Leavenworth Kansas University basketball players and coaches past and present were among the hundreds who packed Sacred Heart Church on Saturday morning for the funeral Mass of former Jayhawk assistant Neil Dougherty.
Coaches and players from Texas Christian University — where Dougherty served as head coach from 2002-08 following a seven-year stint at KU — were also there to honor the man former KU coach Roy Williams called “a great person, a great coach, a great family man, great father, great husband, a true gentleman who loved basketball and working with kids.”
Williams, currently the head coach at North Carolina, flew in early Saturday with current UNC/former KU assistants Joe Holladay and Steve Robinson as well as former KU guard C.B. McGrath, also a member of Williams’ UNC staff.
Former KU assistants Matt Doherty, head coach at SMU, and Ben Miller, head coach at UNC Pembroke, also attended.
Former KU players in attendance included Brett Ballard, Jeff Boschee, Nick Bradford, Nick Collison, Drew Gooden, Kenny Gregory, Greg Gurley, Kirk Hinrich, Keith Langford, Scot Pollard, Wayne Simien, Bud Stallworth, Billy Thomas and Jacque Vaughn.
Current KU assistant coaches Kurtis Townsend and Danny Manning attended, as did Barry Hinson, Jayhawk director of basketball operations; Scott Ward, KU associate AD/academic and career counseling; Wayne Walden, former KU academic adviser now at North Carolina; Richard Konzem, former KU associate athletic director, now AD at Rockhurst University; longtime KU broadcaster Max Falkenstien; as well as several former KU hoops managers and current staff members.
Larry Hogan, who coached former Pioneer standout Dougherty at Leavenworth High, led a contingent of other former Pioneer coaches and staff members.
Former NBA player/broadcaster Len Elmore, the CEO of iHoops, a company that employed Dougherty the past couple years, attended, as did other individuals from the Indianapolis-based company that teams with the NCAA to improve the quality of youth basketball in the U.S.
Members of the National Association of Basketball Coaches also were in the church.
Dougherty’s son, Neil Patrick, spoke at the end of the Mass.
He stated that his dad’s heart, which gave out on a run in Indianapolis on July 5, “never failed any of us.”
He related many of his dad’s special mannerisms.
“‘This is the easy part (of life),’” Neil Jr., recalled his dad telling family members and players alike when confronting trying times.
Survivors include wife Patti, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas; Neil Jr., who lives in South Carolina; daughter, Megan, who lives in Keller, Texas; and son Ryan, a basketball player at Southwest Baptist in Bolivar, Mo.
The Jayhawks had time to visit and share memories of Dougherty at a luncheon in the church hall.
“Everybody should remember every day he contributed something,” former KU coach Williams said of Dougherty. “He tried to help players, students, his family. He is a person who every day tried to get something done for the good.”
KU All-American Simien, who like Dougherty grew up in Leavenworth, said he would remember Dougherty’s “consistency, his excellence. He was an excellent player, coach, man of character and integrity, husband, father. He did things the right way in every area of life. He was an example for me growing up.
“His family is a pillar in Leavenworth. The park I played ball at is named after his grandfather. The family has lived in Leavenworth for generations.”
Many members of that community were among those who packed the church to honor Dougherty, 50, who will be interred in Fort Worth, Texas.