LINCOLN — Connie Yori said Tuesday she drinks more water than anyone she knows. A gallon or two a day. So how is it, she wondered out loud, that she could have been dehydrated?
“It's just weird,” the Nebraska women's basketball coach said.
But opening her eyes to “a bunch of people looking at me” after she'd passed out near midcourt during Sunday's Indiana game was compelling evidence that she was indeed dehydrated. The dizzy spells experienced for a few weeks before her sudden collapse were other clues. Yori said hospital tests conducted Sunday night cleared her of any major health issues. Still, she said, the grind is tough on coaches.
“We get busy in our season and we don't take care of ourselves as much as we should,” said Yori, who added she'd recently been taking medication to fight off a bacterial infection. “We don't sleep the way we should. When you're trying to survive on three, four hours of sleep — combined with some medical things I had going — it probably wasn't a good combination.”
Yori texted her coaches and players Sunday night that she was fine. Her husband, Kirk Helms, got a call from Nebraska men's coach Tim Miles, who relayed a similar episode he experienced while at Colorado State. Yori herself received “numerous” texts and emails from college coaches relaying their experiences.
“It's a demanding profession. It's 24/7,” Yori said. “You just really don't get a lot of rest. I've got a family I'm trying to balance. It's what it is. You gotta love what you're doing, but you also have to find a way to balance so that you stay healthy.”
She still went to work at the Hendricks Training Complex for “four or five hours” Monday and planned to lead practice Tuesday and coach the team Thursday at Ohio State. During her press conference, she retained her trademark self-deprecation, comparing herself to a redwood falling. She fiddled with old box score sheets as she talked and twice said, “Let's talk about basketball” after questions about her health.
“I feel a lot better today than I did yesterday, and a lot better yesterday than I did Sunday,” Yori said.
But it's still full-speed ahead for her. It was of little surprise to the Husker coach who may know Yori best, offensive coordinator Dayna Finch. Finch played two seasons at guard for Yori at Creighton. She was a graduate assistant at Nebraska for two years and has been a full-time assistant for four. She called Yori a “mother,” a “role model” and “mentor.” Finch also said Yori is a tireless worker.
“That's what makes her who she is,” Finch said. “That's what makes her good. At times like this, maybe it's to a fault. But that's who she is. That's what I love about her. She's the toughest woman I've ever known. Am I surprised that it happened? In a way, yes, because she's always worked really, really hard. She puts a lot of pressure on herself. She wants what's best for all us — and the team. At a time like this, you just wish it hadn't happened.
“I appreciate her for who she is and what she is. And I try my best to keep her relaxed. We understand each other. I get her. We laugh a lot, too. We have a lot of fun together. I just do my best to keep her relaxed. I don't mother her, though. She can take care of herself. She's tough.”
That toughness seemed to trickle down to the Huskers late in the Indiana game. Nebraska turned a 50-all tie when Yori left the arena into a 76-61 victory.
“Coach Yori wouldn't want us to mentally check out of the game because she had to leave,” junior forward Hailie Sample said. “We responded the way she would have wanted us to respond.”
Said forward Jordan Hooper: “It gave us a greater purpose. We wanted to play for her and even though she wasn't there, make her proud.”
And Yori: “The crowd got into it. Which was kinda cool.”
Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Sunny Smallwood assumed head coaching duties. Finch called the offensive plays. Finch, who plots the offensive gameplan with Yori, had to remind point guard Rachel Theriot her voice wasn't quite as loud as Yori's.
“They knew what to do,” Yori said. “Both those guys are really good at their jobs.”
But Yori was back at it Tuesday, already in the sweatsuit, primed for practice.
“I don't know how boisterous she's going to be today, but it's good to see her up and moving,” Hooper said.