OPINION COLUMNS

One great coach makes all the difference

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, May 21, 2016
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I went to a funeral this week for Mike Curran, a former coach at Alvord High School and one of my dad’s best friends.

My chest still tightens thinking about it. The place was packed.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

My memories of him are a little different than many who attended the funeral because I never had the privilege of playing for him. He came to Alvord in 1979 but left just before my eighth grade year.

He and his wife, Betty, who taught homemaking, were among a group of young teachers that came to Alvord ISD in the late ’70s and saw the district through the ’80s. My parents, also in that group, became friends with the Currans during this time, fostering a friendship that has lasted 40 years and counting, much of it based in bass fishing – at least for Mike and my dad.

Because of this, most of my Coach Curran memories center around Possum Kingdom lake, sunburns and fishing reports, not basketball.

But that doesn’t diminish my respect for what he accomplished on the court and in the classroom. I know what he meant to his players – boys and girls. He was a practical joker with a big heart, but he’d shoot straight, too. He didn’t mince words, and I have no doubt he told you what you needed to hear, not what you wanted.

His players trusted him and were willing to do whatever he asked. In fact, there is no better example of this than a story shared at the funeral by Sharesa Clement Driskill, a 1987 graduate of Alvord High School.

Sharesa recalled a game with their rivals, and it was close. In the final seconds, the opposing team scored, leading the Lady Bulldogs to intentionally foul in an effort to stop the clock.

Sharesa said they “were fouling all over the place … obvious fouls,” but the referees refused to blow their whistles.

Coach Curran called time out. He had a plan.

“Clement, when they throw the ball in, I want you to jump on No. 42’s back, wrap your arms around her neck and don’t let go ’til I tell you to,” he said.

Sharesa gulped.

“You want me to jump on her back, wrap my arms around her neck and not let go?” she asked, hoping she’d misunderstood.

“Yep. They’ll have to call a foul then.”

Sure enough, the ball was thrown inbounds to No. 42. Sharesa ran up behind her and jumped onto her back, holding on tight.

“Well, No. 42 didn’t take too kindly to this,” Sharesa recalled. The opposing player began trying to throw her off, and like a bull rider, Sharesa held on tight, legs flailing to the left and then the right.

The referees began violently blowing their whistles and yelling for Sharesa to get off.

But she held on tighter.

Finally, a ref got in Sharesa’s face blowing his whistle and yelling for her to get off to which she replied she couldn’t, not ’til her coach told her to.

That’s just the kind of coach he was. His players performed without question.

And the thing is: Sharesa wasn’t the only former player to share that message. Graduates of Bryson and Graford also shared stories of playing for Coach Curran and what struck me was they all carried the same theme.

Everyone had different funny stories and personal experiences to share, but they all – different players, from different towns and different decades – recalled him being a positive influence and a mentor who shaped their lives.

He was consistent all those years, never giving up and always maintaining his focus on the kids. That’s rare these days. He was beloved on the basketball court, not to mention in the bass boat.

He will be missed.

Kristen Tribe is editor of the Messenger.

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