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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Suits and sneakers: Why ‘Coaches vs. Cancer’ hits close to home for men’s basketball coaching staff

From+left%3A+Quinnipiac+coaches+Tom+Pecora%2C+Shaun+Morris+and+Bradley+Jacks+during+a+game+against+Mount+St.+Mary%E2%80%99s+on+Jan.+25.
Casey Nedelka
From left: Quinnipiac coaches Tom Pecora, Shaun Morris and Bradley Jacks during a game against Mount St. Mary’s on Jan. 25.

 In the midst of the 2020 season, then-assistant men’s basketball coach Tom Pecora went on a two-week sabbatical.

Without telling anyone on the staff, he quietly went to get treated for prostate cancer.

“I just went in for my annual checkup,” now-head coach Pecora said. “My primary care guy … was like, ‘Look, Tommy, the (test) numbers aren’t high, but they’re jumping.’”

Cancer has touched Pecora’s life in many ways. His mother died after a bout with cancer at the turn of the century. His college roommate also fought cancer.

That’s why the Coaches vs. Cancer initiative is so important for the Bobcats’ head man.

A nationwide effort from both the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches, the Coaches vs. Cancer initiative has created awareness and promoted healthy lifestyles through fundraising and advocacy events. 

To raise awareness, college basketball coaches wore suits and sneakers during their games this past week. The sneakers are meant to draw attention to the overall cause.

“Most of the guys wear (sneakers) anyway, so it doesn’t have the impact it used to,” Pecora said. “But it’s something that’s close to my heart.”

For 14 years, Pecora has hosted a “Coaches vs. Cancer” golf outing on Long Island. He even helped raise half a million dollars in donations for Manhattan’s Hope Lodges — a facility-based community for those impacted by cancer. 

“There’s a place in Manhattan called Hope Lodges where you can go with your family (if) anyone you know is ever going to get treatment. Not only at (Memorial) Sloan Kettering (Cancer Center), but any of the hospitals in New York City,” Pecora said. “We have a room there with my mom’s name on it … It’s really important.”

Assistant coach Bradley Jacks, who is in his fourth season on the Bobcats’ staff, took time after last Thursday’s win over Mount St. Mary’s to speak to the media — something assistants are rarely asked to do.

Cancer survivor and Quinnipiac head coach Tom Pecora sporting sneakers during the “Coaches vs. Cancer” initiative on Jan. 25.

For Jacks, the disease also hits close to home.

“My mom, she’s battled breast cancer three times,” Jacks said. “It’s huge, (I’m) encouraging anyone and everyone to donate until we can find a cure for this tough disease.”

“It’s a special event, many coaches bought into this,” Jacks added. “I think it’s huge to continue to raise awareness because everyone’s affected by it.”

In Sunday’s two-point win over Fairfield, both coaching staffs remained in suits and sneakers. During the game, Fairfield sold commemorative hockey jerseys to honor a Fairfield student who battled cancer, with proceeds going to the Jimmy Fund.

“The more that we can continue to raise awareness and donate and give back, it’s awesome,” Jacks said.

There’s more work to be done, yet Pecora — who is leading the Bobcats to their best start (16-4) in program history — doesn’t forget those he’s lost.

“I think of a lot of people on those days,” Pecora said. “I think we’re making tremendous progress in finding cures and it takes programs like this to help. Not only raising money, but also (letting) people not forget.”

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Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

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