Don James, the winningest football coach in University of Washington history, will begin chemotherapy treatment for a malignant tumor on his pancreas Monday, his family has announced.
No other details were provided in a family statement released through UW on Wednesday.
James, 80, had two surgeries earlier this month at Virginia Mason Medical Center. He is resting at home, the family said.
“Coach James and his family are grateful for the many prayers and encouraging words and ask that they continue,” the statement read. “The family also asks for privacy as they fight this battle.”
James, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997, compiled a 153-57-2 record at UW from 1975 to 1992. He led the Huskies to a share of the 1991 national championship after finishing 12-0, with a victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
He was named national coach of the year in 1984 and 1991, and led the Huskies to six Rose Bowl appearances, including three in a row from 1990-92.
James and his wife, Carol, split time between homes in Kirkland, Wash., and Palm Desert, Calif.
Mike Lude, then the Kent State athletic director, gave James, then an assistant at Colorado, his first college head-coaching job with the Golden Flashes in 1971. James took the job at UW in 1975 and several years later helped Lude land the AD job in Seattle.
“He and I have been friends now for almost 45 years,” Lude said. “He is one of, if not my best, friends. We worked together for 20 years without an argument, without a fight. We have a great relationship.
“I am in contact with him daily. I love him, love Carol and their three kids. … Obviously, he’s on my morning prayer list every morning.”
James coached Alabama coach Nick Saban for Saban’s final two seasons as a defensive back at Kent State. James then hired Saban as a graduate assistant.
“Heard today that Don James, my college coach who I’m very close to who really is a great mentor to me, is in the hospital,” Saban told reporters in Tuscaloosa on Sept. 5. “I’d just like to take this opportunity to publicly say to him and his family that our thoughts and prayers are with him. Hope he feels better and can’t tell him how much we appreciate all that he’s done for us and our career. So, thanks.”
James has remained close to the UW program, and gave his annual preseason address to the team during a practice inside Husky Stadium last month.
“The thoughts and prayers of the Husky family are with coach James as he prepares to begin chemotherapy treatment next week,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Coach means so much to me, to my family, to our program and to this university.”
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