"Coaching gives one a chance to be successful as well as significant. The difference between those two is that when you die, your success comes to an end. When you are significant, you continue to help others be successful long after you are gone. Significance lasts many lifetimes. That is why people teach, why people lead, and why people coach."
-- Lou Holtz
From Wins, Losses and Lessons
There I was, standing on the sidelines of the Liberty Center basketball floor, next to the Patrick Henry bench a couple of years ago.
I was the referee. Directly in back of me was Rick Schwiebert, the Patrick Henry girls basketball coach. He had one knee on the ground and was watching the game. His team was ahead by a large margin.
You could say that my backside was blocking his view of the game, too. Then it happened ...
"Ow!" I recall saying ... after Schwiebert pinched the back of my leg.
He was smiling.
"Get out of the way," he said.
He always seemed to smile.
I wished we were able to have more of these fun and memorable moments. The news of his critical medical condition late last week stunned me; the notice on Tuesday of his death saddened me. The girls high school basketball season begins Monday with first practices throughout Ohio. A huge void has been left on the sidelines at Patrick Henry.
I got to know Rick when I was a sports writer many years ago. I don't recall all of our conversations, but two things stand out:
1. He had me record a pre-game pep talk on a cassette tape to play to his team. I don't remember what I said on that tape. I kind of hope he never played it because I'm sure it wasn't very good.
2. He set me up on a blind date ... once. It was too long ago to remember whether it was with his cousin or niece. I'm sure she regretted it after going out with a very immature college kid. But setting me up like that was something not everyone would do.
Several years later, Schwiebert and I would see each other often again, this time on the basketball floor. It was not uncommon for Rick and I to shake hands and talk before the games. He always greeted me with a smile and the phrase, "hey buddy."
Lou Holtz's quote -- ..."When you are significant, you continue to help others be successful long after you are gone." -- appears to be directed squarely at Schwiebert.
He was significant in many lives, on and off the basketball floor:
"Look into the eyes of those he touched and you'll see his soul, because that's what coaches give kids ... their heart and soul," wrote Matt Kerns, who was a basketball official in northwest Ohio before moving to the Cleveland area.
Said veteran official Tom Donovan, of Toledo: "There are a lot of people into coaching basketball for a lot of reasons, but Rick was in it for the right reasons: the kids. Not only is PH going to miss a great coach, but a true leader."
"Rick was as much of a gentleman on the floor as off. He always displayed a calm and respectful demeanor during the game. Definitely a class act who will be greatly missed," wrote Ray Hurd, a veteran official of Edon.
While word of Schwiebert's death spread quickly on Tuesday. Patrick Henry athletic director Bryan Hieber, on the job there for three years, is still trying to let it all sink in.
"I walk through the gym (during basketball season) to my office every day and there's one constant ... Rick coaching the girls. That's not going to happen anymore. I don't know how to react to that. I don't think a lot of people are going to know how to react."
"The other thing that is amazing to me is how many officials and coaches have called to find out how he was doing or to offer their condolences," Hieber said. "That speaks volumes about the guy. It's not about the wins and losses, it's about doing things the right way."
Rick Schwiebert was more than just a basketball coach. He was a leader. He was a teacher. He was a role model.
He will always remain SIGNIFICANT.