In my first year of teaching, my school wanted to begin a boys and girls varsity volleyball program. My best friend and I, who
played together at Rutgers, were excited to begin coaching the boys team. In addition to the regular and extensive x’s and o’s preparation we did for the season, perhaps the most important preparation came by religiously attending high school basketball games. I remember we would sit on the first row of the bleachers directly behind the team so that we could watch the coach and how he handled his players. Bo Henning became a good friend of ours and a true mentor. The signature memory for me was in the fourth quarter of a particularly intense game. Bo called a timeout, and the players rushed over, exhausted and drenched, eagerly waiting the guidance of their coach. Bo instead asked one of his players, “What are you seeing out there?” And then to another, “What do we need to do?” “Do we need to make any adjustments?” One or two more questions and then he sent the team, confident that they were the experts, back out on the floor. Bo changed boys into men each day he worked with them, with each interaction and taking advantage of every opportunity.
I was reminded of this when I listened to Coleman Adler and Bobby Lane speak about our own Coach Tuohy. We recently honored the 50th anniversary of “Skeets” arrival at Newman. There was very little talk about x’s and o’s. The people I spoke with talked about inspiration, high expectations, belief in kids, relentless pursuit of excellence, and of course character. Coach Tuohy had more than a significant impact on people that packed the gymnasium that bears his name. All-Americans, starters, reserves, managers, and even students who did not play for him told me the impactful stories of how he changed their life.
Unfortunately I never had the honor of meeting Coach Tuohy. I have been fortunate however to spend a lot of time with Coach Reginelli, and I have the privilege of working side by side with Joanne Skertich and Billy Fitzgerald every day. There is something about athletics that takes us all to another level. I count myself among the privileged who have been changed for the better by a legendary coach. You can read the comments I made at the Tuohy celebration here. Include are excerpts from various letters sent to the hall of fame petitioning them to induct Coach Tuohy.
My favorite anecdote was about the famous saying, “For when the One Great Scorer comes, / To write against your name, / He marks – not that you won or lost – / But how you played the Game.”
Coach Tuohy hung that quote in the visitor’s locker room. It seems the best ones can still focus on winning without losing sight of the real goal. The memory of coach Tuohy, his humor, and his inspiration will echo throughout these hallowed halls forever.