Panthers honor biggest fan’s legacy

Kim Mancini loved taking trips with her husband, Terry. Here, they attend a Bruce Springsteen concert in Ireland. CONTRIBUTED

If they win a championship, they’ll hang a banner with pride.

But no matter how many championships the St. Basil’s Academy basketball team brings home this year, nothing they post in the school will be more important than the plaque they already hung.

The plaque reads “In Loving Memory of Kimberly Ann Ann Mancini,” followed by “Here’s To Those Who Inspire Us And Don’t Even Know It.”

The memorial is in honor of the wife of Basil’s coach Terry Mancini, who passed away Jan. 14, 2019 after a long battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And while the role of a coach’s wife can’t be understated, she was oh so much more to the Panthers.

She was more like an assistant coach, scout, team mom, head cheerleader, biggest fan and any other role that could possibly come up during the season.

She was everything to the Panthers. And since she’s been gone, the team has been doing everything in its power to honor her.

It’s going quite well this year. Basil’s is 24-2, including a perfect 15-0 in winning the Catholic Academies League. And on Saturday, the Panthers won the District I championship by knocking off New Hope-Solebury 56-36 in the finals.

Their biggest fan would have really enjoyed the day, but truthfully, she enjoyed every day she was around the Panthers.

“She enjoyed it, and I really enjoyed her being around the team, I enjoyed her company,” the coach said of his wife, whom he was married to for six years. “She was my best friend. We did everything together, even during the season. We were a team.

“The kids helped me, but they were hurting, too. She loved being around them, she was a big part of the team. It was hard for everyone. She made everyone feel special.”

While Kim didn’t become part of the Basil’s program until she married Terry, she actually had relationships with many of the players before the couple started dating two years before they were married.

“Our mom died very young, so she played a big part in my children’s lives,” said her sister, Beth Deal, whose daughter Lizzie is a senior on this year’s team. “She would babysit, drive her around, and it wasn’t just Lizzie, but other girls on the team. A lot of the girls are from Fox Chase, and she lived around the corner. She loved it.”

She certainly played a part in the success of the team, too.

When her husband was busy coaching or running practice, Kim would go watch an opponent play and help come up with a scheme to win the next game. She loved doing it because it meant more time doing something her husband loved and it involved helping the girls who meant so much to her.

“They were so cute, they had a great relationship,” Deal said. “We love Terry. He made my sister so happy. She enjoyed the basketball activities because she loved sharing in his interests. But she did everything. She rooted for the underdog. And she would always want the last girl on the bench to get in and do great. But if someone didn’t do so great, she would be the first one to give them a hug. She was a special person.”

It’s been tough for the entire Basil’s community, but piling up the wins does mean a lot to them. It’s always fun to win, but they’re doing it in her memory this year. Lizzie, a captain, dedicated the season to her aunt.

“The plaque in the gym says it all,” Terry said. “It sits in the gym and it means so much to all of us. Having (coaching and his players) helps a lot. We have such a family atmosphere, all of the kids who played for me, that’s what family is all about. They have helped me so much.”

Kim’s funeral was held at the school, and while it was a sad occasion, it was a day filled with love and great memories.

“It was so beautiful, the place meant a lot to her,” Deal said. “It was great. She had a way to make you feel special, and you could see all of the people who knew how special she was.

“It was sad for everyone, but I feel so bad for Terry. They meant everything to each other. I know he was very important to her, and she was very important to him. It’s very hard for him, so I’m glad he has everyone from the team. Everyone cares about him.”

Basil will now go on to play in the state tournament, time and opponent to be named.

The goal is to win a state championship to continue to honor Kim’s legacy at Basil. She may have attended Cardinal Dougherty, but she’ll forever be a Panther.

But even if the team comes up short, they did a fantastic job of celebrating her legacy, and just as she was when she was sitting in the crowd, she’ll be very proud of her team.

“They touch the plaque before going out, it’s something they do,” Deal said. “It’s a great honor, everything they did. And it means a lot to Terry. It means a lot to all of us.

“The girls have been so great. She’s been there for them, some of them, their whole lives. She was a great aunt, a great wife, a great sister. She just made everyone feel special.”