Beating the Devils Raises a Church
Beating the Devils Raises a Church
A small Texas college basketball team, Stephen F. Austin beat the Duke Blue Devils back to the gates of Cameron Stadium. The game was the backstory to the power of American humility, leadership, and the awesome power of Americans united for a worthy cause. Thanksgiving, indeed.
The last time Duke lost a non conference game at Cameron, their home court, a majority of the freshman class had yet to be born. 150 games, and almost two decades past, St. John’s was victorious over the Blue Devils. While this latest game signifies the end of an era, the real story is the “American Grit” of the coaches, and Americans generosity to a player who lost it all.
How it came to be that a relatively unknown, unranked, team from East Texas beat a national powerhouse will be analyzed for years. The “David and Goliath” narrative will be used, and rightly so. But there is more to analyze than the game. Under the surface, they have a lot in common.
Namely, their head coaches.
Duke’s Coach K is righteously humble, and a great example of “Servant Leadership.” In a post game interview he doesn’t minimize the SFA victory as the result of a “bad night” for his team, the Duke Chronicle reports,
“We were not good, and [Stephen F. Austin] made us that way,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “This isn’t just about us not showing up or whatever. They played really well. Sometimes when I’m talking about what we didn’t do, I don’t want to disrespect their performance. Their performance was outstanding and they deserve recognition for that, not that we didn’t do something. They did it to us. They made us look bad. It’s a very difficult loss, but it’s also a loss where if we would have won, we would not be deserving of winning.”
Coach K, NCAA Division I basketball’s most winning coach began the 19-20 season with a record 1,132 – 344 win – loss record. He’s coached the US Men’s Olympic teams to Gold Medals, won numerous division and national titles. His program recruits NBA worthy freshmen. He has every right to preen his feathers, and crow about how his team was just off their game. But instead he was humble and acknowledged that his team was outworked. Not only that, but if the Devils had won, their output wouldn’t have been deserving of a win.
A small college coach from central casting. A guy who seems most comfortable in an UnderArmor polo, and isn’t bothered to straighten his tie or close the top button on his collar for a National TV interview. Someone who comes off as “salt of the earth”, and with whom you actually want to share a round of beer.
His 68-38 win – loss record doesn’t have him running for the record books. SFA is his first Division I head coaching job. On his team’s win over a Division 1 dynasty program he says,
“We don’t care who plays, we don’t care who won the game… we just try to be a true team”
Until researching this post, I had never heard of Coach Keller. I had no idea that his professional and personal life had been touched by tragedy. His narrow escape from a plane crash cost the life of an Oklahoma State basketball player. One who was his cousin. ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” covers the incident with a touching tribute from the coach’s Aunt and Uncle, who mourned the loss of their son, while simultaneously rejoicing that their family wasn’t attending two funerals.
The OSU plane crash killed 10 members of their basketball team and staff. Living through that level of pain changes a person. Coach Keller seems like someone who appreciates every victory, and realizes that a win is more than the tally at the end of the game. It’s about the team, and taking care of the person beside you.
He did that. He served the needs of his player.
In his post game interview, he answered the questions and chatted about the game. But instead of endlessly highlighting himself and the victory for his program, he mentions that the game upsetting player had lost everything in hurricane Dorian. A resident of Grand Bahamas, Nathan Bain’s family home and parish school was destroyed. Then Coach Kyle Keller handed off the headset to Nathan Bain for the post game interview. He put his player ahead of himself. And after watching the headset hand off, I can’t help but think Coach Keller had this planned in advance. Win or lose, he was going to let America know that one of his players had a need for help.
Servant Leadership and humility at it’s finest.
“Nathan Bain” is a name that will forever have hero status for those who despise the Duke Blue Devils. He is the SFA senior who seized the opportunity and ran it full court to score the winning layup in overtime. As a Blue Devils fan… well, I was saddened by the outcome. But I was hella impressed that this team pulled off a victory against the Devils. Then I watched the post game court-side interviews with Coach Keller. Then I watched Nathan Bain. And then I cried.
His personal story is overwhelmingly sad, but not isolated. The Grand Bahamas was devastated by hurricane Dorian. Two months ago a GoFundMe was established by SFA to help the Bain family. The grand total of donations was under $3,000.
Following the Devils defeat, the total donations is in excess $110,000.
What sets Nathan apart is that his family’s loss impacts hundreds of children. His father is a Baptist minister who also runs the church school. Interviewed by the Associated Press,
Norris Bain said the storm left more than 10 feet of water in the family’s single-story home in Freeport, Grand Bahama, and the house was “totally gutted” with none of their possessions recoverable. The church he runs, the Tabernacle Baptist Church, had 5 feet of water inside and its affiliated K-12 school with an enrollment of about 800 had 4 feet of water and a hole in the roof caused by the Category 5 storm … I want them to know how much … we appreciate it, and how thankful we are that we’re alive … As bad as it is, it could have been a lot worse.”
Talk about gratitude. This man’s home and church are destroyed. It’s been months of recovery, and there is more to do before they get to “normal.” Yet, he’s expressing thankfulness that it wasn’t worse. This is the father of the man who openly thanked God on national TV. The man who gave an interview while on the verge of tears. His interview was markedly short of “I”, and that’s something many would do well to emulate.
The Bain family site was the second-most popular campaign Wednesday with more than 1,500 donors from all 50 states giving an average of $36.”
All 50 states, and an average of $36 dollars. I know there’s no lost love for the Blue Devils, but I am 100% certain that the majority of those donations were made in support of the family, and not in the joy of a Duke defeat.
Americans come together. We see a need and we take care of it. Everyone does their best, and even if it’s a small part, we come together as a team. We made an average of $38 into an amount in excess of $110,000.
This sort of thinking is what defines Americans. Work harder, put in the effort, earn the win, and support the person next to you. The gravitas to recognize that sometimes defeat comes from unexpected sources, and that it means you work harder and create a better outcome the next time. And there’s always a next time.
Perseverance, not resilience. America doesn’t recover back into her previous existence, she perseveres and comes back better. We acknowledge that being beaten isn’t due to a failure on our part, but a success on the part of the victor. A victory isn’t given away, it’s earned by the one who works hard enough to take it. Work harder for the next time.
What is the SFA team doing to celebrate their win over the Devils? They are feeding the homeless for Thanksgiving. It was planned before the game, and a commitment is a commitment.
— Kyle Keller (@coach_keller12) November 27, 2019
The words of Nathan Bain are something we will do well to remember, especially today.
“We have so much that the school gives us, it’s only right that we give something back.”
Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours. We have so much for which to be thankful. God Bless you, and America.
Featured Image: Pixabay License: Free Image cropped: 400×400