Sunday, October 30, 2016

Read Keenan Mann's introduction of Clint Bryant so he can turn you into a Jags fan like he did me 30 years ago

Keenan Mann (left); Brian Schmall (middle); William Lester (right):
The first three signees by then (1988) first year
Augusta Universtiy head coach Clint Bryant.

Clint Bryant was inducted into the Augusta City Classic Hall of Fame Friday, and the longtime Augusta University athletic director and former basketball coach was introduced at the event honoring him by former player Keenan Mann. Mann's introduction speech (posted below) gives a view into the results when coaching and being coached are done the exact right way.

Keenan's contributions to AugBball over the years are some of the very best posted at this blog. Don't forget to check out as many of his writings, which I share at the very bottom of this post, as you can. I promise they are all worth a close read. But before I turn it over to Keenan I'll give the two reasons I am posting his script from Friday's event immediately after getting my hands on it:

1) Everything Keenan writes is awesome. I know I'm repeating myself. But it bares repeating. Check out the links at the bottom. And share them with others. You'll make somebody's day.

2) Readers of AugBball know I'm a huge Augusta University hoops fan. That didn't happen by accident. 29 years ago, when I was in seventh grade, my dad started taking me to Jags games. It was Clint Bryant's first year as the school's new coach and athletic director. Keenan Mann was a freshman small forward who ran the floor, dunked on guys, blocked shots, made threes, and killed in the post. Fellow freshman Brian Schmall was the point guard and team leader who was so good beating guys off the dribble that I took everything I could figure out that he was doing and practiced it day after day with a chair as the defender in my driveway. And William Lester was a lighting quick 5'11 guard who would dunk with two hands off the stride.

Those four guys are featured in Keenan's introduction of Clint and they started my fandom of the Augusta University hoops program. Of course my devotion to the Jags is still growing three decades later thanks to men like Dip Metress, who arrived as the team's assistant coach during coach Bryant's second season, and players like Keshun Sherrill, whose senior season I can't wait to watch, beginning this Saturday at Wichita State.

It's my aim this week to share as many stories from die hard Jags fans as possible in anticipation of this weekend's season opener. Keenan is right with me in loving today's Jags. When you go see home game this season, I bet you'll see him at the scorer's table right beside the team's most loyal followers. If a guy as smart as Keenan rarely misses a chance to see Augusta University play, maybe you'll want to think twice before missing them too.

The winning tradition that we see today was born in 1988 during the conversation between "Coach B" and Keenan described in the following speech about his beloved coach. Now I will finally shut up and let you read it... Enjoy it and share it.

Keenan Mann's introducing his former coach Clint Bryant:

I don’t do this very often. I mean, I’ve spoken to a large assembled group before and I’ve worn a tuxedo before. But I’ve never spoken before such an esteemed gathering and the last time I wore a tux, which was 19 years ago, was the first time I wore a tux. That was a special day and so is this one.

So how did I come to be standing here tonight? Well I’m about to read you some things that will help me explain that. And I know reading can be bad form in speech giving, but given that it’s even worse form to stand up in front of a bunch of people and completely forget what the hell you were going to say, you’re all going have to put up with some of it from me. That wasn’t an apology, it was a warning.

In between the reading and a story or two that I’ll also relate to you, I hope to have completely answered how I came to be here tonight.

With my warning out of the way, I’d like to read the following to you:

· He was born in 1937 in Washington DC

· He played three years for Villanova University, finishing his career with 835 rebounds, which is still good enough for 11th all time

· Three years after his college playing days were over he became an assistant coach at Villanova

· After 6 years at Villanova he became an assistant at the University of Maryland where he stayed for 3 years

· Then he took his first head coaching job at Washington State University where he stayed for 11 years

· After a successful run at Washington State he moved to the University of Iowa where he became the first black head basketball coach in the school’s history.

· After three years there, he became the head coach of the USC Trojans where he remained for 8 years.

· He retired from coaching at the age of 57 after a car accident forced him to undergo a grueling and extensive rehab regimen.

· Since retiring from coaching, he has worked for Nike as the Director of International Basketball.

· During that time he has written two books on basketball (War on the Boards and The Rebounders Workshop)

· He has also done color commentary for CBS sports and Fox Sports net.

