk off the field but made it only a few steps before going to one knee and then — with help from bystanders — going completely down. Eventually, he was placed on a stretcher and transported by ambulance to Houston Methodist Hospital.

The following day, ESPN learned that Kubiak had received tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a medication that breaks up a blood clot causing a stroke. By a week ago, despite the scary diagnosis, he was sent home, essentially symptom-free.

No word on how quickly he will return to the Texans. If he's smart, it will be another few weeks and then only to a more sane work day.

As former long-time NFL assistant Tom Bass told Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union Tribune last week, “You don’t always get great ideas when you’re exhausted. Guys who sleep in the office still get fired. There is a point of diminishing returns.”

If Clifford, Fox and Kubiak won't heed Bass, perhaps the words of the late Al McGuire — who won a National Championship at Marquette in 1977 — will connect. Al, a great basketball coach by any measure, still found time to enjoy life. He loved telling about interviewing one applicant for an opening he had. The young man promised he would break down film daily until midnight. Then every off-season weekend, he would travel far and wide to recruit young talent. McGuire's response to the applicant's enthusiastic promises? "Son, if you've got to put that much time into this job, you're not qualified."

McGuire, as much as he liked winning, never lost sight of what he was doing, coaching a game.

John Doherty is a certified athletic trainer and licensed physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT

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