How One Professor Shaped My Motivation To Coach Basketball

Gosh darn has this week wreaked havoc on my nerves and for some reason, I feel that I’m not alone. As we all wait for the results of the most important election in American history, I hope all of us can find our happy place during these trying times. And while I can’t physically go to my happy place due to the Coronavirus restrictions, I can write about it. And today I’m here to tell you the story of how I became a basketball coach at the most elite private school in Washington State. 

Now before you all get riled up about me acting like I’m better than you all, I’m only the head coach of a 7th grade JV team, I also went to public school. 

Anyways, my journey started in the last class of my college career. I had already finished my major at Washington State University and I had to return for what felt like some pointless three-week class to complete my minor. 

I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do with my communications degree, it was just one of those things I felt I needed to accomplish. Anyways, I made the six-hour drive across state and returned to campus for my final weeks in snowy Pullman. 

After a weekend of drinking countless Modelo’s, I entered the class Monday morning nursing a hangover, expecting a normal mundane college course. What I was met with, however, immediately caught me off guard. 

The professor was this really old guy who went around the room, introduced himself to every student face-to-face, then shook our hand. Granted this was a class of only 15-20 people but I had been in many other classes this size and never experienced anything like this before. 

What I did know what that this guy was a little different, what I didn’t know was that he was going to change my life forever. 

At this point of my existence I was absolutely broken inside. Sure, I had just graduated college, but there was an unescapable void inside of me that I tried filling with alcohol, marijuana, and video games. 

Enter unnamed professor.

I can’t be sure if he sensed how broken I was, or if he’s just really good at his job, whatever it may be, I’ll forever be grateful that we crossed paths. 

In the first chapter of his book, he asked all of his students the question, “Who are you?” And it wasn’t the “Who are you?” in the sense of what’s your job, religion, or major. He asked who are you … really?

To the best of my understanding he wanted us to analyze ourselves deep within our soul, on a spiritual level. 

This is just a little glimpse of how different his lessons were in comparison to the normal college course. He also preached positivity, inclusiveness, and most importantly love. 

In regards to his class, I’ll leave it at that. There are no words I can put on this paper to due proper justice to the love he created in that fluorescent lit room.

As the course went on, he also asked us what we wanted to do in life. Not what our parents thought we should do, not what society deemed acceptable, and not what our major indicated was the responsible choice. 

What he really asked is, what will make your soul happy?

I had never been asked such a simple question is such a profound way. But I immediately knew the answer. 

I wanted to coach basketball! 

At that moment, it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I knew my life calling. But coinciding with every dream is reality, and the reality of my situation was that I had no experience in the field, was a high school benchwarmer, and had been away from the game I loved for ten years. 

But it didn’t matter, I was going to make it happen. 

About one year later I applied for my first coaching position as an assistant for a 4th grade girls AAU team. I got the job, and my love for the game ignited a passion inside of me that I didn’t know existed. 

Despite a bully head coach, lengthy drives in traffic, and a 1-40 record, I loved every minute I got to spend on the hardwood. 

As time progressed, I applied for a second coaching job at the aforementioned private school. After no response for months I had forgotten about the position and was grateful to be coaching those amazing girls. 

But then out of the blue, two days after my 28th birthday, I got an email that read “I apologize for the delay in replying. I still have a couple of spots open, either as an assistant or JV middle school coach.”

After doing a Carltonesque dance in my living room, I showed up for the interview and the rest is history. 

I started as an assistant at the boys 5th/6th grade levels, and the following year got my first shot at being a head coach at the 7th grade JV level (I am also an assistant for 7th grade varsity). 

For me, coaching isn’t about being the player I never was – a benchwarmer has no glory days to re-create. 

It’s about love, inclusiveness, and positivity. All the lessons I learned from Bill. 

These virtues may carry even more weight during this tumultuous time in history. 

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About Nick Bartlett 165 Articles
My Name is Nick Bartlett and I am a staff writer here at OregonSportsNews, The Broadcast Manager at SportsPac12, and I am a youth Basketball Coach at Lakeside Middle School. I’ve had my articles featured in the Seattle PI, OregonLive, and various other publications. I also have my own Podcast/YouTube Show titled “The Nick Bartlett Show.” I am from Shoreline, WA (North Seattle) and I am a graduate of the Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University. For business inquiries, you can find my contact information below. Email:, Twitter: @WordsByBartlett