Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery had not seen his teenage son smile like he did Monday morning in a long time.
McCaffery’s son, Patrick, 14, had a malignant tumor on his thyroid removed two weeks ago.
Prior to the surgery Clippers point guard Chris Paul reached out to the younger McCaffery, offering support to a boy that has grown up one of the All-Star’s biggest fans.
Paul tweeted a message of support using the hashtag #TeamPat and called Patrick prior to the operation and again after. On Monday, the McCaffery’s were invited to join the Clippers at shootaround prior to their matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves. They will attend the game as guests of Paul and Doc Rivers and the team. Patrick, the guest of honor.
“[Chris Paul’s] interaction with Patrick has been so genuine,” Fran McCaffery said. “When he found out today that he was going to shootaround, he hasn’t smiled like that in a month. I just can’t thank Doc and Chris and the Clippers enough.
“From the beginning, when Dino Guadio and Pat Kelsey first reached out to Chris, Patrick was really scared. He didn’t know if it was cancer and he had never had surgery. Chris first got on the phone with him and talked about that, ‘It’s okay to be scared.’ They really bonded and he said, ‘I’m going to call you back after the surgery.’ And he did, which really meant a lot to [Patrick]. We kind of loosely talked about it. We’ve got to go see him play and here they were.”
The McCaffery’s made the four-hour commute from Iowa City to Minneapolis, where Margaret, Patrick’s mother, has family. At first they were only going to attend the game, but Rivers suggested they should come to shootaround as well to get a chance to more personally interact with the players.
“We told him the only place he could get close was Minnesota, so come to the game and come to shootaround and we’re going to put him around the team,” Rivers said. “He was great. He was out there on the floor during our practice portion. So, that was great for him.”
Patrick’s arrival was a surprise for Paul. Clippers assistant coach Kevin Eastman, who helped arrange for their visit, told Paul about Patrick stopping by during the team’s breakfast meeting.
“It’s real cool to get a chance to see him,” Paul said. “I got his phone number and called him the day before he had surgery and I actually called him after he had surgery too to make sure everything went all right. He’s a great kid.”
For several minutes following shootaround, Patrick stayed on the court shooting 3-pointers and talking with Paul and DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin near the Clippers’ bench.
Fran stood by watching. Margaret was recording Patrick’s interactions with a cell phone. They all smiled. Afterwards Fran seemed near tears when talking about what a moment like this means during such a trying time for their family.
“To see him smile like this…” Fran McCaffery said. “He’s got another surgery coming up, that’s because subsequent to his last surgery it was determined that his tumor was malignant. So, that changed everything. He’s got further surgery coming and another scan to determine if radioactive iodine is necessary.
“When you have a son that’s a phone call that you never expect: malignant tumor. He’s in seventh grade. You don’t expect to get that phone call. When people respond with this type of kindness it means a lot. It means a lot to our family. “