Even Division I basketball coaches remain fans of other sports, and still get that kid-in-a-candy-store feeling at certain special sports situations.
Such was the visit of 10 coaches, including three from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, who took part in pre-game ceremonies at Yankee Stadium recently to honor their work with the Coaches vs. Cancer campaign.
John Dunne of Saint Peter's, Tommy Dempsey of Rider and Mitch Buonaguro of Siena were the conference coaches who attended, by invitation, the 15-minute ceremony just behind home plate, got to spend a few minutes with Yankee manager Joe Girardi and, then, watched the game from a luxury box.
Buonaguro has been particularly active with the charity that encourages coaches to help raise money and increase the awareness for the fight against the disease.
The opportunity for the Siena coach arose because of the work he does, including his participation in an annual "Basket Ball," dinner in the Albany, N.Y., area every year with proceeds directed to the American Cancer Society.
All coaches, as have just about anyone in any walk of life, have been directly affected by the disease in some form.
Buonaguro lost his mother to brain cancer 10 years ago.
“I went through how tough it was on her,” he said. “It affects everyone and I think we have all come together in the coaching fraternity to fight it.”
Dunne's mom is a two-time cancer survivor.
"She had breast cancer in 1984 and 1988 and went through years of chemo and radiation treatments," said Dunne. "I saw how tough that was for her, but she's a cancer survivor and she's still with us. But, it makes you realize that every one, in some way, is affected."
Dempsey said he lost a good friend, who was in his early 20's at the time, to cancer.
"When that happened I started to become a little more aware of what we can do to help," said the Rider coach. "Until it affects you on a personal level you probably don't pay as much attention to it as you need to. Losing my friend was an eye opening experience for me, and I try to do anything I can to help out."
Dempsey is part of a group at Rider that takes a full table at the annual "Jimmy V. Foundation" dinner to raise money for cancer research.
The Jimmy V Foundation, which has raised more than $100 million in the past 18 years, was instituted after Jim Valvano, who won a national championship at North Carolina State (and had also coached at Iona) came to be to honor his memory after he was claimed by cancer in the early 1980s.
Valvano's brother, Nick, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Jimmy V Foundation and is a Rider graduate and close friend of Dempsey.
Coaches who attended the Yankee game also took part in fund-raising activities the following day by working the phones to call hedge fund investors and businessmen to raise money for the fight against cancer. They also helped close the New York Stock Exchange last Thursday.
"It's a great thing to see so many coaches want to get involved," said Dunne. "Not all of us have the high profile of a Jim Boeheim (the Syracuse coach, who has long been one of the program's more-visible participants). We all don't have the same opportunities that he does to raise money.
"But even if we're not in that position, we understand that people in our own communities, fans of our programs, will follow our lead. Sometimes the best thing we can do is just raise awareness of the program and the need to contribute to the fight."
All three coaches expressed the enjoyment they felt at being included in the Yankee Stadium ceremony.
"Even though it took place just a few minutes before the game, a couple of Yankee players came by to shake our hands," said Dempsey. "And, when we were sitting in the luxury box for the game, Carmello Anthony and Lamar Odom spent some time with us."
"It was a personal treat for me, having grown up a Yankee fan," said Dunne. "My dad was killed in a work-related accident when I was still in college, and some of my best memories of him involved going to watch Yankee games together.
"I mean, I really enjoyed being there (as part of the ceremony), but I also had to smile a little because I know how much of a thrill it would have been for my dad to know that I was there, too."