By William Hetrick
Coaches have banquets. It has become a time-honored tradition with nearly all sports at all schools.
Athletes get awards, gifts, and accolades. I suppose it’s a nice way to wrap up the season.
The coach gets a gift and thanks from the booster club, the season ends, and life goes on. But not always.
Greg Molnar retired as boys basketball coach at Saegertown High School at the close of this past season, a season that saw him register his 100th win, one of only four coaches in our school’s history to achieve that feat. Longevity.
He spent a decade and some change coaching our boys. He’s coached pretty much consistently since his first gig in 1984.
It’s not easy sticking with something so long, especially in today’s environment where your credibility is measured in the win-loss column, and you have twenty or more “assistant coaches” in the stands at every game.
Coach Molnar stuck it out–through losing seasons, some good ones despite his record, and through winning seasons, ones he felt could have been better, I’m sure. It’s the way of the true coach.
You can always do better, get better. Usually, you remember the close losses more than the dominant wins. The kids more than the outcome. And that is why I’m telling you about Greg Molnar.
Sure, he teaches next door to me in the English department at school. Yes, we’ve had discussions about coaching as we’ve been doing it, though in different sports, for a long time.
We both see the value in sport as a way to see to the core of what kids are capable of doing. We both see how character is built one drill at a time.
Coaches come and go. It’s the way of it, the way it’s supposed to be, in fact. When you leave, the slow ebb of time washes away your achievements, your records, even your legacy.
The full body of your day in the sun becomes a shadow fading into the distance. But I would be remiss if I didn’t say some things of value about our coach.
I saw him take a technical foul at Iroquois so a unique athlete on their team could make a basket.
It was one of the most selfless and thoughtful acts I’ve seen in my years of coaching.
I’ve seen him play athletes who should have never seen the court because they earned the right in practice.
Coach Molnar received the game ball from his 100th win at the banquet.
I’ve seen him allow players to miss practices to attend other activities, like go hunting with a grandfather or attend a school trip; many coaches I know think the world revolves around their practice schedule.
How dare you do anything other than my sport during our season! Not Coach. He is a small town coach in charge of small-town athletes. And he sees the value in each small-town kid.
At his final banquet, Coach complimented his athletes, apologized to many, told his final story. I was there. It was awesome. He will go the way of all great coaches.
But I will remember. His former players will remember. They are better for having had him teach them basketball.
And life. And that is the real measure of a coach. Greg, it was a great banquet. And career. You deserve to be remembered.
(William Hetrick coaches cross country at Saegertown High School. He also teaches next door to Greg Molnar. Both are veteran English teachers and coaches.)