Forget basketball. Mark Dux didn't admire his son for how well he played so much as the passion he displayed. Brian Dux was one of the lucky ones his father often talked about over the years, a man fortunate enough to identify his goals and committed enough to transform them into reality.
Isn't that half the battle in life, loving what you do and doing what you love?
Good man, Mark Dux. No surprise he and his wife, Lynda, raised two selfless sons who were intent on finding the best in people. Long before Brian became a star point guard at Canisius College, he had a knack for identifying underdogs and letting them know he was on their side. In no time, they realized the character behind the player was stronger than the player himself.
For years, the Duxes prided themselves on their strength and faith, but this family is hurting now. Brian is fighting for his life in a foreign land, surrounded in a hospital by his parents, his brother, Aaron, and unanswered questions that for now are better left in the backdrop. They can do little more than pray.
They're asking for your prayers, too.
Dux, 26, has been in a coma for more than a week after getting into a car accident in England, where he was the reigning Most Valuable Player in the British Basketball League. He was left unconscious and unattended in his car for nearly 2 1/2 hours in Chobham, outside London, after the initial emergency call was made.
Why did it take so long? It's a good question. A shattered family is still trying to put together the pieces.
Brain scans showed severe bleeding, damage almost certain. He might never walk again. He might be blind. He might never wake up. His parents have been issued the worst kind of warning when it comes to a child, to hope for the best and brace for the worst. And, together, that's what the Dux family will do.
"It's one of those things that can kind of crush your faith," Mark Dux said, barely above a whisper, from England. "I thought I was about as faithful as I could be. You hear what God can do and all that stuff, but you wonder why a good soldier goes down and gets put into the absolute potentially worst combination of things that can happen.
"Can you imagine, somebody in the prime of his life, but it's your boy? Even if he does wake up, he might never be able to do anything. He might not even be able to see. We're talking nothing but yet still alive. Try thinking about that for a while. How about that combo? That's exactly what could happen."
Dux was a terrific player for Canisius, an Orchard Park kid who stayed home because Buffalo wasn't where he was from but who he was. He stuck around for a few years and considered a teaching career, like his brother, before hitting the road and pursuing his dream.
In fact, he was living the fantasy. Dux was the star point guard for the Guildford Heat. He had become a national icon in England with his shoulder-length hair, Steve Nash and Pistol Pete rolled into a single class act, a rock star in high-tops. He was making only $45,000 a year and yet was convinced he was stealing.
If they only knew Dux would have played for free. He was so popular that he was hired as a color commentator after his team was eliminated from the playoffs last season. If he played another few years, he could have been eligible to play for England when London hosts the 2012 Summer Olympics. He was enjoying the ride, maximizing his potential.
The life of Brian has been a great life, indeed.
"He's lived about as good as you can live for the time he's been around here," Mark Dux said. "A lot of young people saw that. Some people were jealous of it. Some people appreciated it. Some of it was pretty inspiring."
It's hard to imagine Dux lying unconscious in a hospital bed, with a ventilator tethered to his tracheotomy, because he was so full of energy. His victories have been reduced to slight body movements and slivers of hope that he will someday lead a productive life. It's a sobering reminder that basketball is what he did.
Life is what he loved.
"Why would this happen to such a great guy?" said Danny Gilbert, the former University at Buffalo swingman and Dux's teammate in England. "It's difficult to see him in a hospital. Right now, it's not registering that it's Brian. The way he carries himself, it seems like nothing could happen to Brian."
As you would expect, his fate has had a deep impact on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and brought the Western New York basketball community together.
Former Canisius coach Mike MacDonald, now at Medaille, had a handful of stories that helped explain the person and the player. He once found Dux, 13 at the time, in a Las Vegas parking lot working on dribbling drills at 7:30 a.m., while everybody slept before an AAU tournament. Dux wound up the second player in Canisius history to finish his career with more than 1,000 points and 500 assists.
"It's unfortunate because there's so much wrong about sports with Michael Vick, Pacman Jones, Barry Bonds and all that stuff," MacDonald said. "And then you see a kid like this, who has done everything the right way, for this to happen has been terrible. It's a punch in the stomach. It's awful. There's no better way to say it."
The other day, Hamburg High School coach Pat Cauley broke down in tears several times while talking about Dux, whom he coached in the Empire State Games. Cauley and his wife, Lisa, never had children and Brian had become an adopted son of sorts.
UB coach Reggie Witherspoon was closer to Dux than several of his own players. He admired Dux for the same reasons everybody else did. He knew the kid behind the ball was better than the kid with the ball.
"Just keep praying and spread the word to pray," Mark Dux said. "Send the kid some energy and hopefully he can come through. That's all we ask for."
Send him some energy. It's the least people can do. After all, they'd be returning the favor.