Smith, other coaches fighting prostate cancer

MINNEAPOLIS — Tubby Smith knows the effect of cancer.

He’s lived it.

That’s why Smith, the University of Minnesota men’s basketball coach, is one of

the foremost participants in the On the Line campaign, which aims to raise

awareness for prostate cancer. The campaign focuses on educating African

Americans about the disease, as they’re more likely to develop prostate cancer

than other ethnic groups. According to On the Line, one in five African

American males will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Smith was among that 20 percent. He announced in May of last year that he was

finally cancer free after dealing with prostate cancer. Having experienced the

disease first-hand, Smith now wants to inform others about it. On the Line has

partnered with the Black Coaches and Administrators (BC) to get the word out

about the disease.

“I’ve been sort of a spokesman for prostate cancer for years. I’m affected

by it,” Smith said on Friday. “I was blessed and fortunate that they

found it in time. We want to educate, especially African American males. It’s a

good time of the year. It’s Black History Month, and I think that’s one of the

things they were trying to do, to make a statement.”

On the Line and the BCA have deemed the upcoming week “Statement

Week,” beginning Saturday and running through Feb. 26. During that time,

Smith and other African American men’s basketball coaches will wear bowties as

well as an On the Line button during their games to raise awareness.

Smith has also partnered with other organizations such as Coaches vs. Cancer

and the American Cancer Society. He said he was pleased with the opportunity to

team with On the Line for the upcoming week’s campaign.

“Over the years, we’ve raised quite a bit of money to fight cancer,”

Smith said. “When they came to me about it, I was more than elated.”

Smith is far from the only college basketball coach who has battled cancer.

After the Gophers’ practice at Williams Arena on Friday, Smith listed the names

of several legendary coaches who have been diagnosed with cancer, including

Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and former Notre Dame coach

Digger Phelps.

Other coaches who will join Smith in this week’s On the Line campaign and

Statement Week include Georgetown’s John Thompson III, Missouri’s Frank Haith,

VCU’s Shaka Smart, Harvard’s Tommy Amaker and LSU’s Trent Johnson. At least 15

coaches are expected to participate.

Smith and his Minnesota team face a crucial game on Saturday when they travel

to Northwestern. Both the Gophers and Wildcats sit on the NCAA Tournament

bubble, meaning the team that loses Saturday in Evanston, Ill., will likely

have to win the Big Ten Tournament to earn an invite to the Big Dance.

Regardless of the game’s outcome, however, Smith will be helping lead the way

for a very special cause — and one that is especially important to him.

“It’s amazing how many people have been affected by and that are affected

by cancer, whether it’s personally themselves or with their families,”

Smith said. “I’m glad I can participate and glad to be a part of it.”

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