Coach Wooly - "Frustrated."

Late Sunday afternoon, Coach Jim Wooldridge pondering a trip to away Texas Tech and had some time to discuss......

Jim Wooldridge used the word oodles of times late Sunday afternoon when describing his mood after watching his Kansas State Wildcat basketball team lose at Missouri, 74-71.

For the second game in a row, Wooldridge was viewing his team on television, and not from the sidelines.

"It was just really frustrating," said the Wildcat coach. "Really, really frustrating. Frustrating not to be at the game; frustrating to lose."

Wooldridge was talking from his Manhattan home where he is recuperating from neck surgery performed on Wednesday at the Shawnee Mission Medical Center.

Wednesday, he watched the game from his hospital room; Sunday, it was from his home. In both cases, it was the same. Jim and wife Ann are not compatible game-watchers.

Entering through the Bramlage Coliseum tunnel, it's been common through the years for coach to give his wife a little wave, or a nodding smile. But sitting in the same room, watching the Wildcats play on the tube? Now that's a different story.

"She's my biggest fan, but she was so upset with my yelling that she left the hospital room," Wooldridge said.

And Sunday?

"She wasn't very happy with me again," Wooldridge said. "She went downstairs and I stayed upstairs because of my yelling. It's just so frustrating and difficult not to be at the game. We were both better off watching the game on different levels."

Wooldridge went to Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday to wish the team luck before it left for Columbia. But the result on Sunday was much the same he has seen with his team on the road all season.

The Wildcats lost a late lead, and then failed to make any kind of play down the stretch.

"You've got to make plays," said Wooldridge, in a frustrated voice. "You've got to make a stop, you've got to get a rebound, you've got to finish off a possession ... you've got to get a rebound off a free-throw situation. You do any of those things, and you have a chance to win the ballgame."

K-State failed to do all of the above Sunday as Mizzou snapped a six-game losing streak. While the Wildcats netted a respectable 71 points, their normally stable defense allowed 74 on 52 percent shooting.

"That's not good enough defense to beat them, which is really, really frustrating," Wooldridge said. "You can't sugarcoat it. The play is not acceptable."

K-State has now lost six Big 12 basketball games. Outside of a 15-point stinker against Nebraska, the other losses have been by two to Iowa State, by four to Colorado, by two in overtime to Baylor, by two to Oklahoma State, and now by three to Missouri.

Outside of Nebraska, that's five losses by a total of 13 points. Win three of the five, and K-State would be 7-3, in third-place in the Big 12 standings, and Wooldridge a candidate for Big 12 Coach of the Year.

As it is, the Wildcats are 4-6, in a three-way tie for seventh, eighth and ninth with six games remaining, and Wooldridge in danger of losing his job.

Of those remaining half-dozen games, five are against the only .500 or better teams in the league.

While pointing to his team for not making plays, Wooldridge said, "I can't say enough about Jimmy (Elgas, KSU's interim head coach) and the rest of the coaches. They managed the game well. They had the right personnel on the court, but they just didn't make plays."

It was on Feb. 1 that Wooldridge accepted the fact that he could no longer coach. Fighting some degree of numbness for a couple months, it had moved from his hands to his arms and finally to his legs.

"It just became a deal where if I couldn't do it the right way, I shouldn't coach," Wooldridge said. "The night of the Baylor game, I couldn't feel anything in my hands, I would lose presence with my voice ... I could walk around, but it was like I was walking on clouds and there was nothing underneath me."

Wooldridge tried to get off his feet on Thursday and Friday following the Wednesday game, and did feel better, but once he went to practice for an hour, the lack of feeling would return.

Last Monday, he saw Dr. Paul O'Boynick in Kansas City, and then returned on Wednesday for what would be a two-hour surgery at the C3-4 level.

Wooldridge said the day after surgery he thought it was going to be "a piece of cake." But by the weekend, he said, "I've re-evaluated that."

The 50-year-old, sixth-year coach is wearing a neck brace, but can move around freely. He was told by his doctor that he should take it easy for four to six weeks.

With that said, he's entertaining the notion of traveling with the team to Texas Tech on Wednesday.

''I thought I'd be feeling better by now. It's day-to-day,'' Wooldridge said. ''I don't know what I'll be able to do.

''That makes it so frustrating.''


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