I know this probably seems like a random topic, but it is far from it. It's actually inspired by this story that I found thanks to Twitter.
As most know, I grew up in the Charlotte, NC, area. The only sport I played as a young kid (other than a single year of coach pitch baseball) was basketball. I played youth league ball in the Winterfield league (which I don't think exists any longer). It was one of those area-based youth leagues, and the competition was pretty good. There were age groups up to 16, and I think I played from around 8 to 16.
Outside of that, I also played in Bryan Adrian leagues and attended some of his camps. His leagues were one per season, so you could play in four leagues per year. It was a pretty simple deal, really...something like ten weeks of playing on Sunday for two hours. The first hour or so was drills and the rest was a game. Each league had four teams, and each player got a shirt in one of four colors. Each color was a team. You were all mixed up for the drills (on purpose so that everyone got to know everyone) and then you broke out into your teams to play the games. We always had sites with two full courts, so two games happened at one time.
Before we started, Bryan would always talk about what we were going to focus on. Then he would usually lead a drill or two with everyone in one big group, then we were divided up into smaller groups for more drills. He moved around the entire gym watching and giving his own input, though there were other coaches who were in charge of each area and later each team at game time. He'd watch some of both games, and occasionally provide input there, too. Then after the two games were over everyone gathered for about five minutes with him. He'd go over the things we learned that day and what we could work on by ourselves. Then he'd grab a few kids at random to try to score on him one-on-one. Maybe five kids, total.
You got five seconds and one shot only. And you're a kid and he's big. And quick (even with the bum knee). And smart. I don't remember more than two or three kids all season ever scoring. And if you did? $5 in cash. That was a lot back then, and he made you earn it. That was the thing with Bryan. You want something in life, you have to earn it.
He wasn't a friendly guy. He was a tough guy. But he was a genuine guy, too. If he had something to say, he said it. If you deserved praise, you got a terse "good job." If you didn't, you got an explanation as to what you needed to do differently. And you got the opportunity to try again. He never asked for anything of you for him. He only told you what you needed to do for you. He never seemed disappointed or agitated or frustrated with us kids. He just taught. If you wanted it, you learned it. If you didn't, well, you didn't. Didn't seem to be any sweat to him either way. But he worked so hard to help that deep down you just had to think he cared. I remember doing the math along the way on how much money he must be taking in. We knew what we paid, and it wasn't hard to estimate his expenses (it was easy, since the other coaches would tell us what they got paid, and the gyms he used were gyms that we knew other folks that rented, too).
He made a reasonable living, but he wasn't getting rich off this stuff. What he did do was work. And sweat. And teach. To me, anyone who is willing to sweat when they teach and do it all for a meager living must care about what they do. A lot.
Why was he all closed up? Only God knows. What I know is he helped a lot of kids be better basketball players, and as far as I know he did it very well. I'm sure he had some sort of problems in life other than what was mentioned. My idle curiosity wants to know what they are, but in a way I'm fine not knowing, too. Because I want to remember him as that tough basketball player who realized he had a gift he could share and just wanted to share it with as many kids as he could. And that's just what he did. Thanks, Bryan. You will be missed.