Terry Fox inspired Raps coach

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

CHICAGO -- So far, 2009 looks like a bust for Jay Triano, with his team in 50-loss territory, out of the playoffs and some critics calling the NBA's lone Canadian coach unqualified for the job.

But Triano continues facing the music, keeping faith in the team and the big picture, refusing to flinch in the belief that his vision can one day succeed. Triano says such resillience can be traced to an encounter with a fellow cager he met at Simon Fraser University, a curly headed kid who only lived a few more years after, but would leave Triano and the entire country better for knowing him.

While Triano set several school basketball records, his friend went to the opposite end of Canada, dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic 29 years ago this week and began the Marathon of Hope.

Terry Fox would have joined Triano in their 50th birthday celebrations the past year.

"He played on the team the year before I did," Triano said. "He hurt his knee and then they found out it wasn't a basketball injury, that it was cancer and it had to be removed."

Fox came back as the team's trainer in Triano's rookie year, determined to stay in the loop while rehabilitating, He would tell the group of an audacious plan he'd hatched, to run across Canada to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Triano, like many others, admired Fox's spirit, but thought he was nuts.

"At the time, I didn't know him well enough. You don't know a guy and he says he's going to (run coast-to-coast on one good leg). To see him actually follow through on it was inspiring to say the least."

Triano remembers dragging himself to drive to practice in the rolling terrain of SFU's Burnaby campus when someone at the side of the road would catch his eye.

"I used to feel guilty when I'd pass him wheeling his wheelchair up the mountain. I thought I was doing a lot to work out and here's a guy doing even more. I learned about the trying times he was going through, getting fitted for his leg, going through all the training.

"If you've ever done a marathon ... here's a guy who did it once a day on one leg. It was amazing and the country fell in love with him as they saw the perseverance that he had. If he couldn't motivate you with his dream and dedication ...

"I used to take my kids and get involved in the (Terry Fox charity) runs," Triano said. "Now, most of the time I go out to the schools and do the talks about encouraging them to run in whatever local area where I happen to be."

So Triano isn't going to let the doubters get the better of him in less than a year on the job.

"I've thought about what Terry did my whole career," Triano said. "The motivation to chase dreams as he did helped me when I first made the national team and in my basketball career."


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