Luke DeCock

From near death to life on the road, NC State’s Moxley back to work

N.C. State assistant coach Rob Moxley celebrates with Ralston Turner (22) after the Wolfpack's 71-68 victory over Villanova in the third round NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. Saturday, March 21, 2015.
N.C. State assistant coach Rob Moxley celebrates with Ralston Turner (22) after the Wolfpack's 71-68 victory over Villanova in the third round NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. Saturday, March 21, 2015. ehyman@newsobserver.com

The last thing Rob Moxley remembers is having some trouble getting down the stairs. He woke up in a hospital bed, his vision blurry, his future uncertain.

He only found out later that his heart had stopped in the ambulance on the way there. That he suffered three small strokes. That when his wife finally called 911 that afternoon because he was ill and lethargic and couldn’t get out of the house to go to see a doctor, she saved his life.

Not that Jen Moxley knew it at the time. The paramedics told her there was no rush to get to Rex. When she got there, doctors pulled her aside and told her what happened in the ambulance. Her husband was on a ventilator.

That was May. Rob Moxley is back on the road, recruiting again, less than five months after he nearly died.

“It was a very scary moment for me and my family for sure,” Moxley said Thursday, talking about his ordeal for the first time. “I’ve fought through it, I’ve rehabbed and I’m back full-time, working here at State where I want to be, where I love to be. I’m blessed to be here, that’s for sure.”

Moxley’s left side is still a little weaker than his right side, which has compromised his normally unerring shooting touch in the gym, but his vision has returned to normal. He’s driving again. He’s seeing the results of months of physical therapy, to the point where he may be more physically fit at age 46 than he was before. He’s back out there, doing what he loves.

Recruiting is a tough business. There are no off days. It’s a 24-hour, no-holds-barred commitment to calling, texting, traveling, watching, visiting. It takes an extraordinary level of all-compassing persistence to do it well. The difference between landing a top recruit and losing one can come down to an assistant coach’s work ethic, to the connections built many years before and painstakingly maintained.

There are few who can outwork Moxley, an N.C. State assistant basketball coach. His doggedness has been the deciding factor for many of the top recruits N.C. State has landed since Mark Gottfried became head coach.

Even in good times, it’s a job that takes a toll on one’s health, on one’s family. A scare like this might drive a coach off the road for good, especially one with four kids like Moxley, the oldest 17, the youngest 5. That was never a consideration for him.

“Well, you know, when this happened to him, I talked to him about that,” Jen Moxley said. “Obviously, it was a concern for me, but he was so passionate about it. He said, ‘This is what I do. This is what I know. This is what I love.’ ”

On his first trip, to Pittsburgh and Las Vegas, his wife went along and the rest of N.C. State’s staff was there. Everyone – his wife, his fellow coaches – was curious to see how it would go, a final test before he returned to full-time status. (Director of basketball operations Jeff Dunlap had assumed Moxley’s recruiting duties.) Last week, he went to Washington, D.C., his first solo trip.

Doctors figured out that Moxley suffered from an attack of diabetic ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition where the body runs out of insulin and starts burning fatty acids. Moxley had been diagnosed with diabetes almost 20 years ago, his wife said, but nothing like this had ever happened.

He’s taking better care of his diabetes now, monitoring his blood sugar more closely, eating better. He knows too well what’s at stake.

“Laying in the hospital bed, my vision wasn’t very good at first,” Moxley said. “I couldn’t see very well at all. I was scared I wouldn’t get to see the guys play or watch them work out ever again. Definitely, there was a time when I was worried I wouldn’t be able to coach again. I fought through it.”

As far as he’s concerned, his near-death experience is behind him and the rest of his life is ahead of him. There’s only one way he wants to live it: on the road, fighting for one recruit after another, doing what he does best.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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