It was a tough day. You broke three shovels in the ditch and your boss spent eight hours loudly proclaiming his belief that only Moe, Larry and Curly were more dense than you. You finally got home, kicked off your work boots and settled into your easy chair. And seated on the couch was your boss, who spent the next four hours expressing surprise that you were able to find your way home alone.
In the morning you arrived at the breakfast table and found your boss there. He casually mentioned that it was easier training his beagle to sing opera than it has been training you to dig a hole in the ground. And the verbal barrage resumes at work.
No one, it would seem, could live with that kind of nonstop criticism. But some young men, for a term of as much as four years, are forced to. They are not U.S. Marines, although some of them might think of the service as a relief.
These are young men who call their father "coach." Or call their coach "father." Or in some cases, call him nothing at all. They practice under his critical eye 15 hours a week and play a game for three more hours. And in most cases, the game comes home with them along with the sweaty socks.
A father coaching his son is nothing new, and not all that uncommon. Al McGuire, whose Marquette University basketball team won the 1977 NCAA championship, coached his son, Al Jr., at the school from 1971 to 1973. Press Maravich coached his high-scoring and floppy-socked son, Pete, at LSU in the same sport from 1966 to 1970. John McKay coached his son, John Jr., at USC from 1972 to 1974 in football.
They've all experienced the tingling high of watching their child excel. They've watched him hit the winning shot, throw the winning touchdown or make the winning catch. But they've also experienced the down side of such a relationship and felt the frustration of trying to treat their son like any other member of the team. Many coaches admit to going to such lengths to protect against charges of favoritism that they single out their child as the team whipping boy.
Jim Harrick, the Pepperdine University basketball coach, calls one of this year's players his son. Harrick also has called Jim Harrick Jr. other things. Harrick, a 5-11 point guard who broke into the starting lineup midway through the season, is not the star on the Pepperdine team. But he runs the offense effectively and earned his starting position with three seasons of sitting on the bench during games and practicing hard.
"I called him Headache, because that's what he was," Harrick said. "He was nothing but a headache for a long time. That was his nickname. I embarrassed him in front of the team, and I really regret that. I'd stop practice and scream at him. I'd throw him out of practice. I do it to other players, but it's kind of different when you do it to your own son. I felt pretty bad sometimes."
Harrick's wife, Sally, was often caught in the middle. She, too, felt dreadful sometimes.
"One game this year Jimmy lost the ball, and Jim called a timeout," she said. "He took him out of the game and I was watching them and Jim walked by Jimmy and smacked his leg hard. Jim would never do that to another of his players. I saw that and it hurt me so much."
But along with the bad moments in the relationship between a coaching father and his son come fine memories. Sally Harrick's happiest moment came this year in a game between Pepperdine and Loyola. Her son started and played his best game ever, scoring a career-high 11 points, including three three-point field goals, and handing out his season-high of eight assists to help Pepperdine to a 94-84 victory.
"I remember he hit two straight three-pointers and was just playing so well," she said. "And I remember looking at the bench and seeing the look on my husband's face, a special look. A father looking at his son. Jim was so proud of Jimmy that night. After the game my husband said, and I'll never forget it, he said, 'You know, it finally came around. He did everything so perfectly. It all came out in this game, everything I've tried to teach him over the years, it all came out tonight.'
"I think back now on that night and I see that look on my husband's face and I get choked up just talking about it. It was a special time. That was the reward. That was the highlight of this whole situation."
Cheryl Redell is the wife of Crespi High football coach and former professional player and coach Bill Redell. Each of their three sons has played football for his father at Crespi, and while they speak in glowing terms of the family relationship they've formed, Cheryl and Bill always will remember the darkest moment. Two years ago, Bill Redell Jr., a center at Crespi, suffered broken ribs and kidney damage during a game and was rushed to Rancho Encino Hospital.
"Billy was taken off the field in an ambulance," Cheryl said. "I left with him in the ambulance and Bill came to the hospital later. The doctor told us that it was pretty bad and Billy would maybe need surgery on his spleen.