It’s that time of year again, when basketball coaches are going to start looking like their players — from the ankles down, at least.
Started in the mid-1990s by famous cancer survivors and basketball coaching icons Jim Boeheim and Norm Stewart, the Coaches Vs. Cancer initiative has raised money nationwide for the American Cancer Society. In addition, the memory and efforts connected to late former North Carolina State Jim Valvano also have generated millions.
Now, former Glendale High School coach Mike Keltner is hoping southwest Missouri can join in.
A local drive will take place starting today and running through Dec. 20 and is being called, “DC10.” The “DC” is an acronym for Defeat Cancer and also for Don Carlson.
Carlson, the former Kickapoo and Glendale assistant coach, has prostate cancer. Carlson, a former Southwest Missouri State standout player, helped Republic to the 1963 state championship.
“So many people are affected by this,” Keltner said. “Basketball is in the fabric of the people of southwest Missouri and this is a way to draw attention and awareness to the cause.”
A symbol of the effort is coaches wearing sneakers with their traditional suit or other regular coaching ensemble.
So, for the next 10 days, each Central Ozark Conference and Ozark Conference boys’ and girls’ basketball team will designate one home game as its fundraising game, with a halftime donation being collected and often matched by the programs’ booster club.
Keltner hopes teams outside of those conferences will join along, and that next year the drive will continue to grow. The money raised will stay local, benefitting Carlson’s treatments and the American Cancer Society in Greene County.
In addition to the sneakers, coaches also will be wearing pink to raise awareness for breast cancer, and light blue to raise awareness for prostate cancer.
The culmination of the initiative will be on Dec. 20 when the Republic boys play host to Reeds Spring.
Stewart, the legendary former Missouri coach, is scheduled to appear at the game barring unforeseen circumstances.
At the Dec. 20 game, a silent auction will be held with items from top college basketball programs including Kansas, Kentucky and Indiana.
Stewart is on the council membership group with names like North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Coach Carlson also is set to appear at the game.
Local interest in the initiative also is driven by the memory of former Kickapoo girls’ coach Stephanie Phillips. The legendary coach, who died in July 2010 at 36 after a three-year battle with cancer, was honored over the weekend at the early-season Kickapoo tournament named in her honor: The Stephanie Phillips Classic.
Contact Matt Schoch at 417-836-1191 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattSchochNL.