The search for a new job begins. I assume most stay-at-home moms of four would be petrified if their husband lost his job but when you are married to a coach you just expect it. It was the beginning of March and the coaching carousel hadn’t even begun to spin. Most teams were still playing and the hiring and firing sequence had not been launched yet. My husband’s contract did not end until the end of June so financially we had time.
The first thing on my list was to put the house on the market. Since the town was so small and there were not many houses to go around I thought I would try to sell the house “by owner”. I had never tried to sell a house “by owner” before but with the news of Derek’s contract not being renewed plastered all over the newspaper I knew I would have an instant market. People knew we would be moving. There were people driving by looking at my house before I even put the sign in the yard. My next order of business was what to do with my husband. It was weird having my husband hanging around the house all day. You become accustomed to being a single parent. The kids and I had our routine and then all of a sudden he was there – all the time. He was messing up our schedules. He was in the way. We were not used to having him there. The kids would come find me to ask a question or to get help with something when their father was standing right next to them. So, now instead of four children I have five. And I then start to wonder, “When is he going out of town because I really need to get some work done around here!”
Seriously, I felt bad for him. He looked like a fish out of water. He didn’t know what to do with himself. He didn’t have an office to go to or a staff to meet with. So, he threw his time and energy into finding a job and there was one thing that he could do – he could recruit. No matter where he ended up he would need to know what players were out there, what schools they were interested in. And because he was unemployed he did not need to comply with any recruiting regulations. He went to as many AAU, high school and junior college tournaments he could go to. Not only was it good for him to be recruiting it was good for him to make as many contacts as he could at these tournaments. He also went to as many NCAA Division I tournament games he could just to be around any possible coaches looking to hire. He brought our two oldest girls on one of his trips to the NCAA regional tournament and they still talk about how much fun they had with dad. They were used to crowds of 200 people in a small gymnasium and now they were watching the likes of Kansas, Kansas St., Wisconsin, and UNLV in a sold out arena. It is like a whole new world was opened up to them. They kept saying they wanted their dad to work at schools like that. I was thinking, “If you only knew how much your father wanted to be at a school like that and how close he had come.” He worked his butt off trying to find employment and I am sure it was a very humbling experience to have to put yourself out there like that. To me there is no shame in a man trying to find a job to support his family but I am sure he was embarrassed to go from a Division I college head coach to unemployed. As the months went by he was getting some sniffs at some major assistant jobs. He knew he was going to have to go back to being an assistant and he was all right with that. The problem is that some coaches don’t like hiring former head coaches because they think they are used to calling the shots and not used to taking orders so it could cause problems with the staff. The next few weeks would be pivotal if he was going to find a new job.
It was Final Four weekend and the coaching carousal was beginning to spin. The NCAA holds its National Convention during the Final Four. There are head coaches meetings, assistant meetings, compliance meetings, black coaches meetings and any other meetings you can think of. It is where most head coaches interview potential candidates and Derek was getting some interviews. Again, just like when he was looking for a job after his 3 month tenure in the Big Ten, I was astonished by how he was treated by fellow coaches. His first interview was with a high major Division I school. They just hired a new coach and he was looking to fill his assistant positions. He told Derek that he wanted to interview him for the job and that he was to bring a list of ten high major players that he had a connection to that he would be able to recruit right away. Derek said the coach took him out to dinner and conducted the interview over dinner. According to Derek, the interview went really well. The coach was impressed with his list of high major prospects. Derek was very excited and thought he had a good shot at the job. The coach told him that he was perfect for the job because he had everything he was looking for – great recruiter, head coaching experience. He even told him that he thought Derek was the best recruiter in the Mountain West when he was in that conference. Weeks went by with no word from the coach. It is funny how the person doing the hiring can always get a hold of you but you can never get a hold of the person doing the hiring. One day I just happened to be surfing the net which is what I do a lot when my husband is out of job. As I was surfing, I came across an article about the assistant position Derek interviewed for being filled. I called Derek and he had no idea. How do you go from “you are perfect for the job” to being ignored and then to finding on the internet that the job has been filled? What is wrong with treating a person with some dignity and respect? There are many hard working coaches out there that through some misfortune are unemployed. Many of them are just trying to get a job to support their families and most get treated like a piece of lint in a belly button. You don’t have to give my husband the job but at least have the decency to call the man and let him know that he didn’t get the job. You took the time to interview him but you can’t spare a five minute phone call.
