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Billy Kennedy's winning formula

(Source: Chilli Head, Flickr Commons) (Source: Chilli Head, Flickr Commons)
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

It's Madness....madness, I tell you!

Not just that Texas A&M's back in the Sweet 16 for the first time in nine years, but HOW they got there. Twelve points in 44-seconds and two additional overtimes later and the Aggies are through while upset-minded Northern Iowa, is out.

Just how Holy Cross Alum and Aggie Head Coach Billy Kennedy drew it up....kinda.

Kennedy arrived at College Station in 2011 amid concerns about where the program was headed. The traditionally strong 'football' school hadn't done much with the round ball. And when Kennedy arrived, winning games took an immediate backseat to his on-going health concerns.

You see, Billy Kennedy has Parkinson's Disease.

He first showed signs of PD while he was still coaching Murray State. It was a neck pain that didn't get better. That's not one of the typical PD symptoms but every case is different....very different. His doctor didn't pick up on Parkinson's. Kennedy was told it was part of the aging process.

Being a college basketball head coach is 'also' a part of the aging process. And the Aggies are his fourth stop on the circuit..having spent time at Centenary, Southeastern Louisiana, Murray State and now Texas A&M. And as soon as he took over the Aggies, Kennedy's Parkinson's progressed. More pain and tremors. He was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's and this was before he had coached a single game at his new school.

Coaching college basketball is a stressful job. When you add in a new diagnosis of a disease that doesn't have a cure, you can only imagine what Kennedy was going through. He then made a decision that so many with Parkinson's make....he kept quiet about the disease.

 "I hadn't even signed my contract yet," Kennedy said. "For 30 days I held it in. First off, I'm not wired to talk about my problems. I also had a new job and a new staff that had just moved their families. There was a great deal of stress."

He hit the wall and the A&M administration told him to take a leave of absence. Kennedy sat out a month and changed his lifestyle. He started to get more sleep, took his meds, exercised and ate healthier food. And as the days went, his health began to improve. To the point that once he got back on the sideline, it was business as usual.

Kennedy is now in his fifth year as the A&M Head Coach and he's got them back in the tournament for the first time since 2011.

"They could have bailed out on me given the struggles we had early on," Kennedy said of his bosses, "but they stayed the course, and I feel blessed because of that."

As I said earlier, every case is different but Billy Kennedy is showing that you can lead a normal life with Parkinson's. It's nice to have role models.

Copyright 2016 WVUE. All rights reserved.

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