sweater, Kiddo!" he calls to the freshman equipment manager. He smooths his
hair and checks his assistant coaches' clothes to make sure they're wearing
nothing they've worn on nights the Jayhawks have lost. "Hey, R.C.," he
says to graduate assistant R.C. Buford, "no paisley ties, right?"
autographs, he limps toward the locker room; he keeps postponing needed surgery
on his left hip. "Hey, Eugene, you goin' to class?" he asks, putting
his arm around a student with a difficult family life for whom Brown leaves
locker room, there appears one of his UCLA kids, Rod Foster, a pro now with
Phoenix, who has made the hour's drive from Kansas City to see coach Brown.
Brown's eyes light up and he jokes with Foster, but then, as Foster turns to
find his seat, Brown clutches him by the arm and pulls him back, a different
look on his face. "Rod," he says. "I'm really happy you
He thinks of Dean
Smith, and the players who come back to show their love for him every year, and
it begins to settle into him how much he aches for that, how he can't keep
becoming fathers to them and then leaving them, how all the caring you do in
your life only comes back to you if you stay still and let it....
But now it's
time, and the little wanderer is following his newest kids out to represent the
school that has appointed just six coaches in 87 years, where James Naismith
came to coach after he invented basketball in Springfield, Mass. and Phog Allen
spent 39 years improving it, the alma mater of Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith, the
shrine of tradition and roots. As his lucky cordovan loafers hit the hardwood
the trumpets go crazy and the pretty cheerleaders go hurtling through the air,
and the handshakes and smiles keep coming out of the blur at him, voices
calling, "Good luck, Coach! Go get 'em!", and now the student section
spots him and begins to chant, "Lar-eee, LAR-EEE, LAR-EEE...."
He looks up and
smiles. It would always be like this, wouldn't it?