At the end of April, early May of this year, Missouri head football coach Gary Pinkel learned he had Follicular lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He underwent treatments in May and June. He says he feels fine, but it wasn’t until fall football practices began in August, that Pinkel questioned whether or not he should continue his lifelong dream job.
(Watch his press conference below)
“When you know you have something like this, you just started thinking about your time,” said Pinkel Monday morning at Mizzou Arena during a part press conference/celebration/reflection of Pinkel’s coaching career and what lies ahead for his future.
“I have to do something,” said the high energy Pinkel, who will continue to work, but have hours more like a normal person. He also plans to spend more time with his eight grandchildren, his second wife Missy and their five children. Pinkel has three of his own from a previous marriage and his wife, two from a previous marriage.
After talking with family this summer, he notified Athletic Director Mack Rhoades of his decision to resign after the season. Rhoades had just recently taken over the reigns of the athletic department from Mike Alden.
Pinkel was going to wait until this Sunday to tell his players and coaches, but on Friday afternoon he was alerted that news was leaking that he was stepping down. Pinkel became proactive and told his players and assistant coaches in a 15-minute meeting on Friday.
“I was an emotional wreck,” Pinkel said.
After the week that already was, Pinkel was unsure how his team would perform Saturday against BYU, after dropping this news on them less than 36 hours before their game.
Pinkel has heard from many friends, colleagues and former players since the announcement came down on Friday. Pinkel’s emotions came out when he talked about missing his players. It took him several moments to collect himself, but he said he would miss that interaction.
“I’m gonna miss the interaction, being around them. Scolding them when I have to scold them…hugging them and touching them everyday…that’s what I’m gonna miss the most,” said a tearful Pinkel.
Those feelings of love are mutual. Pinkel shared a story about how he received a call in his hotel room Friday night in Kansas City. Assistant coach Andy Hill told Pinkel to come downstairs, someone wanted to see him. It was current Chiefs wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
“He looked really sad,” recalled Pinkel. “He said to me, ‘Coach are you OK?’ He came over put his arm around me and told me he loved me.”