A Coaching Life

A Coaching Life

A Coaching Life

A Coaching Life

Synopsis

"It's still difficult to describe the scene after the final buzzer sounded, because the moment was just so damned surreal," writes head coach Gary Blair following the conclusion of the title game of the 2011 NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament. "So many things happened that I will never forget... kissing my wife on the floor of Conseco Fieldhouse... looking toward the stands, where my grandson was... flashbulbs popping as the Aggie Band played triumphantly... our players and coaches wildly celebrating the biggest win in women's basketball history at Texas A&M... tears streaming down the faces of former players... I remember thinking that I wished I could somehow stop time."

This memory and countless others form the greatest treasure of Coach Blair's life, as he makes clear in this engaging, inspiring memoir, written with veteran sports journalist and author Rusty Burson. Indeed, as Blair says, "What I cherish the most are the memories of these players and coaches." Beyond the trophies, beyond the impressive won-lost record compiled over more than four decades of coaching, beyond even the ungrudging professional respect he has achieved among his peers in a fiercely competitive occupation, Gary Blair values the images, moments, and memories collected during a life spent doing what he loves most: coaching and mentoring young women on the basketball court.

In A Coaching Life, Coach Blair offers readers a "freeze-frame" view of a storied career. He serves up more than a few of his favorite memories with wit, grace, and humility. In the process, he invites readers to reflect on life's wins and losses and, most importantly, what both have to teach us.

Excerpt

I’ll never forget the moment in August 2011 when I first heard that the legendary Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in ncaa basketball history at that time—men’s or women’s, regardless of division—had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. the news literally sickened me, smacking me in the face like a haymaker knockout punch from Muhammad Ali in his prime. Not only was Summitt one of the most respected all-around coaches to ever live (in 2009, the Sporting News listed her as No. 11 on its list of the 50 greatest coaches of all time, regardless of the sport), but she is also a colleague and personal friend. I have an incalculable amount of admiration for her and all she accomplished as the head coach at the University of Tennessee from 1974 to 2012.

In 38 seasons as the Lady Vols’ head coach, Summitt guided Tennessee to eight national championships. As I write this today, only two coaches (the late John Wooden of UCLA’s men’s program and Geno Auriemma with the University of Connecticut’s women’s team) have won more national titles in the history of ncaa Division I basketball.

Winning eight national titles in a career is simply amazing to me. To put that into context, I’ve been a college head coach since 1985, and in the ensuing three decades, I was part of one magical, memory-making, remember-itfor-forever run to a national championship. I was 65 years old when Texas . . .

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