Dave Joerger is only 43 years old, still a young man in NBA coaching standards.
So when he almost face-planted while on the sidelines during a game last Sunday at SBC Center in San Antonio, it shook him.
“I was scared,” the second-year Kings coach, who returned to practice Thursday and plans to coach tonight’s game against the Golden State Warriors, told the Sacramento Bee. “I was all the way there (conscious), but I just couldn’t see for that minute. Going to sleep in San Antonio that night, you get scared. Is this the night I meet my maker?”
Dehydration is being pegged as the cause for Joerger almost falling face-first onto the hardwood, saved only by the arm of assistant coach Elston Turner, who grabbed Joerger before he hit the deck.
The Bee reported Joerger believes a combination of his significant weight loss — he dropped 40 pounds since switching to a diet heavy on fruits and vegetables after last season — and dealing with the stress played a part in his scare.
“That’s what’s so bizarre about this whole thing. I’m in great shape. When I was heavier, it would have been like, ‘Come on, dummy.’ But it was unbelievable, it was cool,” he said of the tests. “To go through and hear, ‘No, that’s not it. Nah, that’s not it.’ You know nothing is going untouched or unscanned.”
Kings assistant coach Duane Ticknor, who has known Joerger most of his adult life, admitted seeing Joerger’s plight was frightening.
“Obviously, we were all very concerned,” Ticknor, who has known Joerger most of his adult life, said. “I think we all, as coaches, have experienced that at some time, where you jump up too quick and get lightheaded. My first thought was, he lost all this weight, played tennis four out of five days, was out in the sun, blah, blah, blah. And the stress.”
Stress has become a huge issue for everyone in any kind of spotlight, let alone the high-profile world that is the NBA, and Joerger admitted being affected by social media and 24/7 news cycles.
The Kings (16-34) have struggled mightily this season as Joerger has attempted to juggle playing time for a plethora of young guys such as Willie Cauley-Stein, Buddy Hield and rookies De’Aaron Fox, Josh Jackson and Bogdan Bogdanovic and veterans such as reported Cleveland Cavaliers trade target George Hill, Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos. It’s not likely to get any easier tonight against an invasion by the defending champion Warriors (40-11).
“PR tells me, ‘They are on your ass; they are on your ass,’ ” Joerger said grinning, and nodding toward media director Chris Clark. “We all hear about stuff. The fans, everybody has an opinion about who should be playing. That part wears on me. No question. But I’m trying to do it right, build this the right way.”