MIKE GIDDINGS: : No More Sitting On the Job for Newport Harbor Coach After Hip Surgery

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Times Staff Writer

Mike Giddings got up from his desk to go to the sliding glass door of his Newport Beach home and, in the process, answered one important question.

There was no limp and no grimace across the tanned face of the 52-year-old Newport Harbor High School football coach, meaning he was fully recovered from extensive surgery several months ago to replace the arthritic, bone-spurred hip joints that caused him unrelenting pain.

“This is the best I’ve felt in a long, long time,” Giddings said as he sat down again. “We just finished spring practice and I stood up the entire time at every practice. I hadn’t been able to do that in years and years.


“I have no more pain and I can sleep. But best of all, the stool is going to be retired.”

The stool was symbolic of the misery Giddings had endured since he developed a strep infection in one hip more than a decade ago. Last season, when the pain required the 25-year coaching veteran to take as many as 12 aspirins at one time, Giddings sat on a stool on the sidelines at midfield to try to ease the discomfort. It was a comical sight to some watching Giddings try to carry on his histrionics while sitting on the tiny stool.

Though some opponents, officials and fans were amused, Giddings wasn’t. He wouldn’t admit it, but he was thinking of quitting after the Sailors’ season ended with a 28-22 loss to Sunny Hills in a Southern Section Central Conference quarterfinal playoff game in November.

“It was getting to the point where I was so immobile, all I could do was get in the middle of the kids before the game and yell,” he said. “I didn’t feel my players were getting what they deserved from me, even though they knew the reason I was yelling so much and was so short-tempered.

“On game nights, I wasn’t making my decisions and adjustments nearly quickly enough. I really was starting to believe a younger guy could better serve Newport Harbor football.”

Giddings and his wife of 31 years, Donna, went to Hawaii in December so Giddings, who runs a prosperous professional scouting service, could attend the annual National Football League meetings. It was then he decided he could no longer take his suffering sitting down, and that he would try surgery to alleviate his pain.

Surgery had been recommended before, but Giddings wanted to delay it as long as possible.

After consulting with orthopedist Dr. Glen Almquist, separate operations were conducted in late December and early January. Giddings’ degenerated hip joints were removed and replaced with artificial joints. Orthopedic surgery used to require a long hospital stay, but after each of his operations, Giddings was up the next day and home within three days.


“As soon as you can prove to the doctor and physical therapist you can go up stairs on crutches and you can get by without any pain shots, they let you go home,” Giddings said. “I used crutches for a week and a cane for about two after both surgeries, and then I didn’t need anything.”

The only thing Giddings felt bad about was waiting so long to have the surgery done. Now, he can sleep without the use of pain or sleep medication, and can participate in many of the activities he thought he had given up for good.

Each day, Giddings walks a half mile from his home, across Pacific Coast Highway, to the beach and swims about a half mile. He then takes a long walk on the beach with 10-pound ankle weights. Some days he goes to a local gym and rides a stationary bike and uses the Nautilus equipment.

But best of all, he’s playing golf again. Even with the use of a cart, his injured hips had forced him to stay off the links.

“You really get an appreciation for the things you gave up when you get them back,” he said. “It’s so great going to the beach. It used to be, I’d hurt so much, I’d have to sit on the beach and rest after walking there, and then I wouldn’t even feel like swimming.”

And if you think Giddings is happy about the way he feels, you should hear his wife.

“There is no word to express how I feel,” Donna Giddings said. “I think I was more depressed about how Mike was feeling than he was, because I could see how much he was suffering, the pain he felt when he just walked around the house.


“My heart just bled, because here was a man who was very active and had gotten to the point where his only physical activity was coaching at the high school. But you just look at Mike now, and you can see how good he feels. The lines on his face are no longer there.”

Giddings is getting more work done than ever. His trusty projector plays long into the night, scrutinizing NFL prospects.

September and the start of fall practice at Newport Harbor is already on Giddings’ mind.

“We’ve only got three starters back on offense and three starters back on defense, but it’s going to be a great year,” Giddings said. “If I enjoy it anything as much as spring practice, it’s going to be just great.”