Sunday, September 29, 2002

Miami coach knows Huggins' plight

Heart attack changed Coles

By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Miami University men's basketball coach Charlie Coles yearns for bowls of popcorn, drizzled with his favorite indulgence: warm, salty, savory and sinful melted butter.

        The problem is, his doctors won't let him. Long-term heart troubles have restricted Coles, 60, to strict diet and exercise regimens. Since 1985, the coach has had a heart attack, triple-bypass surgery and cardiac failure.

        He knows how Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins, who suffered a heart attack Saturday in suburban Pittsburgh, must feel.

        “Right now he needs to get his rest and do what the doctors say. Afterwards, it's important to follow plans of diet and exercise,” Coles said. “And another thing, he needs to get some sleep. Sleep is very important.”

        Coles learned of Huggins' heart attack by hearing a radio broadcast while he was traveling from Oxford to Dayton for a friend's birthday. He was surprised because he saw Huggins at a National AAU tournament in Florida two months ago, and Coles said Huggins looked then the way he always does: strong, determined and young.

        Heart attacks are not necessarily a hazard of overzealous coaches, Coles said. Instead, a Type A personality is the real culprit.

        “A person who's really busy and determined, who spends a lot of time on things they care about. That's Type A,” Coles said.

        “When you think about it, coaching is very emotional. A majority of us spend all our time on it, so sometimes how we live and what we eat get away from us.”

        Coles' suffered a heart attack in October 1985. He began his first season as coach at Central Michigan University with triple bypass surgery and was out for three months. His 1998 cardiac arrest kept him off the court as coach of Miami for eight weeks.

        Huggins' condition was upgraded from critical to serious-but-stable Saturday evening. Coles said the first day or two in recovery is the most serious time, and “the more you get past that, the more things look good.”

        Coles, who is entering his fifth season as Miami's head coach, is monitored with a defibrillator. He takes daily medication and walks at least 40 minutes every other day.

        Regardless of whether Huggins will be coaching by the official start of practice Oct.12, Coles has a feeling the UC coach will be twitching in anticipation. He hopes to see Huggins in a Dec.28 matchup at U.S. Bank Arena.

        The awareness a heart attack brings is sometimes for the best, Coles said. And there are always little reminders to keep a survivor on his toes.

        “Artificial butter,” Coles lamented. “That's what I have to eat on my popcorn now. That's the hardest change I've had to make.”


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