My Coach and Teammate Respond . . . after 38 years!
I wrote a blog post prompted by my College Basketball Coach being named the Coach of the Year in 2017. The post was mostly about and experience that taught me a lot about what makes good and bad teams.
Well, as it turns out . . . if you "shoot your mouth off" things happen. Even 38 yeas later. And, if you are foolish enough to spout off publicly . . . I find it is a good thing to have good memory and a strong grasp of details. "I find" I say, not because I have a good memory and a mind for details . . . no! I simply can imagine that it would be a good thing. As it is, the are a few additions and a record to correct. Yes, literally, a record.
I hesitated before writing the first blog, for this very reason, because my memory is often mostly about what I experienced and what it "felt like" not necessarily "the cold, hard facts." So, of course, I did not remember some of the details--mostly after the events I related--and got one data point wrong in the earlier post (it was the record of the senior team. It has been corrected). I know this because I remembered . . . right after my old teammate, let's call him Sam, told me mind you, that the bad team won 5 games not just 3 and that they did beat the 3rd ranked team in the state--which illustrated their potential."
But, this a follow up to share more of the story and tell you about the Coach and Sam.
What I didn't say in the first post is that Coach was tough. He told it the way he saw it. He was decisive and direct. i remember being in the locker room as a freshman and I was messing around with some equipment, Coach looked up from where he was sitting in his office, stood up, and started coming out where we were. Well, "My Momma didn't raise no dummies!" I knew he was coming to tell me to stop. So, I stopped . . . and moved away. Not good enough for Coach. He continued coming. He walked up, barked "Miller, come here!." I came. He went on,"If you wouldn't have walked away and acted like you weren't messing with the equipment, I would have just told you to stop. Now, you can come and see me after school."
After school, I spent time doing "Burpies" in his office. It was a good lesson--be authentic. But since I was just convinced that I was penalized for being intuitive (smart) and being able to accurately predict what he was about to do, I really didn't learn the wisdom or that lesson until many years later.
Despite these kind of interactions, Coach's toughness was balanced. Coach also happened to be my Driver's Ed teacher. I took the class during the summer and I have fond memories of driving . . . to go golfing, fishing, and, one time, getting out of the boat to retrieve a treasured lure . . . for which I was rewarded by having my supper bought for me by the Coach. He was tough but fair.
But I digress. this is supposed to be a follow up and about Coach and Sam.
So, my Coach responded. I won't share what he told me but I will say that although I didn't know, or remember, all the details, his story reinforced what I already knew. I also heard from one of my former teammates . . .
So, Sam, an old teammate contacted me after reading the post about Coach. He told me about a moment when Coach influenced his life. He told me he had heard a sermon recently at his church and it prompted him to act--he was, at that very time, writing a letter to Coach to thank him for the influence he had on his life! This teammate, one of the "good guys" of the older cohort, also missed on on the last two years of Coach in his high school career. But, he told me about an incident that change his view of things . . . He told me that one day he was hanging his head. Coach, asked him "What's wrong?" Sam said, "Coach, I keep messing up and you keep yelling at me." The Coach thought a moment, then said, "Do you see me yelling at "player x" or player y?" Citing two of the players low down on the list of talent on the team. "No." replied the player. "That's because you have potential," he said, "they don't."
Coach did see potential in my teammate. One day, my Dad was waiting for me after a scrimmage between our High School team and the College team where Neal now was the head coach.. "You see anybody out there you are interested in?" my father queried. I figured my Dad was "fishing" to find out if Coach had an interest in recruiting me. "Yep. said Coach," fully aware, I am sure, of what my Dad was driving at, "Sammy," he replied.