"I think you should keep him," Nelson said. Nelson didn't know the kid's name.
"He's a hard worker, and he'll help us practice better."
"Is this important to you?"
"All right, then."
Nelson had never requested anything like that of the coach. For that reason, and because of his abiding respect for Nelson, Martelli turned to Koefer and said, "I've decided to keep you." He never mentioned Nelson's plea on Koefer's behalf.
Against La Salle, Koefer entered the game at guard in the final minute and got an assist, his first of the year. On the sideline Nelson was grinning from ear to ear. When Koefer came off the court, the future NBA player said to the walk-on, "That was a good look, my man." Asked privately why he had made the call for Koefer, Nelson said, "A lot of dreams don't come true in life. If you can make somebody's dream come true, you should."
Martelli almost cries when he recounts what Nelson did for Koefer. Martelli's an emotional man who tries, usually successfully, to keep those emotions in check during games. He paces the sideline slowly, with hands behind his back like an altar boy, watching intently, saying little, letting Nelson & Co. and his able assistants do their jobs. On Jan. 24, however, in a conference game at St. Bonaventure, he slipped.
Late in the first half the Hawks were doing what they do, pressing, building a big fat Martelli lead. A few minutes before intermission a middle-aged woman sitting several rows behind the St. Joe's bench stood in the quiet of a timeout and said loudly, "Why are you pressing with a 25-point lead?"