Sonny Allen Making Recovery

September 25, 2006
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Sept. 25, 2006

Dallas Morning News, The (TX)

September 21, 2006 Column: WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Coach, family get 'miracle'

FORMER SMU BASKETBALL COACH Sonny Allen Allen making recovery from West Nile virus Author: EDDIE SEFKO; Staff Writer

Edition: FIRST Section: SPORTS DAY Page: 2C Article Text:

West Nile virus. Of all the intimidating words in the medical dictionary, few strike as much fear in people as those. When it comes to beating a sickness, everybody knows West Nile is a tough opponent.

That's what makes Sonny Allen's story so uplifting. Allen, the former ODU,(1965-75) SMU and Nevada Reno coach who also spent time as a Mavericks assistant and has worked at every conceivable level in the basketball industry, has been enjoying retirement for the last few years, but had that time frighteningly interrupted when he contracted the virus this summer. Doctors are unsure exactly where he picked it up, but the best guess is during a July trip to New Orleans.

What is confirmed is that Allen, 70, slipped into a coma in early August and suffered through bouts of encephalitis and meningitis. His life was in jeopardy. In what his son, Billy, now calls a miracle, Sonny Allen appears to have beaten the viral infection. "He's getting stronger each day," says Billy, a key accounts executive for adidas who lives in Plano. "It's really been a miracle. That's what the doctors have sa! id. They think the two things that made a difference were that he's always been extremely healthy and that he never drank or smoked. That helped immensely, they said." He said praying, which family and friends did for weeks, played a part, too. Sonny Allen survived a long stay in intensive care and has returned to his home in Reno, Nev. While he still needs a walker to get around, he's making progress.

He had a positive visit with his neurologist Tuesday and can walk for 90 minutes in a swimming pool without help. He hopes to ditch the walker someday. It's a major leap from the night he went into a coma that lasted five days.

Allen realizes how fortunate he is. He did not feel up to an interview Wednesday, but he recently told the Reno Gazette-Journal: "I feel encouraged by everything now. The rehab specialists and doctors feel I will get back to normal. To me, that's being able to walk without the walker. They say most people don't survive [the severe cas! es]. From that part, it's a miracle. I'm really thankful."

The virus also has put life into perspective for Allen, who used to think losing basketball games was the most crucial thing, as coaches do. He has coached at every level from high schools to the NBA - the WNBA, too - and led the Mustangs during an entertaining basketball era during the late '70s. He coached at Nevada from 1980 to 1987 and has lived in Reno much of the time since.

Allen's wife, Donna, has to fill in the blanks for him about his time in the intensive care unit. But family members believe he is out of the woods in regard to the virus. "It's just a real good story to give a lot of people hope," Billy Allen said. "West Nile is a tough, tough thing. But of all the great memories I shared with my dad, this one is the most special, him getting through this.

"We're hoping people who may be in similar situations can gather some hope from this."

Allen said the two things his father always asks about are the Mavericks and SMU basketball. For now, how! ever, the key thing is getting his quality of life back.

"He's got a lot of work ahead to get back all the way," Billy said. "But the doctors and everybody feel good about the progress he's made. He's back at home, which is great, and everybody just feels like it's a miracle." E-mail

Sonny Allen
*Old Dominion captured the NCAA Division II national title in 1975 with a 25-6 record.
*In Allen's first season at SMU in 1975-76, the Mustangs were named the most improved team in the nation by Basketball Weekly.
*Coached basketball in six decades (1959-2001).
*Is only person to have coached high school, college freshman, NCAA Division I and II, WBL, CBA, NBA and WNBA teams.
*Won championships on the college and pro level (1988 World Basketball League title).
MOSQUITOES CARRY WEST NILE VIRUS. Copyright 2006 The Dallas Morning News Record Number: 1180514979