Kansas coach Bill Self is out after a medical procedure

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A little more than 20 years ago, while on a trip to Pittsburgh, Bob Huggins collapsed at the airport while catching a flight home, waking up surrounded by strangers loading him into an ambulance.

Then-Cincinnati coach Huggins collapsed and lost consciousness on the ride to the hospital, where doctors told the future Hall of Fame coach he had suffered a massive heart attack. Huggins ended up having a device implanted to help normalize his heart rhythm and was told to make some lifestyle changes – exercise more, watch what he eats, lose weight and try to lower his your stress

That last one? That was probably the hardest.

The long days and longer nights combined with the ever-higher stakes of major college basketball naturally put coaches’ health at risk. Huggins is just one of many who have dealt with issues over the years.

So when Huggins, now the coach at West Virginia, learned Thursday that his longtime friend and Kansas teammate Bill Self had gone to the emergency room before the Big 12 tournament — and was subsequently admitted to the hospital for an undisclosed illness — he could tell for a way that hit it close to home.

“It comes to times when you have no choice (but to slow down). And I went through it. I had no choice,” Huggins said shortly after his Mountaineers were defeated by Kansas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.

“I was in the hospital with a whole bunch of tubes and someone would come in every 15 minutes and stick something in me,” he recalled. “You know, I want Bill to get better — I want to say that as soon as he can, but I really think what I have to say or want to say is that I want him to come out of there the way he’s always been.”

Kansas officials did not have details about what led to Self being admitted to the hospital late Wednesday. Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System, said in a statement that Self did not suffer a heart attack, as some media outlets have reported, but that he did undergo a procedure.

The school initially said Self would miss the Jayhawks’ postseason opener due to an illness, then announced Thursday night that he would also miss the rest of the Big 12 Tournament. The defending champion Jayhawks were scheduled to play Iowa State on Friday night for a spot in the championship game.

Longtime assistant Norm Roberts intends to lead Kansas while Self is out. Whether that will include the NCAA Tournament, where the Jayhawks are likely the No. 1 seed and also the defending champs, is completely unknown.

“Coach is doing well,” Roberts said Thursday night. “I talked to him on the phone (after beating West Virginia). He is doing well. He already wants to watch a movie and all that. He is doing well. He’s doing better.

Whether the stress of the season — and playing in arguably the toughest league in college basketball — contributed to Self’s health problems is pure conjecture. But there are many examples that prove that the profession, by its very nature, puts at risk those who demand the most from it.

Huggins is one of them. So is Skip Prosser. The Wake Forest coach suffered his own heart attack after a midday jog in 2007 and was found slumped on his office couch and incapacitated; he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

A stressful lifestyle is not exclusive to basketball either. Football coach Urban Meyer has said on several occasions that the pressures of the job have contributed to his health problems and the accompanying sabbaticals and retirements.

“It shows how short life is,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.

Self is expected to make a full recovery, his doctors said, and the 60-year-old Hall of Fame coach could lead the Jayhawks for years. His rolling contract gives him the freedom to decide when to end it.

Only he knows when that will happen. And what factors it will take into account.

“I’m sure we’ll talk at some point,” Huggins said. “He and I are talking. I’ve been through this stuff and it’s not fun at all. I especially think it’s going to be really tough for Bill this time of year because they’re trying to make another run at a national championship and he’s in the condition he’s in now. I think that would be very difficult for him.

“He’s a great competitor,” Huggins said. “A tremendous competitor.”


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