No Time to Die
Loyola (Md.) women's lacrosse coach Diane Geppi-Aikens's terminal
brain cancer hasn't kept her off the sidelines. And now her team
is ranked No. 1. Her story, in her words
In 15 years at Loyola my coaching style hasn't changed much. I
yell a lot, I laugh a ton and I deliver motivational speeches at
every opportunity. Only this season I've been doing it all from a
wheelchair. My mother, Katherine, calls me Queen Bee, because my
players zoom off the field to hover around my chair.
Nine years ago a CAT scan revealed a small tumor on my brain. I
was a recently divorced mother of four, including a newborn girl,
and had never needed so much as an aspirin before that day. I had
surgery to remove the growth, and within a week I was on the road
to visit two top recruits. They both signed. I felt triumphant.
No little tumor was going to stop me from doing my job.
But that little tumor led to other tumors and to serious
complications. For the next couple of years I had small seizures,
as many as eight a day. I'd fall down, and my body would shake. I
know it scared my players at first, but they adjusted. Like my
kids, they knew the drill: The seizure would go on for a minute,
then life, and practice, would resume. From 1998 to 2002, I had
two more brain surgeries and several rounds of radiation and
chemo, but I still coached full time. Seeing my players
reenergized me. The ups and downs of my illness have made for
some emotional team meetings. But we've received seven straight
NCAA tournament bids; we've gone to the semifinals the past three
years; and this year we're 13-0.
In December doctors discovered a large, inoperable tumor in my
brain stem. I had a choice: spend my 40th year of life feeling
sorry for myself or being the best coach and parent I could be.
Coaching hasn't been easy, of course. Paralysis of my left side
put me in a wheelchair in February, and my face is swollen from
steroids. But I have one good arm and one good leg, my mouth
still works, and cognitively I'm sharp. With the help of my
assistants, who run drills, and my father, John, and sister
Patti, who tend to me almost 24 hours a day, I've made it to most
practices and all but one game this season.
My team has given me enormous love and respect--I must be the
only coach whose players kiss her on the cheek every day. In
return, I've been candid about my illness. When I found out about
the brain stem tumor, I requested a team meeting. It was a week
before Christmas, so I was surprised when almost every player and
several of their parents showed up. I told them the bad news,
and then I tried to lift their spirits with a story. In a rare
moment alone that week, I had fallen in my bathroom. Unable to
pull myself up, I used all my strength to drag myself down the
hallway to the phone to call for help. Along the way I drank from
my cat's water dish to keep me going. "That's perseverance," I
The team took that story to heart. The captains ordered workout
T-shirts that say PERSEVERANCE on one side and MEOW on the other.
I tell them they shouldn't feel pressure to win on my behalf, but
they are playing better than ever.
All things considered, I'm doing pretty well, too. Doctors told
me in January that I might have only a few months left. I have
two goals: getting to the Final Four and to my oldest son
Michael's high school graduation, both in May. How do I face each
day? I wake up to the sound of my kids cranking up the stereo.
Then they run into my room to sing and dance around my bed. I try
to be as positive as humanly possible and thank God for one more
day with people I love. As I tell my players, you can find
inspiration no matter what you're up against.
A coveted high school quarterback decides to pass on his senior
Top college football players often bolt early for the NFL, but we
haven't seen anyone quite as precocious as Louisiana's Evangel
Christian Academy quarterback John David Booty: He's skipping his
senior year of high school to attend USC this fall.
John David, who committed to USC last month after also being
recruited by Texas, Michigan, Tennessee and LSU, had been set to
spend next semester trying to win a third straight 5A state
championship before graduating this December. He'd planned to go
to USC in January to get a jump on spring practice. But two weeks
ago his father, Johnny Booty, was fired as Evangel's quarterbacks
coach. Chancellor Denny Duron told The Times of Shreveport that
the dismissal was because of "a ministry matter."
