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Art Garcia

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Rick Carlisle is one of many coaches to suffer the physical effects of stress lately.
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images

Warning: Coaching may be hazardous to your health


Posted Oct 11 2010 4:14PM

Rick Carlisle spent Saturday morning getting in a workout at American Airlines Center. He followed that up with a trip up to his office to take care of some odds and ends before preparing for an evening of Mavericks basketball.

Instead of taking his usual spot at one end of the bench, Carlisle took a seat on his couch 1,100 miles away. It had to be weird. It was also smart.

Carlisle suffered a fainting spell Friday during the team's afternoon practice. The 50-year-old coach, otherwise the picture of health, was taken by ambulance to a Dallas hospital for tests. He checked out fine and checked out of Baylor Medical Center before dinner time.

Carlisle even returned to his office at the arena before heading home, but wasn't on the team plane for Friday's flight to California. The Mavericks and Suns squared off in an outdoor preseason game Saturday night in Palm Springs. Carlisle watched it on TV.

Doctors told Carlisle to take it easy. He did, sort of. Working out is part of his routine and that's not about to change, so he was back pounding the treadmill Saturday. He's already looking forward to Monday morning's shootaround and returning to the bench for that evening's exhibition against Cleveland.

"I feel fine," Carlisle said Saturday afternoon. "There's nothing to worry about."

He didn't want to make a big deal of out the fainting incident. He talked about it some Friday afternoon on the radio and figures he'll have to address the subject again Monday before the game. Otherwise, he said it's not a big deal.

Carlisle's reasons for moving on are understandable. He's not dealing with a heart ailment and isn't in any immediate risk. He's never fainted before, he said, and doesn't believe built-up stress had anything to do with feeling light-headed and collapsing.

It's only preseason, Carlisle reminded with a laugh.

Still, his episode does bring into mind the correlation between coaching and stress-related issues. Several college football coaches have been in the headlines recently due to health scares. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio suffered a mild heart attack last month. Florida coach Urban Meyer was hospitalized last season after experiencing chest pains.

Citing the mental and physical demands of the job, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy vowed last season to get outside or exercise at least once a day.

The long hours, pressures of the job and anxiety take a toll. Coaches have been known to sleep in their offices before important and not-so-important games. The lifestyle can lead to poor eating habits and sleeping patterns if coaches aren't careful.

"It's obviously a hazard of the job," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said Saturday. "When you look at the things that football coaches go through, for them it's a 16-week schedule. But you look at what [basketball coaches] go through, it's five games in eight nights in five different cities. You're getting on a plane and eating at 12:30 at night, you're arriving in a city at five in the morning and you're meeting at 7:30.

"There's just a lot of things that you got to try to manage a little bit. Obviously, when you see something like what happened to coach Dantonio and Rick, you gotta be concerned."

Dantonio was back on the sidelines Saturday in the Spartans' win over Michigan. Carlisle is ready to get right back at it, too.

How a coach manages the wear and tear of the profession falls on the individual, though a balanced diet, proper rest, exercise and regular check-ups are pretty universal. There's also realizing when to let go.

"You've got to find some way, and that's probably the most difficult thing, to turn off your brain so it's not functioning 24-7," Gentry said. "And that gets hard to do.

"When you have kids, you get home and you're playing with them, that can take it away a little bit. But it's a real difficult thing to do because it's always on your mind. How can we get better? How can we improve? How can we win the game? That's basically how you keep your job."

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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