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Bobby Lutz is regarded by many as one of the greatest minds in the game of basketball today.
The Catawba County native and associate menâ€™s basketball coach at N.C. State is also a champion for those battling mental illnesses.
Lutz spoke Thursday morning at Abernethy Laurels Retirement Community during â€śA Reason to Hope,â€ť a special event that raised awareness for Alzheimerâ€™s disease.
â€śItâ€™s good to be home,â€ť Lutz said during his speech. â€śIâ€™m proud to be from Catawba County. I grew up not far from here. I still tell people that Iâ€™m from Denver of the East ... I was very blessed to grow up in a great community here.â€ť
Several different people spoke during â€śA Reason to Hope,â€ť sharing their personal experiences with Alzheimerâ€™s disease and dementia.
Lutz spent his time talking about his mother, Janice, and her struggle with the ailment.
â€śThis is not my story. Thatâ€™s why this is probably the toughest speech I have ever given,â€ť Lutz said. â€śIt is easy to talk about the things Iâ€™ve done in coaching or wherever, but this is a story about my mom and dad. They were together like ham and eggs. They were together all of the time.â€ť
Lutz described his mother as not only a caregiver, but also a teacher and a philanthropist.
â€śShe was an award-winning teacher. Perhaps her greatest role was of a mother and a grandmother. Dozens of students and parents I see from time to time that I donâ€™t know will come up, approach me and tell me what a difference she made in their life. That doesnâ€™t surprise me, but itâ€™s still a source of pride.â€ť
In 2001, Lutz discovered that his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
With tears streaming down his face, Lutz recounted the conversation he had with his father about his motherâ€™s condition.
â€śIt is a very emotional thing for you when that happens to your role model,â€ť he said. â€śThat hits you in the face. I went to the doctor with my parents. I cannot describe it. When the doctor asked her to draw a clock, to see her try to draw a clock and what she drew didnâ€™t come close to it. It was unbelievable. It was the most heartbreaking thing you could ever imagine.â€ť
For the next six years, Lutzâ€™s father took care of his mother until he could no longer because of his declining health.
She was moved to Abernethy Laurels, where she still currently resides.
On April 12, 2012, Lutzâ€™s father passed away at age 76.
Despite the loss, his son was determined to help continue to not only help take care of his mother, but fight the disease that had engulfed her mind.
â€śHis dying wish was to help find a cure,â€ť Lutz said of his late father. â€śThatâ€™s why Iâ€™ve chosen to donate to the Alzheimerâ€™s Association. I plan on continuing to be active in dadâ€™s memory and my momâ€™s honor at this point.â€ť
Not only is Lutz active with the Alzheimerâ€™s Association, but also with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
One of Lutzâ€™s former players at UNC-Charlotte â€” Charles Hayward â€” died from cancer on Sept. 11, 1999.
â€śOther diseases are bad and terrible,â€ť Lutz said. â€śIâ€™ve had my share of tragedies ... I was there the last two days of (Haywardâ€™s) life with his mom in Chapel Hill at a hospital. As terrible as that was until the end, he kept the essence of who he was. He talked to his mom and was able to tell her he loved her in his last days. That doesnâ€™t happen with Alzheimerâ€™s.â€ť
Concluding his speech, Lutz made a monetary donation to the Alzheimerâ€™s Association.
He is hopeful that others will do the same.
â€śThat is why this disease has to be fought,â€ť Lutz said. â€śIf (Alzheimer's) happens to you or someone you love, you canâ€™t just run and hide. You have to face it and deal with it.â€ť
Back on the court, Lutz is helping the Wolfpack gear up for their 2013 college basketball season.
N.C. State has won 48 games the past two seasons with two trips to the NCAA Tournament.
The Wolfpack play in the expanded Atlantic Coast Conference this winter, which includes former Big East squads Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame along with tradition ACC rivals in North Carolina and Duke.
â€śThe league has always been great, but now it is the best league,â€ť Lutz said. â€śNext year when Louisville comes in, it is only going to get stronger. Itâ€™s going to be a challenge, but that is part of the fun. Our fans are excited to be back in the mix.â€ť
In the end, Lutz related back to family, crediting his parents for his success so far in coaching.
â€śThirty-three years ago at Jones Fish Camp, I told my mother and father I was quitting law school to coach high school girls and boys JV basketball at Bandys High School and that Iâ€™d make $200 that year,â€ť he said. â€śI think they thought I was crazy, but they let me come back home and took me in.â€ťView more articles in: