I drove home thinking that Scott Corey does a very funny impersonation of Erskine athletic director Doran Stout.
I also drove home thinking that in some ways, I should be more like Scott Corey.
Corey has coached girls basketball at Erskine Academy the last 25 seasons — 6 seasons with the JV, and the last 19 with the varsity. He told me recently that he had resigned, so the reporter in me wanted to do a story. For that, I sat down with him and his wife.
The thing about Scott Corey is that he has a way of being kind and funny, while always being willing to talk. There was one time where he thought he was rude to me when I interviewed him after a frustrating loss. He hadn’t been rude, or anything close to rude, but he wrote me an e-mail the next morning apologizing, and thanking me for the coverage.
I enjoy somewhere between 98 and 99 percent of the coaches I deal with in this job. Corey was always one of my favorites to talk to, because he was so firm in his belief that athletics are just a small part of the bigger picture.
“You see too many people leaving the gym every night all pissed off about something,” Corey said. “Everybody’s angry. No one seems to be relishing the moment, or the opportunity, to watch high school basketball.
Corey had reason to feel grateful as a coach. His record wasn’t great — he readily admits it’s under .500 for his career — but he had players who worked hard and respected him, and an administration that supported him.
“I’m leaving with no negatives,” Corey said. “Our administration, to a man — there’s four of them in our building — each asked me when I told them I was resigning, â€˜Did you take crap that we need to be dealing with?’ I said, â€˜Not at all. I have nothing negative to say at all. I am leaving content that it’s time for me to go.'”
But how many people do you know who look at what they should be grateful for and take it for granted, and complain about how things aren’t better? I’m extraordinarily lucky, and I do it more than I should. We all do.
“It’s been hard to be open about my relationship with Christ, because I am still human,” Corey said. “I’m still not perfect, and the kids I just got done coaching would tell you that.”
Corey sometimes talks about his wife, Robin, as though she’s an assistant coach, saying things like, “When we got the job at Erskine…” When talking about her impact, he tells a story from before I met him.
“It was the 97-98 season. We were going to be good. It was opening night,” he said. “We went to Mt. View High School and got blistered. I was so stinkin’ angry. I didn’t speak all the way on the bus ride home. I got in my truck and drove home. I walk in, put my stuff down, walk down to the bedroom, brush my teeth, go to bed. Don’t say a word to anybody. Sulking all the next morning.
“I just looked at her and said, â€˜I don’t know that I can coach at this level,’ and she said, â€˜If that’s the way you’re going to behave every time you lose, you’re probably right.’ Then she said, â€˜You wouldn’t let your players act like that. Why are you?’ She turned around, walked out of the room. I never forgot that.”
Corey had to remember where athletics were on his overall priority list, and that’s a good lesson. Why are kids playing on a travel softball team, the day before their high school team has a playoff game? Why can I go to games and sometimes hear adults heckling teenagers, or read the same kind of thing online?
In my job, I’m guilty of this as well. I pick a basketball player of the year, not a “team player of the year.” The more wins a team on beat has, the more times I’m likely to cover them.
Maybe Corey’s teams would have won more if he emphasized winning and basketball over everything else. But maybe if more people thought like him, we wouldn’t have parents harassing coaches when their teams don’t get as far in the playoffs as expected.
Scott Corey won’t get into any basketball Hall of Fame. He won’t have a court named after him, and no one will pop champagne corks after passing his win total. But as I see him, he’s a good person, and he tries to make people’s lives better. We all could do a lot worse.
“This is morbid,” Corey said, “but kids come back to your funeral, I don’t want them remembering, â€˜Hey, remember this game? Remember that game?’ I want them remembering the values that we want to encourage in them to be fine young women.”
I’ll remember Scott Corey for reminding me of that from time to time.
And also for that Doran Stout impression.