You can have John Calipari and his One-and-Done national title. I'll give you basketball's "Italian Stallion," Rick Pitino. And that screamer, whatever his name is, from Kansas State with the charcoal-colored hair. He's yours.
My guy is Buzz Williams.
Of all college hoops coaches, no one is cooler. I mean cool in the cool sense, not the "thinks he's cool" sense. I mean at his core, inside his capillaries cool.
Do you have any idea who I am talking about?
I'll tell you who I mean. The buzz-headed/bald-headed coach of Marquette University's men's basketball team. If this doesn't grab you, I don't know what will: On Sundays he requires his team to attend his meetings at which he talks to them about life, tells stories. My one goal in life is to be invited to one of those meetings. Buzz, can I attend just one? Promise not to ask any questions. Will soak you in in sweet silence, dude.
If this doesn't grab you, I don't know what will. He wanted so badly to be a college basketball coach that when a coach he was pursuing to hire him wouldn't call him back, he found out where the guy lived, parked his car in front of his house, and slept in it until the guy returned home.
This is the stuff of American dreams and pursuit of excellence being aspired to the right way, the cool way.
Do you know anyone in the world who pursues a prospective employer this way? Of course not. He's an original, one of those guys you will read more about as his life progresses. He takes the roads no one else will. He dares. Actions speak. Actions teach. Actions resonate.
Let me ask you something: Is Marquette the greatest university in the United States? By the standards set by U.S. News and World Report, no. It's a very good school, no doubt. But Princeton it is not, at least by the maniacally important and overrated average SAT scores of incoming freshman.
Undeterred by such conventional thinking, Buzz tells Marquette students that they go to the best college in the United States, or so I've heard. Marquette is great, he tells students. You are lucky and fortunate and deserving of being a Marquette Golden Eagle. Be grateful. Wear Marquette on your sleeve, hands and shirts. Tattoo Marquette on yourselves (I don't know if he said this, actually, but it wouldn't surprise me).These are the greatest days of your lives and we are so glad you are with us. You make Marquette great. Marquette, your school, is great.
Let me ask you something: Do you think the Italian Stallion Pitino tells Louisville students they go to the best college in America? Who does this besides Buzz among college coaches?
Why does Buzz care? He reaches beyond basketball, beyond his unit of 12, extends his heart, mind and helping hands to Marquette's entire community. When parents of students visit the campus, the administration often asks him to speak. He tells the parents of all students to whom he addresses, not just his players' parents, that if they need anything, if he can help, to contact him directly and provides his email address. He wants to help them.
Who among college basketball coaches does this? Who among college English or Sociology teachers does this?
Buzz is a blizzard of beauty.
Does it matter how many games Marquette's basketball team wins this season? To Buzz it does; he's a competitive fella. Be assured and refreshed, though, that Buzz has more in mind than just winning. His life is about more than that. How many college basketball coaches can you say this about?
As the college hoops season picks up steam, think about Buzz, treasure Buzz, read about Buzz, watch Buzz, root for Buzz. Amid all the overblown-ness of college hoops, especially signing players to college scholarships out of 9th grade and billions in TV revenues and contracts to cover the March Madness tourney, there is this guy who finds a way to make all that seem trivial. Much of college hoops is trivial, farcical, big business.
Buzz does big business in a much bigger game.