Bethune Cookman women’s coach Vanessa Blair-Lewis and her husband, veteran NBA official Eric Lewis, don’t like missing basketball games.
So after Blair-Lewis gave birth to a baby boy — Blair Eric Lewis — a few hours before Monday’s game against Howard, she watched the game on the school’s livestream feed from her hospital bed a few blocks away. Her husband did make the walk over from the hospital to watch the game and then came back to his family.
Even after the delivery, she felt the team’s pain when Howard pulled out the victory in the final seconds.
“It definitely wasn’t easy to watch,” Blair-Lewis said in an interview with The Associated Press from her hospital room. “If I had my way, I would have been there. But my husband said he’d have me thrown out if I did try to make it over.”
While the NBA didn’t have an exact number of marriages between college coaches and NBA officials, the Lewises aren’t the first. The most famous one was Hall of Fame coach Cathy Rush of Immaculata and retired official Ed T. Rush, who later divorced.
“You should hear our arguments in the house,” Blair-Lewis joked. “Get back in your box, that’s a warning. I’ll toss you after the second one.”
Eric Lewis, a 10-year NBA veteran, will go back to work Thursday night as he’s expected to officiate the nationally televised Cleveland Cavaliers-New York Knicks game. Blair-Lewis hopes to be back on the sidelines soon. She’s targeted the team’s senior night Feb. 22.
“I want to be back out there as soon as I can,” Blair-Lewis said. “One of my players really touched me when she said, you’ve been a mother to so many other players now you can be one for yourself.”
Two of Blair-Lewis’ players came to the hospital before the game to see their coach and baby, who is six pounds and 19 inches. Blair-Lewis, who is in her sixth year at the school, has already had offers from her team to babysit her son. She said it might be a little while before she lets that happen.
“We turn the ball over too much for them to babysit my kid,” Blair-Lewis said jokingly. “Once we get better at holding onto the ball I’ll consider it. Seriously, they are a fabulous bunch of young ladies that I’d be happy to trust my son with. That’s our motto. They come to us as young girls and we want to help them become great young women.”
Monday night’s game was the fifth that Blair-Lewis had missed during the season. She wasn’t able to travel when the team went to Texas in late November for a tournament. She also had to miss a conference road trip a weekend earlier.
Blair-Lewis had complete faith in her coaching staff. Associate head coach James Howard had been through this before. He served in a similar capacity at Howard University when then-coach Niki Reid Geckler was pregnant. Blair-Lewis said she was blessed with a relatively easy pregnancy.
“He never really was fussy while I was coaching,” she said. “He didn’t really kick or cause me too much pain unless there was a bad call.”
(AP Photo: In this image taken on Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, and released by Bethune-Cookman, Vanessa Blair-Lewis, Bethune-Cookman women’s basketball coach, poses for a photo with her husband Eric Lewis and newborn son Blair Eric Lewis at Halifax Health Medical Center in Port Orange, Fla.)
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