Worse, you just know a manager or a coach is within a tense moment of succumbing -- OK, dying -- on the field.
You just know it.
"Yeah, it could happen. Yeah, yeah," said Bobby Cremins, 63, over the phone from Charleston, S.C., and he's somebody who should know.
Cremins was among the kings of stress. In fact, while in the midst of coaching Georgia Tech basketball during its prolific era of Mark Price, Kenny Anderson and Stephon Marbury, Cremins was forced in 1993 by former Yellow Jackets athletics director Homer Rice to take a three-week trip to Florida -- and not to visit Mickey Mouse.
Rice told Cremins to see a psychiatrist, especially since the athletics director's highly wired coach couldn't shake the embarrassment of leaving Georgia Tech for his alma mater South Carolina before returning to the Yellow Jackets two days later after changing his mind.
Recalled Cremins, now entering his fifth season of coaching the College of Charleston, "The shrink in Florida put me on drugs to knock me out, and then I came back to Atlanta, and I was still on some antidepressant stuff and some sleeping pills. I woke up (one day), and I went out and ran five miles. When I came back to the house, I took all of the prescription drugs, and I threw them in the garbage."
He was cured.
Most of these other guys aren't.
Take Mark Dantonio, for instance. He's the Michigan State football coach who remains in a Lansing (Mich.) hospital bed after he suffered a heart attack on Saturday night following his Spartans' 34-31 home victory in overtime against Notre Dame.
This is the strangest story. I mean, Dantonio is having health problems, and his team won, and Michigan State did so miraculously.
With Notre Dame leading by three in overtime, the Spartans did the expected by preparing for a 46-yard field goal in an attempt to force a second overtime. Instead, Dantonio did the unexpected. He called for a fake, and the holder fired a perfect pass for the game-winning touchdown that caused thousands of folks in green throughout the stadium to yell and stomp themselves silly.
Dantonio? He was expressionless.
And here's something else: Throughout the game, which was a see-saw thriller down the stretch of the second half and into overtime, I noticed a striking contrast. You had Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, who was a delight for lip readers with his raw expressions whenever his Fighting Irish did something good or bad, and then you had Dantonio, who kept looking as if he were watching cornstalks grow.
Was it just me?
"No, I saw the game, and I agree with you," Cremins said. "First of all, I thought it was one of the greatest plays that I've ever seen, and I thought the coach was cool after it happened. So, when I heard that he had a heart attack, wow. I was so really, really surprised, because it was just a fantastic call. It took a lot of guts.
"But you know what? He looked too calm at times. Maybe he got in trouble by keeping it all inside. We'll never know. But I really wish he would have kind of expressed himself and jumped up and down and just let it all out, even after the game.
"After the play he called and the way it was executed, if it was me, I would have been out there in the pile-up."
No question there. Cremins never met an emotion he didn't like. For verification, he always had his white hair flying in the air after the many times he flew off the Georgia Tech bench -- just because.
The point is, Cremins had those psychological issues with his gyrations on the court, but he mostly kept the physical issues away.
In contrast, the usually low-key Terry Francona walked from Yankee Stadium into an ambulance five years ago after he suffered chest pains when his Boston Red Sox were preparing for a game against their Great Satans in Pinstripes.
And Urban Meyer is usually meek on the sidelines by football coaching standards. Still, he felt so much turmoil inside his body after Florida lost the Southeastern Conference Championship Game last year to Alabama that he was hospitalized.
Then he resigned.
Then he returned within 24 hours.
This isn't to say that if you often go nuts as a coach or a manager during practices or games that the likelihood of you not lying on somebody's stretcher decreases over time.
There is Bob Huggins, for instance, and he is a stick of dynamite in a sweat suit as the West Virginia basketball coach. He was the same thing at Cincinnati, where he suffered a heart attack in 2002 despite just ending a season winning 31 of 35 games.
Nobody ever would excuse Mike Ditka of being warm and cuddly, especially when he barked before, during and after games with the Chicago Bears. While spending the 1988 season moving toward the NFC Championship Game, he had a heart attack.
Bo Schembechler had several of them.
This was the same Michigan football coach who gave you the impression that he would rip your eyes out of your sockets if you went left when he wanted you to go right.
Said Cremins of Jim Valvano, the famously frantic North Carolina State basketball coach who died at 47 of cancer, "I always felt that stress had something to do with (his death)."
You also had Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser, who went jogging one summer day in 2007, returned to his office and died at 56 of what doctors called a massive heart attack. "That shook a lot of coaches up," said Cremins, who spent the previous morning huddling with what he thought was a fit and alert Prosser. "When he died, there were a lot of coaches who just went home. They stopped recruiting."
In sum, whether you're a crazy coach/manager or a calm one, stress is lurking as an equal opportunity killer.There is a solution to this problem, though, and all you have to remember are those orders Rice gave Cremins at Georgia Tech: Either get help, or just get lost for a while. That's what Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski did for a year with the blessing of his athletic director after he suffered back problems due to tension.
Well, that's the solution. But the late Al McGuire used to say heroin for coaches is victories, and here's another thing:
"You know, the compensation now has gone crazy, when you're making $2 million and $3 million a year, and that's hard to give up. The money is controlling," said Cremins, adding that there is little incentive for an athletic director (or an owner in the pros) to tell a successful coach to leave for a while with alumni and fans to satisfy.
Cremins adds, "In reality, each coach has to make sure that during their off period, they get away from it. They have to exercise. They have to get physicals every year, and I get one every October.
"Lute Olson used to go to a beach every year for a month. Dale Brown used to try to climb Mount Everest. John Wooden had the love of his wife. Bobby Knight went fishing and hunting."
"Each coach has to look out for himself."