Thursday, January 3, 2008
Washington State coach back, with different mind-set after cardiac arrest
PULLMAN, Wash. -- June Daugherty had just pulled up to her
doctor's office. The Washington State women's basketball coach then
slumped over the wheel of her car. She was in cardiac arrest.
Her 13-year-old daughter ran inside, and a team of cardiac
specialists rushed out. It took them seven shocks to get her heart
"Having 14 cardiologists come out and revive me was pretty
lucky," Daugherty said, recalling that May 22 escape.
Now the 51-year-old coach is back on the sidelines, her first
season at Washington State. She has taken over a team that is 3-10
and hasn't had a winning season since 1995-96.
"We've seen improvement," Daugherty said. "It takes time."
As will her recovery.
"I'm learning to pace myself and adjust to medications," she
said. "Doctors say it takes a full year to get a full recovery."
Daugherty tires easily and has eased up on her schedule. She
delegates more to assistants, including her husband, Mike, the
associate head coach.
"When you've been on life support for a few days, your life
totally changes," Daugherty said. "It's something you deal with
each day and try to get stronger."
Daugherty was fired after last season by Washington despite nine
postseason appearances in 11 years and a 191-139 record.
Administrators decided the program lacked buzz.
Washington State was looking for a new coach, and athletic
director Jim Sterk surprised many by reaching across the state to
hire Daugherty on April 20.
A month later she was fighting for her life.
Daugherty collapsed at The Everett Clinic, where she had gone to
discuss treatment for her cardiomyopathy. A recent physical had
revealed an abnormality in her heart rate, so a stress test was
performed on May 21.
She was returning to the clinic the next day to discuss the
results. Then she leaned over the wheel. Her daughter, Breanne, was
in the car because she was sick that day and stayed home from
school. She rushed for help.
Doctors shocked Daugherty's heart into rhythm. In the hospital,
it became apparent Daugherty did not have a heart attack. Damage to
the muscle was minimal, and doctors implanted a pacemaker and
The arrest was caused by a virus that settled in her heart, was
not hereditary and not the result of any lifestyle choices,
Daugherty said. Doctors do not believe it will not recur.
"But I was hard-wired to survive if it happens again,"
Daugherty, a basketball star at Ohio State in the mid-1970s,
gave no thought to retiring from coaching.
"It didn't enter my mind," she said.
Her husband supports her return. "He knows me well enough," she said. "I need to be up and
going and focused. I'm happiest when I am that way."
Sterk assured Cougars fans Daugherty would remain coach.
Daugherty had to reassure her players, who barely knew her.
Katie Appleton, WSU's leading scorer, recalled that players
drifted into the basketball office the day of Daugherty's cardiac
arrest, looking for scraps of news. It took only one team meeting
in July, after Daugherty's release from the hospital, to put their
fears to rest.
"She cleared up any questions," Appleton said. "She said,
'I'm still going to coach.' "
"She's just tough," Appleton added. "Won't ever show any
Daugherty had a special resource in one of her former players,
Kayla Burt, who rushed to her hospital room. Burt was a player for
Washington in 2002 when her heart stopped on New Year's Eve during
a party at her apartment.
Teammates performed CPR until paramedics arrived. Burt had a
defibrillator implanted and returned to basketball. But the
defibrillator went off during a game in 2006, and Burt retired from
playing. She is now an assistant with the University of Portland.
"I'll call her with the dumbest questions," Daugherty said.
"At night I'll wake up and feel like I'm running. It's the
pacemaker coming on."
The schedule did Daugherty no favors. She opened the Pac-10
season at No. 2 Stanford (losing 105-47) and at Cal (losing 99-44).
On Friday, the Cougs host her former team, Washington. The Huskies
(5-9) have won 24 straight games against Washington State, 23 of
them under Daugherty.
The game will be the inaugural "Cougs Have Heart," sponsored
by Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children's Hospital of Spokane
and The Hope Heart Institute of Seattle. It is designed to raise
awareness of heart disease.
"I'm truly blessed to have a second chance in life," Daugherty