Get to know the person next to you that you don’t know.”

-Tom Izzo

I had heard so much about him.  So many good things. Not only as a coach but as a person.

I had seen him out on the recruiting trail during the spring and summer always talking to other coaches regardless of what it said on their polo shirts.  He was not into “big-timing.”

One summer while working Michigan State’s basketball camp I had heard a few Saginaw guys talk about him.  They all held him in high regards.

As an undergrad student at Central Michigan University I heard some alumni mention him.  They told great stories about their former coach.

I had watched him coach his team at Miami of Ohio.  His team played hard.

But, I had never met him.  Never talked to him…that is until the fall of 2010.  I saw him at a coaches clinic.  He was a guest speaker.

Charlie Coles

The clinic started at 9:00 AM.  A couple of other coaches spoke before him.  The crowd was into it.  Lots of informative stuff from Fran Fraschilla, John Kuester (who was the Detroit Pistons head coach) and then there was Kelvin Sampson an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks.  At about 1:00 PM, it was his turn to go on.  I noticed some coaches get up and leave.  The coach that I admired from afar stepped on the court, took the mic and watched the coaches walk to the front door.

“Hey, have a nice day, I’ll call your wives to let them know you are coming home!”

I laughed my ass off, so did the few that stuck around.  The guys leaving peeked over their shoulders…they were embarrassed but the coach didn’t mean to embarrass them.  He wasn’t that kind of guy.

Charlie Coles inspired me that day.

He told jokes, discussed some x’s and o’s but most of all he was “real.”

I have listened to a lot of bad coaches at clinics over the years.  I have met some phonies out there too.  Charlie Coles was as genuine as you’ll ever meet in the coaching profession.

He told of the story one summer while working a basketball camp where he put in a simple baseline out-of-bounds play.  It kept working in the games during the week. The formation was the same as well as the cuts and screens but all he did was change the “call.”  Next thing you know he said was all these coaches at camp are coming over to him asking him about BLOB’s.  He said the following summer he was invited to clinics to speak about Out-Of-Bounds-plays.  That was Charlie…

Charlie Coles passed away on Friday, he was 71.  

He was a great coach and an even better person,” said University of Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin. “Coach had the ability to make everyone smile and always wanted to help those around him. I consider myself lucky to have known him and his passing is a tremendous loss for the coaching community.”

This from Ohio State’s Thad Matta:

“Charlie Coles was one of the greatest men I have ever met.  His passion and energy for life, his family, coaching and kids was contagious for all who ever came in contact with him. I owe so much of my life to him and will miss him dearly.”

At the clinic that day Charlie offered outstanding advice on “critics.”  He also told a few stories.  He was so poised, relaxed and very down-to-earth.  The coaches who left before Charlie took the floor missed out.

ESPN’s Jon Greenberg on the MAAC Legend.

“I think the thing with him was he developed the whole person,” Jason Grunkemeyer said in a phone conversation Friday from Muncie, Ind., where he is a basketball assistant coach at Ball State. “I think that’s the thing for all of us who played for him or coached for him would be able to say. He didn’t just care what you could do as a basketball player, he really cared about what you were as an individual. If things needed to corrected, he wasn’t afraid to go there.”

From listening to people talk about Charlie he was well liked.  He was smart, enjoyed coaching and most of all was a teacher.  I do believe one of the reasons for being such a good guy was that he spent time as a high school coach.

One college coach texted me yesterday about Charlie.  “Definitely one of the all-time best.”

Someone once said, “Death reminds us how to live.”

RIP Charlie Coles…I wish I had known you better.


Coach Finamore

Twitter: @CoachFinamore