Dan Prendergast was a legendary basketball coach at St. Michael’s College School, but more importantly, according to former NBA player Leo Rautins, taught his players how to carry themselves. Photo courtesy of St. Michael’s College School

Dan Prendergast was a shaper of men

  • October 22, 2015

TORONTO -When Leo Rautins visited Dan Prendergast in early October, the former NBA player and TSN basketball analyst knew it was the last time he’d ever see his former coach alive.

“I knew that this was going to be the last time that we were going to see each other,” said Rautins, who played for Mr. Prendergast while attending Toronto’s St. Michael’s College School in the late 1970s. “He looked drawn, he looked scared and when we said goodbye he just kept looking. It wasn’t a normal goodbye.”

Just a few days later, on Oct. 11, Mr. Prendergast passed away at his home in Kitchener, Ont., after a battle with cancer. He was 80 years old.

“The talk that day was about getting him back around the school,” said Rautins. “Dan was such a good person. It just doesn’t seem fair.”

Despite being prepared for the news of Mr. Prendergast’s passing, Rautins was still left feeling “extremely sad.”

Although Rautins said Mr. Prendergast was instrumental in developing his skill on the court, the most valuable lesson Rautins learned was how to carry himself.

“He was there to coach you and keep you humble and working hard,” said Rautins, who joined Canada’s national basketball team at 16. “When I stepped on the court for Dan Prendergast I wasn’t a national team member, I was one of his players.”

And it wasn’t just star players like Rautins who Mr. Prendergast mentored into manhood.

“If you talk to any of his players you’ll hear that,” said Rautins.

“It is not just me, it is that way with any of the guys who played for him.”

When he wasn’t shaping boys into men on the basketball court at St. Michael’s, something he did for 27 years, Mr. Prendergast taught, counselled and performed administrative duties at the school. In 1996 Mr. Prendergast retired from St. Michael’s after 34 years. Yet he continued to contribute to the school as an instrumental part of its fundraising and alumni initiatives.

“The St. Michael’s College School community has been deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend Dan Prendergast,” reads a statement from the school. “On behalf of the Basilian Fathers and the entire St. Michael’s College School community, our prayers are with ... the entire Prendergast family.”

In 2010 Mr. Prendergast was inducted into the Blue Raiders Basketball Hall of Fame. Earlier this year, he was inducted into the Order of St. Michael, the highest honour the private Catholic school can bestow on a member of its community. Also earlier this year, he was awarded the Paul Salfi Award for the role he played in developing basketball in Ontario.

On Oct. 16 Mr. Prendergast’s body was laid to rest following a funeral Mass held at Holy Rosary Church in Toronto.

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