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The View From Pluto: Obsession Can Take its Toll on Coaches

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, 40, has stepped away from the team for now to deal with health issues
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, 40, has stepped away from the team for now to deal with health issues

News this week that Cavs’ coach Tyronn Lue is stepping away from the team to deal with health issues hit close to home for the Indians. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto, who is in Goodyear, Ariz., this week for Spring Training, says Tribe manager Terry Francona talked about how the job takes its toll, physically and mentally. 

Terry Pluto talks about stress and pressure on coaches

Pluto says it appears Lue had been struggling with his health for a while.

“There were a lot of rumors that he wasn’t feeling well. He didn’t come out for the second half of a game the other day and he had missed parts of two other games and missed at least one practice to see a specialist. He sounded weary and you could tell there was a lot of things going on with him.”

The Indians were in a similar situation last year, when manager Terry Francona missed four games because of an irregular heartbeat. He had a cardiac ablation procedure at the Cleveland Clinic in July. He’s battled health issues for years.

Francona talked about Lue on Monday.

“Francona said he would watch Lue on the sidelines, trying to be calm and collected. But he said on the inside you’re going crazy and you want to rant and rave.  But you’re the leader of the team and you’re supposed to stay under control and not show your emotions. But you’re shoving them down and sometimes that creates a situation that can lead to some of these moments, too,” Pluto says.

Pluto says that Francona understands the pressure and stress that Lue had been feeling and the need to pretend that everything is OK.  

“In real life, the single mom or the adult dealing with the pressures of taking care of the elderly, they don’t have the money or the access to doctors like the coaches do. They feel lots of pressures, too. The differences for coaches is that it plays out on a big stage where people see it,” Pluto says.

And Pluto says it’s an issue facing sports overall. Charlotte Hornet’s coach Steve Clifford missed 21 games earlier this season because of headaches caused by sleep deprivation. And, Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger left a game in January, reportedly dealing with anxiety.

“Maybe in the past, people just kind of bowled their way through it, but I don’t think so. I just think there are more health problems now than ever,” Pluto says.

“They get so obsessed with their jobs they don’t eat well; they don’t rest; they don’t work out. They do all the things wrong that they would frankly never want their players to do.”

“We’ve made some of this stuff so important and it’s so easy for the coaches to buy into [the idea that] the world hangs in the balance if you can’t get your starting rotation right. Or it hangs in the balance if you can’t get Kevin Love back in time for the playoffs.”

“You just want to tell these guys to chill out a little bit because when you’re uptight, your players can feel it. In many ways, the Cavaliers players were relieved to see Ty Lue step away because they could just watch the physical and emotional toll on him."

Terry Pluto's update from Indians Spring Training

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