Our first Hero’s Beyond The Hardwood focused on Jimmy Valvano. The person and face of the Jimmy V foundation which fights against cancer. This week nominee relates to this disease which affects millions and recently Bobby Bowden. The second Hero chosen is not a Division 1 powerhouse coach, an NBA great, or a player. This man might be a coach but he’s also teacher, father, and now a fighter. He coaches Concordia University Chicago in Illinois a NCAA division 3 program. A university known for its graduate and the teaching instead of its basketball program. He goes by the name of Tyler Jones.
Tyler Jones? Yeah Tyler Jones. Two weeks ago he was featured on an ESPN outside the lines report. This report wasn’t about him landing a touted recruit, breaking a coaching a milestone, or even saving a cat from a tree. Month’s ago the coach found out he had prostate cancer. During this period he kept his news to his family and recently allowed the public to hear about it. The viral video running through the web shows his players discover his secret. Hero’s Beyond the Hardwood isn’t writing about him as a coach in any aspect, but in the short clip you see his other family. The family that practices five days a week for this man. His players. The emotion in this room gives us a powerful grasp of the social ramifications and connections this sport creates. The sport brought people together, but Tyler Jones created the family that brews. If basketball was just simply a game this story wouldn’t mean a thing, right? The only write-up of this story will probably be a local paper like the Pioneer Press, maybe the Chicago Sun-Times. My interest isn’t pressuring people to see this story as ” this man has cancer, feel bad,” no my take is “this coach is more than a game manager to his peers, but a father-like figure who fights first for his kids and last for himself.”
This story shows the importance of the NCAA Division 3 programs as well. The kids crying and cheering after a huge upset doesn’t just take place in the Big Ten, SEC, or Pac-10’s. Whether it be Division 2 or 3, NAIA or NJCAA everyone involved in these programs are integral to the game. The Concordia Chicago’s might not capture the national attention anytime soon, but they capture the spotlight of their community. The people holding their heads up high through River Forest are their athletes and the school body. Whether you attend a SEC school or a Junior College life still goes on. Tyler Jones faces a difficult time, but he’s moving forward. Those who strive to get past tragedy, or sickness will hide in their shadows their whole life. Tyler Jones might have a disease, but his gift of inspiration, preserving, and ability to coach trump it. His accolades allow him to coach in a Division 1 school, but he chooses a Division 3 school. He’s humble, strong, and will continue fighting, but now he has support. His team isn’t composed of 5 star recruits, but recruits that comprise a team. Coaching on the sidelines, at home, and in the classroom have been his life calling, and no disease will stripe of that.