COLUMN: Drury dressing up for cause dear to his heart

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By John Herndon

Glen Drury will be getting dressed up Saturday night.

Not that we would expect his upgrade to make Rick Pitino sweat, but the Anderson County boys’ basketball coach is supposed to wear a coat and tie when the Bearcats play at Simon Kenton.

“I will wear a tie,” chuckles Drury, who is fond of pullovers or open-collared shirts.

The coat? Let’s just say that the last one Drury wore while coaching ripped straight down the back seam. That was back in December 1987 when his first Anderson team was playing at Christian Academy of Louisville.

“I discarded that one a long time ago,” Drury smiles.

But on Saturday, Drury, Simon Kenton’s Trent Steiner and their assistants will be taking part in a Coaches vs. Cancer game, to be used as a fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society. If people insist, Drury might even don a sport coat for a cause dear to his heart.

“When Simon Kenton contacted us about it, I was glad to do it,” Drury says. Like most, he has seen friends suffer from the dreaded disease. Like many, it has hit close to home.

Too close.

His mother, Margaret Drury, was diagnosed with cancer in July of 1986 and passed away two months later. She never saw her son reach his current status of one of Kentucky’s most respected high school basketball coaches. “She saw me coach at Western,” Drury says of his two year stint at the small school in Anderson County. “I am just grateful she saw me grow up.”

And two of his closest friends have also fought the killer. Larry Basham, assistant superintendent of Anderson County schools, has been successful. Kermit Koenig was not.

Glen Drury first met Koenig during a summer pickup game at what is now the Early Childhood Center. Drury was a feisty point guard at Berea College, Koenig an assistant coach at Anderson County High School.

“We had words,” Drury smiles. “We were both so competitive. Kermit was a little flamboyant.”

But somehow, Drury made an impression and when Koenig became head coach at Anderson, he asked Drury, then serving as an assistant coach at Berea, to come home. “After we got to know each other, we had a great relationship,” Drury said.

Basham was also on that staff. “When you spend that much time together, you become pretty close,” he recalls.

After two years leading the Bearcats, Koenig accepted an opportunity to coach at Mississippi State, but the local bond remained strong.

“Kermit had a great basketball mind,” Drury says. “He did a lot of things with his offense. We still use some of the things I learned from him.”

Koenig eventually wound up on David Hobbs’ staff at the University of Alabama. Before that first season started, he got the news he had a form of cancer in the nasal cavity. He coached for a year before retiring from the bench.

But he never gave up his fight.

“I think what I remember about Kermit more than anything, was his intensity, his determination, and his competitiveness.  He had to use all those qualities when he started with his battle with cancer,” Basham recalls.

It took three years for the disease to finally claim his life on Dec. 5, 2000. He was 45.

“Jennifer and I went down to Tuscaloosa to visit Kermit not long before he died,” Drury says.

Nothing, however, could take Koenig’s spirit.

“Kermit’s legacy is that he loved kids and loved basketball,” Drury says. “He had a great enthusiam for life and he had so much compassion for those around him.

“My mother was the same way. Larry Basham is the same way.”

There will be a basketball game Saturday night at Simon Kenton High School, nearly 90 miles from Anderson County. The Bearcats will want to win, but they know if they don’t, the sun will still come up Sunday morning.

But when cancer wins, the sunrises stop.

“Anytime you can help a cause like this that is bigger than you are, you want to do it,” Drury says. “Our basketball program is going to give Simon Kenton a donation.”

But Drury knows that a trip to the Cincinnati metro area is out of the question for many people. “It would be great if anyone can go,” he says. “But if someone can’t, I hope they will donate locally in their own way.”

It will be something that lasts long after the scoreboard lights grow dim Saturday night.

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.