Under His Wing

by Ryan Krzykowski

One of the current CFC Coaching Life Groups is reading and discussing a terrific book, On Point, by former NBA Head Coach Del Harris.  In chapter four of his book, which Coach Del calls “Building Up Others is Life-Team Work”, he tells a story about Maurice Lucas.  “Luke” was an outstanding player, something of an enforcer-type, who became an NBA assistant coach after retiring.  Lucas died in 2010 after a battle with cancer.

Coach Harris presents Maurice Lucas as an example of a player who put others first, building them up.  He gave of himself for the benefit of others and the group as a whole.  Lucas was an important member of the 1977 NBA Champion Portland Trail Blazers.  In On Point, Coach Harris quotes an excerpt from an article written by Peter Vescey, paying tribute to Lucas upon his death:

Johnny Davis was 20 when the Blazers drafted him in 1976, the league’s youngest player that season.  Luke sat him down and explained the facts of NBA life.  His interest in the newcomer and persistent positive approach grab Davis to this day.  Davis reminisced, “He would’ve given me the shirt off his back.  What he did give me was confidence.  He was forever pumping me up.  He told me I was faster than anyone in the league, so to use that speed to blow by people and don’t worry about anything else.  When Dave Twardzik got hurt in the Denver play-off series and I was put into the starting lineup, he met me at the locker room door and said, ‘This is what you’ve be waiting for, Rookie.  This is going to be your coming out party!'”

Davis said he had a good game and the Blazers won.  Late in the fourth quarter, a Denver player was shooting a free throw and Luke had inside position.  Davis was on the same side with a Denver player in between them.  “Luke reached behind and tapped me, smiled and winked, as if to say, ‘I told you this would be your coming out party.’ I’ll never forget that or what he did for me.  Our team’s chemistry and camaraderie were forever.  We cared about each other.  He cared about us.  We cared about him.  His friendship was unconditional.  I texted him regularly, and a week or so ago, when he didn’t text back, I knew that couldn’t be good.”

Not every team we coach will have a mix of rookies and veterans.  Some teams are made up of girls or boys who are all the same age.  But in a high school or college program, why not provide your juniors and seniors with an example like that of Maurice Lucas, a man who went out of his way to look out for the new, young guy, and in doing so, made everyone better.