When Texas swimmer Samantha Tucker committed to swim for the Longhorns this year, she and her family undoubtedly spent a lot of time getting to know women’s coach Kim Brackin. Little did they know that they would have an equally important role in Texas men’s coach Eddie Reese’s life. Samantha’s father, Paul Tucker, performed emergency heart surgery on Reese to clear a blockage.
Reese first felt symptoms while taking an uphill walk to Texas’ Erwin Center to watch a Lonestar Showdown basketball game between Texas and Texas A&M. He grew unusually short of breath, and felt pains in his arm. While Dr. Tucker stopped short of calling it a heart-attack, one of Reese’s coronary arteries was 99.9% blocked, meaning that it was likely only a matter of time before he had a full-blown attack.
Reese now has 3 stents in the affected artery, and on track for a full recovery. Reese, who is 69-years old, is in very good shape and has remained very active in 33 years at the helm of the UT program, but does have a family history of heart disease. Though he’s not quite ready to get back in the pool himself, he has returned to deck to watch his swimmers train. His spirits remain high, even jokingly saying “I’m fixed. It’s like that country song: I’m not afraid of dying, but I don’t want to do it today.”
There has been speculation about Reese possibly preparing to retire from at least the collegiate side of the Texas program, and it’s likely that the status of his health will have a big impact on that timetable.
Reese should be back to full bore in time to act as the Head Coach of the US National Team for the FINA 2011 World Championships in Shanghai. He will be responsible for 5 of the members of the US team, including Kathleen Hersey, Ricky Berens, and Eric Shanteau (though Shanteau recently moved west to train with the Trojan Aquatic Club).
We wish Coach Reese nothing but the best in his recovery.