Bobcats coach Steve Clifford returning after heart scare

Steve Clifford will return to the Bobcats bench Monday after having two stents placed in his heart.
Chuck Burton/AP

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said he is ready to return to coaching just three days after a procedure to have two stents placed in his heart,

Clifford said he will coach Monday night when the Bobcats host the Atlanta Hawks.

"I feel fine," Clifford said following Monday's shoot around. "I haven't had any pain, even minor pain, since the incident."

Clifford, 52, said he was taken by ambulance to the hospital Thursday night after experiencing chest pains while dining at a Charlotte restaurant. The following day doctors inserted the stents to prevent blockage to the heart.

"I had significant pain in my chest and I was having trouble breathing," Clifford said. "So it was scary enough where I had them call 911. And I was lucky that I did. ... Once I got the hospital I felt good."

Clifford said he feels lucky that he acted as quickly as he did, knowing the incident could have been worse had he ignored the warning signs.

"At least I got a warning signal," Clifford said. "Things worked out well. The doctors have me on a good plan and I'm going to follow it."

He said he will need to change his diet.

"I will have to, but it's only been two days and obviously it hasn't shown up yet," he said with a laugh as he rubbed his stomach.

Clifford only missed one game - a 101-91 loss Friday night to the New York Knicks. Associate head coach Patrick Ewing filled in for Clifford.

Doctors advised Clifford to take it easy, which won't be easy considering the Bobcats have four games in six days.

Clifford is in his first season with the Bobcats. He was hired to replace Mike Dunlap, who was fired after the Bobcats finished 21-61 last season.

Clifford isn't the only one returning Monday night.

He said center Al Jefferson, who missed five games with an ankle injury, will start against Atlanta.

Jefferson could give the Bobcats (3-3) an added boost in Clifford's return.

Jefferson, who signed a three-year, $41 million contract with the Bobcats this offseason, first injured his ankle in the team's second preseason game against the Miami Heat. He sat out to remainder of the preseason and returned to play in the regular season opener at Houston.

However, he re-aggravated the ankle and hasn't played since.

"I don't know how many minutes he'll play, but he feels good and didn't have any soreness from practice," Clifford said. "We'll start him and try to integrate him into our play as best that we can."

When Jefferson was told he was starting he replied, "That's music to my ears."

Jefferson said the most important thing is making sure he doesn't have a setback and is able to continue playing after Monday night's game

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.