Tommy Tubbs tried to speak, but couldn't. There were too many tears, too much pain. When cancer conquered 44-year-old Wayman Tisdale on Friday morning, Tubbs lost the brother he never had.
"Every time I saw him, he'd say, 'There's my brother from another mother,' " Tubbs said. Tubbs knew he was not alone in his pain. He knew the Tisdale family was crushed. He also knew Tisdale's extended family reached well beyond the state lines of Oklahoma, venturing out not only to NBA cities but into jazz joints, where the man played bass guitar as smoothly as he buried fade-away jumpers. Basketball fans aren't the only people who suffered a loss. Musicians also lost one of their own. They all weep in unison. Since Tisdale was the brother Tommy Tubbs never had, that means former Oklahoma basketball coach Billy Tubbs lost one of his two sons on Friday. "Yeah, that's true," said Billy, who is now Lamar's athletic director and learned of Tisdale's death while attending an NCAA golf regional in Austin, Texas. During two interviews with local reporters in Austin, Billy twice had to back away and gather himself, just like Tommy did. Everyone with the last name of Tubbs adored Tisdale, loved Tisdale, and this was about so much more than Tisdale being the greatest player Billy ever coached. "This was family," Billy said. "During his battle, we got closer than we ever were." Friday marked the second time Tisdale and Billy parted ways. "I lost Wayman twice," Billy said. "The first time was to the NBA, but that wasn't nearly as bad as the second time." An entire nation of college basketball coaches wanted Tisdale coming out of Tulsa Washington High School in 1982, but it was Billy who hooked him. It was Billy who shoved the wonderment of Wayman toward center stage, helping him become the first freshman to make the Associated Press All-American team. When the latest round of cancer began to overwhelm Tisdale, Tommy and Billy spent hours with Tisdale in the hospital during treatments. They revisited their college days, when Tisdale and Tommy arrived at OU the same year. A junior-college transfer trying to play point guard for his demanding father, Tommy often boasts he and Tisdale averaged 28 points a game together. "I just happened to average two of those 28," Tommy said. Try as he might, Tisdale was unable to hide his two-year bout against cancer. It's impossible to hide something so vicious when so many care about you. Because so many people cared, and because Tisdale's battle was so intense, everyone knew that someday Friday would come.
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