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The Daily Wildcat

 

Tim Kish should be applauded for teaching more than football

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Annie Marum
Annie Marum/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

John Wooden once said, “The coach is first of all a teacher.”

The UCLA basketball coach followed that mantra all the way to 664 career wins. He understood there was more to life than basketball.

He firmly grasped the parallels between sports’ challenges and the trials and tribulations of everyday life. At UCLA, Wooden leveraged those similarities to prepare his players for the real world beyond sports.

Nowadays, not many coaches employ Wooden’s philosophy.

College athletics has evolved into a money-driven business tainted by NCAA violations and coaching scandals. The days of teaching life lessons have come and gone, as wins, losses, revenue and recruiting are the backbone of athletic programs.

But in his six games as Arizona’s interim head coach, Tim Kish proved that Wooden’s philosophy still exists.

Kish is no Wooden. He has three career wins as a head coach and may never lead a Division I program ever again.

But Kish taught his players about what they’ll be facing when they step outside of their beloved university. Kish allowed them to see what it’s like to deal with real life’s curveballs.

He used Mike Stoops’ departure and Arizona’s 1-6 start as a teaching moment.

“Adversity introduces a man to himself,” Kish told his players after Stoops was let go.

That quote and Kish’s ability to relate the situation to real life helped unite 100 individuals that he described as “confused, distraught and unsure” seven weeks ago.

The 57-year-old West Point grad may not have known one thing about offense, and he may not have coached the Wildcats defense up to its potential, but Kish knew how to teach.

He continually referred to “the lesson of battling adversity” in his press conferences. As the season progressed, he’d say the lesson was almost fully learned.

After the Wildcats erased a 27-17 fourth-quarter deficit against ASU to bring the territorial cup back to Tucson, and followed that up with a win over Louisiana-Lafayette, that lesson came full circle.

“It has never been about how many Ws showed up in the second half, how many Ls showed up in the second half,” Kish said after the ULL victory. “That wasn’t the plan.”

The plan was to unite Arizona’s players in a time of need. The plan was to better prepare them for life’s challenges.

Arizona’s players will certainly remember their victory over ASU. But what’s more impactful than a simple win is how they overcame obstacles to get to the finish line.

Most of these players will never play football again. They will never use the techniques they learned in college. But they will always recall on that season in 2011 when they battled adversity and came out on top.

“They’re going to be prepared for some adversity down the road and to me we didn’t protect them. We prepared them and that’s what this is all about,” Kish said.

Although he won’t admit it, the team has Kish to thank for that.

Tim Kish wasn’t an Xs and Os guy. He’s not about churning out player after player to the NFL.

Tim Kish stood for more than just football. He brought his son Michael into every press conference, introducing him to the media every single time.

He had his former Army player and war veteran, Col. Greg Gadson, who lost both of his legs in battle, come speak to his team every season.

Tim Kish was more than just a coach. Like Wooden, he understood there’s more to life than football.

He’ll be forgotten soon. Rich Rodriguez will make Arizona football his own. People won’t remember that interim coach who bridged the gap between the Stoops Era and the RichRod Era.

But when these players are laid off from a job, face an illness or lose a family member, they’ll remember what Kish taught them during that 2011 season.

Somewhere, John Wooden is proud, because Tim Kish embodies what college athletics is supposed to be all about. And because of that, he should never be forgotten for what he did at Arizona.

— Mike Schmitz is a marketing senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu

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