Tuesday, March 17, 1998
Coles' heart still in coaching
Miami coach reiterates: I will be back

BY JOHN FAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Miami star Wally Szczerbiak hugs coach Charlie Coles after a news conference Monday. Coles' wife, Delores, looks on.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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Charlie Coles hugged Wally Szczerbiak and said:

''Your jump shot's still working, ain't it, World?''

That exchange indicated that a brush with death had not changed Coles. His sense of humor is intact and basketball is on his mind.

Coles, the Miami men's basketball coach, met the local media for the first time since he suffered a cardiac arrest Feb. 28 during his team's game with Western Michigan in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

Coles reiterated his intention to keep coaching.

''My doctors have told me I could resume a normal life,'' he said, ''and that includes coaching.''

His wife, Delores, agreed that he should continue.

''I think that's what he should be doing,'' Delores said. ''That's been his life. God has blessed us. I say, 'Let's go.' ''

That comes as a tremendous relief to the RedHawks.

''We love Coach Coles as much as a team can love a coach,'' Szczerbiak said. ''We don't want to play for anyone else. We would if it came to that, but it's great to hear he'll be back.''

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''I'm like a player who has used up his red-shirt year,'' said Coles.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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Coles, 56, remains on blood-thinning medication and his chest is still sore from the CPR. But he did not suffer a heart attack. ''My blood flow is completely normal,'' he said.

Doctors did insert a defibrillator in Coles' chest. The defibrillator is more sophisticated in controlling the heartbeat than a pacemaker. ''That's suppose to protect me from the problem I had,'' he said. That is key to clearing Coles to return.

''My desire to coach depends on my family,'' he said. ''Because we're a basketball family, they lean toward coaching. But if I knew this would happen again, I wouldn't go back. It's affects too many people.''

Coles is weeks from returning to the job, but he has not considered taking next year off.

''I don't have that many left anyway,'' he said. ''I'm like a player who has used up his red-shirt year.''

Coles recalls little of what happened.

''I remember Jason Kimbrough, Western's guard, hitting a basket in transition,'' he said. ''I asked my assistants, 'Who's got him? Who's guarding him?' That's really all I remember.''

Coles was glad to be spared the trauma of watching the medical personnel work on him.

''I was the lucky one,'' he said, ''because I didn't see it . . . if I had I probably would have died of fright.''

The only time Coles showed any emotion during his news conference was when he recalled what his family went through during those desperate 20 minutes in Kalamazoo.

''I've been told how my daughter reacted . . . ,'' Coles said, then paused as his eyes welled with tears. ''I know both her and my son fainted. It was hardest on him. Everybody tells me how strong my wife was.''

Then seeking to lighten the mood Coles joked, ''. . . I would have liked to see some more tears.''

Delores said those 20 minutes were pure anguish.

''To see a loved one laying there,'' she said. ''Then to hear the paramedics say, 'We have no pulse.' Then say, 'We've got pulse.' You know in ER, how they take the family out of the room, that's the best thing.

''It's very hard to watch.''

Delores took to calling the five doctors who treated Charlie on the scene the ''Fab Five.''

''And we ain't talking about Chris Webber and Juwan Howard,'' Charlie said. ''These guys (the doctors) didn't have no turnovers.''

When Coles awoke Sunday after the Saturday ordeal, he didn't have any thoughts about life or death.

''The first thing I thought was we put a lot of preparation into that Western Michigan game,'' he said. ''Who won that game? That was childish.

''Then when I heard what happened (the cardiac arrest), I got scared.''

Later, when it sunk in, he was mostly thankful. He was still thanking people Monday.

''I want to give thanks to God, my family, the people in Kalamazoo who took care of me . . . They took care of me pretty good for being in a foreign country . . . ''

Coles got a visit every day he was in Bronson Methodist Hospital from Bob Donewald, Western Michigan's coach.

''I'm sure he had other things to worry about,'' Coles said. ''But he came and cheered me up.''

Coles did watch MU's season-ending loss to Eastern Michigan on ESPN.

''It meant everything to me the way they played,'' he said. ''I don't know if we have five healthy guys . . . but we went out like you're supposed to: fighting. I'm as proud of this as I've been of any team I've had.''

Previous reports

Coles leaves hospital March 9, 1998
Coles should listen to his heart Tim Sullivan column, March 4, 1998
Coles keeps improving March 4, 1998
Coles upgraded to serious March 3, 1998
Coles awake, 'very witty' March 2, 1998
Coles suffers heart attack March 1, 1998