GRAND FORKS, N.D. – About five hours after giving birth to her first child, University of Nebraska at Kearney women’s basketball coach Carol Russell was out of the hospital and on the bench to help coach her players in the North Central Region basketball tournament.
“I could have watched the Webcast, but I wanted to be there for the girls because they’ve been working so hard for this all year,” Russell said.
The University of North Dakota beat the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers 108-75 for the regional championship Monday night, to advance to the
NCAA Division II tournament in Kearney, Neb.
Russell said her team seemed tired in the second half. And being tired was something she could relate to.
“I usually stand up the whole game, but I didn’t have the energy,” said Russell, 35, who’s in her fifth year as head coach.
Russell had permission from doctors to attend the game. She arrived at the game early in the first half and sat on the team bench. Assistant coach Tim Connealy took over most of the coaching duties while Russell said she provided mostly “input and encouragement.”
“I was about three minutes late,” Russell said. “I’m always on my kids about being late, but I guess they understood why I was.”
Russell said her arrival at the game caused double takes by players, coaches and referees, who knew she had just had a baby.
Newborn Isaac bounced in at 6 pounds, 14 ounces.
“She comes to town, has a baby and goes back to coach the game,” said Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown, an obstetrician who was one of Russell’s doctors at Altru Hospital.
“She was due, so she hand-carried her OB records with her to travel,” Brown said. “It makes you smile.”
Russell said she gave birth at about 1:45 p.m. Monday.
“I wasn’t really thinking about the game at that point,” she said. “It’s the birth of my first child, so obviously that came first.”
But shortly before game time, “I started feeling better,” she said, and decided to go to the game.
Russell said hospital officials gave Isaac some UND Fighting Sioux outfits.
“We’re honored the baby chose our community,” said Brown, the city’s mayor.
Russell was slated to check out of the Grand Forks hospital on Tuesday afternoon. She planned to fly back to Nebraska with her team, her husband and Isaac. But she said the baby wouldn’t be dressed in his new North Dakota baby clothes.
“That might be a little salt in wounds for my players, so I doubt it,” Russell said.
Isaac may have a permanent reminder about his time in North Dakota, Russell said.
“My family is kidding me about naming him Dakota,” Russell said. “We’re still searching for a middle name, and that’s an option.”
One very dedicated woman. Congratulation Ms. Russell and God bless you and your son.