I love you, Coach, but you were wrong. At least one time in your life, you did not have the predetermined answer to your own question. When you approached me that day, in that sweaty high school gym, and mandated, “You really don’t want to coach, do you?” “Barb could really use your assistance in the front office.”, you were wrong. You did make me think, however, and reflect, and prioritize, just like you demanded of all you players…and I went; and I listened, and learned. And I literally would not be who I am today, 25 years worth of youth coaching later, without that inquisition, and opportunity. That and, because of our discussion, you literally turned me into what I am today…The Bull.
It’s funny to think about now, how one conversation, or coronation (I felt like I was being knighted), lead me to an alter ego, or identity, by which I’ve been recognized for over two decades: Bull Deuschle. There are some people who couldn’t even tell you my real name, all because of that encounter.
To you, pop culture was the equivalent of winning a free Coke playing the bottle cap game, i.e-it didn’t exist. When you approached me that day, you sounded more like Chris Farley in the middle of an SNL skit when you asked, “Have you ever heard of that movie, Bull Durham? You should have been in that movie instead of working at one of my camps, because you always have a baseball hat on.”
“I used to play baseball. In fact, I was probably a better baseball player than a basketball player, but they told me I had no arm so I started taking basketball more seriously.”
“So, at 6 foot nothing, and slower than a snail in a puddle of glue, here I am. Good choice, huh?”
“You’re probably left handed too, aren’t you? Lefties are all screwed up. They can’t even wear their hats straight. Look at you. It’s true. Well, are you a lefty, or not?”
“I knew it; figures.”
“Go do something positive, that you’ll probably forget but somebody else never will, Bull.”
Here endeth the lesson, and I am reborn…
My Coach’s personality was as complex as DNA sampling in the O.J. Trial, and his practices were Armageddon; like a sort of schizophrenic church camp. There were the blood vessel-in-the-forehead-bursting-aneurysm-waiting-to-happen diatribes that could be triggered by something as simple as the weather, and there were the quiet, sincere teaching moments, that could be affected by a child who was struggling, or a member of the extended family who had passed. Both were amazing to behold…from the outside.
I couldn’t imagine being the target in one of his practices; or, being his player, for that matter. I received more than one eyebrow raising glare, just for being me, or breathing at the wrong time. My Coach was tough. Impossible, at times, because he demanded absolute effort and perfection. There were moments he made Herb Brooks’, ‘I play for the United States of America’ after practice meltdown, look like the opening monologue at a Boy Scout convention. That’s what I loved about him, and made me want to be around him; you didn’t cut corners, you always gave more of yourself than you thought possible, and even though you might hate practicing for him, you would kill to play for him. I, unfortunately, just wasn’t good enough, even though I tried my hardest to prove I was, especially when he wasn’t watching.
My Coach had an innate sense about these things-realizing when a little something extra toward an individual might bring about a desired result, either for his team, or the person affected. Such was the case for me, on more than one occasion.
One day in practice, at a point where we were winding down, and he was in a ‘fun’ mood, My Coach had me come out onto the floor and post up our perennial All-America, all-time collegiate scoring champion, for what he termed, ‘proper post defense and positioning’, but was little more than my time to spend on the floor with the guys, against a player that, even though he had a vertical of approximately 12 inches, should probably have swatted every attempt I made at the goal. And he fed me the ball, over and over; and I scored, over and over. And he kept feeding me the ball, until the practice was focused solely on that exchange, and until he could tell I was near death..and he stopped. Then he brought it in, stacked it up and said, “Now, that’s how we don’t want to defend in the post, huh Hutch?” “Good work, Bull.” And that was it. Never was another word uttered, and I never participated in anything other than a supporting role in practice, again. That was the genius of the man. He knew when enough was enough and he cared…about all of us.
As much as My Coach demanded excellence, I never heard him swear. Well, once. But, even then, the incident was so benign, he made it sound as if he were giving a lesson on one of the 8 wonders of the world. This is why he was so mesmerizing, so captivating and endearing. You could get berated, dressed down, torn to shreds and, in the end, you felt more like you had let down your father, than angry about the incident; at least 75% of the time. Why? Because you knew, above all else, he truly loved you and cared about your well being and improvement…as a person, as well as a player.
In all of this, I can’t imagine how his family-Carmen, Jerry, Brooke and Brittany coped with the difficulty of sharing their Coach with hundreds of other brothers and sisters, and thousands of aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, but I can tell you this; he loved his family more than all of the other stuff, and I know that because of the strength of his character, and character doesn’t lie. Perhaps one day, if they haven’t already done so, they too can reflect on the relationships they had with their husband and father, and see that some people are just born to serve others in a larger capacity than you and I. Thank God for those people.
I know they sacrificed many things for their father’s relentless pursuit of perfection in life and sport, but man what a legacy to leave. And it’s not about living up to something unattainable, it’s about living with purpose and reaching others, by any means necessary.
I’ve seen the outpouring of support, all of the encouraging words and messages, and one thing is constant and true; as much as you may have hated losing to his teams, or enjoyed beating them, in the end we all stand with him…Our Coach. We love you, Coach Meyer.
Rest in Peace,
– Scott ‘Bull’ Deuschle