My former high school basketball coach, Kevin Grieman, passed away this past week. He was not just a coach to me, but he was like a second dad growing up, and he was affectionately known by my friends as simply “Coach”. His impact on my learning and leadership at such a young age, has stuck with me for years, and I would venture to say that no other “teacher” had as much of an impact on my life. I lived and breathed basketball, but Coach was about so much more than that.
Two stories that came to mind…
In my grade 11 year, we had a pretty good team, and we won a coveted tournament for the first time in a long time. We didn’t just win, but we won easily. In fact, we really started showboating and got a little mouthy to other players, coaches, and maybe even fans. After we were handed the trophies and went back to the dressing room, Coach ripped us apart. Winning was great, but how we carried ourselves meant more than anything, and we had let him down. I remember being so bothered by getting in trouble after winning, I mean, we won the tournament, right? Isn’t that what we were supposed to do? But Coach wasn’t developing basketball players, he was focused on developing good people that were basketball players. Although he could be extremely hard on us, I know that he wanted the best for us, and I think of all my friends that played on those teams (that I am still friends with) and how well they are all doing now. Coach had a tremendous influence on us today by what he did then.
The second story I remembered was in my last couple of games in high school. We were off to provincials, and I had won MVP of the team that year. It really meant a lot, but my last two games I was off. This was not the way that I wanted to go out, and no matter how hard I tried, I just was playing the way I usually had. We lost in the provincial semi-finals, and were now playing for bronze. Down by 9 points with about 30 seconds to go, we thought we had no chance, but somehow had now come back and were down by 3 with about 15 seconds left. Coach called a time out and said, “We need to foul them as soon as they get the ball, and hopefully they miss their free throws and we will see what happens.” They threw the ball in and right to a player in front of me, who I immediately fouled. Since this was my last foul, I watched the last game of my basketball career from the bench and we miraculously won the game by two. There were so many heroics in this game, in which I didn’t play well, but we won, and we were all so excited. A few years later, a player on the current team came up to me and told me how Coach always told the story that when I was asked to do something for the team, that would ultimately leave me watching from the side, that I didn’t even think twice about it, and did what was best for the team. I never thought about it until then, but I realized that the kid who started playing in grade 10 would have done everything to not be out of that game, but Coach taught us that the team was more important than any individual. It was the way we had all thought, not just me. These lessons stick with me to this day.
All I know is that the world lost a great man who had an impact on so many youth growing up, and the town I grew up in was better off because of him, as well as all of the other places that his influence has spread through the people he has developed. His last post on Facebook was about the 25th anniversary with his wife Susan (who I have always called “mom” because of her caring nature) and how he proposed at the half time of one of our games to her, and my mom had to calm her down after. People like Coach do not come around too often, and his impact was immense.
Rest in peace Coach Grieman…you will be deeply missed.