Tigers Coach looking to slam-dunk cancer

ADA, OK – When a young Terry Shannon was in his last year of high school, he realized the importance of parents and the boundaries that they set.

It was ‘Senior Skip Day’ at Davis High School, but it wasn’t a long skip for Shannon.

When his mother Diana found out, he was promptly escorted back to school from a friend’s house to finish the remainder of the day. Even some of the teachers questioned Shannon why he came back, since nearly everyone played hooky that day.

But that’s one of many lessons that Shannon fondly reflects upon when he thinks about his mother, who died of breast cancer in 2002.

The fact that Shannon takes his NCAA Division II men’s basketball team, the East Central University Tigers, to face Division I competition at the University of Oklahoma’s Lloyd Noble Center in Norman is a monumental and exciting challenge.

But the competition takes on somewhat of an added special significance for Shannon in that the games are a part of the 2007 2K Sports College Hoops Classic, benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer. ECU faces Denver University in the opening round on Nov. 8.

"Moms are special. No matter what happened, wrong or right, mom was always there. She was strict, but always on our side," said Shannon. "She was strong-willed and determined."

Shannon, the oldest of three children, lived in an extended-family atmosphere with Diana and his father Clay, sister Sheryl and brother Kyle, who was adopted. There were also two foster children and the Shannons also hosted four foreign exchange students along the way.

"Our house would be a place where other kids would hang out and I think it was because of my parents," Terry said. "My parents made kids act right and I think the kids were drawn to that. Contrary to popular belief, kids are drawn to boundaries."

Those boundaries were magnified in other ways during Shannon’s childhood. He remembers taking a one-cent piece of gum from the store and his mother taking him back to apologize to the cashier.

He remembers the times they attended church and how he and his siblings were usually forced to sit with their parents, except for one particular Sunday. Terry’s brother, Kyle, sat with some other children when a commotion was made in his area while the preacher was at the podium.

"Mom walked down the aisle while the sermon was going on, pointed at the kids and they were straight as arrows after that. She didn’t care what anybody thought. But she knew she did the right thing," said Shannon.

His mother’s strictness paled in comparison to her love and devotion to the family. Both Diana and Clay were involved in the education field. Diana taught English and reading in elementary and middle school and served as a librarian and library/media specialist with various schools while Clay spent numerous years as a teacher and coach. Along the way, there were many moves. The family finally moved from Texas to Oklahoma in 1980 and has remained here since.

"My mom was extremely loyal to my dad. When we lived in Fayetteville, Texas for a short time, I remember our clothes being placed in Tyson Chicken boxes," said Shannon. "We lived out of those boxes instead of drawers because we were there for only a short time and we knew we would be leaving at the end of the year. Whatever my dad thought was best, we always followed. With mom, family was always first."

It showed in her protectiveness and love toward her family, according to Shannon.

He remembers the time when he was an assistant at ECU under legendary head coach Wayne Cobb and the Tigers visited arch-rival Southeastern Oklahoma State in the 1997 conference tournament finals in which both teams were nationally ranked at the time. Shannon’s wife, Michelle, and Diana were involved with some friction with the home fans, who were giving the ECU team a hard time.

"What made her a good mom was her parental instincts. She didn’t like anyone messing with her kids or husband," Shannon said. "She wasn’t a mean person, but very protective."

That protective trait lasted until the end.

"I remember when the people from hospice were at our house one Sunday. They were incredible," said Shannon. "Mom was bed-ridden, but decided she wanted to go outside in the cold and see her animals. So we got her in her wheelchair and took her outside. I think she had about 15 cats and five dogs. She was out there petting and comforting them. I had thought my mom had taken a turn for the better.

"The people at hospice explained that she was making sure everything was okay. She wanted to make sure everything was the way it was supposed to be. Sure enough, she was gone two hours later."

Shannon says he misses talking to his mom and still hurts knowing that his mom was unable to see his now 5-year-old son, Jake.

"She got to help us name him, but she missed seeing him by 50 days," he said. "I don’t want another grandmother to not see their grandchildren. I think that’s my driving force."

That’s been a rallying battle cry for Shannon, who is involved in the Relay For Life chapter in Ada (in which he describes as one of the best in the nation), along with being a donor to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

At every game, Shannon wears a pink ribbon pin on his lapel in memory of his mother.

A foundation scholarship was set up at ECU in Diana’s name shortly after she passed away.

Shannon smiles when thinking about his mother telling people she was here from Texas on missionary work. Now Shannon’s mission is to slam dunk cancer in memory of ‘mom’.