The young aspiring basketball player would be decked out in a hooded sweatshirt on cool days. Some days it would be UK blue and others Boston Celtic green. As the boy played his mythical games of Trigg County vs. Louisville Male and UK vs. UCLA, he kept his eyes on the stop sign by Sizemore’s Welding on Lafayette Street.
The boy was looking for a 1954 blue and white Chevrolet Power Glide automobile. It was one of the first automatic cars Chevy ever made.
You see, the boy knew that the coach of the Trigg County Wildcats high school basketball team drove that very car. The boy also knew that the coach often came through that particular stop sign on his way home.
The coach would come off Main Street, come to the stop sign, go down Wharton and take a left on Third Street to get to his house at Third and Midway. This route would cause the coach to come to a complete stop and turn directly by the house with the boy practicing his shooting.
The young boy wanted so badly for the coach to know how dedicated he was to becoming a basketball player. The coach would always wave to the boy, and more often than not he would even roll the window down and make some positive cheerful comment. A couple of times the coach even pulled over, got out and rebounded a few shots for the boy.
This meant the world to that little boy. I know all of this for a fact because I was that little boy.
The coach was Jim Wallace.
There was something, however, that I didn’t know at the time. I did not know that the coach would impact my life in ways far beyond basketball.
Coach Wallace would go on to fill many roles in my life. First, still in the late 1960s, he was my Little League Basketball all-star coach. Coach took several of us to Paris, Kentucky for an overnight trip. As 9 and 10 year olds, we played Hazard in the state Little League tournament. It was there that I guarded a 10-year-old mountain kid form Hazard who sported a full mustache – 10 years old my foot!
Move forward to the 70s and Jim Wallace really became prominent in my life. He served as my Sunday School teacher, as well as Algebra I and II teacher. He also served as my cross country and basketball coach. More than anything, he served as a role model as to how to live life. I was very fortunate to have my coach in that role, along with my tremendous parents.
Time travel forward to the 80s and Coach Wallace filled even more roles in my life. After a year in college at Western Kentucky, I decided to follow my dream of playing college basketball. Coach Wallace wrote letters for me, and I tried out at a few schools, mostly in Tennessee. I eventually settled on Belmont University in Nashville.
After playing in a summer league with Belmont and participating in three months of practice, Belmont’s coach released me from the team. His decision was pretty much just. Nearly all of the players there were more talented.
It was then that I faced a crossroads in life. I consulted Coach Wallace for career advice. I knew that I wanted to spend a life working with young people teaching and coaching. At that point, my coach became my career counselor and mentor. With Coach’s advice, I transferred back to Western and completed a double major and a minor to give me more flexibility to be hired as a teacher.
Later in the 80s, Coach Wallace took another position in my life. He became my boss. He was the middle school principal, and I was one of his teachers. It was at about this time that he served as one of the groomsmen in my wedding
During the 80s, I also took the job as head girls basketball coach. In the mid-80s, Coach Wallace had the role of being the parent of one of my players. In my first year as a head coach, I had the pleasure of coaching Wallace’s daughter Ginger. She ended up being named All-State and became the only Trigg boy or girl to ever make the Kentucky All-State team.
Coach Wallace took on the role of mentor again in the summer of 1992 as I pondered the offer of taking the boys basketball-coaching job. In the mid 90s, Coach Wallace was again the parent of one of my players. This time it was his son Ryan, who was on my boys team. Eventually, Wallace became my top-ranking school boss as he became superintendent of Trigg schools.
Throughout the decade of the 90’s and into the 2000’s, Wallace took on a somewhat surprising role. He bestowed a great honor on me by serving as one of my assistant coaches from time to time.
This was all just background information. Next week, I will discuss the good stuff, the most valuable role that Coach Wallace has played in my life. I will also relate a few of the life lessons that he taught me. Expect a couple of stories and quotes as well.
OT: Next week, Coach for Life, Part 2
Double OT: Coming soon Homecoming Nightmare
Triple OT: Also coming soon in a column near you … A Valentine Special Column “Wildcat Love”
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
(Mike Wright is the head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to email@example.com.)