Sometime early Sunday afternoon, Washington State assistant basketball coach Curtis Allen will take a moment for himself at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Allen, 35, isn’t so far removed from his days as a Huskies player, and ushers still remember him. Longtime athletic department officials recognize that crazy-wide smile. He said he’s already had a long talk this week with UW coach Lorenzo Romar, for whom he played during three seasons (2001-04).
But this trip to Seattle is different for the member of the Cougars’ staff, now in his eighth year, and second under Ernie Kent. It’s the first time he’s been back since suffering a heart attack in November.
Six weeks ago, the former Wilson High School standout was running on a treadmill in a hotel fitness room before WSU’s “Paradise Jam” tournament game in the U.S. Virgin Islands when he felt something odd.
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His breath shortened. And he was sweating profusely.
“I knew something was wrong,” Allen said. “But I got through the whole day. And then I went to the game.”
Allen admits he still felt crummy on the bench during the Cougars’ 103-77 loss to Creighton on Nov. 18. He figured a good night’s sleep would be the best thing for him.
He woke up the next morning feeling worse. It was then he decided to talk to medical personnel, who immediately got him transported to Schneider Regional Medical Center in St. Thomas.
Allen was having a heart attack.
“It was a scary event, mainly because I was so far from home,” Allen said. “But I had a good team of doctors and nurses who did a great job with me.”
Allen had surgery, and spent 2 1/2 days in the hospital before flying home to Pullman to take two weeks off at home with his wife, Alissa, and sons, Trey and Noah.
“He (was) in the care of doctors, which kept him off the floor, away from practice and away from the office — and that was OK,” Kent said. “As they gave him the green light to come back, he was under the care of me, which kept him away from the office, away from the floor to (allow) him to come back at his own pace, which was really slowly.”
In early December, Allen began showing up in the office on a limited basis. He said he watched home games against Utah Valley and New Orleans from the stands at Friel Court.
Finally, Allen was allowed to return to coaching for the Dec. 7 game against Idaho.
Since then, Allen has returned to full-time coaching duties. Leading up to the Cougars’ Pac-12 opener Sunday, he has been in Portland this week recruiting at the Les Schwab Invitational.
“It has been about rest and really taking our time bringing him back with everything he has been through,” Kent said. “I am happy we did it that way, because we are getting a guy back now who is a lot more aware with where he is at health-wise.”
When Allen thinks back to that miserable 24 hours leading up to his heart attack, he is still puzzled by it. He said he’s always been healthy and active. And he knows of no heart disease among his family.
“The doctors are confident I will be able to regain fully what I’ve been doing,” Allen said.
“This definitely woke me up,” Allen said.