It was March of 1989 and we were settled in to our usual seats at the Kansas Expo Center, seats that would become all too familiar through the years. This year, 1989, was when the Ark City basketball coaching staff and I decided that if we weren’t playing in the 5A state basketball tournament we would be watching it. We would go on the first day of the tournament, play golf in the morning if weather permitted, eat a great lunch, watch four boys games, take notes over what the qualifying state teams were doing well, tell jokes, eat peanuts in the shell, and have a great day. This became a tradition for us, one we were faithful to as long as I was coaching 5A basketball through 1999. It seems we sat in those same seats every year except 1988, 1990, 1994, and 1995. In March of those years we were blessed to win our sub-state tournament and coach courtside in Topeka. (88,90,94 Ark City, 95 Fort Scott)
In 1989 we were watching the Danny Brown-coached Fort Scott Tigers warm up at the tournament and our attention was drawn to the assistant coach. He was wearing gray slacks and a red sweater, holding a clipboard in his hand with a pencil behind his ear. His eccentricity was as undeniable as his enthusiasm; his joy to be a part of the state tournament as evident as his sweater. This man, Coach Regan, embodied passion for coaching young men and a love for the game, immediately observable to three coaches, strangers from another school
Little did I know we were watching my future assistant coach and great friend; further, an interesting relationship between Ark City and Fort Scott basketball was ahead…
1988 Ark City 5A tournament qualifier – Coach Wire
1989 Fort Scott 5A tournament qualifier – Coach Brown
1990 Ark City 5A tournament qualifier – Coach Wire
1991 Fort Scott 5A tournament qualifier – Coach Brown
1994 Ark City 5A tournament qualifier – Coach Wire
1996 Fort Scott 5A tournament qualifier – Coach Wire
The 1996 entry above is not a “typo”. After the 1995 basketball season Coach Brown accepted the principalship at Fort Scott High School and I had the opportunity to pursue a pay raise by moving to an administration position while still being able to coach basketball, a great opportunity.
Fort Scott was the first school I coached in with an established tradition in basketball and it was evident from the start. The first week in town we already had players knocking on the door, introducing themselves and asking me to unlock the gym. I had experienced such commitment at other schools in “spurts”, a year here or there, or a few players at a time, but this town was basketball “crazy”.
The culture around basketball established by Coaches Brown and Regan was solid in every way. Coming to Fort Scott to coach was like a breath of fresh air, due to kids who were entrenched in a culture of grit, hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. And when coach Regan called you at Rock or a Tiger, that’s what he meant.
Any player who donned the Fort Scott uniform has heard it, “French fry, French fry, tater tot, you’re a Tiger (high five)…You, you’re a Rock!” Coach Regan said this or something similar on a daily basis to describe a player’s heart, hustle, or effort. A good mentor would recommend to another, “Don’t call kids French fries or tater tots” but Coach had positive relationships with kids and could express himself with honesty and humor that others could not even consider. When he called you a “Tiger” or a “Rock” you wore it with pride. The culture around basketball established by Coaches Brown and Regan was solid in every way. Coming to Fort Scott to coach was like a breath of fresh air, due to kids who were entrenched in a culture of grit, hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. And when coach Regan called you at Rock or a Tiger, that’s what he meant.
One of my favorite Sunday School characters is Peter. I guess he reminds me of myself in some ways. If you think about the angry, out-of-body experiences I had as a coach at times you could see me cutting off a referee’s ear, right? Peter was the disciple most known for being quick to speak, quick to act, the “hothead” of the team. Now, most of the time these are neither acceptable nor desirable qualities but as a coach, you like the chip on the shoulder, the toughness, the grit, and the passion. And this is really what Peter was full of, passion. He was the original “Rock”.
“And I tell you that you are Peter, the rock, and upon this rock I will build my church and all the powers of hell cannot stand against it” Matthew 16:18. Later on, Peter said, “No, Jesus, YOU are the rock, the chosen, precious cornerstone and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame” I Peter 2:6 (paraphrase).
In Fort Scott basketball in the 90’s one of the greatest honors was to be called a “Rock”. As a parent, a husband, a boyfriend, girlfriend, employer, employee, a volunteer etc., anywhere other than a swimming pool, could being called a rock be considered anything other than an honor to you? And in a spiritual sense, while it’s necessary to strive to live a life worthy of being a “rock”, you don’t have to be THE rock. Christ has it covered!