Saturday, February 06, 1999

Coles returns to Western with gifts

Coach goes back to scene of cardiac arrest

The Cincinnati Enquirer

When Charlie Coles was released from the hospital March 8, he gave an autographed basketball to Dr. Mark Loehrke, who helped save him.
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        Charlie Coles comes to Kalamazoo, Mich., bearing gifts. He went shopping at the Miami University bookstore for hats, T-shirts and other tokens of appreciation for 10 people.

        “They saved my life,” said Coles, the Miami coach.

        He and his team return to Western Michigan's University Arena today. It is the place where on Feb. 28 of last year Coles died.

        His heart stopped while he was coaching the RedHawks in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. (Story). Today when the RedHawks take on Western at 2 p.m., it will be the 256th time Coles has taken the floor as a head coach. He's been involved in many other games as a player and assistant coach, but this will be different.

        “It will be one of the most difficult things I've done,” Coles said. “I'm so thankful to those people. I owe them my life.”

• When: 2 p.m. today
• Where: University Arena (5,800), Kalamazoo, Mich.
• Records: MU 16-4 (11-1 in MAC), WMU (10-11, 5-8)
• Radio: WCKY-AM (1360), WMOH-AM (1450), WFMG-FM (101.3)
• 4: Number of Miami's remaining six games that are on the road
• 27: Number of consecutive games Wally Szczerbiak has second in double figures
.420: Percentage opponents are shooting from the floor against Miami
        The players who saw the drama will be affected as well.

        “It's going to be very emotional,” Miami star Wally Szczerbiak said. “We know what he went through.”

        The gifts Coles is bringing are for the five doctors who

        treated him at the scene and the five nurses who took care of him while he was in intensive care at Bronson Methodist Hospital.

        Coles wife, Delores, is making a rare road trip to express her thanks.

        “It was harder for her,” Coles said. “I didn't know what was going on.”

        Coles is also grateful to Western coach Bob Donewald, who visited Coles every day in the hospital.

        “That's something he didn't have to do,” said Coles, whose team beat Western that day. “I feel like he's part of the family now.”

        Coles always finds the light side of everything:

        “I owe them my life, but I don't owe them a win.

        “The good thing about all this is one of the doctors who beat me back to life has a 6-10 son. I checked with my people at Michigan State, and the kid can really play. They've been telling me doc really likes me. So if I stagger a little, you know what I'm up to.”

        That's typical Coles.

        But what happened to him last year profoundly affected him. He's tried — and failed — to be calmer on the sidelines.

        “I'd like to be calmer,” he said. “But it's tough to do unless you're winning by 20 points. But when I'm up too much it is distracting to every one.”

        His sideline antics have caused alarm at times. He wasn't looking forward to facing Delores on Monday night after the Toledo game.

        “She told me I was really bad,” he said. “but it's hard with the way the game is played today. There are so many ups and downs, with the three-point shot and the 35-second clock.

        “But I'm trying.”

        Coles has had a clean bill of health since the incident.

        “I had a checkup the other day,” he said. “It was just a regularly scheduled one. But I feel great. I don't think that much about what happened to me.

        “I'm thinking more about the Western Michigan Broncos than I am about what happened to me.”

        Coles said he will have trouble controling his emotions today.

        “It's going to be tough,” he said. “I couldn't believe the support I got from those people.”

        Miami (16-4, 11-1 in the MAC) is in the thick of the conference race. And the RedHawks have lived up to their billing as Coles' best team ever.

        A loss to Western (10-11, 5-8), whom Miami beat at home 80-62 earlier this season, would be a setback. Coles said when he made the decision to come back that he wasn't going to do it halfway.

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