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O'Brien says it could end his career

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."