Among his coaching accomplishments are:

· 6 NCAA Tournament appearances

· 2 NIT Appearances

· 3 time Pac 10 coach of the year

· Gold medal as an assistant on the 1984 US Men’s Olympic team

· Bronze medal as an assistant on the 1988 US Men’s Olympic team

· Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee in 2015

· College Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee in 2013

That’s a partial list of Coach George Raveling’s accomplishments. And Coach Raveling was the guy originally slated make Coach Bryant’s induction speech tonight, but he fell ill earlier this week and Coach Bryant called me to ask if I would deliver a speech in his stead. I’m not sure how Coach expected me to react but, I immediately told him I was in. What I didn’t say Coach is that you could’ve even stipulated that I needed to wear yellow tights and a pink halter top while delivering my remarks and I would have still done it. But only once. Seriously, considering the resume I just read to you and my own which is quite feeble in comparison, I consider my standing here tonight in this capacity, quite an honor. Perhaps even the honor of my life.

And it’s for that reason that I’d like to pause here and say thanks to you Coach, and to Trish (who showed up for another big game tonight), and to Lauren and Kristen for considering me worthy of the task before me. I am humbled beyond my ability to convey.

Oh and I should say to Lauren and Kristen, that I’ve always viewed the two of you like little sisters. Your father became like a father to me at a critical time in my life. Looking back though I got screwed on the weekly allowance spilt. The three of us will need to talk about reparations soon, but we can “take that discussion off line”, as they say.

Tonight is about Coach Bryant.

Now for one of those stories. I’ll try to set the scene for you. It’s my senior year in the days leading up to our first game of the season. I’m a co-captain and I’m the guy who makes the speech in the players only huddle before our games. (Note this was before all the dancing and silly stuff that you see in some huddles and thank God for that). Anyway, knowing I’d need to have something to say, I’d been searching for just the right thing when I came across it in a movie that was popular at the time. The movie was really, really dumb, but this line was proof, to me at least, that there is wisdom to be found everywhere. So anyway, now it’s almost game time and we’re all assembled center court, bent over in a circle, with our arms over the shoulders of our teammates to the right and left. I talk about how we’ve been preparing all summer and pre-season for this and that its time to make it pay off and then I bring up Coach Bryant’s name. And remind everybody in the huddle of the privilege he has afforded us. We’re going to college for free. He’s seeing to it that we’re treated first class everywhere we go. All our meals paid for. Free shoes, sweat suits etc. And I tell them them we owe him and, using a direct quote from the movie, I say, “sometimes you gotta pay what you owe." Over the course of that season I varied my opening remarks, but I always ended it with the same seven word admonition. Sometimes you gotta pay what you owe. The idea was that we’d remit payment to Coach by giving 100% effort. Coach, you never knew that but each game that year we played for you. We didn’t win them all but we were all trying to pay you back.

And when you asked me a couple of days ago to do this I reached out to a couple of guys and asked them to say words tonight long distance.

 Here’s the first:

I would like to congratulate you on your accomplishment for the evening, and sorry I could not be here. I would like to say thank you. Thank you for making dreams come true. Thank you for first visiting Tallahassee when no other major schools were coming to scout me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to play college basketball. Thank you for allowing my family to see me go to college and graduate. Thank you for allowing us as kids to grow and become men and leaders in our communities. Thank you for allowing Keenan and myself to become roommates and building on a friendship that has lasted ever since. You will always be remembered from riding in the Blue Goose (Augusta’s travel station wagon) to the late night run in Santa Barbara California.

Thank you,

William Lester your 1st freshman signee for the 1988-1989 season.

And here’s another:

Coach Bryant,

As much respect as I have for you as a basketball coach, it pales in comparison to the respect that I have for you as a person. The life lessons that you taught me and my teammates, for example, the sayings that were on the practice schedule everyday and discussions about their meaning at center court that had nothing to do with basketball, I've taken with me and gone back to when dealing with different situations in life.

Over 25 years later, not a week goes by when I don't refer to you or something that you said to me and/or my teammates when I was in college. To this day, you still reach out and provide words of encouragement when I need something or am going through a rough time. Quick example, when I had some health issues a few years back, you sent me an email that I still have saved to this very day and read every so often. What you wrote in that email will never be forgotten and helped me get through what I was going through.

I'm forever in debt to you for believing in me and offering me a scholarship when nobody else did, but more importantly, for being a father figure and teaching me about life outside of basketball.