I am tired of these head coaches that are so arrogant and like to play God. They call and get you so psyched by saying things like, “You are one of two guys” or “I want you to be an associate head coach”. They get you all pumped up and never call you again. They ignore your phone calls and text messages and then you start hearing from other sources that they offered the job to someone else. But they want to string you along in case the other guy doesn’t want the job. They keep you at bay with phrases like, “You are on the short list”, “I am in a holding pattern”, or “I am in the infant stage”. Be honest and keep me informed – I didn’t know that was such a difficult task in the hiring process. What disappoints me the most is that most of these head coaches were at some point an assistant, a director of operations, or a video guy so they should know how it feels to be out there working for peanuts or looking for a job. But, they get these head coaching jobs and all of a sudden they think their “shit doesn’t stink.” I don’t know if it is because they are so used to the students, alumni, boosters, and media kissing their ass that they think they are among a higher species but last time I checked we are all human beings. The golden rule – have you ever heard of it?
By now it was the end of May and he still didn’t have a job. I wasn’t panicked yet. I really had no doubt that he would find a job. He has head coaching experience, he had been an assistant in the Big Ten, Conference USA, and the Mountain West, and he had NBA experience. He already had three interviews at three major programs so I know he was well respected in the coaching world. With his experience and work ethic I really thought he would get a job in a major conference making more money than he was making as a head coach (most assistants in the big conferences made more than he did as a head coach). I also hoped his new job was in a warm climate and had job security so the kids could stay in one school for the next ten years. So I wanted money, location, and security . . . that’s not asking too much!! That would be like winning the lottery of college basketball. Don’t think I would place a bet in Vegas with those odds.
In the beginning of June, Dere received a call from another head coach. He told Derek he heard many good things about him and that he wanted to fly him in for an interview. He told Derek he was out of town but he would call him when he got home to set up a time. Low and behold days pass and Derek doesn’t get a phone call. Derek finally gets a hold of him and he tells Derek that he really wants to bring him on campus and that he will call later that night with his flight information. He never called back that day or ever. Derek wasn’t the one who pursued that job. That coach called him. He calls Derek, tells him all the good things he has heard about him, wants to set up an interview and then he disappears never to be heard from again. Again, I don’t understand the cruelty in the way coaches treat each other. How they play with people’s lives? Do coaches know how stressful it is for an unemployed man with four children to sit by a phone and wait to hear if you got an interview or not? Many times these coaches would say, “I will call you tomorrow” or “I will call you on Monday” or “I will call you back later today” and then days would go by with no phone call. It is like you are not even on their radar. They work on their own time and on their own terms and you are just a pawn in their game. It doesn’t matter that you have a life, a wife, kids, a mortgage, and bills. There is nothing more frustrating than having to wait at the mercy of others.
As the middle of June was approaching and still no job I did start to have a tad bit of anxiety. I started asking the questions that your mind doesn’t really want to know the answers to – “what if we don’t sell the house? What if we do sell the house but he doesn’t find a job? If he doesn’t find a job should we stay or move in with my parents? What about health insurance? What happens when we have to give back the company car? Should I go back to work? It was at this low point when Derek received two job offers. One of was at the University of Detroit Mercy where they just hired a new coach to rebuild their program and the other school was University of Arkansas Pine Bluff – they were looking to fill an assistant’s opening on its staff. Both coaches offered Derek a spot on their staff. I don’t know how Derek felt but it was nice to feel wanted again.
As nice as it was to feel wanted, it was as disheartening to realize that after 20 years of NCAA Division I coaching experience the only jobs offered to my husband were from teams in conferences smaller than the ones he worked at two decades ago. Twenty years of experience and he had to start over. But, with time running out and no options on the horizon he had to accept one of the positions. In the end he chose the University of Detroit Mercy. Remember when I said all I wanted was money, location, and security. Well, he took a $35,000 pay cut, I wouldn’t quite call the climate warm, and as far as security – I have come to realize that there is never security when you are married to a college coach. I was batting 0 for 3.