As coach of the Harbor College football team, Don Weems used to carry a world of concerns on his shoulders.
But these days, Weems is simply glad to be alive.
With his team struggling to its worst start in his six years as coach, Weems appeared to hit rock bottom in October when unspecified health problems forced him to take a leave of absence from school.
Little did he know how much worse his problems would become.
Slightly more than two weeks after taking leave, Weems nearly lost his life when he was struck by a car while walking across Pacific Coast Highway near his home in Hermosa Beach.
“I was dead for 30 minutes,” Weems said. “I had no brain functions or anything. It was a miracle that they were even able to revive me.”
Weems, 48, doesn’t remember much about the accident and the days that followed.
“Going through a windshield at over 30 miles an hour will do that to you,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you anything about the incident because when it happened I was gone.”
When the accident occurred, the only identification he had was a credit card. He was rushed by paramedics to the trauma center at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance.
In the days that followed, he underwent operations for a compound fracture of his lower leg, a fractured humerus and massive head injuries.
He was transferred to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Harbor City three days later, and spent four days there before he was moved again to a private convalescent hospital.
It was at the convalescent hospital where he finally regained consciousness.
“In the period after it first happened, I couldn’t recognize you from my best friend,” Weems said. “I couldn’t dial a phone or even remember my phone number. I was like a vegetable for two weeks.”
When he regained consciousness, he was suffering substantial memory loss.
“At first, when I woke up, I didn’t even recognize my wife,” he said. “To me, she was just another person who was there. I have five kids and I thought I was still married to my first wife and I only had two kids.”
He was transferred by ambulance to his home Dec. 14, his brother’s birthday.
“It’s your typical beach home and it’s mostly upstairs,” he said. “I don’t go more than 10 feet from where I’m at.”
After the accident, his wife, Joanne, took a leave of absence from work to help with Weems’ recuperation. A speech pathologist and physical therapist are also aiding in Weems’ recovery.
He hasn’t been able to walk on his own since the incident, and doesn’t expect that to happen for another six weeks. In the interim, he stays in bed or a wheelchair.
Weems is most concerned about regaining his mental functions.
“Most (mental) recovery is in the first two months and it’s been a little over two months now,” he said. “But it might take up to five years for a complete recovery. Hopefully I’ll get full recovery, but it’s still up in the air.”
He hasn’t even begun to think about returning to coaching or teaching. It will probably be at least the start of the fall semester before he is physically able to attempt either of those tasks.
Seahawk Athletic Director Jim O’Brien said he would not hesitate to welcome back Weems as coach.
“I know that as long as I’m here and I have a say in it, I’d like to have him back,” O’Brien said. “I’m very happy with the job he’s done for us in the past and I would be inclined to welcome him back if he’s capable.”
In the interim, the coaching and recruiting chores have been handled by interim coach Eugene Miranda and the rest of the staff, and Weems is proud about how they have weathered the adversity.
Weems says he is looking forward to the day that he will be able to walk again.
“It’s a real humbling experience and you re-evaluate things on a daily basis,” he said. “Everything now is one day at a time.”
Ever since Ed Paculba resigned as coach of the Banning High football team in December, the search for a replacement has centered around former Pilot Coach Chris Ferragamo.
But Ferragamo, who directed Banning to eight City Section titles from 1969-86 and a remarkable record of 157-36-4, said he is leaning against returning--at the moment.
Ferragamo, a longtime science teacher at Banning, said the biggest factor is his family commitments that include helping his son in his Marina del Rey business.
“If my personal situation was different, I might take the job,” he says.
Since that isn’t the case, Ferragamo has been limited to mostly an advisory role in the decision.
One factor appears fairly certain: The person who eventually becomes coach is probably already at Banning. The leading candidates include Ken Stumpf, Banning’s defensive coordinator the past three seasons; Ed Barreras, who coaches the Pilot sophomore team, and former Banning Coach Joe Dominguez, a teacher at the school.
“I haven’t opened it up (to outside candidates),” Banning Principal Bea Lamothe said. “At this time, I don’t intend to. We have some very capable candidates already on campus.”
Lamothe said she hopes to name a replacement for Paculba by the end of January, or at the very latest by the time the spring semester starts Feb. 13. But she is not in a hurry to make her decision and Ferragamo thinks that is wise.
“I think she’s going to wait as long as possible so she doesn’t make a mistake,” Ferragamo said.
After struggling through much of its nonconference season, the Loyola Marymount women’s basketball team has suddenly found the winning touch as it begins West Coast Conference play. The Lions (3-8) have won three games in a row, although it was against the likes of Columbia and Cal State Northridge--two schools that rank among the worst in NCAA Division I--and Division II Cal Poly Pomona.
But the Lions better enjoy their success while it lasts. The competition is expected to grow considerably more difficult when Loyola opens WCC play by playing host St. Mary’s on Friday night and Santa Clara on Saturday night. Both teams are considered among the conference elite, and Santa Clara is the defending champion.
* The Loyola Marymount men’s basketball team, at 8-4 and off to one of its best starts in recent seasons, opens West Coast Conference play with games at St. Mary’s on Friday night and Santa Clara on Saturday.
Santa Clara (9-3) is among the favorites to win the WCC and the Broncos defeated St. Mary’s, 75-71, in their opener last week. St. Mary’s is 5-6, but 5-2 at home.
It has taken a little longer than expected, but the Inglewood High boys’ basketball team is finally receiving some national recognition.
The Sentinels, who are 11-3 and easily won their first two Bay League games, have moved into the USA Today Top 25 for the first time this season at No. 18. They have also moved up to No. 3 in the state Top 20, behind Santa Ana Mater Dei and Compton Dominguez, selected by Cal-Hi Sports News and are No. 3 behind the same two teams in the publication’s Southern California Top 10.
* The Cal State Dominguez Hills baseball team, which finished 38-19 last season and was ranked No. 11 in the NCAA Division II, has been listed high in two preseason polls.
The Toros are ranked No. 9 in Division II by College Sports magazine and tied for 10th with Kennesaw State of Georgia in Collegiate Baseball. The season starts in February.
Registration for the 1995 North Torrance Girls Softball League, for players age 4-14, will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Hamilton Adult School athletic fields, 2602 W. 182nd St., Torrance. The cost is $60 and there is a family discount. Information: Mike Nelson at (310) 532-3203, Paul Baker at (310) 323-9311 or Katie Carlton at (310) 542-0107.