Iowa’s Rival Coaches Team Up to End Cancer

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The match-ups that all  major universities in Iowa face against one another on the basketball court are filled with emotion.

Together, UNI's Ben Jacobson, Drake's Darian Devries, Iowa State's Steve Prohm, and the University of Iowa's Fran McCaffery have amassed 816 wins, but on Friday evening at the Coaches vs Cancer Gala in West Des Moines it was emotions from personal battles against cancer that drew them together.

"My mother-in-law had breast cancer and she is currently a survivor," said newly-crowned Drake coach Darian DeVries.

Panther coach Ben Jacobson added, "My wife's father passed away when she was a freshman, and that is one we've talked about in the past. Each and every day that is a part of our lives."

For McCaffery, the disease hit home during an Iowa basketball game nearly four years ago at Michigan State.

"I probably coached that game as calm as I ever did in my life. It was a big game, on ESPN, but when you find out your son has a thyroid tumor it changes your perspective on the importance of it," he said.

Prohm is also familiar with how the disease can impact those around him. He said, "It has been through friends or players' families and seeing the disease up close that way."

It is some of those battles away from the court, these coaches say, that at times can lead to powerful moments on it.

DeVries said, "When you are feeling down about having a bad day or a loss, from a coaching standpoint, it is easy to put in perspective when you can relate it to what someone else is going through."

Prohm added, "This is your biggest role as a coach or leader is to impact people and make a difference and help people."

With sports memorabilia, vacation trips, and many other auction items up for sale to help the cause, when there's an opponent as tough as cancer, these coaches set rivalries aside so everyone can hopefully come out with a win.

"That's the goal. More birthdays for everyone," said McCaffery.

Each university also recognized a fan of the year at the gala. Each member has some association with the school and has battled cancer. For Iowa, it was Traci McCausland, Iowa State honored Rich Fellingham, UNI introduced Colby Reinking, and Drake applauded Larry Cotler.

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