Asst. Coach will Coach Cats Tonight

MANHATTAN - Kansas State assistant coach Jimmy Elgas will realize a dream Wednesday night, but it's not coming as he had hoped.

Kansas State assistant coach Jimmy Elgas will realize a dream Wednesday night, but it's not coming as he had hoped.

The 34-year-old Elgas will be in charge of the Kansas State bench when the Wildcats play Iowa State in a 6:30 start in Bramlage Coliseum as earlier in the day in Kansas City, head coach Jim Wooldridge will undergo neck surgery.

Wooldridge did not attend Monday's practice, nor will he attend today's, but Elgas said, "We talk about every hour. We know what he wants. We're on the same pulse rate and heart rate. That's why Charles (Baker), Dennis (Cutts, director of basketball operations), and Ben (Kelso) are confident in the challenge we face.''

Wooldridge announced Monday that he will have surgery to remove a bulging disk in his neck.

"I have been suffering with this condition for much of the season and it has become more acute over the last 10 days," said the 50-year-old Wooldridge. "The doctors have informed me that without immediate attention that this condition will only become more serious and permanent. I hate to step away from the team at such a critical juncture of the season, but I believe that I have to take measures now to correct these health issues."

After tests in Manhattan, Wooldridge was referred to a neurosurgeon in Kansas City where surgery was recommended.

The Wildcat coach is suffering from a "significant disk protrusion" at the C3-4 vertebrae in his neck, which is creating pressure on his spinal cord causing numbness in his upper and lower extremities. Doctors also discovered a disk bulge and a small bone spur at the C5-6 vertebrae.

Wooldridge, who will undergo surgery Wednesday at noon, started experiencing minor numbness in his left hand at the start of the basketball season. That gradually spread to his right arm two weeks ago, and last week to his legs to the point he had trouble walking after the Wildcats' game against Baylor.

Wooldridge's return will be dictated by the speed of his recovery and a medical clearance from his physician.

Elgas has been with Wooldridge for the last six years serving as director of basketball operations for two seasons, and assistant coach for the last four.

"The positive thing about all of this is that through the years coach has always let us be hands-on with the kids, with setting up practices, on the bench ... everything in the program we've been on the same page," said Elgas.

Plus, in Elgas' case, he's basically been in the Wooldridge coaching system for 11 of the 15 years he's been in college coaching.

That includes the five seasons prior to arriving at K-State when he was an assistant at Texas State as an assistant to Mike Miller.

Miller coached under Wooldridge at Texas State, and was then was hired as head coach when Wooldridge left for Louisiana Tech.

Elgas, a native of Crystal Lake, Ill., has coached as an assistant at Illinois State, Lincoln (Ill.) College, Texas State and Kansas State.

''I'm confident because Jim has prepared all of us to do this,'' Elgas said. ''We've all been on the same page and he's always allowed us to be hands-on with the team. He won't be on the bench, but we know what he would want to run because we've been together for six years.''

The players were told during Monday's practice that Wooldridge would likely miss the next 10 to 14 days.

"They knew things with coach were not right, and were only concerned about his health," Elgas said. "That's the No. 1 thing that all of us are thinking."

Subbing for Wooldridge on the morning Big 12 Conference call, Baker said that prior to Monday the Wildcats' head coach had not missed any practice time.

"He's worked his butt off," Baker said. "He hasn't lagged in duties any way whatsoever."

After Wednesday, K-State next plays at Missouri on Sunday afternoon.

Individuals interested in sending well-wishes to Wooldridge should send those to the men's basketball office at 1800 College Avenue, Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan, Ks., 66502.

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