Since I retired, I have to find something to fill up my day (because not enough of you are purchasing the greatest baby gift of all time (seriously - check out CuteBabyNameGifts.com - if you think I’m joking). So, until more people come to their senses and buy our company’s professionally done, unique, personalized artwork, my latest venture is . . . to write another book, a sequel of my first (and only) one, Life’s A Joke. This one, however, will be an eBook. It will also be filled with funny stories that happened to me (or at least with me involved) - either those that occurred after the first book was published or, like today’s blog, some I forgot to include. I made a few changes to the original post of the 5/10/11 to improve, or embellish, its message.
One year during the early-mid ’80s, when I was a member the University of Tennessee basketball staff, I attended the Five-Star camp at Robert Morris College. In between sessions, one of our other assistants and I went to the nearby Denny’s for lunch.
As with nearly all college coaches, we were in our identifiable gear - in this case, orange Sandknit shorts and a UT golf shirt. Probably because of our attire, a guy in his early 20s approached us, said he was from West Virginia (Buckhannon, WV to be exact) and wanted to know if we’d mind hearing about his idea for a new scouting service. He had planned on calling it the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.
Naturally, I wanted to help out this young man from (the good people from Buckhannon will have to excuse me but I have been there) “the sticks.” First, I made a suggestion to him that he change the name of his publication. There was a company, I told him (not at all trying, but certainly sounding as condescending as possible) that was founded on January 25, 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports by Bill Bowerman who had been the track & field coach at the University of Oregon (I knew about this because I’d been a graduate assistant at UO in 1975-76) and one of his former runners, a guy named Phil Knight. Of course, that company officially became Nike, Inc. on May 30, 1971. Certainly, he didn’t want a name so close to avoid confusion.
The look on his face told me nothing I’d say was going to squash his enthusiasm - for his project or his title. Undaunted, my guidance continued (due to my abundance of wisdom). After all, I was in my early 30s and who knew more than I did? Of course, it never occurred to me that he might have been a card carrying member of the “don’t trust anybody over 30″ club. No worries, there was a young man who was in desperate need of my mentoring.
As far as those publications were concerned, at that time there were more than enough of them. Honestly, though most colleges did subscribe (the cost was not prohibitive, at least not to major universities), it wasn’t so much that we needed them to find prospects as much as we couldn’t afford to upset the people who were publishing them. To not buy one might risk incurring the wrath of the writer which could be quite harmful to recruiting efforts, especially if the authors were actually close to the prospect we were recruiting. Truth be told, I’m not sure there was ever a recruit uncovered by one of these touts who wasn’t on each of their competitors’ lists - and if there was, that new budding superstar would be in the rival’s next issue.
Since the market was so flooded, my sage advice was simple. “What’s the reason for your venture?” I asked him. “Are you doing this to join the world of college hoops or is your goal to make money? If it’s to be another Howard Garfinkel, Dave Bones, Bill Cronauer or Clark Francis, I’m not sure how much of a dent you can make into that market. But, if you want to make some big money, my suggestion would be to start a service for girls.” Title IX had been passed in 1972 but it wasn’t until the ’80s that colleges started taking it seriously. (For many, not seriously enough).
Because I was a coach from a school as prominent as Tennessee, my advice was pure gold. At least I thought it was. Why? Although Pat Summitt had yet to win the first of her six national championships, UT was still one of the major powers in women’s basketball, a fixture in the women’s Final Four. I spoke with a great deal of conviction. The guy listened but I could tell he wasn’t the least bit interested in my pearls and would soon be off to follow his dream.
As is the case in so many of these stories, the guy turned out to be a “someone” who would eventually realize his dream (something, sadly, I never did). He is none other than Chris Wallace, currently the general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies.
He’s recognized as one of the top NBA executives - and I’m blogging. The moral of this story is, to paraphrase Linus Pauling:
“The best way to get a good idea is to listen to a lot of ideas - and throw out the bad ones.”