We lost on March 2, 2018. Losing sucks. That part isn't going away. But when you lose to a guy you respect and you're always chasing it makes it a little easier. My friend Johnny Rice is the Head Boys Coach at North Little Rock High School. That's who ended our season this year. What he has been able to do in 6 years is amazing. He has turned his alma mater into a national powerhouse.
I sat court side this December and watched his unranked team beat a top 10 program in a holiday tournament. I was in the opposite coaching box and watched his team execute on both ends of the floor. There are a couple things I always think of when I think of Johnny.
Here are 3 of those....
#1 He Can Coach and Build Talent
There are a lot of Coaches that inherit talent and hope to not mess it up. There are Coaches with talent that do that. I see it every year. Coach Rice not only coaches Talent but he develops Players. I always smile when a summer coach or rankings "discover" a kid from NLR. That kid didn't just show up because you heard about him, he's been in the gym with Coach Rice and his staff developing. Players get better playing for him.
#2 He turns Boys into Young Men
I have yet to meet a young man that played for Coach Rice that wasn't what you would expect. In today's day where disrespect is rampant, the young men in his program are far from that. Sure, they are still boys at heart and might make a bone-head mistake time to time but they are ambassadors for his program and an extension of Coach Rice. The night we played them they were gracious, excited but understanding that they just ended a team's season.
Success attracts. Plain and simple. Coach Rice does things the right way. In 2014, our team lost to Coach Rice in the state finals 89-81. Months later, it was discovered an ineligible player played and NLR was forced to vacate that title. MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT: They won the state title. Coach Rice had nothing to do with the circumstances surrounding the player. I hurt for my friend that day because I know he is in the business for the right reason: Changing lives.
Coach Rice has won state titles in 2013,2014,2015 and 2018. He lost in the finals in 2017.
Last Friday, I shared a text with him after the game. My sons got to play together in that game and he acknowledged it and the fight our program showed. I told him I appreciate his impact on me and for being the guy I'll always chase; not just because he's one of the top Coaches I know, but he's also a man you can pattern your life after.
So until next season, I'm still chasing you my friend, just like the rest of the state.
Follow Coach Rice on twitter at @johnnyrice22