A man makes a lot of friends in 30-plus years of coaching -- even if 612 times opponents have been on the losing end of the score.
Cardinal Gibbons' Ray Mullis found this out firsthand last night as fellow coaches and players past and present packed Martin's West for a night in his honor. Mullis, the area's winningest coach, was found to have pancreatic cancer in July.
But the night was one of celebration.
"Cancer can be beaten," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who headed the impressive list of basketball talent who turned out to honor Mullis.
Krzyzewski, who has known Mullis for more than 20 years and has former Gibbons star Steve Wojciechowski on his Blue Devils team this year, likened the battle to one faced by another coaching colleague, the late Jim Valvano.
"The cancer that Jim had cannot be beaten at this time," Krzyzewski said. "Coach Mullis is in a fight that he can win, hopefully through the example that Jim set for a lot of people."
Among the coaches present were Xavier and former Loyola coach Skip Prosser; Towson State coach Terry Truax; Morgan Wootten of DeMatha High, the state's winningest coach; and newly appointed St. Mary's coach Bob Flynn, who played at Gibbons from 1973 to 1975.
"I had no reason making the team in my junior year because I wasn't a very good player, but I hustled and Coach Mullis kept me on the team," said Flynn. "For those two years, I watched him coach and I knew that's what I wanted to do. Coach Mullis absolutely taught me the value of hard work."
The Marianist House of Baltimore made a $3,000 donation toward the O. Ray Mullis Scholarship Award. Mullis also received a Salute of Excellence Award from Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
"It's unbelievable . . . I'm slightly overwhelmed," said Mullis. "At first, I was a little leery about having a night like this, but I set a couple of conditions up to help the family and the school with the proceeds."
Mullis said that he's feeling well through two chemotherapy sessions and that no cancerous cells were found in his most recent test. He's hoping to be able to coach this season, his 31st at the school.
"I'm not an egomaniac now. I guess I was at first, like all young coaches," he said. "The game is for the kids. I don't need to see my name in the paper, so from that standpoint, this is really overwhelming."