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Saint Leo coach loses appendix, gains win

In the midst of an 11-game losing skid, Saint Leo University men's basketball coach Mike Madagan wondered just what it would take to end the drought.

It gnawed at his stomach _ literally.

Madagan underwent an emergency appendectomy Tuesday night at the same time his Lions were winning for the first time since Nov. 29. Under the guidance of assistant coach Cedric Smith, Saint Leo defeated Nova Southeastern 75-72.

"If he goes 1-0, he can have it," Madagan joked Wednesday afternoon from his hospital bed at the Pasco Regional Medical Center. "I told them I won't show up if they win without me.

"The guy who thought he was the captain found out he was the anchor," he said.

Far from it, Mike.

An anchor weighs something down whereas Madagan invests all of his energy lifting people up. The 38-year-old's passion for basketball is eclipsed only by his faith and family devotion.

Sure, Madagan's wife of 15 years, Georgia, said all her husband spoke of before surgery was basketball. And the first thing Madagan asked when he came to afterward was, "Did we win?"

But Georgia _ and those who know Madagan _ are well aware of his real concerns. Aware that his daughters, Hannah, 5, and Sarah, 2, wanted to wait with their father at the hospital Tuesday night, Madagan insisted they go with his parents to the Saint Leo game at the Marion Bowman Activities Center. That way, Madagan said, they would not worry.

Afterward, the girls and their grandparents, Joe and Eva Madagan, returned to the hospital for good news all around. Mike came through surgery with flying colors, and his team had won.

Saint Leo players Larry Henderson and Robert Wilson, who visited their coach late Tuesday night, returned with a dozen teammates Wednesday afternoon.

The visits touched Madagan, even more so than the Lions' victory.

"It shows they care," he said of his players, whom he considers extended family.

"Certainly they know I care about them."

That became all too clear when doctors told Madagan he would not be released until Thursday. That meant missing Wednesday night's Pasco-Wesley Chapel high school basketball game that included two people he cared about: Pasco's Myron Saul and John Daniel.

The Madagans have taken in youngsters over the years; some from single parents in financial straits, others from troubled backgrounds. In all, the Madagans have helped six boys and girls from two families since 1989.

"It's my faith and belief I'm on the face of this earth to help other people," Madagan said.

Added Georgia, "It's not just about basketball. It's about people and their lives."

Madagan will continue to coach and watch as many basketball games as he can. And though he would like nothing more than to erase this season's 11 consecutive losses and improve the Lions' 3-14 record, Madagan will be court side for Saturday's 2 p.m. home game against Florida Tech.

"I told (my players) if I need to stay away Saturday, I will for sure," Madagan said.

Yeah, okay Mike. Surely he wouldn't mind missing the game he passionately speaks of. And he probably wouldn't want to be around those players whose lives he has touched.

Nah, he wouldn't mind missing that. Not at all.

Perhaps they could track him down after the game and tell him about another victory.