By Justin Whitaker
— Danville Community High School boys’ basketball coach Brian Barber knew something was off.
Feeling similar pain he felt in 2006 when he had a kidney stone, the 14-year Warrior coach went to his family doctor. But his doctor was on a rare vacation, so Barber decided to take a trip to the emergency room. The doctor in the E.R. did a CAT scan where they found a mass on his kidney that was not there in 2006.
The benign tumor was the size of a closed fist and was located on the middle of Barber’s horseshoe kidney.
A couple of weeks later, doctors completed surgery the old-fashioned way because of Barber’s attached kidneys, which included an incision from the breastbone to beltline.
The removal of the tumor went as planned but during the recovery he developed blood clots in his left calf and lung. The blood clots made the healing process trickier and longer as he spent a week and a half in the hospital.
Barber’s recovery time totaled six weeks from August through the middle of October where he rested and stayed away from school.
“I’ve got a different perspective on all of that stuff now,” he said. “That slows you down a little bit.”
Barber now has to watch his diet closely by eating bland foods and staying away from anything spicy. He has lost 30 pounds and the outlook is positive.
“I feel like a new person,” Barber said.
While Barber was on the sidelines, his coaching staff and seven seniors picked up the slack in preparation for the 2012 basketball season. He praised his coaching staff for their response when he was out recovering. Assistants Mark Artman, Matt Stewart, Rick Foster, Todd Hanni, Jerry Allen, Greg Barber, and Chris Collins all helped Barber out.
“My assistants are just super,” Barber said. “When somebody goes down, we’ve got somebody who can pick us up. That’s why you have a great staff.”
Stewart was there nearly every day while Barber was recovering and admits it was odd without the coach around.
“He’s here all the time anyway,” Stewart said. “He pretty much lives at this school and to see that he was going to be out a while kind of took us out a little bit.”
Stewart, a 2005 Danville graduate and former player of Barber’s, expected the coach to be wanting updates daily. But Barber knew his assistants could get the job done.
“He trusted us to make sure these guys were in the right shape, doing the right things from day-to-day,” Stewart said. “It wasn’t as much contact as I thought it would be. I thought it would be a day-to-day update, but I think he wanted to relax a little bit. You could tell once he got back, he was itching to get back.”
The players knew they had a responsibility to rise up with Barber under the weather. Stewart said he thinks the players wanted to showcase their growth.
“They wanted to make sure that Barber could see the difference,” he said. “All the players wanted to make sure they were in shape, ready to go for the season once we hit practice.”
The results have shown. Barber said he believes the opening two weeks of practice were the best he’s ever had in his coaching career. The Warriors were eager to work for a man they deeply respect and care for.
“I love coach Barber personally,” senior co-captain Avery Motes said. “I’ve played for him for three years now and it’s probably the best three years of basketball I’ve played. What I really like about coach Barber is he brings out the best in the teams he coaches. Not necessarily the most talented teams, but he makes them play well together and understand that team basketball can beat a team that is more talented.”
During his recovery, Barber had well wishes from the Danville administration, the coaching staff, teachers, and former players.
“It’s a great community here,” he said. “Danville is a great place to live and work.”
Barber’s wife, brother, and parents were an important part to his recovery as well.
“When you have a supportive family, it makes it a lot better,” he said. “You’ve really got to count on those people and you’re lucky to have them in your life.”
There was never a moment of doubt that Barber would miss the season. He knew he was coming back.
“It was just a matter of doing everything that I was supposed to be doing,” Barber said. “If the blood clots hadn’t developed, I think I would have been a little bit ahead of schedule.”
Now with the 2012 boys’ basketball season in full swing and a clean bill of health, it’s business as usual.
“Energy is good now and it’s been a lot of fun being around the guys,” Barber said. “I’m looking forward to a great season and getting these guys going even more. Should be a fun year for the Danville Warriors.”