SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — With more than 600 wins, five state championships, and a couple of federation titles, Bob McKenney eats, sleeps, and breathes basketball.

It’s what he’s done for more than 30 years.

“Again, it’s my passion, it’s been my passion my whole life,” Coach Bob McKenney says. “I love to compete. I love to game plan. I love to practice and put it all together and see what happens on game day…if I were to stop doing that I’d be sitting at home miserable.” 

But there was no game plan for what Bob McKenney encountered four months ago in late September, when one day, really by accident, he noticed that something wasn’t right.

“I was right in the hallway out here talking to our guidance counselor and I was carrying my computer and I turned…my elbow hit the wall and my computer ran into my breast and it stung a little bit but I didn’t really think anything of it…about a half an hour later I’m thinking, why is it still hurt, something feels funny…so I just poked around and I felt a hard, I felt a hard bump…so for the men out there, if you feel a hard bump, it’s probably something you…I mean, I’m talking, it’s hard. Hard as a rock kind of hard. ” 

Bob McKenney

Bob did the right thing and got it checked out. After a number of tests and various doctor appointments, he got the news that it was breast cancer, the same disease that had taken his mom’s life.

What followed, was a mastectomy in November, then chemotherapy. During that time he’s missed a grand total of only two practices. One for the surgery and one for the flu. So where does Bob get his positive attitude from? Well, from his mother of course.

“She was just the bright light in everybody’s life that knew her and such a great role model in my life. I know that she would want me to be the person that I am and not let this affect me…I mean obviously, we all have our moments. You go home some nights like what the heck…but it’s really been my mom and just how she approached life…how she approached her cancer 40 years ago…and so for me, it’s just…I’m determined to be who I am and just get through this.” 

Bob McKenney

And who Bob is, is a basketball coach. There was no thought about quitting or taking time off.

His right-hand man on the bench for the last 25 years, Charlie Falgitano said there was no doubt in his mind that Coach McKenney would use this as another way to teach his players and lead by example.

“You know, it’s always been our approach with the kids. You gotta fight through adversity. You gotta, you know, it’s tough. Basketball is tough. Any sport is tough…you get adversity through a season. You get adversity in games…he’s always taught and our players have always been taught, you gotta fight through the adversity…there are lows in a game and in life and you can wallow and be sorrowful about it or you can do what we always do, which is let’s fight through it and figure out a way.”

Charlie Falgitano

The Bishop Grimes community is doing its part to assist in that fight as Falgiatano helped organize a benefit to be held Saturday, January 21 at the school. This is being done to firstly raise money but maybe more importantly, to show the coach just how many people he has in his corner.

“With everybody reaching out, him texting between his job and AD and treatments and he tries to get back to everybody but it’s really hard from a texting perspective so everybody is in one place.” 

Charlie Falgiatano

“The support has been…this will make me emotional so I’m going to try to say it quickly…but it’s been unbelievable. The BG community. I’m just blessed with the support I have. But these guys, these are my basketball family…now my players have known since the beginning, God bless them, they didn’t tell a soul. We just felt like at some point, obviously, there’s going to be some changes.” 

Bob McKenney

Will there be changes? Yes. But is Bob McKenney going to allow cancer to change who he is or get in the way of what he loves to do? Not a chance.

“I hope it doesn’t change me much. When I’m out with people, it makes you appreciate what you have really a lot. I’m blessed…I have a great family…my daughters are all back in the area and I have a grandchild and just makes you appreciate what you have.”

Bob McKenney