Nice guys can finish first, too

By Tom Dunn - Contributing columnist

I have made it no secret that I consider my four years as a student athlete at Wittenberg University as four of the most formative years of my life. The professors and coaches I encountered there taught me valuable life lessons that I have used to achieve whatever successes I have enjoyed, and I am forever indebted to them.

Athletically, I was blessed to be at Wittenberg during a time of unparalleled coaching excellence. Both my head and assistant basketball coaches, Bob Hamilton and Larry Hunter, are members of the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame. My junior and senior years my neighbor was a man by the name of Bill Edwards, who was Wittenberg’s legendary football coach, is a member of the National College Football Hall of Fame, played and coached with the legendary Paul Brown, and is the godfather of New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. The man who replaced Coach Edwards was Davey Maurer, who is also a member of the National College of Football Hall of Fame. For their achievements, Wittenberg’s field hockey, football, lacrosse, and soccer stadium is known as Edwards-Maurer Field.

The opportunity to have my life impacted by such great coaches and outstanding men was a blessing. They all epitomized what the greatest teachers and leaders do, which is to positively impact the lives of the young people entrusted to them by teaching them how to succeed in life. They certainly impacted my life.

In addition to being around exemplary coaches, I was blessed to be surrounded by teammates who were highly successful student athletes as well as outstanding people who have achieved great success in a variety of fields since graduating from Wittenberg. Any athlete will tell you there are bonds created with teammates that are difficult to replicate in any other environment, and I have stayed close to many of them to this day.

One of my more treasured teammates is Steve Moore, who has been an ultra-successful head basketball coach at the College of Wooster for 32 years, and who recently announced that next year will be his last in coaching. Steve is the second winningest basketball coach in Division III, and, under his leadership, the Scots have had the highest winning percentage of any men’s NCAA basketball program in the last 20 years. Yes, even programs like Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, and Gonzaga have played second fiddle to Wooster basketball teams in terms of winning percentage.

For his sustained excellence as a coach, Steve will be inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame next month, and Cinda and I will be at the ceremony supporting our dear friend. No inductee has deserved the honor more than he does.

But, to try to define his excellence with the standard coaching statistics would be a disservice, because his career is so much more than numbers. Yes, his winning percentage is virtually unmatched at any level and by any coach, but more importantly, he has achieved his great success while epitomizing everything positive about the coaching profession. He has remained humble, while being the best ambassador possible for the College of Wooster. Because of the way he treats his players, they, both current and former, idolize him as their role model and mentor. He has positively impacted more lives than can be counted. Any one of us would be lucky to have him coach our son.

The best thing about Steve is that, despite being one of the most intense competitors I have ever known, he has never lost sight of his responsibility as the molder of young men. While winning and losing is as important to him as anyone who has ever coached, he has never allowed it to define who he is or how he approaches his profession. He is the same honest, God-fearing man I competed alongside more than 40 years ago. That, more than his victories, sets him apart from all the rest.

At a time when college coaches are often highlighted for all the wrong reasons, it is refreshing to see one being recognized for doing things the right way for an entire illustrious career. He is proof positive that nice guys don’t always finish last.

And, I am honored to call him my friend.

By Tom Dunn

Contributing columnist

Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.

Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.