It remains to be seen how far the Bullitt East High School boys basketball team will advance this postseason, but if the Chargers play beyond March 2, they will do so without head coach Jason Couch.
That’s the day Couch is scheduled to have a kidney transplant at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in an attempt to relieve his polycystic kidney disease, which was diagnosed 10 years ago. Couch said doctors have told him his kidneys currently are functioning at 8 percent efficiency.
Couch, 45, will receive the transplant from his cousin, Kelly Moyer.
“She was the first person tested, and she’s a match,” Couch said. “Sometimes you have to wait a long time, so this is definitely a blessing. I told her that she’s my angel now. For someone to sacrifice that much for you, it’s a little overwhelming to take. But we’re a pretty close-knit family.”
Couch, who previously coached at Greenwood, Eastern and Shelby County, is in his first season as the Chargers’ head coach and has led them to a 20-8 record. He will be on the sideline Wednesday when Bullitt East hosts Jeffersontown at 7:30 p.m. in a 24th District Tournament semifinal.
Couch also could coach in the 24th District final on Friday and the first round of the Sixth Region Tournament on Feb. 28 if the Chargers get that far. The Sixth Region semifinals are set for March 3, a day after Couch’s surgery. Assistant coach Robert Troutman will take over the team if the Chargers are still playing.
“He’s more than capable, and I’m confident in turning it over to him,” Couch said. “If we get that far, it will be tough not being there. But we have a heck of a group of kids. I love them. I never wanted this to deflect attention away from those boys. The way they’ve accepted me and the way they’ve bought into my system has been amazing. We’ve developed a really special bond.”
MORE PREPS COVERAGE
Couch said the main symptoms of polycystic kidney disease are high blood pressure – “The way I coach does not lend well to that,” Couch said with a laugh – and fatigue. He said in recent months he also has battled nausea.
“The way he’s handled it has been amazing,” Bullitt East athletic director Troy Barr said. “You can tell he’s not 100 percent, but he doesn’t let his job suffer in the classroom or on the court. There have been days when he looks so tired, but he’s fought through it. … I know he’s ready to feel better, and we’re ready for him to get healthy.”
Couch said he will be in the hospital for up to a week after the surgery and that a full recovery usually takes 12 weeks. He hopes to be ready to return as the Chargers’ head coach during the summer.
Couch praised Bullitt East administrators for working with him as he’s battled the health issues in his first year at the school.
“I’m a pretty faithful person, and that’s what has got my wife Katie and I through this move and this season,” Couch said. “It was a borderline miracle that the first person tested for a transplant came through with that close of a match. We’ve just put it all in God’s hands.”
BALLARD’S RENNER OUT
3 GAMES AFTER EJECTION
The Ballard boys basketball team will be without head coach Chris Renner for its first three postseason games – if it advances that far – after he was ejected from Saturday’s 84-64 victory at Indianapolis Brebeuf Jesuit.
Kentucky High School Athletic Association rules require any head coach who is ejected from a game to sit out his or her team’s next three contests.
“Obviously Saturday night was my fault and I have to take responsibility for it,” Renner said. “We were on the road with unfamiliar officials. They don’t know me, and I don’t know them. The ejection was quick. Did I deserve a technical? Absolutely. Did I deserve to be ejected? I don’t think so. … But I’ll take my medicine and run.”
That means longtime Ballard assistant Ray Kline will be at the helm when the Bruins (23-6) – No. 6 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – face Kentucky Country Day at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the semifinals of the 28th District Tournament at Christian Academy.
If the Bruins continue to advance, Renner also would have to sit out Thursday’s district final and the first round of the Seventh Region Tournament on Feb. 28. He would be eligible to return for the regional semifinals on March 2.
“It’s not going to be a huge difference other than it’s going to be a little more mellow on the bench and a little more gray hair,” Renner joked about Kline. “Ray coaches our summer-league games, so our guys are familiar with him coaching. Ballard basketball is not just Chris Renner. It’s an entire staff. We won’t miss a beat.”
Renner has a 518-122 record in his 19th season at Ballard.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.