David Cahoon got rather emotional on the bus ride home from Seeley-Swan’s basketball game on Thursday.
Not only did the second-year coach see his team put together its best game of the year, but the players once again checked in on how he was holding up off the court. It wasn’t just a flippant question either; those types of questions have been asked seeking a serious response.
The past few months have been emotional for Cahoon, who’s father, Wayne Cahoon, died in a plane crash while his younger brother Christian Cahoon was severely injured in September. Just as David has been there for his players as a coach, they’ve been there for him.
“Those girls, they check in on me, every last one of them. It’s amazing to have their support,” David told 406mtsports.com after his fourth-ranked Blackhawks rolled to a 64-32 home win over Drummond in Western 13-C action to move to 8-0 on Friday.
“I love coaching, and not just for the wins. The wins are awesome, and it’s great to have a good team, but we have good kids like that every year. For these kids to be able to empathize with you on that level and say, ‘Coach, hey, we’re here for you,’ not even just basketball, but say, ‘Hey, how are you doing today?’ They check in on me. It’s pretty awesome.”
Even with the emotional toll, David didn’t consider stepping away from coaching. It was something him and his dad enjoyed doing together over the years.
He got involved in coaching nine years ago when he was 21 as an assistant coach for the football team when Wayne took over as the head coach. David built the offense, and even though it took them over a year to get their first win, it was a special time together.
“I knew that this was going to be something to help me get focused and help me move forward because it was something me and my dad started together,” David said. “I knew I had to come back. It’s just taken a while to settle into my routine and do the girls justice for all they do, but I appreciate them so much.”
It was some of the seniors who convinced David to take over as the head basketball coach last year. He had spent time as an assistant coach but hadn’t yet felt ready to lead a team.
In his first year, he guided Seeley-Swan to the state tournament. His father came to game after game while David tried to instill a message with his girls that his father has regularly preached.
“They understand that this is just practice going through some of these losses so that when you run into those bigger things in life, you’re ready,” David said. “You know there’s going to be adversity in life, there’s going to be pain, and you don’t want to go through that, but it’s good for you.”
It’s not just the loss of his father that’s impacted David. His brother Christian, a former standout athlete at Seeley-Swan, was injured in the crash that involved family friend Charlie Wolff. He’s had to balance time with basketball, his own family and his brother, who’s married with two small children.
David still ducks out of practice every Wednesday to help his brother with physical therapy as Christian tries to relearn how to walk again. The captains take it upon themselves to lead the team. Many players even stay after to shoot extra free throws or get in conditioning, even after David thinks he’s pushed them to exhaustion.
“I think this is something for him to be out and about and concentrate on other things,” Seeley-Swan athletic director Shawn Holmes said. “He’s doing as well as he can. It’s not easy for him for sure. His dad was a big part of his life and a big part of our lives here at Seeley-Swan, a big part of our family here. He’s struggling, but he’s doing alright.”
David has reason to smile on the basketball court. His team is undefeated halfway through conference play and is outscoring teams by 36.3 points per game by averaging 68.8 points and giving up just 32.5 per game.
The Blackhawks closed the first half of Friday’s game on a 21-3 run and took a 31-15 lead into the break after trailing the entire first quarter by creating offense from their defensive pressure, using better passing and hitting 3-pointers. Their lead never fell below 15 in the second half and ballooned to 32 points as a smiling, energetic Cahoon patrolled the sideline wearing white Nike shoes picked out by his players.
“I definitely see the sadness in him, and I think that’s mostly because I know him so well,” said Seeley-Swan senior Klaire Kovatch, who had 16 rebounds, six points and six steals in the win. Sophomore Emily Maughan added 19 points, 11 rebounds and five steals.
“But the court is our sanctuary,” Kovatch continued. “You can come here and forget about everything else because you got a game to play, you got stuff to do. So, you can’t worry about it. I think that’s what his goal is, is just to come and give his best for basketball because that’s what he’s here for, so he tries not to let that stuff mess with what he’s doing.”
The community has rallied around the Cahoon family. The volleyball team wore #CahoonStrong shirts in the fall and a fundraiser has been used to help support Christian.
Things are looking up for both the Cahoons and Seeley-Swan. The basketball success David’s team is having is surely something that would make his father proud.
“We wondered if coaching would be too much for him to deal with,” Seeley-Swan principal Kellen Palmer said. “But I think he felt like this is what my dad would want me to do, this is what my dad would have done. He’s used that to continue doing what he loves.”
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