–Shaun Busick, Zionsville High School, Zionsville, IN
I remember early in my coaching career attending the annual IBCA Spring Coaches Clinic and being in awe of the veteran coaches who coached the best teams in the state. Coaching icons like Jack Butcher, Bill Green, Ed Siegel and Howard Sharpe (just to name a few) were at the clinic themselves listening to the same speakers as me. Needless to say, I was intimidated by just the “presence” with which they carried themselves. Little did I know that one of the men whom I looked up to as a young coach would someday become my coaching mentor – Coach Ed Siegel.
I met Coach Siegel at one of those early coaching clinics I attended and he seemed like an intense, tough coach. I must admit that I was intimidated by this guy. Even when I spoke with him as a young coach, he exuded the ultimate toughness and intensity. He was a no-nonsense, competitive individual who demanded seriousness and focus from everyone with whom he came into contact. At the time, he was the head coach at Pike High School in Indianapolis and had built a Program that was admired state-wide as one of the top Programs in the state. He had so much success at Pike High School that they eventually named the gymnasium after him. Little did I know that several years later, this same rough, tough man would become a dear friend and valued mentor. I met him again a few years later when he came to watch my 2003-2004 Bellmont Braves play. He was scouting teams for the 2004 Hall-of-Fame Classic, and after Coach Siegel watched us play, we later received an invite to participate in the Classic the next season.
Later, when I moved to the Indy area and took the Zionsville job back in 2006, I sought the counsel of some coaches in the area – both current coaches at the time and retired coaches. That is when I reconnected with Coach Siegel. He was willing to meet with me, and even into his 70s at the time, he was still the same tough, intense man I had met over 20 years before… From that initial meeting to several others that followed, Coach Siegel became a “regular” at our ZCHS practices and games. That is when I asked him if he would mind being a mentor to me. He gladly accepted and we became pretty close after that. As we spent more and more time together, I realized that Coach had not lost any of the “fire” with which he had coached. He wouldn’t hesitate to get on my players or me, for that matter, if he felt we weren’t doing things the right way or up to his standards. This was a huge key for the growth of our Zionsville Eagles Basketball Program, and we all accepted and embraced what Coach was saying to us because we knew he cared and had our best interests in mind.
It was not uncommon for Coach to get on me after a practice or game. He gave me exactly what I needed as a head coach – he held me accountable to a higher standard, expecting me to explore why my staff and I were doing what we were doing. He asked countless tough questions that really helped me solidify and mold my coaching philosophy. He spoke a lot about accountability and always being the best one could be as coaches, players, students, etc. He reminded me so much of my own father, who I had lost in 1995 after a tough battle with cancer. Dad was only 59 when he passed, and his passing left a void in my life that Coach Siegel filled. As a matter of fact, since I had no one to whom to send Father’s Day cards, I began to send one each year to Coach Siegel. He had not only become my coaching mentor but a friend and father-figure to me.
Recently, however, Coach Siegel wasn’t getting around so well. He was now well into his 80s, and he wasn’t able to attend practices or games much anymore. That didn’t stop him from staying involved, however. We spoke regularly after games and during the week about how our team was practicing and playing. He read the articles about our team and got updates from his family who lives in Zionsville about the games.
So what exactly is a coaching mentor and what is his or her role? To me, a coaching mentor must be someone for whom you have a great deal of respect. It must be someone who is not going to tell you what you want to hear but tell you what you need to hear. It must be someone who has fought the same fight you are fighting and who understands what you are going through as a coach. It must be someone who knows that winning is only a byproduct of the preparation you put in to get your teams ready to compete. As Coach Bob Knight once said, “Everyone has the will to win, but very few have the will to prepare to win.”
As I reflect upon the mentoring I was given by Coach Siegel, I must admit that there were times that I walked away from our meetings thinking he was grumpy or being negative. Upon further review, however, Coach was challenging my thinking, and as I thought about it in those terms, it caused me to “dig deeper” into my coaching philosophy and solidify what I considered essential as a coach to what winning basketball really is and how it looks. Coach Siegel made me a much better coach. More importantly, Coach made me a better person. He constantly asked me the following: “Are you taking care of your family? Are you spending time with them?” Coach Siegel knew that an individual’s priorities should be faith and family first.
Today, April 22, 2020, Coach Siegel departed this life for his life in eternity, a victim of complications of the dreaded Coronavirus. Coach was a man of faith. He was a family man. He loved basketball, but he loved his family much more. Coach was also my mentor and friend. I will always value our friendship and the times we spent together. As my coaching career progresses, it is my sincere hope that I can pass along the gift of mentorship that Coach gave me to someone else. It is amazing to me that Coach Siegel never quit coaching – well into his 80s, he was still pouring into his family and into this coach. I am confident that one day I will see Coach again on the great court above. If, in fact, there is basketball in heaven, Coach Ed Siegel will be found patrolling the sidelines. Once a coach, always a coach. Rest in peace, Coach.