Mark Dantonio: 10 Coaches Who Have Struggled With Health Issues
When Michigan State football head coach Mark Dantonio was hospitalized following his team’s dramatic overtime win over Notre Dame on Saturday night, it brought back some haunting memories of coaches who have struggled with health issues during their career.
And from former Houston Rockets legendary head coach Rudy Tomjanovich to more recent times and coach Urban Meyer’s bouts with health problems, many coaches—at both the college and professional levels—have struggled with heath-related hindrances.
Today, we’ll be examining 10 coaches who meet that criteria, beginning with coach Dantonio…
Shortly after Michigan State’s dramatic 34-31 overtime victory against Notre Dame on Saturday night, Sept. 18, Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio was hospitalized due to suffering a mild heart attack.
According to numerous Associated Press reports, the 54-year-old Dantonio had surgery to put a stent in a blocked blood vessel leading to the heart, allowing blood flow to be restored; he is expected to remain at Sparrow Hospital for the next few days.
In addition, “team members were notified of the situation Sunday, and offensive coordinator Don Treadwell will lead the team during Dantonio’s indefinite absence,” according to AP reports, as the head coach will not be on the sidelines when No. 25 Michigan State faces Northern Colorado on Saturday, Sept. 25.
“Coach Dantonio is resting comfortably following his procedure and is expected to make a full recovery,” Dr. Chris D’Haem, who performed the procedure, said.
Florida Gators football head coach Urban Meyer has also struggled with health issues, as the 46-year-old coach was hospitalized in December 2009 with chest pains.
It was later announced to the public that Meyer was quietly hospitalized on Dec. 6, 2009, following the Gators SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama; and on Dec. 26, 2009, the Florida coach revealed his health issues to the media.
“I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to re-evaluate my priorities of faith and family,” Meyer said at the time.
Meyer later decided to postpone retirement and returned to his head coaching duties with the Gators in March 2010.
Wake Forest men’s basketball head coach Skip Prosser, who passed away at 56 years old on July 26, 2007, died from an apparent “sudden massive heart attack,” according to Wikipedia.
According to CBS Sports.com wire reports, Wake Forest athletics director Ron Wellman said he was unaware of any previous health issues for Prosser, and called his death a “devastating loss.”
Chris Paul, who played for Prosser in college, was also shocked by the coach’s sudden death.
“His passing is a tremendous loss for the entire Wake Forest community,” Paul said in a statement. “He played a very significant role in my life and his influence extended well beyond the game of basketball.
"He taught me many valuable life lessons and was someone I admired with the utmost respect.”
Rick Majerus, who left Utah as the team’s head coach after 15 seasons, cited health issues when bolting from Utah’s basketball program amid controversy.
According to a report on L.A. Times.com, Majerus said he had “undergone seven heart bypass operations.”
After a brief stint as an ESPN reporter, Majerus returned to coaching on Dec. 15, 2004, at the University of Southern California—only to resign five days later.
Majerus once again cited health and fitness problems, according to Wikipedia.
“I wanted this job so bad I was in denial where my health actually is,” Majerus said at the time.
After working as an analyst for ESPN from 2004-2007, Majerus returned to the hardwood as a college coach on April 27, 2007, taking over the helm at St. Louis University.
He remains there today, and the contract he signed in 2007 is for six years.
Jim Calhoun announced to the public that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer on Feb. 3, 2003, taking an immediate leave of absence from his head coaching duties at the University of Connecticut.
Five years later, in May 2008, Calhoun had to undergo treatment for “squamous cell carcinoma,” according to Wikipedia.
And most recently, on Jan. 19, 2010, Calhoun took a leave of absence from UConn due to health concerns.
He returned to the basketball court on Feb. 13, 2009, and remains there today.
On Nov. 4, 2007, it was announced that Lute Olson would be taking an indefinite leave of absences from his head coaching duties at Arizona, according to Wikipedia.
Olson later retired in 2008, and five days after announcing his retirement, a press conference was held regarding the former Arizona basketball coach.
Steven D. Knope, Olson’s personal physician, informed the media that the former head coach had an “initially undiagnosed” stroke earlier in the year which had caused severe depression and impaired judgment, according to Wikipedia.
In addition, Olson had also apparently suffered from atrial fibrillation for several years, which may have led to a blot clot and his eventual stroke.
LA Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, by no means a stranger to retirement, has left the game of basketball on more than one occasion due to health concerns.
And Jackson may be contemplating those same concerns as the Lakers head into the 2010-11 NBA season.
“I have some medical issues I want to check out; there are some things I think it’s necessary for me to do,” Jackson told ESPN.com news services. “I wear a knee brace, and I have to make a decision about that, about how far I’m going to go to repair a knee.”
Jackson also cited other health concerns, but did not elaborate with ESPN.
“I told my owner I’ll try to check those out and give him an idea as quickly as possible,” Jackson said.
Eddie Sutton took a medical leave of absence from his coaching duties at Oklahoma State University in February 2006, citing health problems and a controversial car accident for his decision.
And on Feb. 15, 2006, Sutton read a prepared statement over the phone regarding his past struggles with alcohol and admitting abusing prescription medication.
Sutton eventually resigned as the men’s basketball head coach at Oklahoma State and underwent treatment for his health concerns, according to Wikipedia.
Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, known to the hoops world as Coach K, has dealt with his share of medical concerns during his 20-plus years at the helm of the Blue Devils basketball program.
Coach K’s most dramatic health moment, however, occurred during the 1994-95 college basketball season—as Krzyzewski had to leave the team after just 12 games due to back surgery and exhaustion.
Coach K also later had his left hip replaced in April 1999 after spending years walking with a limp.
By October 2000, Krzyzewski was back to his normal self—running down the court with ease and smiling from ear to ear.
Former Rockets head coach Rudy Tomjanovich, known primarily for bringing the city of Houston back-to-back NBA Titles in 1994 and 1995, has been dealing with health issues for many years now.
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion,” Tomjanovich’s trademark quote when his underdog Rockets took home their second consecutive NBA World Championship, is still remembered by most Houston fans to this day.
Rudy T, as the coach was affectionately called by fans and media alike, retired as Houston’s head coach after the 2002-03 season after being diagnosed with bladder cancer.
Tomjanovich briefly returned to the NBA hardwood as the LA Lakers head coach in 2004, but he retired just 41 games into the season due to health concerns.
He is currently a scout for the Lakers, taking over that responsibility in 2004 upon stepping down as the team’s head coach.
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org