Congrats Coach B

Brian Schmall, your 2nd freshman signee for the 1988-1989 season

And one more:


Twenty-eight years ago, I walked into your office for what I suppose looking back was a recruiting visit. Lots of the details escape me now, but I remember how you grabbed me around my shoulders with those giant paws of yours and flashed that 1000-watt smile at me. You sat me down and told me you were offering me a full scholarship. Then you told me a little about yourself and what was important to you. At the top of your list was helping young men like me get college degrees so they could lead productive lives. Winning basketball games was on your list too but you were realistic. You knew we were at least a few years away from that so you prioritized “getting better” (that phrase still drives me by the way). It meant getting more talented players but it also meant working hard each day. You were so honest with me that day. You’d never seen me play but I had come highly recommended by Coach Don Brock and one of your newly hired assistant coaches, Gerald White. Still I was 6 feet 6 inches tall and about 160 pounds, soaking wet with $10 worth of quarters in each pocket so you told me I probably wouldn’t play much. You actually said I’d be a “project.” I didn’t flinch. I was happy to be getting an opportunity to play college basketball – for free. You went on to tell me some other things that day (like how fast the time would go) but I’d already heard enough. If I’d have had the presence of mind, and if the now famous movie line had already been etched in my memory, I’d have told you, “You had me at scholarship.” But it wasn’t just that, it was the that paternal aura you gave off. I felt like I’d known you all my life after about 15 minutes.

And boy did you stick to your word about me not playing much as our freshman year got under way. I was so deep on the bench in the first few games that I would use the time to catch up on homework. But I hung in there and you kept encouraging me. And 5 games into the season I had earned enough of your confidence to start my first college game – a road contest at South Carolina State University. We lost, which we did a lot that year, but I played very well and you decided as a result to keep me in the starting line up for the next four years. And I turned out to be such a good project that you put my jersey in the rafters when my playing days were done. I’ve often asked myself why and how in the hell did I end up having the career I had and today I’ll answer that question for you: Because for four years you allowed me fail on the basketball court while maintaining very high expectations. There was never any pressure. Just high expectations. It was the very definition of being put in a position to succeed.

Oh and you were right about how fast the time went. I don’t think you know or remember this but I was sitting in the locker room after my last game – still in uniform, incredulous, numb, and stunned that it was in fact all over and that it had gone so fast, when you walked in looking for me. You came straight to where I was sitting and motioned for me to stand and gave me the biggest hug I think I’ve ever had. I don’t think you noticed this, but I cried like a baby while we were hugging and did my best to hide the tears when our embraced ended. You never said a word. But in my heart I heard, “I told you how fast it was gonna all be over. I hate that I was right. I’m gonna miss working with you every day. I’m proud of you. I love you.” And the feeling was mutual.

I could go on an on about what I learned from you. The basketball stuff was important, but largely irrelevant now. You were my first role model as a young adult. I watched how you did things. I watched how you acted like you belonged in every room you entered. I watched how respectfully you talked to people who had earned your respect. I watched you take people to task (perfect strangers as well as acquaintances) who thought they could slight you without consequence. I watched how you treated the people in your charge – always with class. I watched how you dressed- always with class. I watch you care about people you didn’t have to care about. And I’m so glad I got to watch all that. The examples have all served me so well in my life.

Keenan Mann,

Your third and final freshman signee for the 1988-1989 season and the first of your signees as head coach for Augusta College to earn a college degree.

So that’s how I came to be standing here tonight. Coach Bryant called me off the bench one more time. Hopefully I’ve proven again that I was ready.

And I figured the best way to tell you about who he is would be to tell you what he did for the first three young men that he made a part of his program and his life when he moved to Augusta. I should note that all three of us graduated and are doing just fine now.

If I could huddle all the guys one more time and give one last rah-rah speech with full knowledge of just how valuable the experiences and the education would actually be in terms of the choices it made available and the doors it helped to open, I’d modify my closing line. I’d say, “guys I know I told you all those years ago that ‘sometimes you gotta pay what you owe’, but I’ve come to realize now that sometimes its impossible to repay people for the things they’ve done for you – but you should still try. And in the very least you should say thank you.

So, thank you coach Bryant, from one of the most grateful people in this room tonight.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 2016 Augusta City Classic hall of fame inductee, Mr. Clint Bryant.

Links to other AugBball posts by Keenan Mann:

A Local Basketball Legend Is Honored - Again

One of the Greatest Jags


"Walk On"

A letter to a hoop dreamer

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