Spezia happy to be back on sidelines

BISMARCK — John Spezia is seeing basketball from a different perspective this week. Milford High School’s Hall of Fame boys’ basketball coach is watching games from a seated position, much the way coaches are required to do after receiving a technical foul.

Spezia’s vantage point is from a wheelchair, and he has a bodyguard of sorts to his right, former assistant Pat Teig.

The wheelchair has been a constant companion since Spezia’s release from Carle Foundation Hospital, where he was treated for injuries sustained in a New Year’s Eve morning accident while on the way to a Bearcats’ practice.

Friday’s 44-36 loss at Bismarck’s Wilcox Gymnasium was his third game back on the sidelines, all in the last five days.

“Like life in general, there’s always obstacles to go through,” said Spezia during a halftime interview, a conversation made possible because the B-H locker rooms are not wheelchair accessible.

Assistant Dave Caldwell conferred with Spezia before heading to the locker room.

“I’m concerned during the game, do I sit here and not say much, which is hard for me to do,” Spezia said, “because the kids have had Dave talking to them so long.”

Teig’s job is to protect Spezia, whose ankle is immobilized, if the action heads in his direction, and serve as a restraint.

“Yeah,” Spezia said, “I do feel like jumping up, and against Westville, I did once.”

Teig’s hand on his shoulder reminded him of his place. For now, Spezia is pleased that place is back on the sidelines, coaching the game of basketball he loves.

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