Washington, 51, will have surgery at Crouse Hospital on Thursday. He has been reluctant to speak publicly about the recurrence of the tumor, his friend Mark Finney said, "because he's a very private person."
Mark Finney is the son of Betty Finney, a Cortland woman with whom Washington had formed a deep, abiding friendship over the years. Washington gave the eulogy at Betty Finney's funeral in July.
As for news about his own health, Washington "wants to keep it as low-key as possible," Mark Finney said. But Finney and Washington understand that because of Pearl's place in SU basketball history, word had started to leak out about his condition.
Washington has received visitors in his hospital room, Finney said. Those visitors have included Orange assistant coach Mike Hopkins, who stopped by Monday to see the former point guard.
"He's having a great day today," Finney said by telephone Monday afternoon. "He's much more relaxed. He's taking everything in stride and he's grateful for all the support he's getting."
Washington, said Finney, is facing a "very serious" medical procedure this week.
"Many prayers are requested," Finney said. "Pearl has prayed for a lot of people over the years and we'd ask that you please pay back those prayers to Pearl."
Washington was a consensus All-American at Syracuse before deciding to leave the Orange following his junior season in 1985-86. During his time at SU, Washington's clubs went 71-24 and advanced to three NCAA Tournaments.
A terrific ballhandler and playmaker, Washington averaged 15.7 points and 6.7 assists during his Syracuse career. He was chosen with the 13th overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets and played three years in that league before professing that he'd lost his desire for the game in which he'd proven to be such a crowd-pleasing entertaininer.
In his retirement, Washington returned to SU to earn his bachelor's degree. Among his positions in those post-NBA years was his turn as the head coach of the Onondaga Community College basketball team.
While at Syracuse, Washington proved to be one of the all-time favorites among the Orange fan base. He authored one of his most memorable moments on Jan. 21, 1984, when — as a 6-foot-2 freshman — he tossed in a 45-footer at the buzzer to defeat Boston College 75-73 before a Carrier Dome gathering of 30,293.
It was only Pearl's 15th game in an SU uniform.
"Everywhere I go, every time I go out, I hear about that shot," Washington would say years later. "One guy told me he was up, way up, in the Dome. Up near the third rail. And when I hit that shot, he jumped so high, he almost came down over the rail. I get those kinds of stories all the time.
"But for me, I don't think of it as the signature of my career. If you watch games on TV, you know I'm not the first guy to hit a half-court shot to win a game."
Famously, Washington ran directly from the floor and into the locker room so as to avoid the on-court crush. Less known, he immediately searched out a telephone to call his mother and tell her what he'd just done.
And what he'd just done was be the Pearl. And those who watched him play for the Orange understand what that has forever meant.
"Oh, man," Rafael Addison, Washington's Syracuse teammate, once said when asked to explain the magic of Pearl. "Everybody loved him. Traveling with him was like traveling with a rock star. He was known everywhere.
"But it was a funny thing with him. The public knew Pearl as this flamboyant guy, but we knew him as a shy kind of person. On the court, Pearl was a super hero; with us in the locker room he was Clark Kent. The fans saw him as Superman; we saw him as the quiet reporter."
Superman or quiet reporter, Dwayne Washington has another fight on his hands.
Date Posted: Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 , Total Page Views: 1806
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