At Evangel football is as interwoven with religion as are the
laces on a ball. The school of 600 students is run by
Shreveport's First Assembly of God church and has won seven state
championships since it opened, in 1989. Johnny has been the
quarterbacks coach from the start and has had the all-state
signal-caller for 11 straight years. That run started with his
eldest son, Josh, who went on to play at LSU and is now a backup
with the Browns. Last year John David passed for 3,956 yards and
37 touchdowns in 15 games. He's widely considered the best high
school quarterback in the country.
Johnny's problems with Duron began at First Assembly, where
Duron--Evangel's founder and first head football coach--is senior
pastor. Johnny, 49, a former all-state quarterback at
Shreveport's Woodlawn High, had been a minister at the church for
15 years but lately had been leading home Bible study. "I feel my
calling is to get people back into their homes, because [church]
activity can interfere with family life," Booty says. "I guess
Denny feels that's a conflict of interest. I don't know what that
has to do with coaching." Duron could not be reached for comment.
After Johnny was let go--he also lost his job as Evangel's head
of school--John David, who is 18 and one course shy of
graduation, enrolled in a summer English course. When he
completes it, he'll be eligible as a college freshman. With no
clear-cut successor to Heisman Trophy-winner Carson Palmer, John
David hopes to get playing time right away. "I don't want people
to think I'm doing this just to do it," he says. "I had every
intention of finishing my high school career until this came up
with my dad." --Pete McEntegart
6 Pitchers who've allowed at least 10 runs in a start: Jimmy
Haynes, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Roy Oswalt
and Rick Reed, who had a combined 2.98 ERA last year.
241 Consecutive league matches won by the Kalamazoo College men's
tennis team before it lost to Hope on April 15, ending a streak
that began in 1962.
0.05 Margin by which Michael Jordan retired as the NBA's leader
in career scoring average; he outscored Wilt Chamberlain 30.12 to
8 Overtime wins without a loss for the Pistons this year, an NBA
499 Straight games played by Knicks forward Shandon Anderson, the
NBA's longest current streak.
21 Consecutive foul shots converted by Celtics guard Paul Pierce
in a 103-100 win over the Pacers last Saturday, a playoff record
for free throws without a miss.
6 Home runs hit by National League pitchers, through Monday.
5 Home runs hit by the Detroit Tigers, through Monday.
FOR THE RECORD
Of pancreatic cancer, Jack Donohue, 70, the former coach of
Canada's national basketball team. A Canadian--James A.
Naismith--invented basketball, but a New Yorker, Donohue, put
Canadian basketball in the big leagues. After coaching Lew
Alcindor at Manhattan's Power Memorial high in the early 1960s,
Donohue took over at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., in
'65, then became Canada's coach in '72. The Total Loss from Holy
Cross, as Donohue called himself, led the previously moribund
Canadian team to surprising fourth-place finishes at the 1976 and
1984 Olympics and a shocking gold medal at the '83 World
University Games. Donohue was an even better raconteur than coach
and became a popular motivational speaker after retiring from
basketball in '88. He had been living outside Ottawa.
Of undetermined causes, six-time NCAA track champion David
Kimani, a senior at Alabama. The 25-year-old Kenyan collapsed
while eating lunch in the school's dining hall last Wednesday and
was taken to a hospital, where he died an hour later. Kimani, who
came to the U.S. from Nairobi in 1997, won titles in the indoor
3,000, indoor 5,000 and outdoor 5,000. Last year he led the Tide
to second place at the NCAA indoor championships. He is survived
by his wife, Chamis.
By the Brooklyn Kings of the USBL, Kwame James, one of the
American Airlines passengers who subdued would-be shoe bomber
Richard Reid on a flight from Paris to Miami on Dec. 22, 2001. A
Canadian citizen born in Trinidad, James, 25, played hoops at the
University of Evansville from 1997-98 to 2000-01 and averaged 6.3
points and 3.7 rebounds in 115 games as a 6'8" power forward. He
has lived in the U.S. since a brief stint with the NBA
Developmental League, which cut him last year, and with his visa
due to expire at the end of this month, James was in danger of
being deported. He had four points and four rebounds in the
Kings' season-opening 99-89 loss to Adirondack last Saturday. "He
adds maturity and stability," says Kings coach Kenny Charles.
"He's so unassuming--half of our squad doesn't even know what he
By the exposed breasts of a female spectator, three players on
the Norton Hill Rangers, an English soccer team. When the
Morland Challenge Cup final between the Rangers and Wookey FC
ended in a 0-0 tie, the teams went to a best-of-five
penalty-kick shootout. Each time a Norton Hill player stepped up
to take a shot, he was flashed by a 25-year-old Wookey fan
standing behind the goal. Three kicks sailed over the bar--one
landed in the parking lot--and Wookey won 3-2. "It definitely
got to the lads," said Rangers captain Lee Baverstock.
During the war in Iraq, Army lieutenants John Fernandez, 25, and
Nick Bilotta, 24, captains of the West Point lacrosse teams in
2001 and '02, respectively. Fernandez (left), who played attack
for the Cadets, was injured when his artillery platoon came
under mortar fire about 30 miles southwest of Baghdad in the
early morning hours of April 3. Doctors at Walter Reed Army
Medical Center in Washington, D.C., amputated both his feet.
Bilotta (right), who played defensive middie, took shrapnel in
both legs. His father relayed news of Bilotta's injury to Army
coach Jack Emmer last Thursday morning, and Emmer informed the
team before practice. "It put a damper on everyone's day," says
Mike Kamon, a co-captain of the 16th-ranked Black Knights, who
expects to be sent to the Middle East after graduating in May
(SI, April 14). "We try not to focus on it. A lot of guys are
good friends with both of them, but we still have games to play.
You have to keep going."
Pending approval from major league owners, the Anaheim Angels.
Phoenix businessman Arturo Moreno reached an agreement in
principle to buy the World Series champions from Disney for a
reported $180 million. If Moreno is approved by 23 of the 30
owners, he will become the first Latino to be a majority owner
in any of the four major sports. In 1996 Disney paid $140
million for the Angels, who play home games across the street
from Disneyland. That was two years after the release of Angels
in the Outfield and three years after Disney founded the NHL's
Mighty Ducks on the heels of its kids' movie of that name. The
company expected to reap the benefits of cross-promotion. Both
of the teams were promoted at Disneyland, and the theme park was
promoted at Angels and Ducks games. Yet both clubs have steadily
lost money. (The Ducks are also up for sale.) Though the Angels
won the 2002 Series and have a midlevel payroll of about $78
million, the club claimed losses of roughly $15 million last year.
In the late 1990s other media conglomerates landed sports teams,
believing them important to a diverse entertainment company. News
Corp. bought the Dodgers, and Time Warner, SI's parent company,
acquired the Braves, Hawks and Thrashers. Now, all those teams
are for sale.
Moreno, a 56-year-old Vietnam vet who made nearly a billion
dollars in the billboard industry, was a minority investor in the
Diamondbacks until 2002 and is a prominent booster of University
of Arizona sports. He declined to be interviewed and at press
time had not spoken publicly about the purchase.
THE WEEK IN TELEVISION
APRIL 25-MAY 1
SATURDAY 4/26 > HBO 9:30 PM > James Toney (65-4-2) vs. Vassiliy
Toney, 34, is 10-0 since ending a 21-month layoff in March 1999.
Now he's trying to take the 29-year-old Jirov's IBF cruiserweight
SUNDAY 4/27 > FOX 2:30 PM > Auto Club 500
Jeff Gordon, who grew up in Vallejo, Calif., leads NASCAR's
annual invasion of Southern California. Gordon has two wins and
four top five finishes in the six races held at the California
Speedway since it joined the Winston Cup circuit in 1997.
SUNDAY 4/27 > ESPN CLASSIC 8 PM > Everybody's All-American
Dennis Quaid is college football star Gavin (the Grey Ghost) Grey
and Jessica Lange is his beauty-queen wife in this adaptation of
Frank Deford's novel. We follow Grey from his glory days in the
'50s into middle age, as he confronts life without cheers.
SUNDAY 4/27 > ESPN2 NOON > U.S. Women's National Soccer Team vs.
