I am sad today.
I found out over the weekend that the basketball coach for my Alma mater passed away on Saturday morning. He had beaten and then been beaten back by cancer.
He was a man who knew how to fight - a Vietnam Veteran ranger, a nationally recognized basketball coach for a division III team, a husband, a father, mentor, and friend. I first met him when I was a timid freshman with a knack and desire to manage the basketball team. He scared me. Close cropped hair, no nonsense manner, deep voice and steely stare, he showed me around the gym, shared his expectations and left me with his final instruction: "You will NOT be a distraction to my players. If you are here to find a boyfriend, there's the door." I took him at his word and only disobeyed him once in my four years as his go-to girl. I made a few mistakes and he was, at first, irate at each one and, later, kind and good humored. He helped me to learn from my mistakes, both behind the scorers' table and in the real college world. In his own way, he showed all of us how to be better at everything we did. He challenged us to question our limitations, push our boundaries, search for our passions, and follow our hearts. He let us into his personal life and shared his wife, son, daughter, and dog with us. Through them, he showed us loyalty, passion, patience, tenderness, and love.
My time at Emory & Henry was full of learning both academically and personally. It was a short but full four years. The impact he has had on my life since then, in retrospect, has been enormous. That is what makes me so sad. My failure to ever tell him in so many words the impact his mentorship has had on me makes me sad. I have seen him a few times since graduation but never have I looked him in the eye and told him what he meant to me. I hope he knew. I do know that someday I will see him again up in that big basketball court in the sky and I will thank him.
Rest in peace, Coach J.