Cancer forces Trcka to retire


Cardinal Gibbons football coach Frank Trcka is retiring after 16 seasons after being diagnosed with lung cancer in early January.

Trcka, 57, is the school's second coach in less than a year to be stricken with cancer.

Longtime basketball coach Ray Mullis, died at age 60 on Dec. 28 from pancreatic cancer.

"It's been kind of a difficult adjustment, losing a basketball coach, and then finding out about Frank for the last few months," said assistant basketball coach Mike Dahlem, who will be among those who plan to honor Trcka at the school's sports banquet Tuesday night at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie.

"Here's another strong person in our community who is a family man. What doesn't go to his family goes to our school."

Mark Agent, a former football standout at Gilman and Maryland, has replaced Trcka as head coach.

Trcka said yesterday that what he thought was "a real bad chest cold" turned out to be a malignant mass on his left lung.

Doctors initially gave him "three to 18 months" to live, a prognosis that has been upgraded thanks to the chemotherapy treatments he receives every three weeks for four to five hours a session.

"They've managed to shrink the mass with therapy, which is the best I can hope for," said Trcka, who weighs 227 pounds. "I've actually gained four pounds since I started treatment."

Trcka's voice has become raspy from the oral steroid treatment he's received since February. "I can't shout or speak very loudly, and when I talk, I'm having to use more and more force," he said.

And when he does speak, it is with regret about having been a smoker for much of his life.

"I know that's what did it, but if I was to mope around, I'd be the loser," he said. "I don't need sympathy. What I've done, I've done on my own. I'm looking at my situation very positively for myself and those who are close to me."

In addition to his family -- his wife of 35 years, Bernie, and his four children, Tony, 34, Teri, 33, Tommy, 30, and Frankie, 28 -- Trcka has received support from many of those he coached.

Among them is Vaughn Hebron, a 1988 Gibbons graduate now with the Philadelphia Eagles, and former New England Patriot Roger Brown (1986), who recently tried out for the Baltimore CFLs.

Trcka has maintained a sense of humor and continues to report to work as manager of the Gibbons cafeteria, as he has for 14 years.

"He's handling it just like he handled sports -- you just don't give up, and you give it your best shot," said Bernie Trcka, a nurse at Bons Secours Hospital.

Trcka also has kept himself busy as a mentor to Agent.

"The entire time, he's been trying to help me to make the adjustment," said Agent, 27. "He's encouraging the guys to come lift weights and helping me with the administrative side. He's been terrific, and he's promised to help even more."

A detective in the Baltimore City police force for 23 years, Trcka was in touch with the tough side of many of the players who attended the Southwest Baltimore school.

"I was born and raised in the city and played football and baseball at City College," said Trcka, who graduated from City in 1954. "That helped me to realize what kids went through. I treat them with respect, just like I wanted to be respected."

Over his final three seasons, Trcka's Crusaders were twice Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference runners-up, and once co-champs with St. Paul's -- the latter being a 7-2-1 season that included a 39-0 win over A Conference power Loyola.

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