3 years later
Grant chose to coach basketball at Beach High School for the same reason that most others would never have taken the job. These boys and girls were ruthless to most, but he knew that the most of them just craved attention and wanted to belong somewhere.
But, even Grant had to admit that the boys were not the easiest to get along with if they didn’t like nor have respect for you. They had run off four coaches within the last two school terms.
The coaches only stayed as long as they did because of the publicity the boys received. They were the best team in the county- No, scratch that, they were the best team on this side of Georgia. On the court they were dynamic, but off the court- in everyday life, they were acting out the stereotype of the young, black ghetto male.
Grant was up for the challenge. He saw potential in these young men. The same potential that Nana and Willie had always said they saw in him. He was from the same neighborhood they were from and he had turned out pretty good.
The boys respected Grant. They felt his swagger was real and they trusted him- in their own little way, of course.
“Ay Mr. J, what’s hap’ning?”
Grant leaned back in his desk chair.
“I’m good Phillip, how bout you? How was the test?”
“Man,” Phillip rolled his eyes toward the ceiling of the gym, “I on’t know. I thought that it would be easy, but…”
“But what? You know not everything gone be made easy for you?”
“Mr. J, if it wasn’t for playing b-ball, I wouldn’t even be here. I hate school and I on’t even see why I gotta come.” Phillip was the most honest kid on his team. His blunt approach humored Grant.
“Maybe because you need an education in order to step with the big dogs of business and government. Like I said, everything won’t be easy. You have to work for something.”
Grant knew that his words were just going in one ear and out of the other. He’d talked to these boys time and time again about education, but they had all resolved that they would never end up in college anyway. If they had a legit business being handed to them he would understand, but they didn’t. It was a sad thing. These boys had lost hope of ever becoming anything more than high school hoop stars.
“Why don’t you go ahead a get your gear switched up, we start practice in ten.”
“Aight Mr. J, I got ya.”
Phillip was a smart kid. He had much potential, but he had no hope. His family was going through a lot. Parents splitting up, thirteen year old baby sister pregnant, mother just lost her job. He was dealing with some heavy weight for a fifteen year old. But Grant chose to believe in Phillip just like he did the rest of his team.
Grant had ten minutes to complete his paperwork. He hated paperwork.
Yelling came from the gym area. Grant didn’t pause too long. He knew that in this gym, if he didn’t intervene, and quickly, there would be blood all over his floor and he wasn’t having it today. They were playing McIntosh County on Friday and they needed every bit of practice.
“Fool, you done lost yo mind. I ain’t take nuttin’ from you. This CD is mine.” Grant heard Bobby Tillman’s deep baritone voice yell out and reached inside the top drawer of his desk before proceeding to be referee instead of coach.
“Nigga, you took it out of my locker and you know it. Let me get my sh-“
Grant jumped in the middle of the two boys about to go to blows. “Lester, were you about to curse in my gym?”
Lester looked up at his coach. “No Suh.”
“I thought not.”
Grant had established some basic ground rules for the time he spent with the team. There would be no profanity, no fighting, no bashing teachers, no negativity, and no sharing of females.
They had thought the last rule a little harsh. But, Grant had his
reasons and he was sticking to the game plan. If they didn’t respect themselves, their teammates they would. The team knew that if they violated any of Grant’s rules that they would be spending more time doing laps and suicides than playing.
“Now, what’s the problem here?”
“Ay, Mr. J, he-,” Lester and Bobby blurted at the same time. “Hold it. One man at a time in here. It’s disrespectful to try to talk over somebody else. Lester?”
“This man took my CD that I left in my locker. He say he ain’t took it and that he got it hisself, so I wanna see a receipt.”
“I ain’t gotta let you see noth-“
“Why you speaking Bobby? Did I ask you yet to give your story?”
“No, but coach he ly-“
Grant held his hand up in warning to Bobby and the junior defensive guard blew air out of his mouth. Typical modern day teenage response. Back when he was young his lip would’ve been busted.
Bobby stood only two inches shorter than Grant. Being the only white boy on the team made him prone to be picked on. Bobby stood his ground however. He wouldn’t back down from a fight even if it meant getting his lanky frame bruised up.
“Now, Lester, why can it not be true that Bobby bought his own CD?”
“Cause it just ain’t. How he gone come up in here two days after I leave mines in my locker and talk about it’s his? Man coach J, he lyin.”
“So, you were about to fight in my gym over a CD that you can’t even prove is yours? You were about to risk getting put off the team for a CD?”
“So what? I’m just s’posed to let him take something that belong to me?”
“Not saying nobody should steal. What I am saying, partner, is that you should first make sure that your accusation can stand. Then if you find the evidence, you take it to someone who can handle it for you so you don’t risk losing something that you say mean something to you.”
“No offense Coach, but, I ain’t fenna let nobody get over on me. I on’t even care nothing about his height- a nigga take something from me, I’ma gets mines.”
“Well, guess what? Your hardheaded behind was about to get kicked off the team and out of school over a false accusation. And, didn’t I tell you that Nigga is a form of profanity in this gym?”
Lester rolled his eyes and simply ignored Grant’s added comment.
“Why it gotta be false Mr. J? Cause you favor white white over me?” Lester looked annoyed. His look was a subtle challenge to Grant.
Grant absolutely despised racial slurs. They touched his heart in a personal way seeing as his father was half white and his grand-father fully. He had to add that rule to the list.
Grant reached in his pocket ignoring the young boy that Lester chose to portray at the moment. He was accusing yet again but this time it was directed at Grant.
He tried to overlook Lester understanding that he was only doing what he witnessed in his environment. Everybody blaming everybody and nobody taking responsibility for their own actions.
Grant understood perfectly well the issue. Nana once told him that he did the same thing when he wanted to excuse why his grades weren’t up to par.
“No Mr. Miller,” Grant pressed his hand against Lester’s chest, “It’s false because I found this beside your locker Monday. I simply forgot I had it in my desk until I heard you yelling about it. Next time-,” Grant’s voice was as calm as his walk was cool, “ask around first. Now apologize, get off my court and change. Practice in three.”
Lester watched Grant walk away before speaking.
“My bad, Cuz.”
Everyone knew that Lester despised apologizing, but he would gladly do it if it meant he didn’t have to run those twenty laps they had to run if they chose to be stubborn.
“Now I know your short tail feel real stupid.” Philip spoke from behind Lester.
“Shut up Lip. Ain’t nobody even talkin’ to you.”
“Don’t worry Mill, you gone owe me one.” Bobby’s smirk hid a message. He placed his left hand on Lester’s shoulder as they walked to the locker room. He laughed harder as he caught the ‘don’t touch me’ look on his teammates face.
The team dispersed to the locker room to change for practice, with everyone laughing but Lester. Grant looked out from where he sat.
That is one stubborn young man.
He shook his head before returning his attention to his paperwork.
I hate paperwork.