From apprehension to elation, three generations of Looses have experienced just about every emotion on the human spectrum during the past year. Never more so than on March 2.
That’s the day that, just shy of her sixth birthday at a cancer center in New York, Rhyan Loos underwent surgery to remove a tumor on an adrenal gland above her kidney. That evening, her grandfather, Dave Loos, coached the Austin Peay men’s basketball team to an opening-round victory at the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in Nashville. Dave’s team would go on to win three more games at the tournament to claim the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2008.
Rhyan, the daughter of Missouri assistant coach Brad Loos, was diagnosed in October with Stage IV neuroblastoma, but that’s not the only heartache the family has endured of late. Olivia Loos, the daughter of Brad’s older brother, had brain surgery in July.
“That was a big ordeal this past summer, and you throw on top of that neither one of us (Missouri and Austin Peay) had very good years the last two years ... ” Brad Loos said. “There was everything thrown in together, so this (success by Austin Peay) was definitely needed in the Loos house.”
Austin Peay’s run to the NCAA Tournament has provided the entire family a refreshing victory.
“It certainly didn’t hurt,” Dave said Tuesday morning by phone from Clarksville, Tenn. “It’s been kind a rough year and you’ve just got to go with it, but this certainly was something that gave us a lift.”
The Governors needed two wins and an Eastern Kentucky loss during the final week of the regular season to secure the eighth and final seed for the conference tourney.
Austin Peay, where Brad played as a walk-on for his dad from 1997-2001, made the most of its opportunity, upsetting fifth-seeded Tennessee Tech and fourth-seeded Tennessee State to reach the semifinals.
Dave Loos’ squad then beat top-seeded Belmont in overtime, becoming the first No. 8 seed in Ohio Valley Conference history to reach the championship game. Once there, an 83-73 win Saturday against Tennessee-Martin secured the Governors’ fourth NCAA tourney appearance during Dave Loos’ 26-year tenure.
Dave celebrated his 69th birthday by helping his players cut down the nets at Nashville Municipal Auditorium.
“I can’t honestly tell you that I couldn’t have predicted this,” said Dave, who has coached the Governors since 1990. “We were playing better. About the middle of the conference season, we were playing better basketball, but this was still really improbable.”
The elder Loos adjusted his preseason practice schedule after Rhyan’s diagnosis. The Governors worked out Sunday through Thursday, which allowed Dave and Phyllis to pile in the car on Thursday nights or early Friday mornings for the six-hour drive to Columbia. After helping Brad and his wife, Jen, with the couple’s other two children, Brady Jonathan and Charli Ann, Dave and Phyllis would trek back to north-central Tennessee for Austin Peay’s Sunday evening practices.
“Our whole family has been incredible,” Brad Loos said. “Everybody kind of dropped everything they were doing in order to help us out. Having my parents there was obviously big emotionally, and having them there to help with our other kids. It meant a lot to me and I know it meant a lot to them to be able to do it. They obviously wanted to help out any way they could.”
Dave Loos was quick to credit Jen’s parents, John and Laura Weigel, for doing more of the heavy lifting once Austin Peay’s season started. But Rhyan was never far from her grandfather’s mind. Austin Peay wears “Rally for Rhyan” warmup shirts and held its own Rally for Rhyan Night to raise money for pediatric cancer research. Mizzou raised more than $50,000 at its Feb. 13 game against Tennessee.
“The community here has been very supportive,” Dave said. “They, of course, remember Brad here when he played for us. The support has been off the charts at the University of Missouri and here in Tennessee too.”
Rhyan, whose recovery has been slowed by a minor infection, remains in intensive care. She faces another five-day round of chemotherapy and will stay at the Ronald McDonald’s House for a few days after that to make sure her recovery is progressing before the family returns to Columbia.
“It’s been a tough thing to watch, but I’ve been humbled and inspired by the way Brad and Jen have handled this,” Dave said.