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Eastern York basketball coach battling back from cancer

Most coaches look forward to the beginning of the new season, but Eastern York boys’ basketball coach Jon Reichard has even more reason to anticipate the start of the 2016-17 campaign.

A mere six weeks ago, Reichard underwent surgery for prostate cancer and spent time recovering from that procedure.

He missed many of the team’s open gyms, but last week he attended the first official day of practice, and he plans to be on the sideline for the opener when the Golden Knights play in Northeastern’s Bobcat Tip-Off Tournament on Dec. 9.

“I thought the best thing for me to get past this was (to focus on) my basketball team and get my mind off stuff I was going through,” said Reichard, who turns 50 on Wednesday. “The season can’t get here any sooner.”

Despite the battle he's going through, Reichard said he doesn't want to make the season about himself.

“I probably won’t bring my situation up to them. As far as the kids are concerned I am going to try to get them to focus on them,” he said. “As long as I have been coaching, it’s about the kids. I will take my prize of being there and soak it all in.”

The Knights players did their part to support their coach, and he said his email inbox was constantly full of well wishes from the Eastern community during his battle. But once the official preseason hit, he said, it became “business as usual.”

“Once we got back, once normal practices started, the players are expecting me to be the guy they are used to,” he said. “We haven’t really talked about it.”

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Reichard found an ally in his battle in former West York coach Bill Ackerman, who dealt with the exact same diagnosis nearly four years ago. Suddenly, the former rivals were teammates.

“He relieved a lot of my tension because I called him in the very beginning,” Reichard said. “He told me what he went through and he’s back to living a normal life, and it made my course a lot easier.”

Ackerman said it was almost surreal when Reichard reached out to him regarding the cancer.

“I think all the memories of my situation came flooding back at once,” Ackerman said. “The irony of it all can’t be lost. We were rivals when he’s at Eastern, when he was at Dover, yet we always respected each other.

“Jon and I go a long way back as rival coaches but the situation brought our friendship to the forefront. I knew he could get through it and I am living proof of it.”

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Reichard and Ackerman don't only share a love of a sport and a life-changing disease. They ended up sharing a physician, too, after Ackerman gave Reichard the name of the doctor who operated on him, Dr. Arthur Burnett at Johns Hopkins.

And there is good news. Reichard said the operation went very well, and the initial pathology report showed clear results. He will have a PSA test done, and if that reads zero as he expects, he will be given a clean bill of health.

For now, Reichard is looking forward to be able to increase his own physical activity in early December, including playing some basketball and swinging his golf clubs.

Still, when his team gets ready to face Northern York in the season opener, Reichard said there could be some lingering emotions after the ordeal.

“It might sound corny, but probably,” he admitted when asked about opening night. "(Cancer) makes you look at things differently. My wife is constantly reminding me. I need to focus on the whole positive of the event.”