This past week has been a tremendous period of reflection for me. In the past 7 days there have been the birthdays of Sue Gunter and Skip Bertman, the one-year anniversary of Coach Don Meyer passing and on Tuesday we laid my father to rest. Also during that time we lost a great man in Tom Moran.
There is a quote from Jim Rohn that says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
While last week was a difficult one for me emotionally, I also realized what a blessed person I am to have these individuals in my life. Each one has played an amazing role in my development as a coach and as a person.
Tom Moran was the first non-staff person that Coach Dale Brown introduced me to when I interviewed at LSU. He was an extraordinarily successful restaraunteer who was a dear friend of Coach Brown's and a huge supporter of our basketball program. Many knew Tom for his restaurants. He owned the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Baton Rouge (along with others around the nation), Ruffino's, Ninfa's and of course T.J. Ribs. They were all extremely successful -- because of Tom. I used to tell him he'd make a great coach in the way he ran his businesses. He was driven to be the best in whatever he approached.
Three years into my tenure I got married. It was during the time when I was labeled as a "restricted earnings" assistant coach. A position the NCAA created in order for it to be able to cap that position's pay at $16,000. That small sum had to include everything -- such as summer camp. In no way was I allowed to make more that $16,000 per year.
Soon after, Coach Brown called me in his office and said, "First, I want you to know I want you to stay on my staff but you're married and have family obligations and you need to at least consider options. I was talking to Tom last night and he wants to meet with you and Sherie tonight."
My wife and I met Tom at Ruth's Chris and of course, spent the first 30 minutes talking about LSU basketball. Then Tom told me he'd like to hire me. He would send to restaurant school in Houston (on him). Following the two month completion he would make me an assistant manager at Black-eyed Pea for six months at around $35,000 and then I would be made manager at Ninfa's with a salary around $75,000. He told me the hours would be long -- well into the night. He told I would be working holidays. He told me there would be an occasional knucklehead employee that I would have to deal with. Then he laughed and said, "It's a lot like your current job -- except the pays a lot better."
I told Tom I was really appreciative and then asked him if I could have a couple of days to think about it. I loved coaching -- but I knew what Coach Brown was talking about: I had to think about my wife now and just not myself.
I didn't sleep much that night and got a phone call early the next morning from Tom asking if we could get together again. I met him at TJ Ribs for lunch.
"Bobby, I want you to know right off the bat that I want you to come to work for me," Tom started. "But can I give you some advice?"
"Of course," I responded.
"Don't. I gave this some thought last night. You are very passionate about coaching and teaching. I know you are going to take a hit in the pocketbook for who knows how long but when you are passionate about something you need to follow that and see where it leads. I truly believe that's what you need to do."
And with that I thanked Tom and continued my coaching career.
Tom continued to be a supporter of mine. Each year I'd give Tom my men's basketball parking pass and continued to do so even after I switched to the women's side, working for Coach Gunter. My first year on Coach Gunter's staff we upset #1 ranked Tennessee -- the first time we'd every defeated a #1 ranked team -- and there was Tom and Coach Brown on the front row, giving me a hug when we left the floor.
Of course what Tom did for me had a great impact on my life. But I was only one of thousands that he touched in an amazing way. After Tom's own battle with cancer, he became a major supporter and contributor to the Mary Bird Perkins-Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center. Tom also was a founding director of the Dale Brown Foundation, which gave educational opportunities for students around the country; and he served on the boards of the Pennington Family Foundation, Girls & Boys Town and Baton Rouge River Center. Moran has helped the Boy Scouts of America-Istrouma Area Council, Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, St. Jude Research Foundation and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
So as difficult as last week was, I know today I am thankful for all those who have crossed my path, especially Tom "T.J." Moran.