Giving back takes many forms. Marsh, who played for USC in the '60s and then, briefly, for the nascent Portland Trail Blazers, worked as an assistant coach at Utah for seven years before being hired as a Sonics TV commentator in 1981. An executive for Costco, Marsh runs a company program called Washington State Mentors, and he volunteers as the coach of Friends of Hoop. What does he get out of it? "The relationships I have with players blow me away," he says.
In 2004, when he had what was probably his best team—it included future NBA draft picks Hawes, Martell Webster and Jon Brockman as well as future McDonald's All-American Micah Downs and Stanford-bound Mitch Johnson, as well as Isaiah Thomas—Marsh learned he had Parkinson's disease. Once he told the team, he says, "Martell wouldn't let me pick up a bag again."
As Marsh tells this story, his eyes fill. "Maybe it's the medication I take," he says, "but sometimes I get a bit snivelly." A week earlier his latest team had played its final game of the season, a loss, in a tournament in Phoenix. Afterward the team went to a Sonic drive-in for dinner, and the players sang Auld Lang Syne. Then Bright said, "Coach, we have something for you." It was a thank-you card, signed by all the players and their parents.
"That, to me, was manna from heaven," says Marsh. It was, in other words, just a small thing with a gigantic impact.
Now on SI.com
To revisit classic stories about basketball in Seattle go to SI.com/vault