Columbus State University

Columbus State's Jonathan Norton eases back to head coaching role

ROBIN TRIMARCHI rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com 
 Columbus State University head women's basketball coach Jonathan Norton, right, calls a play with assistant coach Kiersten Reid, center, and Eryn Cochran, left, during first half play against Lander at the Lumpkin Center Tuesday. 01.19.16
ROBIN TRIMARCHI rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com Columbus State University head women's basketball coach Jonathan Norton, right, calls a play with assistant coach Kiersten Reid, center, and Eryn Cochran, left, during first half play against Lander at the Lumpkin Center Tuesday. 01.19.16 rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com

Head coach Jonathan Norton reclaimed his familiar position on the sideline for the Columbus State women's basketball team Tuesday night at the Lumpkin Center, helping them to a win over conference foe Lander.

Six days earlier, it was a much different story as Norton collapsed on the sideline early in the fourth quarter of the Lady Cougars' game in Dahlonega, Ga., against North Georgia.

The Lady Cougars elected to continue the game, ultimately losing to the Lady Nighthawks 73-70 in overtime. Assistant coach Kiersten Reid stepped into the head coaching role in Norton's absence.

"It's hard to see your leader, your boss, and your mentor hit the floor like that," Reid said. "They gave us an option whether we wanted to suspend the game or keep playing. I think our girls wanted to, and by that time, Coach Norton was responsive.

"We gave it our best. I give the girls all the credit in the world. It's hard to watch that happen and go out and exert energy."

While it was confirmed he did not suffer a heart attack, Norton's blood pressure was severely elevated at 166/122, and he spent the night at a hospital in Gainesville, Ga., going through a battery of tests before being released to head home to Columbus on Thursday.

He eased himself back into the head coaching role on Tuesday as doctors advised him to take it easy and not engage in anything that induced too much stress.

"I had three assistants helping me out," said Norton. "If I stood up for more than a minute, they were tagging me on my britches, telling me to sit down."

Reid played a huge role in Tuesday's game, helping call out signals to the Lady Cougars from the bench.

"I told her anything I call, you have to yell, scream, help me get them into it," Norton said.

"Basically I told him 'I'll just be your voice'," said Reid. "At the end of the day, I make suggestions, but he was there making decisions. If he said 'go,' I'm screaming 'go'."

On Saturday, Reid took the helm of the Lady Cougars herself on the road in Augusta as Norton stayed in Columbus to rest. The Lady Cougars fell 79-72 to the Lady Jaguars, but for Reid, it was an eye opener.

"We came up a little short, but it was a huge learning experience for me," said Reid. "It's one thing to be sitting one seat to the right and make suggestions, then you move over a couple of inches and you're the one making decisions.

"I give our graduate assistants a lot of credit. They were in my ear (Saturday). I never felt like I was out there by myself. They had my back. It was a great experience. I hate it had to be under those circumstances, though."

"She did a phenomenal job last week," Norton said. "I think our team lost focus and was a little shaken. She did a great job. She's a great coach and going to be a great head coach one day."

Looking ahead, Norton is taking precautions as he returns to the helm of the Lady Cougars for the rest of the season.

"I have to eat better," he said. "Everyone is doing a good job to make sure I stay calm. I have to check my blood pressure once or twice a day in the training room. I'll see the cardiologist (Wednesday) morning and we'll go from there."

Not only is Norton improving his health for his girls on the basketball court, but he is doing so for his girls at home: his wife and two daughters.

"If you saw my little girls run across the court, they handed me a sack lunch," he said. "That's my dinner, some sort of sandwich with carrots and other vegetables. That's definitely a change from pizza or Arby's or Burger King or something like that after a game," Norton said with a smile.

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