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Saturday, May 21, 2011


Through the relationships I've developed via twitter, one of the people I've greatly enjoyed following is Clarence Gaines, Jr. -- son of Hall of Famer Clarence "Big House" Gaines.  So this evening he reminded us that it would have been the 88th birthday for his late father.  And then he shared a link to wonderful story written by another talented person who left us too soon -- Ralph Riley.  I took the time to read the article -- it's incredible!  Great stories and insight into Coach Gaines -- on his successes and the adversity he overcame to achieve them.  Here are just a few tidbits I took from the story with my comments in "yellow italics."

Coach Gaines was about teaching (life and basketball) -- it was about the process for him:

"Could've won a thousand, had he been all into winning," says equipment manager Fernandez Griffin. "He took the athlete who needed a second chance. He'd tell the players, 'Learn one thing here that will help you live well.' They'd say, 'Coach, what about winning?' He'd say, 'That too.' "

Don't know if I ever met an outstanding coach that didn't have a special greasy spoon place to eat...and "friends" to enjoy the meals there:

"Well, guess I've got to take you to this one particular place. Bobby Knight's got his place. Dean Smith's got his place. John Thompson's got his place. Come on. I'll drive the van and show you one of mine."

This turns out to be Mama Chris's place, a greasy spoon a few miles from campus where you can get a plate of hot food slammed in front of you without much trouble—a place quite unbecoming a legend. Gaines finds a table as if he had been born there.

Again, Coach Gaines goes beyond X & O's in understanding success:

What's the secret to winning basketball games?

His eyes are closed, his breathing deep. With great relish, he puckers up and enunciates the one word flawlessly. The Great Truth of coaching....


Coach Gaines knew how to appreciate the talent he was blessed to coach:

Coach Gaines, what about Cleo (Hill) and Earl (Monroe)?

"I treated them like great musicians," he says, "like the artists they were. Then I treated them like kids because that's all they were when I had them. Cleo was completely scientific. I'm talking scientific. There was no phase of the game he didn't have in hand. Earl was innovative, creative. Blessed."

Coach Gaines, like so many of his era did it all -- that paved the way for ALL that we have today:

"By '47 I was teacher, 'laywer,' 'judge,' football coach, basketball coach, ticket manager, trainer and what passed for athletic director—eight jobs for one salary," Gaines says. "I looked at myself. What would I look like hovering over a bunch of eight-year-olds, or an open mouth? I was born to coach young men."

Coach Gaines got it!  And he taught it:

"Clarence Gaines was a father figure to me," says (Earl) Monroe. "I went to school to play ball, but he turned that around in my first year. He let me know what I was there for, no matter how well I could play."

This is a lengthy story filled with great stories and history about our game...please find time to read it.  It's important for us to learn and remember our past if we want to make a difference in the future.

Here is the link: