Derek begins his fifth season. It didn’t start off well with his big man recruit deserting him but he was able to push through. He had other talented recruits plus he had most of his guys back from last year including his medical red shirt player. This was the last year of his contract and not that I really knew if I wanted to stay any longer I at least knew that I wanted his contract extended so he would have a job. So this was a pivotal year for everyone. The whole staff had a lot invested. Derek’s staff had worked hard to bring in talented recruits. They watched countless hours of film on these kids, coached these kids, kept them on track in their academics, and mentored them to be upstanding citizens. Derek wanted to win for his staff just as much as he wanted to win for himself.
Derek had just won his second exhibition game to start his fifth season. The team looked good and Derek felt confident with his talent. He was pretty happy when I last saw him that evening. I left the gym to take the kids home and put them to bed but he had to stay at the gym to look at film and get tomorrow’s practice plan together. The kids were in bed when I received a text from Derek telling me to check my e-mail because he just forwarded something to me. He had just received an e-mail from the athletic director and was somewhat taken aback by what it said. Remember, Derek just came off a win, it was only the second game and there was a lot optimism going into the season:
Nice win tonight. Your team did some nice things.
Here’s the bad news. I will NOT tolerate another season of some of your players wearing their pants half way down their ass. Right now I am so upset I can barely speak. We bought new uniforms because you said last year it was the uniforms that caused the shirts to hang out, pants down. No excuse this year as I watched Devin, Troy, Justin actually pulling their pants down during play. Don’t give any bullshit excuses. Teach them how to tie a fucking knot. . . . If you can’t find a way to get them to look decent, tell me now. I will NOT put up with this again this season. I was so pissed during the last 8 minutes. . . . . . .don’t be surprised if in the future, they don’t get a uniform.
If you want to look and act like a bunch of ghetto thugs, you are succeeding. And you wonder why people don’t support you and your program.
FIX IT. They play like they practice. It starts with practice.
I didn’t know what to say after I read that. Derek was looking for an explanation, an excuse, a reason for why he received such an e-mail. I was flabbergasted that a grown man, a professional man would write such a thing to his employee. Derek was reaching for anything. He asked me if I noticed the players pulling down their pants. I told him that I didn’t notice anything but I was there to watch a basketball game. I was not there to watch the status of their uniforms. Maybe that is what athletic directors watch during games? Something tells me there has to be more behind this e-mail but I don’t know what it could be. I also didn’t know who could be stupid enough to put what he did in writing. If Derek leaked that e-mail to the local newspaper or President of the University I am sure some legal action could have been taken but my husband is too nice of a person to do that because he knew the AD was acting on emotion. I saved that e-mail on my computer and made several photo copies just in case there was ever a time we needed to pull it out. I also taped a photocopy above my husband’s dresser so he could read it every morning before work. I don’t know if that was mean or not. I guess he could have taken it down if he wanted but he never did. I just wanted to remind him of why he goes to work every day and to continue to work hard so he can get a better job.
As for me, after I read that letter I was done. I wanted out. I know how hard Derek worked at his job. It was me and the kids who suffered from all the late nights at the office, all the weekends and evenings away for recruiting, all the time he was away from us trying to fix a program that was beyond repair. I lived with his stress. I was there when he would have to leave at 3:00 in the morning to catch a 6:00 am flight because our little town didn’t have an airport. I was home alone with the kids all day waiting for my husband to get home from a recruiting trip that should have been a two hour flight but took all day because he had to take the cheapest flight which meant two plane changes and a four hour layover. I was the one putting the kids to bed alone at 9:00 pm because that is the only time they could get into their gym. It was my bank account too that my husband took money out of to continue to buy the protein supplements that the school said they could no longer afford for the athletes. It was my account too that he took money out of to provide the team with a life skills class to benefit them for their future. They had no money in his school budget to do something like that for his team. I was the one to see his team get their ass kicked five times in one year because the AD wanted him to play five guarantee games to make money for the entire athletic department. A guarantee game is when a high major school pays a low major school to come play them. Low major schools don’t want to play these top schools because they are certain to get beat so that is why they are paid to play. They are paid $50,000 – $80,000 to play and because the probability is so high that they are going to lose they are also known as blood donors. Therefore, my husband is guaranteed to have 5 losses on his record before the season even starts. I was the one who saw him distraught after he had to fire one of the assistants because the AD didn’t want him on staff. I was the one who had to buy the Tums for his ulcers when he had to fight with “support services” just to get some support. And finally, I was the one who would have to talk him off the roof when he went to the AD for some help/advice and the AD’s response would be “do more with less” or “work with what you have”.
All the crap my husband has had to deal with over the past five years. All the resources and services you promised him he was going to get before he took the job that has yet to materialize and you write a nasty e-mail over the players’ pants! You should be thanking my husband for putting up with all this crap and praising him for bringing this program out of the gutter. Give me a break! I don’t know how I held it together for the next four months but I know every time I saw the AD I wanted to clock him. I really don’t know how Derek held it together since he had to work with the man every day but that just shows you what a strong, upstanding man he is.
The regular season was over and the team went 12-17. It was Derek’s best year. They won 10 home games which was the most home games won in 10 years. They were seeded 6th in the Summit League Tournament (in his second year they were seeded 5th which is the highest seed they ever received in that conference with those current teams). He did all this even though his best recruit reneged. By the way, that recruit did eventually get back in Division I basketball and he went to Kentucky! He would have been a huge factor.
By the end of the regular season, Derek still didn’t know if his contract was going to be renewed. Many Universities, if they want to keep the coach, will extend a coaches’ contract during the regular season because it helps with recruiting. It is hard for a coach to recruit if the kid doesn’t know if the coach is going to be there. Derek went to the AD several times about this issue and all the AD would say is “just win”. He never gave Derek a certain number of wins he was expecting or how many losses would be tolerated. “Just win.” Derek was going into the conference tournament not knowing whether he had a job or not. He had no idea if this would be his last tournament as a head coach.