Pat Skerry and Tom Herrion are bound by more than basketball.
They forged a friendship when Skerry was an assistant for Herrion at the College of Charleston from 2002-06. Now their competitive friendship has taken on a new form.
Skerry, Towson’s head coach and Herrion, a Georgia Tech assistant coach, share a common cause through Autism Speaks.
Autism, caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences, costs a family $60,000 per year on average.
Skerry’s son Owen was diagnosed after his wife Christine noticed Owen wasn’t showing the same developmental characteristics as his older brother. Owen, who is 6, attends full-day kindergarten at a Baltimore-area public school.
“He’s got an aide, but he’s full-day kindergarten,” Skerry recently told WBAL. “It’s been off-the-charts good.”
Herrion’s son Robert, 8, was also diagnosed as autistic and the coaches decided to leverage their basketball relationships to drive an autism awareness campaign.
Out of their determination came College Basketball Autism Awareness Weekend on Feb. 7-9, usually marked the first weekend in February. Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari and others showed their support by wearing blue puzzle piece lapel pins.
So what is it like to be the father of a child with autism? In a June 2014 speech to Autism Speaks, Herrion recalled preparing for a day of golf on Father’s Day when Robert shared with his father, “Dad, you’re my best friend.” It meant the world to Herrion.
And as he was about to leave, Herrion paused and watched his son playing with their family dog Marco. He heard Robert say, “Marco, you’re my best friend.”
The audience roared with laughter.
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