Jim Van Til celebrated his 500th career victory in his 27 years as coach of the Bradenton Christian Panthers girls basketball team on Monday.
But the biggest victory for the 63-year-old these days is occurring off the court.
“About six weeks ago, I felt really old,” Van Til said. “I was lying in a hospital bed with my chest split wide open.”
Van Til went in for a relatively tame stent procedure on Nov. 12 and stayed for what amounted to emergency triple bypass surgery.
“The doctor said I could have had a heart attack at any time,” he said.
Monday was Van Til’s first game back since his surgery. The Panthers trounced St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep, 52-19, at the Smoothie King Classic Basketball Tournament, held annually on the Bradenton Christian campus.
In addition to being Van Til’s 500th win at the school, the victory put BCS in a winners bracket game scheduled for today at 6:30 p.m. against Manatee High.
Van Til is also a school psychologist for Lakewood Ranch and Braden River high schools, as well as Witt Elementary in Manatee County.
His wife, Ginny, is a first grade teacher at BCS.
“It came as a total shock,” Ginny Van Til said. “He has always been as healthy as a horse. He eats right and we walk every day.”
Senior Katie Swaagman, whose mother, Kelly, also played for Van Til at BCS, led the Panthers with 14 points, followed by freshman Amy Van Ryn with 10