Month: January 2012

Breakfast with Joe Gibbs and Coach Cowher

I got up this morning at 4:55 am, and left my house at 5:30 and drove to the Orlando Hilton to have breakfast with Joe Gibbs, Coach Cowher…..and a thousand other people. The breakfast was amazing. Soft scrambled eggs and an unlimited supply of crispy bacon. From a culinary perspective, my only complaint was the absence of chocolate milk.

Joe Gibbs was a pleasant surprise. Gibbs coached the Washington Redskins to three Super Bowl titles, and owns a Nascar team that has also won three titles. He just signed my favorite supercross rider, James Stewart (@js7 on twitter), who got his first win for Joe Gibbs Racing Saturday night in Oakland. I knew all of these things about Gibbs before breakfast. What I learned of Gibbs during the breakfast is that for a man of 71 he has an overwhelming amount of energy and a lively, self-effacing sense of humor. It was clear from his words that at several earlier points in life he took himself a bit more seriously. His current demeanor is likely a product of the comfort he has in the accomplishments of his life. It is also rooted in his failures. Gibbs started his Redskins coaching career 0-5. Early in his coaching career, he all, but went bankrupt buying real estate in Norman, Oklahoma. Pride or something like it, prevented Gibbs from actually filing for bankruptcy and he spent four and half years paying off his debts while crafting a Redskins dynasty.

Coach Cowher is not the former Pittsburgh Steelers coach. He is a former law school classmate from Florida State, and one of the best friends I have had the pleasure to have. We live less than five miles apart, but don’t see each other nearly enough. When I think of it, I am reminded of Bill Russell telling Frank Deford that they could not be friends because Russell knew they did not have the time to commit to true friendship as he saw it. Somehow, and most credit goes to Coach Cowher, our friendship continues. It is not measured in the amount of time spent, or day to day nuances, but in the quality and timeliness of the time.

It is not without irony that the Gibbs breakfast had a religous bent. Coach Cowher has a way of prompting me to these events and discussions, not unlike my father. I am not a church going sort, but he inevitably makes me think. Even in secular terms, he challenges my conceptions and understandings of the world and this to me is invaluable.

In more practical matters, I was in the process of moving several years ago. It was a rush move when confusion arose as to the closing date ensued. Midway through the move I struck me quite sharply that it was not going to be done with available hands. I called Coach Cowher, who likely was vaguely aware that I was moving. He was at my house in twenty minutes, and had everyone laughing and moving furniture in twenty-five.

In pure fun, my parents were in town over a year ago. They have met Coach Cowher and when he heard they were in town he insisted we stop by. I figured maybe thirty minutes to an hour of catching up. What followed was an incredible day of food, swimming, fishing, tubing, and dune buggy driving. A day we all cherished with a great friend.

Thank You Coach….until our paths cross again sooner I hope than later.

Pedaling Downhill

During the 1995-96 college basketball season, not unlike today, John Calipari coached the number one team in the country. Unlike today, that team was the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. An upstart group that featured only one long term professional player, Marcus Camby, familiar in a bitter way to me as he led his high school team to the Connecticut class LL state title over my alma mater Danbury High School.

Calipari was a hot young coach viewed as the next Rick Pitino, it was with no small measure of irony that Pitino’s team, the Kentucky Wildcats, would beat the Minutemen in the final four that year on their way to the National Championship.

I had to look up all those details, but I do have an indelible memory of the 1996 tournament. It was Cal getting interviewed getting off the bus going to practice on the Friday before the Kentucky game. He said he wanted his team to “pedal downhill”. It was stuck with me ever since, and I thought of it yesterday as I watched my team coast through practice. We have four days and two games left. There is no district or regional play to look ahead to just an offseason of work. So in one sense I understood the lack of urgency and complacency, but in another I could not accept it.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and that includes practicing and preparing to play. We could coast downhill to the finish, win or lose, collect the uniforms on Friday night, shake hands, hug, and say thanks, but that’s not why you practice, give yourself to the game and compete. That requires more, and in giving more those hand shakes, hugs and thank you’s go a little deeper and last a little longer in the memory. So tonight I will ask my guys to pedal downhill to Friday night.

Mixed Emotions

There are three practices and two games left in our season. We are 11-10 and must win one game to be over .500. We haven’t won a game in our last five and we face two difficult opponents this week.

We are not the same team we were early in the season, but we are still a team united by the common purpose of finishing this season on a winning note, and moving into the off-season with the passion to get better.

The mixed emotions are found in the thoughts of have I taught this team enough? Have we had enough fun? Will they look back on this experience as a positive one? Time will tell.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

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(Left:Jared Right:Robert)

For mrfncharm and I, today is a somber day. Today is the 5th year anniversary of the death of our teammate and friend Robert Locke. Robert or “Burt” was a year older than us when we were in high school, but we had the honor of playing basketball with him before he graduated. Robert and Jared Locke were identical twins that stood a solid 6’6 each. Though none would claim them as superb athletes, they were by far the hardest workers on the team. They were inseparable from each other and they were inseparable from the court. In fact Robert was playing basketball up till going to bed on January 27th. Tragically, he did not wake on the morning of January 28th, 2007. He passed in his sleep from a rare heart condition that sadly took him way to soon at the age of 19.

I say all of this not in remorse but for more of a reflection on life. I recently spoke to our team about the importance of “now”. I told them that none of them are guaranteed to play basketball at the next level and that for some of them this could be the last time they play basketball in high school. Sounds harsh but it’s the truth. The only guarantee my players have is the next 3 games. I told them to make the most of those games and the remaining weeks as a team for it will be the last time all 12 of them would play together. I stressed to them how special the bond of a teammate is and explained how Mrfncharm and I met over 8 years ago and how we were reunited this year by the game of basketball.

It’s hard to tell if our young freshman players grasped the scope of my statements but my overall point to them and our readers is that you don’t know how long you have on this earth, so make the most of your time NOW. This isn’t a podium sermon from Littlewolverine but a personal letter to the memory of Robert Locke. To this day I still wear our high school team wristbands as a constant remind of the hard working teammate and good friend that we lost but have never forgotten. Life is short and sometimes shorter for most so practice now not tomorrow, work hard on school now not tomorrow, be happy with what you have now not what you want tomorrow. Make the most of your time as a friend, a student, a teammate and if you’re blessed to look back in 5 years, be proud of what you have done.

If you’d like to donate to the “Robert Locke Scholarship Fund” contact Oviedo High School
601 King Street
Oviedo, FL 32765
tel:407-320-4050