The North Dakota Sports family lost a member of their own on Wednesday. St. Mary’s Brent DeKok passed away after his long battle with cancer.

DeKok coached boy’s basketball at St. Mary’s for the better part of a decade, leading the Saints to a state title game appearance in 2014.

The Brent Strong movement started after his diagnosis with a rare form of Sarcoma. Dekok returned to the sidelines just a week after surgery. To further show support, the Brent Bearded Brigade was also started.

The coaching community from around the state remembering what made Brent a special coach.

“It was never about Brent DeKok,” said Century’s Darin Mattern. “It was always about somebody else. He was always trying to make somebody better. And I think that’s what made him such a tremendous coach. Nothing with Brent was ever ‘okay, I’m going to take this, I’m going to take that.’ He was always in a giving mode and that’s one of the greatest attributes as a coach. To be able to give.”

“He was just someone that was so positive,” said Bismarck’s Jordan Wilhelm. “He always saw the bright side of things and saw the goodness in people and his players. Whether it was lost games or won games, he always found the positive in things and the people around him. I think that was uplifting to the people around him and that played for him. It’s also uplifting for someone like me who came from a different style of coaching maybe, a different kind of background. It’s definitely lead me to being more of a positive coach.”

“That’s the first thing I think about,” says Legacy’s Jason Horner. “Is his ability to connect with his players is something that we all strive to do and to be. So his ability to get the most out of his players is something that I have always had respect for and the one thing that I’ll remember of him as a coach.”

“The gist of his message is something that he says he stole, but I’ve repeated it, I’ve Tweeted it out, it’s ‘Let the light from within in you shine brighter than the light that’s on you.’ And that’s what Brent was, said Dean Winczewski, Minot boys basketball coach.

“No matter how much people focused on him and his fight, he always deflected it and he always put the focus on different things and he never changed who he was. The greater impact that you can have on the people that you’re around and that you work with has to be a much greater accomplishment than if you get to take a trophy home,” Winczewski added.

“Always upbeat and, you know, you never knew that he was battling and he had a lot of perseverance. Never let his troubles get in the way of saying ‘Hi’ and wishing everybody good luck,” said Mitch Lunde, Minot athletic director.