Abe Lemons was a Funny Man

08/31/2011 - 7:07pm
Abe Lemons was a Funny Man

Abe Lemons was a funny man.  A basketball coach and humorist, I had the honor of meeting Coach Lemons when I worked on the Boys AAU National Basketball Tournament several years ago in Oklahoma City.  Shortly before his death I spent time with him and was captivated by his wit and perspective as his body slowly succumbed to Parkinson’s disease.  He was kind enough to tell, re-tell, and confirm many of the events of his life, career, and the circumstances of many of his “famous” quotes.  I believe he was a modern day Will Rogers.

One of the stories I asked Abe about, he was surprised and had to search his memory before responding.  The story is told about a game in which his team was on the wrong end of every whistle.  According to him, the referees were “working overtime in regulation.”  He quipped that he believed that they would surely break their whistles.  His team was getting murdered!  He said that he (as good basketball coaches are trained to do) quickly reviewed his options.  Should he throw a chair across the floor?  Should he have the whistles “borrowed” from the refs at halftime?  Should he have his players stage a sit-in on the court while the clock was moving?  Abe told me that he was in gridlock considering his options when an especially egregious call was made right in front of him.  Without thinking, he blurted out to the ref, “Hey Ref.  Can you give me a technical foul for what I am thinkin’?”  The referee thought for a moment and replied, “No Coach, I can’t give you a tech for what you think.”  Under his breath (according to Abe) he muttered “I am thinkin’ that you are one of the worst refs that has ever been born – I am thinkin’ you have no consistency in your calls and you clearly don’t know the rules.  I think that you need to start calling fouls on the other end of the floor.  How can you call a foul on my man for using his eye to foul the other team’s player on his elbow?”

Abe got a technical foul.  He continued by telling the ref that “Its OK.  We all have bad days. I think you are having a bad life tonight!”  Another technical.  Abe exits.  Abe remembered (I did not know this when I asked the question) that his team came back and made the game competitive.

I asked Abe what he learned from the situation.  He told me that he learned several things.  Among them are:

1. Don’t ever make a non-personal issue personal.
2. Never challenge the integrity of another person.
3. Always support your beliefs with facts, without being blinded by emotion.
4. Never act impulsively.
5. Don’t hold grudges – we all have bad days.
6. When you are not welcome, leave the court.
7. When you must leave the court, encourage others to maintain and press on.

I think that Abe was right about life.  So, from the wisdom of Abe Lemons, sadly all of us will be required to leave the court someday.  I truly regret that I will not be able to accompany all you on that journey.  But, I know that you are positioned to attain many great and lofty ideals.  We must all take steps now to plan for the inevitable time when we will be asked to leave the court.

I will continue to have strong friendships with many of you.  Thank you for that.  I will continue to call on you, individually, and be willing to assist you with any needs you may have.  If I leave a legacy, I hope that I will make preparations so that when I gone, the transition will be seamless.  If you leave the court before me, I will strive to implement your hopes, dreams, and goals.