January 7, 2010

Coaches Rally for Cancer-Stricken Comrade

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

It was the fall of 1969, and new Cortland men’s lacrosse Jack Emmer was about to embark on a Hall of Fame career when he saw in one of his players a lot of the hardiness that made Emmer an All-American defenseman at Rutgers. The kid fashioned himself an attackman, but Emmer saw how he battled back from a head injury stemming from a car accident and envisioned him beating down on less resolute opponents.

Lacrosse, you see, is in Jack McGetrick’s bones. But something else is too.

Cancer.

McGetrick, now entering his sixth season as the head coach at Bellarmine University after 11 seasons at Hartford, felt pain “down there” and had trouble urinating about a year ago when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The news got worse when a bone scan revealed the cancer had spread to his hip, pelvis, ribs and spine.

The quintessential tough guy -- the one who became a first team All-American defenseman under Emmer; who used to race and beat his Hartford players in three-mile runs; who had the gall to take on the ECAC establishment last spring when some coaches railed against a Kentucky school’s inclusion in the realigned league -- kept his condition under wraps during a 6-8 campaign for the Knights.

But his pain was real.

“The first round of chemotherapy didn’t take care of the problem. It actually spread a little more,” McGetrick said Thursday. “Three weeks ago I set on a mix of three different chemos, and then I’ll get another bone scan in four weeks or so… The chemo takes its toll. So does hormone therapy. We started taking good cells out of my body to kill the cancer. You try to work out without any testosterone.”

McGetrick remains committed to staying on the sidelines in 2010. “For my own sake and the program I want to put it out there that I don’t intend on going anywhere,” the soon-to-be 60-year-old said.

Only this time, as McGetrick leads Bellarmine into its season opener Feb. 6 at Detroit Mercy, he’ll be backed by a groundswell of support from his peers.

The Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IMLCA) recently established an emergency fund to help McGetrick, whose medical expenses have been ratcheted up by the two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off cycle of chemotherapy in which he takes six pills a day at $300 per pill.

As a part of the fundraising initiative “Everyone Works for Jack,” college coaches around the country will host clinics Jan. 24, the proceeds of which will support McGetrick’s cancer treatments.

“Jack McGetrick was a guy that was always in better shape than everybody else, not only as a player, but when coaching,” said Emmer, chair of the Coaches Emergency Fund. “Weight training, running marathons, he had this mentality that he was almost indestructible. His physical fitness level in a sense hurt him, because he was fit as a horse.”

“He’s got a great attitude,” Emmer added, “but it’s going to be a tough battle.”

Fees vary and details remain in flux, but among schools interested in hosting clinics that day are Bowdoin, Duke, Fairfield, Georgetown, Loyola, Maryland, Nazareth, Robert Morris, Virginia Wesleyan and Washington College. Delaware, Franklin and Marshall, Franklin Pierce, Harvard, Hofstra and Hood have also expressed interest in supporting the cause with clinics of their own prior to the season.

“It’s unbelievable. You can get corny and trite about it, but these guys are doing it, and it’s humbling to me,” said McGetrick, who will reconvene with many of those coaches Jan. 15-17 at the US Lacrosse National Convention, presented by Champion, in Baltimore. McGetrick will present an educational session on up-tempo team drills. “I’m so glad I’m a part of this profession.”

Donations can be sent to:

Jack McGetrick Fund
IMLCA
P.O. Box 644
Forestdale, Mass.
02644


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