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  • Reverend James Squire

Spoiled or Special

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

When I read accounts of high school, college, and professional basketball players they seem to fall into one of two categories. They are spoiled or special.

Legendary Temple Basketball Coach John Chaney had strong feelings about these two categories, and he made it rather clear that he didn’t want the spoiled ones infecting his teams with hubris and narcissistic tendencies. There is the case of one player who decided, before Christmas break and the beginning of tournament time, that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to play basketball at Temple. He went to Coach Chaney and said, “I don’t think that I want to be part of this team anymore!” I think the issue was playing time! He asked for time to think about it, and John Chaney told him that he could do just that.

Later he called his coach and said, “I have decided to come back and play for you!” Chaney’s response was a classic, “Right now you are interrupting my Christmas shopping. I don’t have time to talk with you!” That was the last conversation that the two have. That is a story that defines the no nonsense approach of a coach to a player that Chaney thought was spoiled.

I have had the good fortune to know some excellent college coaches like Jay Wright, coach of Villanova, Bruiser Flint, former coach of Drexel, and Pat Chambers, current coach of Penn State. The title of Jay Wright’s book, Attitude Is Everything, speaks to the importance of coaching student athletes who fall into both categories.

That is why when a special player such as Ross Carter who was shot and killed as he sat on a friend’s front steps this past Friday night was such a blow to read about in the press. Statistics of the killing of black people often do not tell enough of the story of a player such as Carter and how special he was. He led Simon Gratz to a City Championship. His coach was attempting to figure out the best way to assist Ross in his next step to play at the college level. They were to meet the next day.

Carter had all the makings of becoming a great player. He had dramatic dunks! He had a great shot and outstanding moves on the court. He was a defensive and shot blocking specialist. His coach, Lynard Stewart said that, “This was a good kid. His smile was amazing. His demeanor was amazing.” His positive attitude was infectious.

There is a story that defines how special Ross Carter and his coach were in their support of one another. Carter was late to a series of practices early on last season. No coach should show favoritism to a player. It destroys team morale. His coach asked him what was going on. Carter told him that he had to pick up his sisters after school. He had trouble doing that and getting to practice on time. Clearly his priority was the safety of his sisters and not his basketball career, but lateness is a problem for both the player and the attitude of the team.

Coach Stewart and he resolved the problem. He would pick up his sisters and bring them to practice where they could do their homework in a safe place. His sisters’ safety took precedence over his basketball career. That story defines both player and coach.

Ross’s mother told Coach Stewart that Ross would be buried in his number 33 Simon Gratz basketball jersey. It is a symbol of the past and an amazing future that has been cut short. It also speaks to the fact that although basketball was very important to hm, his sisters’ safety was more important.

He was a special player as special players bring an important spirit to a team because attitude is everything. It also demonstrates that he had his priorities straight.

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