Jan. 26, 2010
-- Last Saturday, my team gave me my 300th win as a collegiate head coach. And it was a pretty big deal in Norman, Oklahoma for about 24 hours on a mild day in the middle of January. Then on Sunday I was watching the tip of Notre Dame versus West Virginia and the crowd was celebrating Muffet McGraw's 600th win. I laughed out loud from my favorite leather chair. And then I did the math: with some off-the-charts recruiting and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, I can catch Pat Summit if I coach until I'm 97.
Coaches get way too much credit. I promise you that. So when milestones are celebrated, those of us who find ourselves on the recognition end get all fidgety and uncomfortable. We stand at halfcourt alone, and we know that the only reason we're standing there is because of a bunch of other people. The awkward pause, however, serves a purpose for which I am thankful. As we stand there with a white panel ball we are forced to take off the "next play, next game" blinders that make standing there with the ball possible. For just a minute we have to stop. And when we do, the memories flood in.
That was the best part of Saturday for me: the faces and the voices and the moments that have been a part of my last 13 and a half years as the head ball coach at the University of Oklahoma.
I looked toward the baseline where I could see Phylesha Whaley melt onto the court after I told the team that we'd just moved into the top 25 for the first time. And I looked to the basket above it where we have had the good fortune to cut down at least eight nets in celebration of championships won and advancements earned. I could see in my mind Stacey Dales, beside me on the bench in a knee brace, much the way Whitney is now....and her arm around my shoulder at the Alamo Dome four years later where we went to shock the world.
I could see Marita Hynes with her lucky penny and Erin Higgins pointing at somebody who had just passed her the ball. And I thought when I looked to my left that I caught Lauren Shoush climbing back out of the stands after diving to save a loose ball.
It really doesn't get much better than that, you know?
For almost 14 years now I've had the incredible good fortune to be sustained by aspiring young women. Included in that collection are a bunch of people who get it; which is rare, I think, in a world where so few do. Together we've won games and lost games. I've yelled at them and they've run for me. And more often than not, in the end we've all been polished up by the process.
Someone asked me if I heard from any of my former players after Saturday's game. I said, "Yeah. I'd love to be able to tape their text messages all over that ball."
Because while the wins were the purpose for the panel, the people put the air in the ball.
To all that played a part in it -- from Pam DeCosta to Carolyn Winchester -- and all the coaches and players in between: I am indebted and you reward me still.