I worked as a student assistant coach with Coach at Lipscomb from 1993-98. He was a mentor and father figure to me in a difficult time in my life, and I’m so thankful for the time I had with him, Carmen, their family, and Bison Basketball.
I wasn’t able to stay as connected as I’d have liked with Coach after I graduated in 1998. I got married, started my own coaching career in Arkansas, and was focused on other things. But those of you who know me best know how close I was to Coach while at Lipscomb. So I’d call him every now and then to check in and see how things were going, and he’d always have some new idea or motivational thought to send my way. And he always asked again for my address. I don’t know if he burned it every time or thought I moved every three months. But one time I called and was just thanking him for all he’d always done for me and talking about how much I enjoyed my time with him at Lispcomb (you remember that “Say It Now” stuff he handed out every year at camp, right?), and he interrupted me and said “Well, Pat, none of us can live in the past. Life moves on, and we all have to move on and keep living.” At the time, I was a little hurt by it. But I came to realize that he wasn’t saying “never call me again, I’ve got new people to interact with.” He was just reminding me that there are always new people and new challenges and new opportunities. And he was right. It’s good to stay in touch and reminisce, but there’s always work to be done and people in arm’s reach that we can bless.
I know without a doubt that Coach loved every one of us who he coached and worked with. I know he prayed for us. I know he went the extra mile time and again to help us if we ever needed anything. I probably got to spend as much or more time with him than almost anybody during the five years I had at Lipscomb, and for those who only knew him from his public persona, just know that he was an even better man than the public might think. At home, riding in his car, in hotels at clinics, on recruiting trips, in quiet times, he was just an incredibly kind, thoughtful, humble, God-fearing man.
So if he was here now, I’m sure he’d say–among other things–to not get so focused on the past that we lose sight of the present. He’d want us to take good care of one another, honor where we’ve come from by doing the next right thing every chance we get, and passing along our blessings to the people around us.
My heart is heavy. My cheeks are wet. But I’m so grateful for Coach and for all of you who were part of Bison Basketball. I love you all.
– Patrick Barber