Cancer stricken St. Edmund girls hoops coach stepping down at season’s end

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St. Edmund girls basketball coach Dan Doelger will step down at the end of the season because his battle with leukemia has become too physically draining for him to endure the rigors of coaching, he told this paper.

The 64-year-old Doelger has been coaching at the school for 15 years, including 10 as the girls basketball coach. He was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 1997. Doelger said it was caused by his exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical weapon deployed by the United States while he served in Vietnam.

Doelger said his cancer is a blood and bone marrow disease that usually gets worse slowly. For Doelger it’s gotten to the point where he feels he can no longer give a full effort.

“It just drains me and I don’t want to do things not 100 percent,” he said. “For me not to be 100 percent, I don’t feel it’s right for the kids.”

His reasoning for the decision dates back to last season when he had to miss the team’s diocesan semifinal and catholic state playoff game because he wasn’t feeling well. Now he is often tired and gets light-headed sometimes during games.

“He’s a very good guy,” St. Edmund Athletic Director Dan Wiatre said. “It’s going to be a tough loss for the program.”

Doelger goes to Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center once a month to get his blood checked and to determine the best form of treatment, including chemotherapy, if needed. He currently is not in need of immediate treatment. Still, it’s not easy for him to walk away.

“I’m going to miss the school,” Doelger said.

He says he feels like he is leaving the program in a good place and with a chance to go out on top. The Eagles were a middle-of-the-pack team in Brooklyn-Queens Division II when he took over. This year the squad is in second place and owns a win over division leader and defending diocesan champion Fontbonne Hall.

It is the second straight year the Eagles players have had to deal with a coach battling the effects of cancer. Last year, assistant Clare Droesch, who is now at Christ the King, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Doegler said he tries not to show when he is hurting, but his players know, and say they appreciate the effort he gives them.

“It makes us so much stronger because we know he is going through a lot,” senior guard Erin Blum said. “We have tough days where we know he’s not feeling good, but overall he always puts on a brave face for us. He’s always there for us.”

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.

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Reader Feedback

Sue from Midwood says:
"riggers of coaching"? You mean "rigors"!
Feb. 20, 2013, 11:16 pm

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