How Do You Define Success?

If I asked someone “who is the most successful basketball coach of all-time?” I am sure I would get lots of answers.  Some would answer John Wooden and his 10 national championships while others may say Mike Krzyewski and his 1,100 wins.  And deservedly so I am sure I would hear Pat Summitt, Geno Auriemma, Phil Jackson, Red Auerback, and on and on.

If you search for these individuals and look at their accomplishments you will see their winning percentages, championships, awards, and the Hall of Fames they all belong to all over country.

The most successful basketball coach I have ever known is Casey “Coach P” Pohlenz. If you compare Coach P’s statistics against the coaches mentioned above he pales in comparison. Coach P never won a state championship, never won a national championship, never won 1,000 games but his success in a small town in Indiana is unmatched. Coach P won 99 games, not exactly a statistic that will have ESPN running to Richmond, Indiana to do a 30 for 30 on his legacy. I say legacy because one week ago today Coach P was found in his home, in his bed where he passed at only 43 years old. Coach P suffered a heart attack from an undetected birth defect that had never shown any symptoms.

Coach P’s passing rocked an already grieving community that dealt with the untimely passing of two high school students in the same week.  If the story concluded at that point, for years individuals would discuss Coach P with positive comments, his 99 wins, his love for his students, and his love for the amoeba defense. But that isn’t where the story ended, Coach P’s most successful accomplishment would come a few days later.

The following Monday, a celebration of life was held in the Tiernan Center in Richmond, home of the Richmond Red Devils, Coach P’s true home. Hundreds of current and former players, students, friends from his past and present, colleagues, and his family gathered to honor the man that had shaped all of their lives.

When each person spoke there wasn’t one mention about the play he called that won his 82nd game. There wasn’t one mention about the key substitution he made to help him win game 93.  For Coach P, this wasn’t his definition of success.

The passion for this man, this leader, was heard time after time. Coach P believed in them when they didn’t believe in themselves. Coach P supported individuals when others would have walked away. Coach P offered opportunities for special needs students so they could find their own voice and allow them to realize they were an important part of the community as well. 

Coach P was my next door neighbor and had become one of my best friends.  His loss has been difficult for me at times as it has been for many others.  Coach P had a true passion for coaching and the students and players that would become part of his extended family.  Sitting there Monday listening to person after person, and reflecting on my own life, I realized Coach P taught me the most valuable lesson even after he was gone. He taught me the definition of success.

Success isn’t measured by the number of wins you have in your career. Success isn’t measured by the money in your bank account. And success isn’t measured by the number of people that listen to your podcast or that follow your page. Coach P taught me success is measured by the impact you have on the people around you while we are so blessed to be here on this planet.

I am embarrassed to say I wasn’t present for even one of Coach P’s 99 wins, but I find peace knowing on that Monday afternoon, I was able to witness Coach P’s most successful accomplishment on a basketball court.