When we walked in, his office was huge. A mahogany desk at one end, a den like sitting area with 3 full leather couches and a big coffee table where we were sitting and then closer to the door, a ten-foot conference room table with chairs and a white dry eraser board with red trim, just as long long on the wall. “Sit down.” He said as he pointed to the leather couch. As I took my seat in the presence of King’s I still wasn’t breathing normally and there was no way I was going to speak. My biggest fear was saying something stupid. I had worked really hard all year and was so excited about playing in the the big gymnasium that seated 7,000 and being part of the team. I had been playing as much as possible, even through Christmas break open gyms. One morning Coach Stearmen, while passing right by me said, “Brownie, I have to go on a quick trip tomorrow morning to see a friend and want to know if you’d like to come along?” “Sure.” I said, as my heart lept and my mind raced.
Coach was one of those guys who was a legend in Indiana, coaching for 25 years at Columbus North, 5 State Championships, 29 All American players, many who had even went on to play professional basketball. He was also known for being a quiet listener and when he spoke, his words had power. I got to school at 6:45am the next morning to meet him in the parking lot. We pulled out just before 7 as Coach said, “We don’t want to be late for meeting with Coach Knight. He has a pretty busy schedule.” Did I hear that right? I knew I did, but I still couldn’t believe this was happening. Just the day before, I didn’t even know if I would ever make the Varsity team and now I’m on a trip with just me and Coach to go meet with the legendary head coach of Indiana University, Bobby Knight, ‘The General’. It turns out that they had been friends for over 20 years. I didn’t really know that legends like this had friends, but at that moment it clicked. What didn’t make sense was that I was in the car and not the other ‘superstar’ players on our teams. That hour and forty five minute drive with coach was priceless. We just had normal conversation and he asked me plenty of questions about my life and dreams and of course we talked a lot about basketball. I asked him a lot of questions too and learned that he was a man with a life outside of basketball and somehow, being a legend was just as much a burden as it was a blessing. As I sat on that leather couch right next to Coach Knight, it was no surprise or awkward to them that I was there, although I never spoke but a few words. I was trying to figure out what was so important that we drove four hours round trip for a 1 hour meeting with the greatest basketball coach in the world. Was there something seriously wrong with our team? Was Coach Knight recruiting one of our players? Since coach was older, was he secretly Coach Knight’s mentor? The best I could do was keep my mouth shut. As the time flew by, I hung on every word. For an hour and ten minutes, they talked about offensive plays, defensive drills, other teams of course but they also talked about Coach’s wife Susan and her health and their kids and they talked about Coach Knight’s pending divorce and his heartache over his family falling apart. We finally got up and said our goodbyes in his doorway. I shook Coach Knight’s hand and we headed down the great hall. In that walk of silence on that concrete, glass like floor in Assembly Hall, it washed over me what we had come for. They were just friends and this is what friends do. And even greater than this lesson was that they had invited me in to this world unknown to a fifteen-year-old. Coach and I never spoke again about the visit that day, but it was a private and personal trip that bound us together and lit an even greater passion in me for basketball. March was here and basketball in full swing. Sectionals for Southern Indiana was hosted at our gym and we won. Regionals was also hosted by us and included some of the best schools from all over the state. It was a Saturday night and the Regionals Championship Game. Kevin James (KJ), Braden McDuff, Kevin Stark, Rob Hines and Tom Moncrief were the starters. There wasn’t an empty seat in the whole gym. It was a record crowd. I sat in the next to last seat on the bench. Us JV players never expected to play any Varsity and didn’t, but still it was an honor to wear the Bulldog uniform and pants that were full length blue and white striped. We cheered our way to a 63-61 Win that night. The Varsity team cut down the nets, did autographs for young kids and did interviews with the newspaper and radio people. The JV players, we just milled around and took it all in and dreamed of our days to come. It was finally time to hit the lockers and head out to celebrate. We went in to the locker room and heard Coach give his totally fired up speech and then it was time to hit the showers. The whole shower thing was a bit odd for some and not for others. It was always odd for me as I had been a bit overweight 2-3 years earlier, but not now. Since the Varsity guys were still high-fiving and talking smack about play-by-play from the game, I was one of the first to hit the showers. Roy Ellis, a Junior Guard on the Varsity team was already in there and finishing up. There were four shower heads on one wall in a rectangular big room. I turned on the shower second from the right. I first soaped up my armpits and parts, then my feat. Then I grabbed a bottle of shampoo and began to wash my hair. As I closed my eyes I began to daydream about all of us going to Noble Roman’s that night and how in the midst of victory, I always fit in and everyone was nice to each other including me. Then, I began to rinse the shampoo out of my hair and strangely began to feel my right leg and hip start to get really hot. Then I heard a giggle and was confused as I tried get the soap out of my eyes. When I finally could see, there stood the Varsity leaders, Braden, Brent and Kevin, naked and peeing all over me while they and others laughed and laughed. When they were done, I tried to wash myself again and scrubbed and scrubbed as hard as I could with soap, but it didn’t seem to make any difference.
Through Story Exploration:
The good in this story, 'Coach saw potential in me as an up and coming player and a young man who needed mentored and chose to do so. He just plain saw me. I did get to play basketball in front of a crowd of thousands!' However, the primary lie in this story was that no matter how much you dream and hard you work, you will never fit in. Specific lies sewn by the kingdom of darkness:
Leaders you look up to will harm and shame you
'Everyone' was laughing
They didn't do this to anyone else
It's ok to shame others as long as it's for fun
Today, this story, long forgotten, has actually lingered, 'Who will be the next group of guys that act like friends then turn on me for fun?' Without being aware of it, environments of celebration with other guys has made me feel very uneasy when everyone else seems to be having a great time.
The Truth: This was a significant event in my basketball career and desire and trust in team sports. These boys were being foolish, cruel and mean at my expense, but only three of them chose to do it and only three others out of eighteen were laughing with them. The other story group members asked if I knew of anyone else going to meet with Coach Knight. No was my answer. One woman said, ''Your coach picked you! He saw something special in you that others didn't. The older boys did too and saw it as a threat." I began to smile, a deep in my soul smile and tear. The questions now to wrestle with: With groups of men, will I engage in times of celebration? Will I stay away from being chosen or seen? Will I take the chance of a crowd cheering for me again or will I continue to sit in the stands? I think it's time to put on my uniform and shoes again.