For the second time this year, I have lost a dear friend and coaching mentor. Coach Jim passed away Friday morning after suffering a heart attack. He was 59 and a single father of three young men that I have seen grown up over the last 13 years.
Despite coaching at different schools and never working together, Coach and I developed a strong friendship that really blossomed over the last year. He retired two years ago from football, having coached his last game against my team. We won that game 42-20 and it was the only time that I actually felt a little bad about winning.
Coach and I spent many nights sitting next to each other on bar stools, having a few beers while talking football. He was a wealth of knowledge and was never apprehensive of sharing what he knew with an opposing coach.
We were two of three coaches who are at the bar often together. We were like court jesters, making others at the bar laugh with our friendly banter that never seemed to stop. It was great fun among three single men who leaned on each other during rough times on and off the field.
There was no tougher time than when one of the three - Coach Bill - passed away in March at 47. Coach Bill worked for me in the late '90s and then went and worked for Coach Jim before he retired in 2007. After Jim's retirement, Bill worked for me in 2008.
Coach Jim and I were devistated with the loss of our friend. However, we were forced to go into survival mode as we - along with the owner of the bar - had to plan a memorial service for Bill. It was beatifully done and had more than 100 coaches from the area attend.
Ironically, it was just last Wednesday that Coach Jim and I were at the bar and briefly talked about it being the first Thanksgiving without Bill. Two days later, Coach Jim was gone as well.
I can only hope that the two of them are up there together now, looking down at me and cracking jokes at my expense. I wouldn't want it any other way.
(Here is a news report on his loss in a Los Angeles area newspaper last Saturday.)
Forever Coach Jim's spot at the bar