O'Brien says it could end his career

Updated: November 8, 2003, 4:01 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State basketball coach Jim O'Brien hopes a damaged vocal cord will heal so he can work without using a microphone.

"There's a chance that can happen," he said. "But if it doesn't, there's more surgical options to repair that."

One of O'Brien's two vocal cords was damaged during surgery Oct. 1 to correct chronic neck pain that had spread to his right arm. He said doctors advised him that the procedure, which is done through the front of the neck, could hamper his ability to speak.

"It has to get better if I'm going to continue my coaching career, quite honestly," O'Brien said after the Buckeyes' first exhibition game Friday, a 95-87 victory over the Coaches vs. Cancer All-Stars.

O'Brien is using a microphone in practice. The team will look for other ways to help him communicate with players, Ohio State spokesman Dan Wallenberg said.

"They say if it doesn't come back after eight months, it's not coming back," said O'Brien, who had a raspy voice before the surgery. "It could come back next week. It could come back in six months. I think we have to be a little bit patient, but I'm of the mind-set I want to coach."

If O'Brien can't coach this season, associate head coach Rick Boyages figures to stand in.

Boyages rejoined O'Brien's staff in April after leaving the head coaching job at William & Mary. Before that, Boyages was associate head coach from 1998 to 2000, and was also O'Brien's assistant for six seasons at Boston College.

The arrival of guards J.J. Sullinger and Tony Stockman, who sat out last season after transferring from Arkansas and Clemson, respectively, plus the return of center Terence Dials and point guard Brandon Fuss-Cheatham from injuries, give the Buckeyes a potent lineup.

"It pains him to speak and it limits what he's able to do, so he's scaling back on what he normally does in practice," Wallenberg said. "He's still going to be a part of the program, just not in the capacity he's been in when his voice is fine."

Wallenberg said he would be surprised if O'Brien doesn't coach this season.

"I don't expect any drastic measure for this year," Wallenberg said. "We just have to find different ways for him to communicate."

O'Brien is 119-72 entering his seventh season at Ohio State and 354-289 in a 21-year head coaching career.

He took the Buckeyes to the 1999 Final Four in his second season. A streak of four straight NCAA tournament appearances stopped last season when Ohio State finished 17-15.

"I'm going to try to do what I can," O'Brien said. "What I don't want to have happen is I don't want to become a distraction. So I don't know. We'll have to see where this goes."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press