PITCHIN WITH PRITCH: Age holds some benefits, too

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A lot going on again this week. Some of it not so flattering to hear, but sometimes it is difficult to deal with the truth. 

I have never thought too much about my age. One of the really good things about teaching and coaching is that every year the students I worked with were almost always the same age as the group before. 

Sophomores go to juniors, and freshman fill in the sophomore group with not much age change. Sophomores are usually all the same age. 

The people you work with don’t get older so it just makes sense that I didn’t either. Since retiring from the district, some of that thinking has changed. For example, one day standing out by the state champion pictures, I happened to be standing in front of the 1966 picture—not looking at it, but with my back to it, visiting with one of the teaching staff. 

As students walked by, one of them stopped, looked at me, looked at the picture, then at me again and then the hammer came when he asked, “Just how old are you?” Too old to be able to catch him running down the hall for sure. 

In getting the TeamMates program started, one of the things I would ask the new 6th grade class was, “Do you know who Tom Osborne is?” not even thinking that 6th graders weren’t even born when Coach Osborne coached his last game at Nebraska. 

Most of the students I think had at least heard of the name, but not much more than that. 

The other mind bender for me was visiting with one of our students about coaching basketball.  I said that when I first started as a head coach here in Grant, we had copied a lot of what John Wooden had done at UCLA. 

He looked at me and said, “Was that coach a good coach?” I told him the things that I kind of had ingrained in my mind and rattled them off—well, he won 10 national championships in 12 years. He had four perfect 30-0 years. Won seven national championships in a row from 1967 to 1973. 

The ironic thing about John Wooden is, that in today’s coaching culture, there is a chance that Coach Wooden would have never gotten the chance to win all of those championships because it took him 16 years to win the first national championship. 

Just like a lot of things today, it was different back when Wooden took over the UCLA program, which was in 1948. Not as many teams made the playoffs, and actually for a while the NIT was more important than the NCAA. 

Wooden was a great recruiter. I don’t think he would bend the rules in recruiting but there were rumors there also. 

He got a guy named Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. 

He got Lucius Allen, a high school kid from Kansas; he had Sidney Wicks and Michael Warren—all great players. 

He also got Bill Walton, who was way better as a basketball player than an announcer of basketball games. Anyway, I am getting old but I have been able to see some really good basketball players, games and coaches.

Husker Football

Nebraska made some coaches changes this past week also. Troy Walters, offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach was replaced with Matt Lubick who coached with Frost at Oregon. 

Mike Dawson, who coached at Nebraska a couple of years ago, came back after coaching in the pros with the New York Giants. 

He will coach the outside linebackers. 

Football assistants got raises, some of them pretty hefty, Coach Frost got a contract extension as I understand it, so now let’s get some Big 10 type of players and get into the thick of things.

Perks of Coaching

Sunday night I got a phone call that I can say really picked me up and made my week, month or whatever. It has been a less than fun week with being under the weather a little and staying home so I don’t infect anyone else. 

I had a player that played for me on the 1978 Nebraska Coaches Association All-Star game call me. A couple of years ago, he made contact with me through Facebook and was living in Arizona and having health problems.

He is diabetic and was in the hospital for something like nine months. Ended up losing all of his toes. That sends chills through me just typing it, but I have pictures so I know it happened. 

Anyway, he is getting along much better and decided to call me and we visited for 42 minutes. 

He remembered a lot about the 10 days we spent and the two games we played, one in North Platte and one in Lincoln and how important that time was to him in his life. 

Here he is, a 60 some year old, retired accountant, talking about things that Coach Pritchett, Coach Demsey and Coach Sell told him over 50 years ago. It was a pretty good 42 minutes.

 

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