Mark Dantonio's return should lift Spartans
September, 28, 2010
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com
I just got off of the Big Ten coaches' teleconference, and it was great to hear Mark Dantonio's voice again.
Dantonio is back in his office in East Lansing and will gradually return to his head-coaching duties with the 24th-ranked Spartans. He plans to be in the coaches' booth for Saturday's home showdown against No. 11 Wisconsin, and a return to the sideline can't be too far away.
It's an amazing recovery for a guy who had a mild heart attack and underwent surgery only nine days ago.
"I feel good, I feel very good," Dantonio said. "I'll ease back into this, just like any injured player would. I guess you could say I'm day to day."
Dantonio said it was "surreal" to watch Michigan State's game against Northern Colorado on TV this past weekend. It provided a different perspective, perhaps even a healthier one, for the 54-year-old, who also attended a high school football game where his daughter was named homecoming queen.
But Dantonio returned to the office Monday, the same day he had an appointment with his cardiologist.
"I'm following doctor's orders," Dantonio said. "That's the No. 1 thing I’m going to do, be a good patient and listen to what they have to say and how I'm able to move forward."
Dantonio is all business, and I'm sure he appreciated being asked several surprising non-health-related questions on the Big Ten call before I put a stop to things. Forget about the X's and O's and Wisconsin and Eric Gordon's injury status.
It's a big deal to have Dantonio back so soon, especially with Big Ten play starting and Michigan State's big rivalry game next week at Michigan.
Asked if he's a changed man following the heart attack, Dantonio replied, "Time will tell. Hopefully, when you go through something like this, you become a little bit wiser, you become a little more compassionate toward people or whatever. I can’t answer that right now."
Dantonio praised coordinators Don Treadwell and Pat Narduzzi for holding things down during his absence, and Treadwell will continue to handle head-coaching duties when needed.
But Michigan State players have to sense their coach will be back in a full-time capacity soon. I don't want to make too much of it, but Dantonio's presence could really be a big lift for the Spartans heading into two very tough games.
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
12:00 PM ET Purdue Illinois 12:00 PM ET 20 Ohio State Maryland 2:30 PM ET North Texas Indiana 3:30 PM ET 17 Wisconsin Northwestern 7:00 PM ET Michigan Rutgers 8:00 PM ET 19 Nebraska 10 Michigan State