Texas A&M Coach Talks Battle With Parkinson’s, NCAA Tournament

Almost five years ago, Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy announced that he had early-stage Parkinson’s disease. Some coaches might have walked away from the game right there. Resigned and focused on treatment.

Kennedy didn’t. He stayed.

And the Aggies have gotten better each year.

“I don’t know if it has any impact on what I do as a coach, but every day when I wake up in the morning, I know physically I have a challenge that somebody else doesn’t have,” Kennedy, 52, said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “For some people, it could be a stiff knee or a bad back, and right now, that’s kind of all I have is some stiffness. I’ve been blessed. Some people with this disease have different symptoms and stronger cases. It’s something i’ve got to manage. It progressively gets worse and I’m hoping it’ll go slow and it’s a slow process. We’ll just deal with it one day at a time. That’s what you learn when you go through something dealing with health. We’re only guaranteed the day we have and the moment we have. We better make the most of it and embrace it and enjoy it and that’s what we’ve tried to do.”

Under Kennedy, the Aggies have gone from 14 wins, to 18 wins with no postseason, to 18 wins with a CBI bid, to 21 wins with an NIT bid, to 26 wins, and, finally, an NCAA Tournament bid. Texas A&M (26-8) won eight of its last nine games, with the one loss coming to Kentucky in overtime in the SEC Championship.

Senior guards Jalen Jones and Danuel House lead the Aggies with 15.5 points per game, while freshman center Tyler Dvais is averaging 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds.

“It’s been great because the thing is, we got good seniors who are pretty good leaders and we’ve got freshmen who are willing to follow,” Kennedy said. “That’s not something you always get. You’ve got young guys who have accepted their roles and have not come in and tried to disrupt (anything). That’s what’s made it special with both groups. They put their egos aside and embraced each other. That’s why we’ve been successful.”

A&M, seeded third in the West region, opens against No. 14 Green Bay on Friday at 7:20 p.m. ET.

“It’s been a great run,” Kennedy said. “We hope to keep it going. Our guys have embraced it. I want them to have fun with it. We’re performing at a high level and hopefully we can keep it going.”

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