The reason why we had a chance to coach them at all was because the sports lady in our school was Vassar-trained, and getting a little old and a little tired, and she didn't think she could handle five-man basketball. That was part of it, but the real reason was that Pete got along really well with anybody who had anything at all to do with basketball. He was a genius at it and exuded a fog of confidence any time he was talking basketball. He could create a kind of spell and I was thinking that he must have created one hell of a spell because we were both bachelors in that school, and I suppose that's always some kind of a threat to somebody's sense of something.
The next day before our first practice the Vassar lady said she wanted to talk to us, and I put on a clean pair of white socks and combed my hair in the locker room and then Pete and I went upstairs to meet Miss Quist. Her whole name was Harriet Blander-Quist and she had been coaching girls' athletics for 40 years and looked it. She was tall and thin and looked just like a golf club, with her hair pulled back tight, and her skirt was out of some other era. But she had some very distinct ideas about the way girls should play sports.
"They must be ladies at all times," she said.
"Naturally," Pete said.
"That is the most important facet," she said.
"Of course it is," Pete said.
"There should be a minimum of exercise that would cause excessive fatigue or perspiration."
"Certainly," Pete said.
"Who is this gentleman with you?" she said, and she was looking at me. Then I started looking at me. I'm 6'4" and have a beard and I was in shorts and dirty sneakers and a torn T shirt and I always look a little disreputable. I fight it, but there's nothing I can do about it. Peter, of course, was perfect. He was wearing the same stuff you wear when you play tennis—everything white, pure white. I was thinking about how pure he looked, and then he said that I was his assistant, and she went on talking to Peter. She never talked to me at all, just to him. It was as if I wasn't really there if she didn't think so and it was pretty obvious what she thought.
Then they were talking about how the girls were participating in athletics in order to develop grace and poise and I was thinking that poise wasn't much help under the offensive boards when you needed position. But finally they finished talking. Actually, Miss Blander-Quist finished talking and Pete finished nodding and she left and I asked Pete what was the last thing she said about losing.