Near the end of Monday’s basketball banquet, Phoenix Pinnacle coach Charlie Wilde had one more announcement to make.
Brandon Wechsler was joining his staff as an honorary assistant coach.
It evoked a standing ovation in the room and brought tears to the eyes of Len Wechsler, Brandon’s dad.
Wechsler’s story has been well-chronicled since he attended Pinnacle six years ago. He was diagnosed with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy when he was 8, and has undergone anywhere from “12 to 16 surgeries” in his life, that last one coming in October 2014, when he had metal rods removed from his back that had become infected.
Wechsler can’t move his arms and legs, but his smile has never diminished.
Wechsler has been a fixture at Pinnacle football and basketball games for 10 years, four years as a high school team manager and the six years since he graduated.
The last two seasons he shared in the joy of the basketball team winning back-to-back state championships.
“The fact that he’s been around the program shows how much he really cares for us,” star senior guard Nico Mannion said. “He’s also going to be a great assistant coach because of his attitude every day.
“I think we can all learn something from Brandon and the way he approaches life.”
Wechsler made history his senior year when he played in a game, the Arizona Interscholastic Association and the competing schools allowing Wechsler to be out there for the opening tip in his wheelchair.
Wilde retired Wechsler’s No. 42 jersey and framed it and put it on the wall in the gymnasium.
Wechsler, who will be 25 in August, picked up his college degree taking online courses. He now works at the Music Instrument Museum near Pinnacle. He never missed senior quarterback Spencer Rattler’s football games the last four years, getting close to Spencer and his family. He also got close to Mannion and his family.
“Brandon has been an important part of our program for 10 years,” Wilde said. “We feel like he outgrew his manager position.”
Pinnacle has had star players come through the program since Brandon graduated but Wilde said he treated everyone equally.
“Brandon has a lot more hardships than the rest of us, but he never shows it,” Wilde said. “Before you can ask him, he says, ‘How are you doing?'”
Len Wechsler said his son has lost 75 pounds in the last year, saying, “That’s the disease.”
Brandon has had great support the last 10 years not only from Pinnacle coaches and athletes but his own family. His sister Brianna Wechsler, 21, turned down a scholarship to the University of Arizona to stay home to help out with her brother.
Eydie Mandell, his mom, has been the “motor, the rock,” Len said.
“We never do doom and gloom,” Len said. “It’s been that way since Day 1. I just want him to live. I pray every day.”