Head basketball coach undergoes cancer treatment, receives support

Truman State University men’s basketball head coach Jeff Horner started chemotherapy treatment for testicular cancer and cancerous lymph nodes Sept. 3.

Horner announced on social media Aug. 29 that he was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer and had cancerous lymph nodes in his groin area that he will be getting treated at the University of Missouri-Columbia for the next 10 weeks. His social media post said he has a 98% survival rate.

Horner wrote in his post that he has received tremendous support and many prayers, and although he might not be able to respond to each and every one of them, his appreciation is unmatched.

“I also want to thank Truman State University and the Kirksville community,” Horner wrote in a statement to The Index. “Acts of kindness being anywhere from bringing food over, mowing our lawn, giving gas cards and taking our kids for a few hours are something I will be forever in people’s debts in this time of need. This is our home and I am just so appreciative of this University and community.”

Austin McBeth, assistant men’s basketball coach, said the news of Horner’s health was devastating, but he is confident in the coach’s fighting ability. He said he finds it inspiring that Horner continues to show up and fight, even when he might not feel like it. 

He said Horner’s strong face for the team has helped calm any panic and made what could be a chaotic time seem less stressful. 

“He’s been strong about it, handled it well,” McBeth said. “I think he’s done a good job of using the situation that’s going on to kind of help remind our guys that basketball isn’t everything.” 

 McBeth said one of the things Horner told the team was that he has learned to not sweat the small things since his diagnosis, a value he is sharing with the players. 

McBeth said he thinks the team is supporting Horner well and has used this situation to bring everyone together. He said the team seems to have a stronger mindset during play and are no longer just competing for wins and losses, but for their coach, as well. 

Horner is committed to hoops, McBeth said, so the team is supporting him mainly through communication and making sure he doesn’t skip a beat when he returns. 

“[Horner] wants to be around because he loves this program and he loves the guys,” McBeth said. “It’s inspiring to me that he cares so much.”

McBeth said his biggest goals are to make sure the guys don’t experience any difficulties with Horner away and to make sure he is implementing Horner’s vision for the program. With Horner absent, McBeth is running practice, setting the weekly schedule, running weights and film, conducting team and individual meetings and more.

The Bulldogs are also preparing for their alumni weekend the first weekend in October and their opening game in November. 

“The support I have received has been more than I could have imagined,” Horner wrote in the statement. “Family, friends and people from various circles have reached out and offered to help in anyway they can. It has truly changed my perspective on a lot of things and made me realize how many people care about my family and me. My whole life I have been dedicated to serving others and now in my time of need the support has been everything I could ask for and more.”