Phenom Heather O'Reilly, 18, joins Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and
Julie Foudy in Washington, D.C., as the champs prepare for
September's Women's World Cup.
MONDAY 4/28 > ESPN2 10 PM > Phillies at Dodgers
Philadelphia hasn't beaten the Dodgers in a season series since
'95, but catcher Mike Lieberthal loves playing them. The 11 home
runs he has hit against Los Angeles are the most he has hit off
>> DON'T MISS
SUNDAY 4/27 > ABC 3 PM
Timberwolves at Lakers, Game 4
Kevin Garnett (far right) tries to lead Minnesota to its
first-ever playoff series victory. But proud papa Shaquille
O'Neal, whose wife, Shaunie, gave birth to their third child
last Saturday, and the defending champs are hot.
Tom Good, Bill Bad
When Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. agreed to buy a controlling
interest in DirecTV, the nation's largest satellite broadcaster,
sports TV's most potent player got a lot stronger. (The $6.6
billion deal is subject to regulatory approval.) Murdoch's Fox
Sports already airs the NFL, Major League Baseball and NASCAR
nationally, and his 21 regional networks control local
broadcasting rights to 67 of the 80 MLB, NBA and NHL teams. If
Murdoch gets DirecTV, he'll have a distribution network with 11
million subscribers to go with his programming assets, putting
him in an even more powerful position should he get into the kind
of turf battle he fought with cable-TV carriers in Orlando and
Minnesota earlier this year. Magic and Timberwolves games were
kept off the air for several months while Fox Sports and Time
Warner Cable squabbled over rights fees. DirecTV will give
Murdoch a big hammer in any future fight like that one: He could
threaten to offer steep satellite discounts to steal viewers away
from cable. The likely result? Games would not be shown while the
two sides negotiated. Also, given Murdoch's hardball style, it
may be difficult for non-Fox Sports channels--such as the
Yankees' YES Network--to strike deals to be carried on DirecTV.
Murdoch's increased leverage could leave many sports fans missing
out instead of watching their favorite teams.
Tom Tolbert is the best thing about ABC's NBA broadcasts. The
former NBA journeyman is funny (when Shaquille O'Neal landed on
Timberwolves guard Rod Strickland on Sunday, he said, "That'll
crush a pancreas right there") and astute. Let's hope that
partner Bill Walton learns to play off Tolbert and quits relying
so heavily on tired catchphrases such as, "Throw it down, big
Oh, No, Mr. Wizard!
CAPITAL OFFENSE Newly retired Michael Jordan, the NBA's alltime
leading playoff scorer at 33.4 points per game, failed to reach
the postseason in his two seasons with the Wizards. Which player
holds the Wizards-Bullets franchise record for highest postseason
a. Walt Bellamy c. Earl Monroe
b. Elvin Hayes d. Don Ohl
STAYING POWER Before Jordan stepped back onto the court, on Oct.
30, 2001, he spent nearly two years as the Wizards' president of
basketball operations and overhauled the roster. Who is the only
Wizard remaining from the pre-Jordan days?
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP Washington's record book went fairly
unscathed during Jordan's brief stint. Pair these franchise
single-game records with the man who holds them.
1. Points a. Rex Chapman
2. Field goals made b. Michael Jordan
3. Free throws made c. Bernard King
4. Three-pointers made d. Moses Malone
CALL TO ORDER Rank these North Carolina Tar Heels alumni based on
their NBA scoring averages during the Washington chapter of
Jordan's playing career.
a. Vince Carter c. Jerry Stackhouse
b. Michael Jordan d. Rasheed Wallace
CAPITAL OFFENSE: d. Guard Don Ohl averaged 26.2 points in 13
playoff games in 1964-65 and '65-66 for the Baltimore Bullets.
STAYING POWER: Center Jahidi White, who was selected by the
Wizards in the second round of the 1998 draft.
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP: 1. c (52 points); 2. b (21 field goals); 3.
d (21 free throws); 4. a (eight three-pointers)
CALL TO ORDER: Carter (23.0 ppg); Stackhouse (21.5); Jordan
(21.2); Wallace (18.7)
--HALO HANDOFF, PAGE 21