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Rocky Top Reflections

College is the best time of your life. When I was at Tennessee we won every single year I was there. We were in the tournament every singe year. A couple of years we were facing Virginia and Ralph Sampson, who was tough to get past, but we had opportunities to go and do something special. We established a winning tradition at the University of Tennessee.

I was very fortunate to have a coach like Don DeVoe. He prepared me every single day for the next level. His attitude was that it didn’t matter how you practiced yesterday, what are you going to give me in practice today? It didn’t matter to him if you scored 30 points last Friday, what are you going to do in this game? As far as academics, he had the same attitude. You’re passing your classes, but what do you have for this next test? He prepared you for being a professional.

When you get to the next level, you have to be a professional. You have to come with it every single day. I was fortunate to play on a professional level for 17 years. My first coach was Dick Motta in Dallas, and Dick sat me down one time and told me about how it is to be a professional. The great ones out of 82 games might have 2 games that they can’t get up for, because it’s a long season. College and the NBA are two different games. When you get to the pro level, you’re playing nine months out of the year, so how can you get up for all those games? He would tell me that you have to find ways to get excited about what you’re doing and you have to come with it every single game. It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday. What do you have for me today?

College prepares you for that. I had an opportunity to come out of college early and I didn’t do it. I looked at my teammates and thought these were my guys, I’m going to stay the four years. When you’re in college you learn teamwork. It’s not about individual play. When you watch a lot of NBA ball right now you see a lot of individual basketball. I just happened to be fortunate to play in an era when the game was simple. Fundamentals were sound and guys played together. It was about the team achievement. I think today they miss out on that aspect by not finishing the four years of college basketball.

Plus, like I said, it’s the best four years of your life. When you come out of college and you go into a professional field, whatever it is, if it’s sports or the law or medicine or whatever you are trying to be in life, it’s a rude awakening. College should prepare you for that next level, but in the meantime don’t get stressed out. Enjoy every single minute. I was an average student. I did just enough to get by and I regret that to this day, but I was the first in my family to receive a college degree. Receiving that degree told me that I could accomplish anything I want to accomplish in life. I wanted to play basketball. Once you get there it’s a job and you have to come with it every single day, in whatever field you choose. You have to come with it because there’s always someone out there trying to knock you off the totem pole.

Whatever field that you’re looking at, try to be the best at that field and if you fall short of that goal, you’re going to find something beautiful in between. You’ve got guys like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to mention a few, whose goal was to be the best whoever played the game. Once you decide what you want to do, it will reveal itself what you have to do to get where you want to be. Then you have to make that commitment. You might have to give up a few things to get where you want to be, whether it’s friends or family or whatever. But when you are in college don’t give up anything. Take care of the academic part of it and enjoy every single minute.