DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Dallas Mavericks take on the Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday night, but that’s not stopping head coach Rick Carlisle from championing another battle early that same morning.
Coach Carlisle will be among those heading to Klyde Warren Park for a 5K/1-mile run/walk to help raise awareness and money for pancreatic cancer.
“We do play that night, but I will be there!” he said. “If I have to be a little late to shoot around for this cause, it will be well worth it, because this is about life and death.”
The North Texas sports legend, who is usually surrounded by blue and white, will dive into a sea of purple Saturday morning. Carlisle’s passion for finding a pancreatic cancer cure dates back 11 years.
On May 13, 2009, Carlisle was in Denver coaching his team in a playoff game. The excitement on the court came only six hours after he served as a pallbearer for an NBA superstar in Florida.
“Chuck Daly was one of the great coaches in the history of our game. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on January 31, 2009 and by early May, he was gone,” Carlisle explained to CBS 11 News during a 2010 interview.
While the Mavs lost the game after Chuck Daly’s memorial, the battle against pancreatic cancer won a new champion. “For me, it’s hard from a personal level… the people I’ve lost have been like family.”
In 2009, Carlisle not only lost Daly to pancreatic cancer but also another dear friend, Pacers owner Mel Simon.
It was after those losses, on and off the court, when CBS 11 News Investigator Ginger Allen met Coach Carlisle — it was 2010 and the coach was holding a ping pong tournament to raise awareness for the disease.
During an interview he said, “When it hits you personally the way it has me and the way it has you, it resonates.”
At the time Ginger’s 44-year-old sister-in-law had just been diagnosed. She passed away months after the story aired. Six years later, Ginger lost another dear family friend, David Roy, to the cancer.
Now, every November, Coach Carlisle and Ginger join the growing sea of purple to support the walkers and the runners raising money, awareness, and hope for a cure. The color purple represents pancreatic cancer.
Ginger and Coach Carlisle sat down to discuss this year’s event. “The most uplifting thing to me is the survivors that are there,” he said. She agreed saying, “You know that’s my favorite part of the day when we bring the survivors up and you start to recognize them from year to year and think, ‘Amen you’re back!'”
Smiling, Carlisle responded, “Yeah, absolutely. As we go on year after year after year, more of them continue to come back and look good. Everyone who is at that event has a connection of some sort.”
With a look as determined as the coach has on the court, Carlisle said, “In my lifetime, this will be one of the things I’m most committed to.”