One by one, they braved a torrential downpour to enter a banquet hall on the Independence Square.
There were businessmen, an Independence detective, a singer/songwriter and lots and lots of coaches.
Their lives have taken different paths, but they all have one common thread – each one played basketball at Truman High School for coach Steve Broughton.
They returned to Independence last week to talk about their coach, and tonight they will play in a charity event that will help raise funds for Broughton, who is battling pancreatic cancer that has spread to his liver.
At 7 tonight, more than 50 former Patriots will play three 20-minute periods with present-day Truman coach Billy Guinnee coaching one team and Broughton the other.
“This is going to be a great event, a celebration of Steve Broughton and all he has meant to his players and Truman,” said Eric Holm, his longtime best friend and Truman teammate and the current activities director at the high school.
“Once the ball got rolling on this it didn’t stop. We had so many players want to come back, we had to come up with three teams – a team featuring players from 1990 to 1995, another from 1996 to 2000 and a third from 2001 on.
“I’ve had several conversations with Steve, and he’s going to do his best to make it and coach one of the teams, which will really make it special.”
“We had a Facebook page and suddenly it had 2,200 followers and all these guys wanted to come back and take part in this event,” said 2001 grad Chad Abernathy, a professional songwriter who is helping with all the video production.
“We’re going to make it a great night, a night to honor a great coach and an even better man. I can’t wait.”
Neither can Broughton’s son Jared, a 2006 graduate of Grain Valley High School who was recently named the new girls basketball coach at rival Oak Grove High School.
“This is all so humbling for our whole family, but especially my dad,” Jared said. “My wife Sarah is a nurse, so she lets us know in language we can all understand what’s going on with my dad.
“And it’s not good, but my dad is such a fighter. He never backed down from a challenge as a coach and he’s not backing down from this.”
Jared said coaching was his dad’s passion, and now it’s his.
“Whether I was the little kid sitting down on the end of the bench when he was coaching at Truman, or today, when I’m about to become the coach of the girls team at Oak Grove,” he said, “I think about my dad and the influence he has had on my life.
“Emotionally, I don’t know what to expect Tuesday night. I know there are parts of it that are going to be fun, but there are parts that are going to be tough. I think I’ll just have to wait for Tuesday to see how it affects our family.”
One guy who is going to keep the mood light is 1997 grad Andy Zuber, an assistant boys coach at Fort Osage who was part of Broughton’s back-to-back final four teams in 1996 and ’97.
“Coach has had gray hair since he was a young guy, and one day, he comes into practice with this black hair,” Zuber said, sporting a devilish grin. “Oh man, did we get on him. We asked where our coach was. We got on him pretty good – and the next day his hair was gray again. He got the message.”
And what message does he want to get across tonight?
“We want Coach to know how much we love and respect him,” Zuber said. “Look at all the coaches in this room. He’s a big reason a lot of us became coaches.”
A longtime opposing coach made the trek to the banquet hall, despite the crazy wind and rain that rattled the glass windows in front of the banquet room.
“We played Truman in a district game over at Blue Springs,” said former William Chrisman coach John Vickers, who, like Broughton, graduated from William Jewell College. “I’d suspended three of my kids for breaking team rules and the guys we had playing really went after Truman.
“Steve’s kids wound up beating us, but after the game he shook my hand and said, ‘You guys deserved to win that game.’ I picked up The Examiner the next day and he said the same thing in your story. When I was offered the job at Chrisman, Steve was the first guy I called. He was a great coach and he’s such a good man. It’s great that he’s going to be honored by so many of his former players.”
Kurt Wyckoff, a 1996 graduate, is an Independence detective who can’t wait to get back on the court.
“I wasn’t very good back then, and I’m not going to be worth a darn Tuesday, but it’s going to be a great way to thank Coach for all he’s done for all of us,” Wyckoff said. “Plus, there are a few guys I owe some elbows from back in the day.”
Added Dusty Andes, another of those back-to-back final four players who has done so much behind-the-scenes work for this event, “No one ever cared as much about his players as Coach Broughton. If you had a problem on the court or off the court, you could talk to him about it.
“There just aren’t enough words to describe what he meant to me as a coach and now, as a friend.”
If you would like to make a donation to help defray Broughton's medical bills and cannot attend tonight's event, send a check made out to Steve Broughton to Phil Parrino, 1320 N.W. 3rd Street, Blue Springs, Mo. 64014.