By Bill Althaus

For 14 years, Steve Broughton touched the lives of countless players on the Truman High School boys basketball team.

Those squads won eight district championships and went to the final four in memorable back-to-back seasons.

Now, it's time for more than 50 of his former players to pay respect to their coach, who was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that has spread to his liver.

Broughton will return to Truman High School for tonight's Anything Can Happen Alumni Basketball Game. The game starts at 7 p.m. and there is no charge, however, anyone wishing to make a donation to help Broughton with his medical costs can do so at the door.

The past few days have been a struggle for Broughton, who also coached softball at Truman for 22 years and was the girls basketball coach at Grain Valley High School for five seasons.

“Steve's been in a lot of pain, and was really hurting after his last chemo treatment,” said Amy Temples, his fiancée. “He's just been amazing through all of this. He gives us strength. . .”

Broughton's diagnosis came just over a month ago, when he visited his doctor because of some stomach pain. “I was kind of sick to my stomach and in some pain, so I went to the doctor never expecting anything like this,” Broughton said Monday morning over the phone. “I got a call the next day and they said they needed to talk to me right away.”

The prognosis was a jaw dropper.

“I couldn't believe it,” he said, “I still don't believe it. I guess pancreatic cancer is so serious because they told me you don't know you have it until it spreads somewhere else.

“For me, it spread to my liver.”

He and Amy immediately got opinions from KU Med Center, the Mayo Clinic and M.D. Anderson Cancer Clinic in Houston.

“They all pretty much told me the same thing,” Broughton said. “I needed to start chemo right away, so I did. And it's really difficult. Please excuse if I get a little emotional - but this is really hard - on me, my family, my friends, it's tough.”

So it's time for his basketball family and friends to let Broughton know what he means to them.

The response to the charity basketball game at Truman has been overwhelming.

“I know the organizers were hoping for enough players for two teams,” said longtime Broughton assistant Billy Guinnee, who has been the Truman head coach since his friend retired from coaching. “They think there could be between 50 to 70 players, so it's going to quite a night.”

And Broughton can't wait to attend.

“My white blood count was really low last week, so I just spent the weekend home in bed,” Broughton said. “Someone turned my name into the Kansas City Royals and I have been invited to sit in the Buck O'Neil Seat at (Monday's) Royals game, so I am hoping to do that, then coach one of the teams Tuesday.

“Some people are worried that it might be too much for me, but I know what I can do and if I have to leave the Royals game early or take it easy at the basketball game, I will.

“But I want to see the guys and thank them. They all mean the world to me.”

If you are unable to attend tonight's game and want to make a donation, send a check made out to Steve Broughton and send it in care of Phil Parrino, 1320 Northwest Third Street, Blue Springs, Mo. 64014.