That’s a bold statement to make no matter who you are or what you coach. Before I go much further I’ll explain to you why it’s a bit misleading. I’ve had winless seasons, middle of the road seasons and very good seasons as far as my record goes. All I’ve ever done is gain from every season. I’ve gained friends, memories, and stories that will last me a lifetime.
I started coaching basketball in house league in Moncton 25 years ago. I was 20 years old and needed an outlet for something that seemed to be missing in my life after a disastrous start to my university career. I was working a job as a day-time maintenance man that I wasn’t extremely fond of, but it paid well and wasn’t a fast food restaurant! After coaching a provincial “D” select team and 2 years in house league, some parents had asked me to apply to be the JV coach at Harrison Trimble High School. I remember feeling slightly overwhelmed by this and was worried I wouldn’t have the skills to do it, but I applied. I was honoured when they offered it to me and still feel honoured to have had that opportunity. I stayed for 3 seasons and then moved over to Moncton High School where I coached for one season. The reason for the move was simple. I was a teacher at MHS that year. In these formative years as I coach, I made a lot of mistakes, but I know I did one thing right; I taught some boys some valuable lessons about life.
To this day I still have contact with many of them. They recount tales to me of words of “wisdom” I shared. Hearing their stories often makes me cringe at things I said or did sometimes, but it impacted them greatly in positive ways. For one of them, I was even in his wedding party. The bonds you make with players is something amazing.
I then moved on to my next challenge which was a huge jump. I became the head coach for the Atlantic Baptist University (known as Crandall University today) Men’s program. I dove head long into this after things did not go well between the coach and players in their first season as part of the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA). This was a very tough season as we were winless and went 0-21. We competed hard every game but never had any depth. After that year we went 2-19 but our record didn’t match what we brought to the floor. We lost numerous games down the stretch simply because we didn’t know how to win. In my third season, we went 6-15 and managed to get into the playoffs with a couple big wins down the stretch. I was very proud of this accomplishment as the boys really embraced the idea of playing as a team and playing to each other’s strengths. I wish I could tell you we pulled off the upset in the first round but that was not to be! At this point, some things were changing at ABU and I wasn’t feeling confident anymore about how they would proceed with the program or how they saw my future. I was feeling I wasn’t able to take the team any further than I had but there was more to this story than anyone else realized at the time. I was starting to have some serious health issues behind the scenes that I tried to keep to myself as best I could.
After several hospital trips and much testing, I was diagnosed with a rare genome of Cystic Fibrosis that focused more on attacking my digestive system than my lungs. It laid dormant for 34 years when my body “changed” and the disease became apparent. Everyone I knew was shocked as this disease was hereditary and no one in my family had ever had it. I had to retire from teaching, I stepped away from basketball and life changed drastically for me. I went from a very busy and driven young man who loved being active and involved in things to having to rest and take very careful care of myself. A lot of activities became impossible as the medications and the disease took a toll on my body. I suffer greatly from chronic pancreatitis and chronic blockages throughout my system thanks to the excess mucus created by CF. Although my teaching career was over, I was determined that the disease wasn’t going to take everything I was passionate about away. For years I had preached “You don’t ever quit!”. I wasn’t done with basketball yet. Not by a long shot.