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Cyprien helps friend by sitting in for Parkinson's-stricken Kennedy

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Glynn Cyprien (right) takes over for Billy Kennedy at No. 20 Texas A&M on an interim basis. (US Presswire)  
Glynn Cyprien (right) takes over for Billy Kennedy at No. 20 Texas A&M on an interim basis. (US Presswire)  

Glynn Cyprien was sitting in his office last Thursday just doing normal office stuff when his boss peeked in and asked to speak to him. Actually, Billy Kennedy said "visit." The Texas A&M head coach wanted to visit with his associate head coach. So the associate head coach told his boss to come on in.

"Then Billy shut the door," Cyprien said. "I could see in his face that something was bothering him, but I had no idea until then."

And that's how Cyprien found out what the rest of us learned later that day -- that a Big 12 coach is battling Parkinson's, the same disease most closely associated with Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox. It was awful news because this is an awful disease for which there is no cure. You can treat Parkinson's and live carefully and fight and fight and fight. But you can't beat Parkinson's. Cancer, you can beat. But not Parkinson's. It eventually wrecks you. You'll probably die with it as opposed to from it. But living with it is not easy.

Billy Kennedy is only 47 years old.

Will he be able to coach when he's 57?

It's impossible to know at this point. The only thing anybody knows for certain is that Kennedy can't coach now. Maybe he'll be back in a couple of weeks. But he can't coach now. That leaves Cyprien in charge on an interim basis. That means in a span of five months he's gone from being an assistant under Josh Pastner at Memphis to the man leading a team ranked 20th in the Associated Press preseason Top 25.

So this is a great opportunity for Cyprien, right?

Um, no.

Again, this is awful.

Kennedy and Cyprien -- both of whom are from the New Orleans area -- have been close for decades, and among the first things the former did upon getting the A&M job was convince the latter to leave behind the Top 10 team he helped recruit at Memphis. Kennedy announced the hiring with these words: "I'm excited to bring 'Cyp' on board here at A&M. First and foremost, he's a great friend."

"Some people think this is a coach who is sick, but to me it's a friend who is in need," Cyprien said. "I've known Billy since I was 17. My whole concern is his health, and I'll be honest: I'm not looking at this as an opportunity. I know some people have said this is an opportunity for me, but it would be so selfish and wrong for me to think that way."

So Cyprien isn't thinking that way.

He really doesn't have much time to think at all.

The married father of two is still doing all his normal assistant duties while playing the role of head coach, too. That means on any given day he might have to recruit by phone and Facebook, attend a study hall, speak at a function, take a call from a writer and then go to practice and try to teach a new system -- Kennedy's system -- to a group of players who, for the most part, didn't know a thing about Cyprien or Kennedy or Kennedy's system until May. Complicating the process is the fact that Cyprien is just as new to Kennedy's system as the players.

"That makes it a little bit tougher," he said.

But not as tough as watching a friend receive shocking and life-altering news. Comparatively speaking, teaching somewhat-foreign man-to-man principles is a cinch. So call this a great opportunity if you want, call it a chance for Cyprien to prove he too can be a head coach someday. Just don't expect him to play along because this isn't fun. And it doesn't feel great. And he'd end this opportunity today if he could.

"My No. 1 concern is Billy's health," Cyprien said. "I just want him to be OK and get back as soon as he can."


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and college basketball insider for the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts an award-winning radio show in Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two sons and two dogs.
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