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Bigger than Basketball

Dr. Anthony Pappas has medical emergency during practice
Ali Parkhurst
Dr. Pappas celebrates after solidifying a trip to the State Basketball tournament.

It was 10:00 AM on Jan. 2, 2024. It was the first practice of the new year, and the gym was filled with hope, sweat and determination to improve. The girls basketball team was off to a slow start with a losing record, and the team hoped to start their new year with a win that would undoubtedly add much-needed momentum to turn their season around. 

Jan. 2, 2024, would soon be unforgettable. It will always be a day that West High will remember and will never forget. They were playing three-on-three trapping and drills were only supposed to go for five minutes, but Dr. Pappas had left the gym. The assistant coaches called for “free throws and drinks” three minutes past the five-minute mark. As players headed for a water break, they found Dr. Pappas unresponsive in the hallway. 

Before the arrival of paramedics, assistant coach Tyler Borneman started chest compressions. The coaching staff removed distraught and sobbing players from the scene and responded effectively until the paramedics arrived. Dr. Pappas was still unresponsive. The girls are all truly thankful for the quick actions of our coaches and the fast response from our emergency services. 

The reason for the medical emergency was not identified immediately. It took some time for the medical staff to run tests and identify the underlying cause. Dr. Pappas and the Waterloo school district later released that he suffered a heart attack and on Jan. 8 had a successful bypass surgery. Dr. Pappas was released from Allen Hospital in Waterloo on Jan. 23, where he is recovering at home. 

The medical emergency took a toll on the players, coaches and the community. Dr. Pappas’ impact on the Waterloo Community and the West High Girl’s basketball team is unmatched. He has many achievements and accolades that are too long to list. However, his ability to make players better on and off the court is truly unique. It takes a particular skill and talent to connect with younger adults and motivate them to be the best versions of themselves. 

Senior Charlotte Gettman, who has played under Dr. Pappas for four years, accredits his impact and approach in helping her achieve success, discipline and confidence. “He has always taught me to have self-discipline and confidence in a generation where kids no longer have that.” Gettman thinks of Dr. Pappas as family, so his absence has been challenging. She considers him to be the best coach she has ever played for. 

With big shoes to fill, Coach AJ Cassidy has been named interim head coach of the West Girls Basketball Team. The lessons and knowledge from the past eight years of being an assistant under someone he considers a best friend and mentor could be uncomfortable territory to some. However, Cassidy has transitioned into a new role that shifted from working individually with players in a one-on-one setting to trying to manage everything and everyone all at once. “I wouldn’t be who I am today as a teacher or coach without his influence and guidance, and my whole career has been shaped by his presence,” Cassidy says. While Cassidy continues to be consistent with the team, he points out that Dr. Pappas is impossible to replicate and that he is thankful for everyone’s patience and understanding while navigating this process. 

While Jan. 2, 2024, will be a day that West High will never forget, and will always remember his impact, teachings, passion and the genuine human being that he is a whole lot more. 

A vision without work is just dreaming, work without vision is drudgery, vision coupled with work is your destiny.

— Dr. Pappas

The girls’ basketball team will continue the season without Dr. Pappas on the sidelines. Still, every game will be dedicated to him until his return to West Girls Basketball. Watch West Girls Basketball back in action at home in Bob Siddens Gymnasium on Tuesday, Feb. 6, against Western Dubuque.

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About the Contributors
Nakia Ollivierre, Reporter
Nakia Ollivierre is a sophomore at West High and this is her first year on the staff. She loves to report and photograph sports. Nakia is a starting point guard on the girls basketball team, and a varsity runner for both the cross country and track teams. When she is not studying or playing sports you can find her hanging out with her family, hanging out with her animals, reading or watching professional/college sports.
Ali Parkhurst, News and Sports Editor; Yearbook Editor-In-Chief
(she/her) Ali Parkhurst is a senior at West High. This is her second year as a Wahawk Insider staff member, Parkhurst is also the Editor-In-Chief for the Wahawk Yearbook. Outside of school, Parkhurst is a varsity cheerleader and a server at Doughy Joeys. Parkhurst enjoys photography, running, and spending time with her friends.
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