43 Brothers for the Coach's Son - by Jerry Price

What you didn't count on was the Nick Bates was going to be at the game, along with his father. And so as he walks over to the scorer's table, you immediately begin to have a panicked feeling.

Nick stands in between Chad Wiedmaier and Tyler Fiorito. They are All-Americas, Chad on defense, Tyler in goal. They are team captains. They are big, strong, seemingly invincible college seniors.

And they have the same thought going through their minds.

One seat to Chad's left sits Bill Bromberg, the public address announcer. He starts reading your words, and he can barely get them out without choking up.

"He had no idea that Nick was next to him," Wiedmaier says. "As soon as he said there was going to be a moment of silence, I thought that here was Nick, a kid who is so little, who has been through so much. He doesn't need to deal with this. He's clearly a tough kid, and all I was thinking was what can I do to help him. I just put my hand on his shoulder and gave him a nod and a smile."

On Nick's far side was Fiorito, fearless when it comes to having the best shooters in college lacrosse rocket balls at him, worried now about what was coming next.

"I didn't know how he'd take it," Fiorito said. "Chad and I made eye contact and wondered if we'd have to do something. Nick was very composed. He probably handled it better than we did. He's very composed for a 10-year-old. He's tough."

He has no choice.

Ann Bates first became sick with a malignant brain tumor in the spring of 2003, when Chris Bates was the head coach at Drexel and Nick was a toddler. She beat it that time, and she stayed healthy until the summer of 2009.

This time, just three days after Chris was named the head coach at Princeton, the disease returned, likely due to the chemotherapy and radiation treatments she received the first time. This time, there was a bone marrow transplant and three months in the hospital, but again she came through it.

Bates took Princeton to an 11-5 record, a share of the Ivy League title, the championship of the first-ever Ivy League tournament and the NCAA tournament in 2010, his first season.

His second season didn't go as well. Princeton would go 4-8 in 2011, a year that saw player after player go down with injuries and game after game get away at the end. And then, on the season's final day, it went from bad to worse to tragic.

"It was the day of the Cornell game," Chris Bates says. "She had started to get the headaches again and was going in. I knew it wasn't going to be good. It was that day that I had the realization that we were going down a pretty significant path."

A daily regimen of chemo followed, except that the disease was too strong to beat a third time. Eventually, late in the fall, Ann Bates entered hospice care.

Through it all, Chris Bates soldiered on. He recruited. He coached. He ran fall practices. He did media interviews. He oversaw every aspect of his program, insisted that it be business as usual.

And then when he left the school at night, he'd go to his wife's bedside.

It was an extraordinary act of courage, of inspiration. Any request to provide even the smallest of assistance was returned with a "thanks," rarely to be taken up and when it was, it was grudgingly.

"If you ask anyone in the lacrosse community, they tell you Coach Bates as a player was tough, a hustler," says senior John Cunningham, a captain along with Wiedmaier and Fiorito. "He loved the game. As a coach, he's a warrior. There is nothing that can phase him. He is as strong as they come, and it's inspiring for his players."

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2012-02-21



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