Recent recognition from the Maine Sports Legends Hall of Honors gives pause this week to reflect on a career which now includes writing for this newspaper and publishing material for Winning Hoops magazine and Lessiter Publications in Wisconsin.
I began all this basketball coaching stuff in 1969 at the old Bangor YMCA church league under the direction of the late John Coombs and Don Searway. Little did I know it at the time, but the coaching career would flourish to the point of spending time with the likes of Boston Celtics coaching greats Red Auerbach and Bill Fitch, two men I could only dream about meeting when I was a kid.
You see, I was a coaching wannabe from an early age.
I grew up in Brewer, a town that is forever embedded in my psyche because of the giants in athletics that I met there.
Topping that list are great sports figures such as the late Harry Dalton and Wes Jordan, who touched my life so positively that I began thinking what a great thing it would be to work with young people the way they did.
Oh, my. What a profound influence those two men had on me.
Minimizing the trauma of the cross-town move from Brewer to Bangor in 1963 were coaching giants such as Bob Kelley and the late Red Barry, who literally and figuratively took me under their wings and showed me what it took to be a player and a coach.
For all of that, I am eternally grateful.
And then the coaching began.
Reflecting back on it all, despite battling a tough illness all these years, I am grateful to all the players, assistant coaches, and managers, who diligently went about the business of listening to – and hopefully, absorbing – all the life lessons included within the game and the practice format for all of those 34 years.
I was blessed to be surrounded by so many fine people.
At home, I had a solid rock of a family, organized and lead by my wife Shelly and my two boys, Scott and Todd. She rolled with the proverbial punches thrown by a profession that are often stinging to a coach, who is, seemingly, always in the public eye.
Shelly is my best friend and one of the best assistant coaches I’ve had. Then along came Nate, and her role included all of the above again at home, a place she anchors while I’m out doing all the sports stuff.
And now, this newspaper gives me the chance to put this column together each week, hoping I strike a nerve or cause a smile with a sports story which triggers a lot of memories for our readers.
Yes, I feel blessed, and recognition such as last weekend’s Legends Hall is something I never thought of or dreamed about. I scored nine points in my lackluster hoop career at the interscholastic level, but it was the giants in sports that caused my head to turn.
Men like Artie Miles, Bob Cimbollek Gerry Hodge, Jack Butterfield, and John Winkin always took time for a budding coach to discuss style, discipline, and the like.
I forged ahead, dedicated to a coaching profession that made so many men and women happy.
Yes, I am truly blessed.
With former players such as Jamie Russell, David Carey, and Todd Hanson, dotting the coaching map now in Maine, I stand proud of what we accomplished, proudest still because the lessons of fair play and sportsmanship are being learned in sundry gyms across the state as I have stepped into retirement from the greatest business in the world.
And finally, I wish to thank all the parents and guardians of the young people I had the privilege to coach. Coaches should never underestimate how important it is to be given such an awesome responsibility.
Never – ever – take that lightly. Respect each one of them because they have afforded you the chance to mold young lives.
It is something akin to the priesthood or the ministry.
Trust me when I tell you that, dear readers.
Thanks to the Legends Hall of Honors, I had a chance to relive all of that.
BDN columnist Ron Brown, a retired high school basketball coach, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org