It was a sunny Friday afternoon in late May, and I had just returned to my mother’s house after completing my first job interview. The day could not have gone any better – I had aced the interview and was offered a choice to be the new head basketball coach for either the boys or girls program at Gothenburg High School.
I didn’t accept right away – instead, as my college advisor had suggested, I ask the school to give me until Monday to decide. It had been difficult to not just accept a job on the spot. After all, I wanted to be a basketball coach – specifically a boys basketball coach.
There had always been a desire to do more with basketball. Growing up poor in rural Arkansas, my first basketball was my best friend. Spending nearly every day with it, I wore out the grass in a perfect circle beneath the old oak tree in our backyard where my grandpa had tacked up a makeshift backboard and rusty rim. Throughout my youth, I shot baskets and played imaginary games in my mind until the sun would tire and chase me inside.
All that time spent around the old oak helped develop me into a pretty good player. From a little squirt all the way to my junior year of high school, I had excelled on the basketball court. Then a torn ACL in my left knee changed the direction of my life.
No longer a top basketball recruit, I became more fascinated with baseball. After a strong senior campaign, I turned down a scholarship offer to play baseball - thinking naively instead that I could play pro baseball - then going undrafted and bouncing around from one pro tryout to the next. At times, that seemed promising, until one day it didn’t. So, eventually I ended up working on my grandpa’s farm in rural Arkansas – a little lost and searching for what to do next.
My grandpa encouraged me to attend college – but nobody in my family had ever gained a college degree and I was lost as to where to start. Eventually, with the help of friends, I figured it out and somewhere along the way, I had decided to be a teacher and basketball coach. When Gothenburg High School had offered me that chance, I could hardly wait until Monday morning to accept.
The day before I had planned to call and become the new boys basketball coach at Gothenburg High School, the phone attached to a wall in my mother's kitchen rattled against the paneling. When I answered, a familiar voice greeted me with a rhetorical question, “Are you really going to be the basketball coach at Gothenburg?”
It was the athletic director from the high school from which I had graduated. He explained they had a teaching position I was right for and possibly a coaching opportunity that might appeal to me. I explained to him that I had already made up my mind and while thankful for his consideration, I would have to pass. But he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Out of nothing more than past loyalty, I drove the 50 miles that Sunday afternoon to interview with Cozad High School for a job I had no interest or intentions to take. In fact, I didn’t wear a suit jacket or a tie – but instead, shorts and a t-shirt. (Hey, it was nice a tee)
When I arrived, the athletic director and p