Former Washington football coach Don James will begin chemotherapy next week for a malignant tumor on his pancreas.
James' family released a statement through the school on Wednesday morning. James had two surgical procedures earlier this month at Virginia Mason Medical Center for what was called a gastro-intestinal issue.
Former University Titan and Washington tight end (1985-89) Bill Ames said James was not just a coach, but also an educator. “His best quality is that he developed men as well, taking them when they’re 18 or 19,” Ames said. “By the time they left they were prepared to go out into the world. That was part of who he was.
“He was just a great role model for those of us who went on into business or became fathers. Just watching him, we knew that if we could emulate him that we’d be OK.”
When Ames was a sophomore, his then-girlfriend (with whom he is currently married) lost her mother while the Huskies were coming back from a game at Oregon. Ames shared this news with the coach.
James asked Ames if he planned to marry his girlfriend. Ames said yes. “Well, you need to do what you need to do,” James replied, and gave Ames three days off from practice to be with his girlfriend’s family in a time of need. “He was a very warmhearted and caring individual,” Ames said.
Despite being the coach at Washington State’s rival school, Ames said James had a “deep respect” and “deep appreciation” for the Cougars. “Except for one Saturday in November, he was pulling for the Cougars every other week,” Ames said. “Whatever was best for the state of Washington football, he was all for.”
Current Huskies football coach Steve Sarkisian released a statement regarding James on Wednesday:
“The thoughts and prayers of the Husky Family are with Coach James as he prepares to begin chemotherapy treatment next week. Coach means so much to me, to my family, to our program and to this University, and I know everyone is pulling for him, sending their best wishes for a full and speedy recovery.”
The 80-year-old James coached at Washington from 1975-1992 and led the Huskies to a share of the 1991 national championship. James went 153-57-2 with the Huskies and led the school to six Rose Bowl appearances.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.
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