By Gary Parrish
Texas A&M basketball coach Billy Kennedy announced on Thursday that he is "dealing with" an early stage of Parkinson's, the disease most closely associated with Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox.
"I have been experiencing neck and shoulder pain for several months," Kennedy said. "While not debilitating, the pain has affected my ability to sleep with any duration or regularity. As a result of this and my schedule, I had reached a state of exhaustion and was advised by my attending physician to take some time to restore my strength and to further explore the underlying cause of my discomfort. Through testing, it has been discovered that I am dealing with an early stage of Parkinson’s disease. At this time, I am heeding the advice of my doctors and addressing the disease and its symptoms. We have begun a long-term treatment plan and recovery. My doctors are encouraged and are telling me I will be able to come back soon."
Kennedy, 47, is in his first year at Texas A&M.
The former Murray State coach took over after Mark Turgeon left for Maryland.
"I am very grateful for the outpouring of support and the prayers from friends, family and the Aggie Network," Kennedy said. "We have a good prognosis, be encouraged, and join with me in eager anticipation for the success that awaits us. My intention is to return to the court as soon as it is prudent. Until my return, I have great confidence in Coach [Glynn] Cyprien and the staff I have assembled to lead this great group of young men and this basketball program."
Kennedy's diagnosis was a surprise because Parkinson's doesn't usually affect people until after the age of 50. It's difficult to predict how Parkinson's will affect any specific individual, but when identified early and treated studies show a man may go more than 15 years before he reaches a stage of high dependency from caregivers.
"Our foremost concern is for Coach Kennedy and his family," said Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne. "Billy knows he can count on us and the Aggie Network for support. I fully expect Billy to have a long and illustrious coaching career here in Aggieland when he is cleared to return to the court. Meanwhile, I have confidence in the staff Billy has hired and in our basketball team. I’m anxious to get the season started and to get Billy back on the basketball court."