pretty cool story about a kid who got cut…and it’s not michael jordan

2 Responses to “pretty cool story about a kid who got cut…and it’s not michael jordan”

  1. November 1, 2009 at 10:44 AM

    tell me we and our kids can’t learn something from this one…

    Oct. 28–Decades before St. Joseph’s University basketball coach Phil Martelli was named National Coach of the Year, he refused a spot on a high school basketball team to a boy named Johnny Custer.

    The next day, Martelli, then a 22-year-old head coach at Bishop Kendrick High School in Norristown, arrived to fi nd the teenager waiting for him on the school steps.

    Martelli expected an argument.

    “I kept thinking to myself, ‘I’m the coach. I’m the teacher. How dare this kid challenge me,’ ” Martelli recalled Tuesday while delivering a motivational talk at Holy Name High School.

    But Johnny Custer hadn’t come to argue about being cut. He wanted to ask to be the team manager.

    Surprising Martelli further, Custer didn’t flake out on the job. He was the first one to practice and the last one to leave.

    “Johnny Custer, at age 15, was one of the best teachers that I ever met,” Martelli said. “I was the coach. He was the player. I was the student, and he was the teacher.”

    Anyone at any age can, and should, teach others, Martelli told the Holy Name students during his hour-long visit.

    Martelli is entering his 15th year as head men’s basketball coach at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia.

    In 2004, he was named National Coach of the Year after guiding the Hawks to an undefeated regular season and to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Men’s Division I basketball tournament.

    Eleven former players have played professional basketball, including three in the NBA.

    Walking the aisles of the Holy Name auditorium, Martelli continued his story about Custer.

    The teenager made the junior varsity team in his junior year and the varsity as a senior, when his teammates voted him captain.

    Custer received a scholarship to play basketball in college and now is an executive for GlaxoSmithKline.

    Years later, when Custer learned that Martelli was telling his story, the two reconnected. Martelli asked his former player what had brought him back the day after being cut.

    Custer replied that it had been his dream since fourth grade to play for Bishop Kendrick, and that no one would deny him that dream.

    “A sophomore in high school taught me more than I could ever teach him,” Martelli said. “And he just taught you. He taught you about dreaming.

    “Johnny at 15 taught all of you, and he teaches me every day. Whom have you taught today?”

    Martelli urged the Holy Name students to build relationships and follow their dreams. He also assigned them homework — to thank those who have helped them along the way.

    “We can’t go through this, high school years or life itself, alone,” he said. “You’re going to be on a team. The success of a team assures the success of an individual. It is never the other way around.”

    Members of Holy Name’s parent-teacher organization had asked Martelli to speak at the school. He did so for free, saying that talks like this one were his way of thanking the people who helped him in his life.

    Alexandra E. Fowler, 17, a Holy Name senior and varsity basketball captain, was excited to see Martelli, who she called a big deal.

    “I liked how he said that even though he’s the coach and they ‘re the players, they’re the teacher and he’s the student,” she said. “I never expected a coach to say that.”

  2. 2 Anonymous
    November 2, 2009 at 11:45 AM

    Great story, and on top of it all, the coach speaks for free!

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