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Apr 5
Basketball, Leadership & Character - Like Father, Like Son
If you can get your hands on a copy of Sports Illustrated April 3, 2006 edition, it isSI cover.jpg worth the price and the read. The issue is devoted to a preview of the baseball season but is bookended by two great stories about high school basketball.

Steve Rushin on page 19 and Rick Reilly on page 140 both share tales of greatness by two unlikely state basketball champions. One is below. The other will follow tomorrow.

Rushin writes of the impact one coach had on a community in “It’s a Wonderful Life Story.” The story is about Steve Randall, who coached boys basketball at Oshkosh West High in Wisconsin before suddenly dying of a heart attack in 2004 on the eve of his 30th season and his 16th at Oshkosh. More than 3,000 people showed up for his wake and the Oshkosh Northwestern received “hundreds of tributes to Coach Randall from around the country and overseas.” This outpouring was illustrative of “the effect a simple man has had on so many people.”

Steve Randall was a leader and a mentor to athletes and non-athletes alike.

Perhaps the greatest impact Steve Randall had has been on his son, Lance, who after seeing the respect and affection the town had for his Dad, suddenly left his position as an assistant coach at NCAA Division I, Saint Louis University to pick up where his Dad left off at Oshkosh West. By example, Steve taught his son Lance about sacrifice. With only a $4,000/yr part-time coaching stipend offered at Oshkosh, Lance not only sacrificed his dreams and career at a Division I school but his livliehood.  In Oshkosh, he had to find a full-time job and one that let him be to practice at 3 pm.

My guess is that like his Dad, he saw there was more to giving than receiving and that money could not buy the joy of making someone else’s life better. A college teammate of Lance’s said, "Lance and his father were best friends….His decision is a demonstration of love.”

In the 2004 season, the son took OshKosh West to an undefeated season until they lost in the semi-finals of the state tournament. Two seniors were lost to graduation from that teamoshkosh west.jpg and another starter to suspension but the adversity of 2005 did not weaken the resolve of the players, the coach or the community.

OshKosh West prevailed in the 2005 championship game over Memorial High, a powerful Madison team. Despite playing in Madison, OshKosh fans made it feel like a game being played back in OshKosh at its home floor that was renamed Steven L. Randall Court in December.

From Beloit College Magazine, the school where Lance once played,

“The Randalls have started the Steven L. Randall Foundation, which runs basketball clinics for coaches and kids. Rather than focusing on drills and fundamentals, the workshops stress the intangibles: the integrity, selflessness, and mental toughness necessary to play the game more important than basketball.”

As Rushin wrote, “it turns out the small-time is the big time.” Lance Randall noted, “my Dad has shown me, even in death, that the small stuff is what is important.” According to him, a coaching position at “Duke or an NBA championship” could not surpass his experience at OshKosh.

I am sure everyone in Oshkosh agrees. Congratulations coach. I am sure your Dad is proud of you.

More on the legacy of Steven Randall.

Northwestern photo by Joe Sienkiewicz

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