I saw the Chief this past summer at the Melrose Country Club in Cheltenham, Pa. I hadn't seen him in several years. He is 83 and still full of life. As we worked our way through bagels buried in cream cheese, I was happy to see that all the compassion and dignity I had long associated with the Chief had been retained. "If you don't have anything good to say about someone, don't say anything," he instructed me, as if I were still one of his players. I wasn't surprised at the tone. His philosophy had always been simple and direct. What more was there to life than getting a scholarship, going to class, playing the game, having religion, getting a job, putting money in the bank and going home to your family? That's all there was. That's the way he felt. That's the way he was and is.
When I left him last summer, I sat in my car for a moment and reflected on the years when I had played for the Chief. Jack Kerouac had tantalized me back then, and Jack Kennedy's assassination had touched us all deeply. The Chief had opened the doors to dusty old South Hall and had led a little guard and a bunch of others to a championship and to the fulfillment of some basketball dreams. He had opened other doors as well. I guess I thank him most for getting me a date with the beauty behind the counter in the Broad Tower.
I married her.
B.G. Kelley, a free-lance writer, lives in Philadelphia. This is his first piece for SI.