Digger Phelps fights bladder cancer
by Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY Sports
First, let’s clear up the really big picture on ESPN’s Digger Phelps: He almost certainly won’t be running for president.
President, that is, of the United States. Really.
Phelps, 71, actually considered that idea afters serving in the Office of National Drug Policy in the George H.W. Bush administration, where he headed the so-called Operation Weed and Seed that was meant to help develop struggling urban areas. He had never run for elective office but in 2006 he says he “gave serious thought to running (for president) as a Reagan Democrat. But in 2007, I stopped before everything kicked in. Funding was the issue. But as I said then, ‘the nation needs a coach.’ ”
So, you think a guy who thinks like that is going to get too worked up about battling cancer?
That’s what the ESPN college basketball analyst is dealing with after having surgery for bladder cancer April 18, with months of follow-up treatment to go near his home in the South Bend, Ind., area. This is his second bout with cancer — he had successful treatment for prostate cancer three years ago — and talks about his current challenge almost as if he’s drawing up plays in a timeout.
“They got it all. I have no more tumors in my body. So that was a relief,” Phelps, 71, tells USA TODAY Sports. “Now it’s, when does the game start and here’s the game plan. Let’s go after it!”
Seems almost like Phelps — who went 393-197 in two decades coaching Notre Dame basketball before retiring in 1991 — is ready to tell everybody to take a lap.
His treatment will include being given Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), which is also used to prevent tuberculosis. Yet he still will coach the Canadian men’s over-35 basketball team in Israel’s Maccabiah Games in July. That came about after a request from ESPN play-by-play announcer Dan Shulman, who’s on that team roster.
“At first, I thought, ‘You want an Irish Catholic from Notre Dame to coach a Maccabiah team from Canada in Israel?’ ” Phelps said.
Having agreed, Phelps says Shulman better not expect any special treatment: “If he … [For more on ESPN's Digger Phelps has 'game plan' for bladder cancer, click here.]