As Mike Golden awaits new tests to see what battles lie ahead, the Delaware Hayes High School football coach and social studies teacher has been able to spend some time doing what he loves.
“I have been back in the school building for a couple periods a day the past few weeks,” said Golden, who was diagnosed with lung cancer on Sept. 23 and has undergone four rounds of chemotherapy and 40 radiation treatments. “I enjoy being around kids, teaching and coaching them and giving them life lessons. That’s why I do what I do. It lifted my spirits to get back to those things.”
Golden said his cancer is inoperable due to the positioning of the tumor. However, he said the treatments are working and that the mass “has shrunk quite a bit.”
“I’m off the treatments right now and we’ll find out a lot more with the scans I have in March,” he said. “At that time, we’ll have a good idea of whether I’m going to be healthy and energetic enough to continue coaching. If all goes well and we have good results, I’m hoping that by late spring I can make that decision.
“The one thing I won’t do is be a coach if I am unable to give 100 percent to it. That wouldn’t be fair to the kids, the staff or the community. I don’t want to cheat them. I have received so much support from the faculty, students, coaching staff, Delaware City Schools and pretty much the entire community. I am so thankful to all of those people, as well as the central Ohio coaching community. I just can’t say thank you to all of them in person, but I want them to know their prayers and support are greatly appreciated.”
Golden is 215-98 with 16 playoff appearances in his 28-year coaching career, which includes the past three seasons at Delaware. He also coached at Watterson (1988-2002), New Albany (2004) and Upper Arlington (2005-13), and led Watterson to the Division III state title in 2002.
Justin Malivuk, an assistant coach with the Pacers, said Golden’s return to teaching has really brought enthusiasm to the student body and faculty.
“You have to remember his confidence is infectious and the way he approaches everything is positive,” said Malivuk, who has been overseeing the team’s offseason agility and strength workouts along with fellow assistants Brian Coleman and Ryan Montgomery. “The players, his students and his peers feed off his positive energy. From the day he came to Hayes, it’s been that way. So when he returned, it resonated. This school has benefitted just by seeing him a few hours a day. He’s had a huge effect.
“Our staff would do anything for him. Brian Coleman is the strength and conditioning coach for the whole district and he’s reminding those kids competing in all sports that Mike is fighting daily and they should push themselves to get better daily. Ryan is pulling double duty right now as our baseball coach and helping with football. Mike doesn’t need to worry about anything but getting better.”
Golden has been named the 2017 Tyson Gentry Courage Award winner and will be honored by the Columbus Chapter of The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame at its scholar-athlete awards banquet Feb. 13 at Ohio State’s Ohio Union.
“I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve the award, other than do what anybody in my situation would do,” Golden said. “I’m staying positive and listening to all the doctors. I’m putting up with some side effects like an inflamed esophagus, but I’m just doing what I need to do. Still, this is an honor and I’m very grateful because I remember what Tyson went through.”
Gentry was an Ohio State football player whose career ended in April 2006 when he suffered a fracture to his C4 vertebra during spring practice. The injury left him paralyzed from the neck down. While continuing to work toward getting out of his wheelchair, he uses his disability to help others. He and his wife, Megan, had their first child in March 2016.
The award was established in 2009 and is presented annually to a player, coach, staff member or fan whose actions best demonstrate the qualities of courageous leadership. Gentry earned a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University at Buffalo in 2014. He and Megan operate a nonprofit organization called New Perspective Foundation, which provides travel accommodations for the family and friends of individuals affected with spinal cord injuries.