OREM — Golden Holt retired as Orem High’s basketball coach this past month. As a coach, in the realm of a teacher and mentor, he can relate to what BYU coach Dave Rose went through in Las Vegas as the Cougars lost to San Diego in disastrous fashion last week.
It isn’t from a perspective that he is Dave Rose. It isn’t that he’s got the same pressure, answers to the same people, or has the stress of signing recruits or pleasing not only a huge fan base but also a myriad of big donors.
It comes from knowing that above all, there’s a passion to sports, to winning, to relationships and being part of a team. And losing is an extremely bad, sinking feeling.
In Orem’s last game this season, the Tigers kind of melted down in a game that ended ugly. Things ran amuck right before his eyes.
Holt is 62 years old, has more than 400 employees in a landscaping business and has projects all over the state. At any time, he can fire any of those workers and wields that kind of power, yet on a night as his team had against Bear River in the 4A state basketball tournament, there were many things that were out of his control — even though he was still totally in charge and responsible. For all of it.
That, in a nutshell, is how Holt relates to Rose, whom he barely knows and does not have a relationship with.
“It was frustrating,” Holt said. “The end of that game is not what I coach, not what I believe in. But I’m the boss, so it’s all on me and I take the responsibility and make the apologies to everyone. But there are 25 moving parts that in reality, I don’t control at all. The music kids listen to, the language they hear, the things that just come out of seemingly nowhere. It was a night I never expected.”
Ditto for BYU, he said.
“I saw Rose on the sidelines and could see his frustration. It wasn’t what he expected or prepared for. He’d just beat San Diego the week before, but things can take a bad turn.”
While many like to rail on coaches — sometimes for good reason — Holt can look at it from a coach's perspective and he relates.
“Look at (Gonzaga coach) Mark Few and how Saint Mary’s beat them in the championship game. This was Few and his team was No. 1; nobody beats Few. Look at (Lakers coach) Luke Walton and how he went, like, 44-1 at Golden State when Steve Kerr was out and now he’s about to be fired at L.A. Did he all of a sudden become a crummy coach? Look at Quin Snyder with the Jazz and how good of a coach he is, yet Oklahoma City can have his number? How much does he really control? In the NBA, the players control almost everything.
“The great secret in coaching — and I’m not a Dave Rose, I was just a scoutmaster at Orem, a volunteer coach — but I think the metaphor is the same. I told my kids at the banquet, we love the sport but sports are kind of like life. Life can be hard, so much harder than a sport. You better learn how to lose as well as win in sports because if you can’t figure out losses in a sport, then how will you deal with life? The real secret to coaching, the real payoff, the real joy, is the relationships and experience.
“That is what you remember. I was 152-70 in nine years at Orem, but there are five losses that haunt me more than anything. I grind over them on how we should not have lost them. But losses happen. The Jazz aren’t going to win the NBA title, BYU isn’t going to win the NCAAs and neither is Utah Valley with Mark Pope, yet we all follow and love those teams and it is the losses that make us enjoy the times you beat a Gonzaga and you celebrate hard. All of them are not going to win the last game of the year. But we love them.”
Holt said if you played a million games, somebody will lose half of them and someone else will win half. “You want to have a logic to apply. And yet so many times, in my opinion, logic doesn't apply.”
Holt is finished coaching. The miles are behind him, as are the six days he spent in Tennessee with his team at Christmastime and all the projects at his work that he left to coach as a volunteer.
“I did this because I loved it. I’m blessed and so grateful to be part of the sport, be part of the boys and chase the journey. Nobody needed to thank me for doing it.”
Coaching. It’s a job where you try to organize a room full of cats. Then they tip the ball and you really hope everyone can chase the mouse in unison. It’s your job to find the right cats. And develop a plan, orchestrate it.
Sometimes it happens. A lot of times it does not.
There are no mulligans with cats.