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Stepping Up: I’m better for having known Mike Proctor

So, basketball season was never my favorite part of the year. Something about covering two games, back-to-back, every time I went out, combined with being inside all the time and sitting on the hardwood wore me out.

That seems like such a small thing to complain about when you consider what Mike Proctor was battling just to get to that bench to coach Northside’s varsity team. I can’t imagine what he was dealing with everyday. The pain, weakness, and fear all would mentally cripple most normal people.

Not Proctor. I remember him having to go do stuff with his medications during halftime of a few basketball games last season. It rarely seemed to manifest in his demeanor, at least not from my vantage point.

Proctor could have sat out last season to save his energy for battling cancer. No one and nothing could have kept him from coaching those Panthers he loved so much. That was evident.

And Northside loved him. Loves him still, actually. I got to cover MLB and NBA games during my time as Washington Daily News sports editor, but one of my favorite experiences will always be the “Caps for Proctor” game back in January.

Proctor knew something was up when Jonathan Clark asked him to enter last for pregame warmups. Proctor was wearing his App State hat as he had been in the 13-some months since his diagnosis.

For this game — a Jan. 19 showdown with Riverside that had regular-season conference-title implications — just about everyone else was wearing a hat, too. Heck, I think I was wearing my Washington Capitals hat.

Northside’s cheerleaders, donning their caps, are ecstatic as coach Mike Proctor makes his pregame entrance Friday night.

“Oh my gosh,” Proctor said that night. He wasn’t the kind of person that wanted attention. He put his head down, but couldn’t hide his smile.

Oh, and Northside went on to win that game.

Proctor inspires me, as I’m sure he does many players he coached and others in the community. The way he carried himself throughout his battle with cancer is admirable. Coaching the Panthers was something he truly loved, and nothing was going to get in his way. Not even brain cancer.

My heart is with the Northside community. Nights like the “Caps for Proctor” show just how close knit it is.

Rest in peace, Coach Proctor. I’m better for having known you.