In the serene, composed nature that defined his coaching career, Steve Broughton leaned into the Truman High School boys basketball huddle before a 1997 playoff game against Raytown South — the top-ranked team in the state — and delivered a short message.
Anything can happen.
That note of optimism carried the Patriots to an upset on that March evening, and they rode the mantra to the 1997 Missouri Class 4 state championship game.
Nearly two decades later, Broughton, 54, is relying on that same message of hope as he endures an entirely different battle.
Broughton was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer on July 3. The disease has reached Stage 4 and requires chemotherapy treatments every two weeks.
In his honor, Truman High School will play host to an alumni game at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The school is dubbing the event “Anything Can Happen Night.”
“I was floored when I found out it was cancer,” said Broughton, a former basketball player at Truman and William Jewell College. “But I feel really lucky to have this ongoing support. It’s humbling to know that there’s this many kids who want to come back and play for me.”
The familiar setting will provide Broughton with a showcase of encouragement that began on Facebook, where more than 2,200 people have joined a group titled, “Team Broughton #BroughtonsBrawlers.”
Nearly 40 former Truman players will split into three teams Tuesday. Broughton, who coached the Patriots during 1989-2003, will take a turn leading each team. Current Truman coach Billy Guinnee, an assistant for Broughton for 12 seasons, will roam the opposing sideline.
Admission to the game is free, though monetary donations for Broughton will be accepted at the door. Organizers are expecting a crowded gymnasium.
“I felt like all the wind had been knocked out of me when I heard,” Guinnee said. “I was in a daze for a few days, but then we decided to do something. What more appropriate way to honor Steve Broughton than a basketball game?”
Broughton’s appearance Tuesday will come only four days after his second of eight scheduled chemotherapy sessions.
He learned of his cancer after visiting a doctor for a lingering stomachache. He has avoided mentions of his prognosis, he said.
“This last round has been pretty tough. It’s a tough disease, but you have to fight,” he said. “You have to try to stay as positive as possible.”
The experiences from a 15-year coaching career have shaped his positive outlook.
As well as his support system.
Broughton will marry former Truman softball coach Amy Temples on Saturday. He also has two kids — Jared, 26, and Whitney, 22 — who teach in the Kansas City area.
Jared recently accepted the girls head coaching gig at Oak Grove High School. His wife, Sarah, is a nurse at the University of Kansas Hospital.
“They’re helping me stay positive,” Broughton said. “You have to try to stay as positive as possible throughout the whole process.”
A mind-set he perfected as a coach.
In addition to leading the boys basketball team for 15 years, Broughton coached the Truman softball team for 19 seasons. He retired from teaching three years ago while also taking an assistant job on the William Jewell women’s basketball staff.
“The one that comes to mind about his coaching style is patience,” Guinnee said. “He was much more patient than I am. I’ve always admired that and wished I would be more like that.
“He didn’t lose his temper very often. He took everything in stride. That’s how he’s been with this. He’s hopeful. He’s always hopeful.”