Saturday night and I’m at the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame with former coaches celebrating Marianne Stanley’s induction along with the players we coached who almost 40 years made what seemed impossible happen in such a way that they still honor and remember it all these years later. How it happened for me was another story. As I enjoyed renewing old friendships and making new ones, it dawned on me how many of us took risks to go to a school that was unknown on the map and because of these kids and a young coach with dream would make ODU a household name synonymous with women’s basketball and open opportunities for women to succeed on a big stage along with the men who played the same game.
I had been coaching High School for four years. Had a lot of crazy success 55-3 and the team would be successful for years to come, I’m ecstatic! I’m living my dream. Along the way, I was asked one question. What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? A question so pivotal that not only did it have an impact on what I would do, but I still use it to this very day. If it hadn’t had been for that one question, I might never have thrown myself out of my comfort zone and into a strange, new environment. I might have missed the opportunity to sit where I was Saturday night with so many folks that did the same thing. Having my life shaken up helped guide my dreams to where I am today.
And the truth of the matter is, when I think back to the day I made the decision to leave home and move to Norfolk Virginia, I never felt ready. Objectively speaking, my current situation points to this not being a practical move. I grew up in a family culture where you stayed close to home, and had Sunday Dinners. Living close to home was all that mattered. Great advice for then as it is today. I had just bucked those odds going to college in New Mexico for financial reasons and wasn’t crazy about venturing too far from home again. I had a secure job, girlfriend, and the safety of being near family who would circle the wagons with any sign of trouble for any of us. And besides, those very real logistics didn’t get to have a say in whether or not I take this risk.
I also enjoyed hearing how everyone has their memories and stories for the time how they experienced it. I listened closely with joy hearing my former players and coaches tell their stories, and I shared a few of my own. I took this risk because of my belief in a 23-year-old Marianne Stanley and Athletic Director Jim Jarrett who for whatever reason saw fit to hire us despite how young and inexperienced we were. I believed in Marianne, her passion and confidence that we would win BIG and make an impact. And did we …. As one person shared we put ODU on the map, women basketball on peoples radar all over the world and opened the doors of opportunity for young ladies not even born yet. That’s a huge payback for taking a small risk and a small place in history for all time.
Along the way a lot of talented players took the risk as well. Looking back, I think our coaching staff did some things that would play very well today among other aspiring coaches and leaders.
What I learned would be the chemistry of championship team.
- Created fun work environment
- Built relationships with players, stay and high school coaches.
- We developed and promoted people. So many of our players went on to have great careers
- Believed in team
- Loyal to and never quit of each other
- Held ourselves and each other accountable
- Delivered every day
- Clear on our expectations
- Worked with the highest ethical and moral standards. Players who came through the program completed their college degree.
- ODU was our stock symbol… we made sure people were buying our stock not selling it.
Collectively speaking, looking back I realized I was not meant to be static. Whatever the venture may be, we’re supposed to optimize our time and to set off into the world, even if it means failing along the way. And I’ll admit it: I am terrified of making a fool out of myself. But I would rather try something new and fail than live with a bitter conscience of never having attempted it.
Lady Monarch basketball will forever be in my heart, along with players I love; staff I admire and a young lady with a dream, my friend Coach Marianne Stanley.
What would I do if I could not fail? Exactly what I did all those years ago with no regrets.