Liver disease, hospital stays not slowing down Humble’s Lair Crawford
Originally Appeared on Vype
HOUSTON – A few minutes into the interview, I finally asked the question I had wanted the answer to before I even dialed the number.
"Was there ever a point during the season where you thought you needed to hand the team over to your assistant coach for an extended amount of time?"
The phone line went silent for a couple of seconds.
"Yes" was the firm answer back from the other end of the line.
The voice delivering it was Humble boys basketball coach Lair Crawford, who led the Wildcats to the program's 26th-straight playoff berth this past season, and found out in September he had liver disease and needed a transplant if he didn't get better.
Despite adhering to the doctor's orders of a low-salt diet, no drinking, exercising and generally not putting anything bad into his body, Crawford's liver continued to get worse as the months progressed.
In December, it landed him in the hospital for a week, during which he missed one game.
Then in January, another week.
This time missing a pair of games in the midst of District 22-6A play.
"It was stressful," Crawford said. "I'm sure it was a distraction on the kids because I didn't tell them exactly what was going on at the time. They fought through it. We talk about it all the time, this isn't my team or coach's team. This is you all's team."
During his weeklong absences, longtime assistant coach Leon Morris Jr. took care of the day-to-day operations of running practice and coaching the games he missed.
"That's another thing that helped get me through this," Crawford said about Morris. "If I had a new assistant or somebody I barely knew it would have been a lot more stressful on me. Because I would have felt like I don't know if he can handle it, I need to be there. Leon was great.
"He just took it and ran. He's proven he's ready to be a head coach."
While he was in the hospital, Crawford said Morris would come up to his room to talk basketball. The 10th-year Humble coach unable to be with is guys watched a lot of film to help while he was out.
During the games he missed, Crawford said he would follow the team's Twitter feed for score updates, which were being posted by a parent.
"Everybody was like you need to rest and take care of yourself but this is in some ways our life," he said. "Especially during the season you can't just turn it off."
It was during the January stay in the hospital that Crawford contemplated stepping back for the rest of the season.
The veteran coach ran the idea past his wife.
"She told me I was full of it," Crawford said with a laugh.
Then he knew he needed to talk to Humble ISD Athletic Director Troy Kite, who used to be the head boys basketball coach at Humble High School before moving into administration.
"He basically said no," Crawford said not divulging into the entire conversation.
Kite worked with Crawford during his time in the hospital, easing his mind about the days of worked missed and even helping out during practices at times.
"He has been amazing," Crawford said about Kite. "I can't think of a better person to work for. He's been there with me every step. Worked some things out here and helped so much. He's made it a lot less stressful as far as worrying about my job and things."
Crawford returned after the hospital stay in January to the team for the remainder of the season, which included the program's first-ever playoff berth as a Class 6A program.