Sunday, March 14, 1999

Coles basks in moment

'These kids and I have been through a lot'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEW ORLEANS — For Charlie Coles, the joy is in the job.

        That's why the Miami University coach is so happy to have advanced in the NCAA Tournament. It means the season is a little longer.

        “If there were three tournament, the NCAA, the NIT and the Charlie Coles Invitational,” he said, “and we were playing in the third one, I'd still be happy.”

        This is Coles' most successful season as a college coach. Friday's win over Washington was his first in the NCAA Tournament. A win today against second-seeded Utah would be unprecedented; no Miami team has won two NCAA games in the same season.

        After Friday's victory, Coles said it was particularly emotional for him because of what happened last season. Coles' season ended when he collapsed from a cardiac arrest on the sideline during the RedHawks' Mid-American Conference Tournament game with Western Michigan.

        “These kids and I have been through a lot,” he said.

        Coles decided almost immediately after waking up in the hospital that he would coach again, if the doctors would clear him. Coles looks at this year, his 34th in coaching, as a second chance.

        “It means a lot to me to get a second chance because it involves being with my team,” he said.

        Again, the joy of the job.

        “You're not talking to a guy who coaches in the NCAA Tournament every year,” he said. “But you're talking to a guy who coaches every year.”

        Coles, 57, is a former Miami basketball player and is in the school's athletic Hall of Fame. This is his second stint as a head college coach. He coached Central Michigan from 1985 to 1991, then resigned after a disagreement with the administration.

        He went back to coaching high school, at Toledo Central Catholic. He would have been content to retire there. But Miami coach Herb Sendek convinced Coles to return to his alma mater as an assistant.

        When Sendek left to take the job at North Carolina State before the 1996-97 season, player favorite Coles was the only real candidate for the job.

        Even then, this season was on the mind of the players.

        “This is the year we've pointed to our whole careers,” MU star Wally Szczerbiak said. “We knew we had a chance to be a special team. It's exciting how it worked out.”

        With senior stars such as Szczerbiak and Damon Frierson, it's easy to overlook the job Coles has done. But Miami has had its share of injuries this year, and it doesn't take a coaching genius to know that if you shut down Szczerbiak and Frierson, Miami is going to struggle. But the RedHawks have won 23 games, one short of the school record.

        “He's done a super job,” Szczerbiak said. “He's gotten the most of this team.”

        Coles is 61-28 in three years as Miami coach. His winning percentage (.686) is second only to Sendek (.708) among Miami coaches.

        Frierson and Szczerbiak are the reason Coles wants to prolong the season.

        “I've been around these guys four years, one as an assistant and three as head coach,” he said. “I want to spend some more time with them. That's why there's an urgency to keep the season going.

        “What am I going to do without my best friends?”


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- Coles basks in moment