As Pat Behan coaches with ALS, basketball provides ‘the best medicine’

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      Pat Behan sat slumped behind the desk in his office late Tuesday, visibly exhausted from one of the best nights of his basketball life. He had just earned his 102nd win as coach at St. John’s, an 80-73 overtime thriller against nationally celebrated IMG Academy. Before him sat a dinner that had yet to be touched, and around him stood a small crowd of gleeful assistants and friends.

      “Yeah, I’m tired,” Behan said, leaning back in his chair. “But I’m happy.”

      The coach had known this would be a long night, so he had tried to sleep in Tuesday morning. He has learned to take all the sleep he can get when he doesn’t have a doctor’s appointment or a team workout scheduled early. Behan figured he would need every bit of his depleted energy to handle the emotional and physical toll of a night meant to be mostly about him.

      This was the inaugural Behan Strong Invitational, a six-team, three-game showcase to raise awareness and money for him and others diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Behan, who learned he had the neurological disease in May at age 34, is still getting accustomed to the attention.

      “I mean, you prepare for the game the normal way: You watch film, you practice. And then you see the flier on social media and you remember: Oh, yeah, that’s how we’re doing this,” Behan said. “It takes some getting used to. But I’m grateful for everybody who is supporting it. Things are bigger than basketball on a day like this.”

      No. 2 St. John’s (13-0) was playing in the nightcap. IMG, through no fault of its own, was cast as the villain. Consistently ranked as one of the best high school teams in the country, the Ascenders are coached by Sean McAloon, Behan’s predecessor at St. John’s, and have a roster that features several D.C.-area players who transferred to the Bradenton, Fla., program.

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