Oakland coach Greg Kampe was talking with a local reporter a few years back, telling one tragic story after another, explaining how cancer had taken the mother of an Oakland men's basketball player, ravaged the father of another and just generally left him feeling helpless in a battle we're all fighting hard but not winning enough.
The reporter published the quotes.
Then a woman from the American Cancer Society read them and reached out.
"She asked if I'd like to help," Kampe recalled. "And I said, 'Well, what can I do? There's not a whole lot I can do.'"
Fast-forward a few months and Kampe was out recruiting in Michigan, where he bumped into Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. They finished watching recruits in one game and didn't need to watch the next. So Kampe and Izzo decided to grab lunch.
"We were in this little town in the middle of nowhere, and we walked into this restaurant, and the place just went nuts because Tom Izzo was there," Kampe said. "Every waiter and waitress wanted a picture. Every customer wanted a picture. And I just thought to myself, 'You know, I'm not Elvis. But I know Elvis.' And somehow the idea came from that."
The idea was simple but unique: Kampe would recruit some of his friends who double as the biggest names in college basketball, ask them to come to Michigan in May 2015 for 24 hours of basically meals and golf at Oakland Hills Country Club. Then he'd put the experience up for an auction where winning bidders and two guests could eat, hang and tee it up with the coach of their choice. Izzo ultimately went for $19,000. Kentucky's John Calipari and West Virginia's Bob Huggins went for $16,000 each. North Carolina's Roy Williams and UCLA's Steve Alford went for $15,000 each. Arizona's Sean Miller went for $13,000. So on and so forth.
"We raised just under $200,000 in 24 hours," Kampe said.
And now he's doing it again.
It's essentially the same deal with a mostly a different group of coaches -- everybody from Izzo to Butler's Chris Holtmann, Cincinnati's Mick Cronin, Tennessee's Rick Barnes, South Carolina's Frank Martin and Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons.
The winning bidders and their two guests will check-in at MotorCity Casino Hotel on June 4. They'll then be treated to a private strolling dinner with the coaches that may or may not -- Editor's note: it almost certainly will -- lead to a night of fun on the casino floor. Either way, the following morning, the coaches will visit Royal Oak Beaumont Children's Hospital Pediatric Oncology and Hematology Center to take pictures and sign autographs with patients. Then they'll head to Oakland Hills -- a private golf club that has hosted six U.S. Opens -- to have lunch, take photos, play golf and have a post-round dinner with the winning bidders.
The event is called Coaches Beat Cancer.
The title sponsor is the Ken and Kathy McCarter Foundation. You can bid at this link starting Wednesday at noon ET and through May 8 at 5 p.m ET. Winners will be notified at close of auction. All proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.
"Spending that time with a small group of coaches and the people who invested is lots of fun," Izzo said. "And it's obviously for a great cause."
Indeed, it is.
And, more than anything, it's an example of a man doing his part to make a difference. Understand, Kampe doesn't have to do this or anything. It's extra work, to be sure, because he now finds himself recruiting basketball players for his program and basketball coaches for his fundraiser. The schedules don't always fit. Sometimes men have to cancel. It's stressful and difficult to pull together.
It would be easier to just write a check.
But it would also be less effective.
And less fun.
And less rewarding.
And less meaningful.
By doing this in this way, Kampe gets to connect coaches, fans and cancer patients for 24 hours of good times. They enjoy nice meals, play one of the best golf courses in the world and gamble a little (or a lot), if they want. In the process, awareness is raised. But it's not only about raising awareness because, let's be honest, who isn't, at this point, aware of cancer and the tragedies it creates?
"I don't want to just raise cancer awareness," Kampe said. "I want to beat cancer. And who better to beat cancer than college coaches with 1,500 wins?"