COACHING GETS in your blood, and it's hard to get it out.Here was Mark Hatcher, a few hours removed from a visit to the Cleveland Clinic for diagnosis of possible kidney cancer and impending surgery, and what was he thinking about? Coaching.Not the boys basketball team at Logan High School, for which Hatcher is best known around West Virginia, but rather a middle school softball team that Hatcher currently coaches. His team was involved in a tournament semifinal game Wednesday night back home, and Hatcher didn't plan to miss it."I have to stay in Akron tonight,'' Hatcher said late Tuesday, "but hopefully I'll be back to coach our game.''Hatcher, the Wildcats' basketball coach the last 12 seasons, had just undergone a rough couple of weeks brought on by health problems. A part-time nurse at Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston, Hatcher recently underwent testing after he began feeling ill."Usually, I don't go to the doctor,'' Hatcher said, "but I finally got sick enough. We were looking for gallbladder problems, stomach problems, and we found [the kidney ailment]. I don't know if it was by luck or by blessing, to be honest. But it's a blessing they found it."Kidney cancer is very dangerous if it starts to spread. In the early stages, it's pretty treatable. Hopefully, we got it in the early stages. We think we did. Six months more, and I'm not going to make it very long.''A tumor about the size of a golf ball was found on Hatcher's right kidney last week, and he was referred to the Cleveland Clinic, where he got his diagnosis before leaving Tuesday."My first thought was they're going to have to take the whole kidney,'' Hatcher said, "but now they're thinking they can save the kidney - take about half of it, and do it like that. It's not good news, but they think they have the chance to save some of my kidney. So far they don't see it spreading, but they won't know for sure until they get in to look. So far they think everything is good.
"I'm being treated by one of the best doctors in the world up there. Hopefully, I'll be coaching next fall.''Hatcher's surgery has been tentatively planned for May 25, though it could be moved up to next week, he said.Hospital life is nothing new for Hatcher, although he's used to being on the other side of the equation. He works as a school nurse in Logan County and also works at Thomas Memorial on weekends and during the summer."Being a nurse and being a coach, it's a little weird mixture,'' he said.Hatcher has become well known around the state for the job he's done at Logan, leading his program to the 2010 Class AAA championship, as well as the 2005 AA title. His 12-year record at the school is 210-100.Throughout his ordeal, Hatcher said good wishes and support have flowed in from his coaching counterparts, as well as others he's never met.
"I've had a lot of support,'' he said, "from my family, my friends, the school system, my wife, my kids, the coaching fraternity, the Tri-State Preps people, the Internet boards. They've reached out - and I appreciate everything."It's been coaches I've had great rivalries with and great friendships with, and even some I don't coach against, and they just know a little bit about me and send me stuff. People have reached out and showed how much they care and support me. It's unbelievable. I couldn't ask for more help or prayers or thoughts. It's been pretty great.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org