A common theme threaded Missouri coach Gary Pinkel's retirement press conference Monday as he fielded question after question about his battle with lymphoma: family over football.
Just days four days after the team's protest of school president Tim Wolfe came to an end when Wolfe resigned, Pinkel told his staff and players Friday afternoon that he would retire at season's end due to the disease. He was diagnosed in May.
"It's a blood disease, there is no cure for it. You manage it," Pinkel said on Monday. "That's what you do the rest of your life, you manage it and deal with it. I've read 100,000 things on it since (May)."
Pinkel said he received multiple treatments in May and June, and initially planned to coach through that management. Pinkel said he began having doubts about whether he was spending his time the right way in August, when the time commitment for a coach intensifies to what he described as 15-hour work days.
"Someone down the road said, 'Would you rather die on the football field, or would you rather die on a beach?' And I'd rather die on the beach," Pinkel said.
The coach said he had a PET scan done on Nov. 2, and made the decision thereafter. He told Missouri athletic director Mack Rhoades of his decision on Wednesday, but his timing for telling his staff and team was forced upon him.
"At 3 p.m. Friday, my secretary called me. I was doing walk-throughs in the indoor facility, and she said 'I just got a call that it's out there somewhere,'" Pinkel said. "My coaches and players had to be the first to know, so I was upset about that. So we had a meeting scheduled, and 15 minutes later I was telling my players. With all they've had to deal with, it was the last thing they wanted to hear, nor I wanted to tell them."
The team responded Saturday with a 20-16 win over BYU, and on Monday, Pinkel thanked them and others for a coaching career that will leave him as the school's winningest coach (117-71). Prior to being hired at Missouri, Pinkel was Toledo's head coach from 1991-2000.
He became emotional on Monday when he discussed his players.
"The most important thing ... is my players, at Toledo, here at Mizzou. I'm going to miss that," Pinkel said. "I'm going to miss the interaction, being around them. Scolding them when I have to scold them. Hugging them. Touching them every day. That's what I'm going to miss the most, just being around the players."
Pinkel said that he would be available to Rhoades, who is charged with selecting Pinkel's successor, for any advice on the Tigers' search for a new coach.
"I don't think I'll ever quit coaching. Last night I was yelling, the Seahawks were playing, I was yelling at the TV," Pinkel said. "My wife Missy called me a 'couch coach' and looked at me like, 'You're not going to miss this? Are you crazy?' So she's going to have to put up with me as we do this."