Who’s the Coach Here?

Years ago, my son Josh and I attended the Men’s NCAA Basketball Regional tournament on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

The Vanderbilt arena is one of the oldest in the country, and the teams sit on each end of the court. We had seats about six rows up from where the University of Kentucky team sat, coached by Rick Pitino.

That year UK won most of their games by a great margin. A tradition that developed when UK got substantially far ahead that season was that the fans would start chanting, “Send in Svoboda, send in Svoboda.”  Todd Svoboda, basically a practice player, was always the last player to enter a game. When they started shouting his name, the fans were in essence saying, “The game is over—we’ve won!” 

At this game, UK was ahead of their opponent by 20 points or more and the crowd began chanting for Svoboda.

Behind us a row up and to the right was perhaps the most avid UK fan I have ever witnessed. He wore UK’s blue and white in every possible form—blue sweat suit and cap, Wildcat logos everywhere, even down to a wristband. He had an irritating shout, and he cheered wildly throughout the game.

With about five minutes left in the game, Pitino was pacing as he typically did. There was action on the floor as this fan shouted over and over, “Send in Svoboda, Coach! Send in Svoboda!” 

Suddenly Pitino whirled around, pointed to the fan, and said, “I coach, you cheer.” He then turned his attention back to the action on the court. Amazingly, Pitino was coaching, but he was also acutely aware of his surroundings. He did not miss anything.

We too often are oblivious to what is going on around us. We gain more from our experiences when we pay attention.

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