BISMARCK, N.D. - A coach's job is to inspire his team to continue fighting and to carry on in the face of adversity. Brent DeKok has gone far beyond that call of duty, continuing to coach the Saints despite his ongoing battle with brain cancer.
Coach DeKok is in this week's Sports Spotlight.
St. Mary's, was in the thick, of basketball season.
"Stuff happens and it brings you closer together than it could've if it wouldn't have happened, I guess," said Steven Hutzenbiler, St. Mary's senior forward.
The morning after a win at Jamestown, something happened to their head coach.
"I got a call from Brent at home and right away when he started talking, I knew something was kind of off. It wasn't until the doctors came in while we were in the emergency room, and said the word tumor. And that kind of threw you back in your chair," said Amy DeKok, Brent DeKok's wife.
A CT scan revealed tumors in DeKok's brain, chest, and knee. He was diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma.
"It changes your whole world. I mean everything in my life changed on that day. Yeah, it was obviously very scary. I have three young children, I have a wife and it was very scary at that point to think that, 'boy, I'm facing cancer, and boy, I have an uphill fight in front of me,'" said Brent.
Brent DeKok had surgery to remove the brain tumor. Seven days later, St. Mary's played their rival Bismarck High School, with their coach back on the sideline.
"It gives me chills thinking about it. It was unbelievably humbling that night. To stand in this room and to see people wearing shirts, yellow shirts, with my name on the front of it. I wanted to take that opportunity to just say thank you. Thank you to the school, thank you to this community, thank you to this Region, for all the support and prayers they have given me," said DeKok.
Doctors told DeKok to take it easy, but then the game went down to the wire.
"Yeah, I guess at that point I stood up a few, a number of times. You know, you get back into your old habits," said DeKok.
Dancing wasn't prescribed either. But the occasion called for it. The Saints beat the Demons, 72-67.
Hutzenbiler said: "It's hard to explain, just how happy everyone was. It just kind of shows you that everybody can bounce back no matter how bad it is."
The Saints were the seventh seed in the West Region Tournament. They faced second-seeded Dickinson in the first round. The last time the Saints played the Midgets, their head coach was in surgery.
"Boy, was it humbling to see officials wearing yellow whistles," said DeKok. "And Brent Strong T-shirts on half of the teams were wearing them for warm-ups there. You know, all the yellow Brent Strong T-shirts in the stands. How do you say thank you?"
His players thanked him, by finishing off the upset.
Two nights later, their season ended in the State Qualifier.
Brent begins chemotherapy this week. Going forward, he faces cancer without basketball.
Brent: "Basketball has been an unbelievably great distraction. And now that that is going to be gone, now I'm just staring at treatment. And I'm staring at how do I get myself better and how do I get myself through this."
Basketball will be there for one more week. If he's up for it, Brent plans to attend the State Tournament, with his family.
If you would like to support Brent's continued fight against sarcoma, you can send donations to American Bank Center. The family asks you make donations to the "Brent DeKok Benefit Account."