Scott (or Franklin). Mike. Scott. Dennis. Four names of four coaches who will always hold a very special place in my heart. They were the first four coaches I ever worked with on a full-time coaching staff. Man, did we grow close. When I think about these guys I think of two verses from Proverbs, “Iron sharpens iron” and “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” These guys were my iron and we were brothers.
I remember the time we were tied with less than 10 seconds left. Scott, our head coach, called a timeout. After discussing, as a staff, the proper play for the moment, we decided to draw up a play calling for our best shooter to catch the ball in the corner off a pin-down screen. We had executed that play MANY times in practice. It was a sure and wise decision.
The girls listened intently as Scott purposefully and artfully drew the play on the dry erase board. We, the entire staff, were confident that the girls would execute it to perfection for a game winning shot. We broke the huddle with a hopeful all-hands-in “team” cheer and then we, the staff, waited for our girls to display our coaching prowess.
The girls set up in the right formation. The ball was handed to the official. The screener went to set the screen and then…Our shooting guard, who was supposed to go under the screen, went over top of the screen, allowing her defender to deny her the pass. Our screener panicked and instead of trying to re-screen the defender, just stood still. The eyes of the girl in-bounding the basketball grew wider and wider as the horror of the play breaking down took place before her eyes. The other two offensive players started running around like chickens-with-their-heads-cut off, doing, what I am sure they thought, were productive basketball moves. As a staff, all of our faces turned ashen white. The play we thought was fault proof was unraveling before our eyes. Instead of thinking, “Get the ball and make the shot,” we were thinking, “Dear Lord, please don’t let it be a turnover.”
And then, somehow, the ball was inbounded to our shooting guard who was supposed to be open in the corner. However, instead of catching the ball in the corner, she caught the ball about five feet behind the three point line, near the hash mark. And, once she caught the ball, she dribbled away from the basket! What was she thinking?! By the time she made any move towards the basket, there were only three seconds left on the clock.
“Well, at least it’s not a turnover.”
“Maybe we can get them in overtime.”
“This is possibly the worst executed play in the history of basketball.”
Two seconds. One second. Our guard was about three miles away from the basket when she attempted a lean-in, falling down, one foot, with one hand tied behind her back 25 footer (slight exaggeration). Time stopped. (You know those scenes in movies where everything slows down while everyone is following the flight of the ball. I can almost swear that the theme to “Chariots of Fire” was playing in the background too.)
“There is no way this shot is going in.”
“Who are we going to start in overtime?”
“If only we would have blocked out more.”
All of a sudden, I noticed something strange. The arch of the ball actually looked like it might end up close to the rim, which meant the shot had a chance of going in. (The music to Chariots of Fire grew louder.) The ball grew closer and closer to the basket. And then, I see the ball bank off the backboard and into the basket. The shot didn’t even touch the rim. The broken play-25 foot-falling down-lean-in acrobatic shot was a success.
My reaction was to jump into the arms of Scott, who was a good two inches shorter than me. Now, we were the ones running around the court like chickens-with-our-heads-cut off celebrating the victory. Picture two grown men, two short grown men, acting like two little boys who had just defeated Mario Brothers for the first time. We celebrated by eating at Wendy’s. We laughed so hard we cried. Everyone was talking about either the miraculous shot or the two short coaches running around the court celebrating.
What made that moment so special? Was it the miraculous shot? Definitely. Was it the fact that our team made something out of nothing and won? Sure. But what made it the most special was the band of brothers that I shared the sidelines with. I couldn’t think of a better metaphor to describe my time on that staff; in the arms of my brothers, running around like chickens-with-our-heads cut off, having a great time coaching a game we loved. A great staff can feel like family. These guys were my extended family.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27.17
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.