Sports - The Enquirer - March 1, 1998
Sunday, March 1, 1998
Miami coach collapses during game
Prognosis good after heart attack

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Rescuers tend to Charlie Coles after his heart attack on the court.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
Miami University men's basketball coach Charlie Coles was recovering today after a heart attack during a Saturday afternoon Mid-American Conference tournament game in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Charlie Coles
Silence fell over the crowd of 4,300 as the 56-year-old coach, with a history of heart problems, collapsed in the first half of the opening round of the tournament.

After a two-hour delay, the game resumed and the team went on to upset eight-point favorite Western Michigan University, 67-63.

''This win was definitely dedicated to our leader,'' junior forward Wally Szczerbiak said at a press conference afterward.

But there was little time for celebrating. The team quickly showered and headed to Bronson Methodist Hospital, where their coach was in critical condition, said Miami sports information director John Estes.

Mr. Coles' wife, Delores, his son, Chris, and daughter, Mary, who had been watching the game, were with him Saturday night at the hospital.

The game was stopped with 11:23 remaining in the first half and the score tied at 14. A few physicians in the audience rushed to help Mr. Coles. The coach had no pulse at one point, said Mr. Estes.

Brian Estridge, the play-by-play announcer for the Miami Sports Network, said, ''For 20 minutes, there was total silence.''

Paramedics had arrived and along with the doctors were able to revive the coach. As he was being carried off to an ambulance, the crowd rose to its feet and applauded. The show of respect, and concern from the opposing team impressed Miami boosters.

''It sort of defines collegiate athletics,'' Mr. Estridge said.

After hearing the coach was going to be OK, the team gathered, and agreed to continue the game after a two-hour delay, Mr. Szczerbiak said. They then said a prayer.

''We all pulled together,'' assistant-turned-interim coach Ray Martin said. ''The players leaned on the coaches, and the coaches leaned on the players.''

The coach's prognosis is very good, said Karen Womak, Miami's interim athletic director. Mr. Coles was on a respirator, but his condition had stabilized, she said.

''The coach and his wife, Delores, should know that my prayers, and those of the entire university, are with them,'' said Miami President James C. Garland, who was keeping tabs on the situation from an alumni gathering in Washington D.C.

Mr. Coles had a heart operation while coaching at Central Michigan back in the mid-'80s, Mr. Estes said.

Mr. Coles, a former Miami basketball star who is in the school's Hall of Fame, is in his second year as head coach at his alma mater. He led the RedHawks to a 21-9 record and the NCAA Tournament last year. This year, the team was 15-11 heading into the game, an underdog against the 20-6 Broncos of Western Michigan.

No thought has been given to a coaching change, Mr. Garland said. While the assistant coaches took over duties in Kalamazoo and may have to for the stretch of the tournament, Mr. Garland said, he was confident Mr. Coles would recover and return as head coach by next season.

Mr. Martin said Mr. Coles watches his diet carefully and exercises religiously.

''That's probably why he was able to pull through this,'' Mr. Martin.

The team spent the night in Kalamazoo Saturday and planned to visit their coach today before returning to Oxford, Mr. Estes said.

John Fay contributed to this report.

Miami regroups for victory