He was an unlikely assistant basketball coach. To be sure. Wilbur “Shooter” Flatch was a savant when it came to the game of basketball. Shooter would even confidently quip, “I know everything there is to know about the greatest game ever invented.” And so it seemed. He knew the game of basketball, but he was an unlikely assistant basketball coach. That was because Shooter Flatch was an inveterate alcoholic – some would even deride him as “the town drunk”. But in small town Hickory, Indiana, a controversial coach with unorthodox methods saw something in Shooter – something that Shooter couldn’t even see in himself. This struggling drinker would help Coach Norman Dale coach basketball. But only if he stayed sober.
The Hickory team and its fans had to adapt to a new style in Coach Dale. Despite a rough start, the team developed a successful winning style with a bright postseason future anticipated, if only they could make it. And so it would come down to a pivotal last home game against rival Dugger. There was less than a minute remaining and the score was 58-58 when Coach Dale did the unthinkable. He stormed up to the referee after a particular call, dressed him up and down and then, in sidelong and secretive fashion, asked to be kicked out of the game. Mystified but recognizing that the coach must have his reasons, the ref assents. Coach Dale is tossed out of the game. Sheepishly, amidst a roar of supportive boos, Coach Dale walked back to his bench, leveled his eyes at Shooter and said,
“I’ve done it again…It’s up to you now.”
It was extraordinary. Coach Dale’s eyes widened and seemingly smiled at Shooter. And then Dale walked off the court. The game, the season and the future of the Hickory basketball team rested uncertainly in Shooter’s hands. If you have seen the 1986 movie, Hoosiers, then you don’t need me to explain what happens next. But I will.
He does... but he does more than that and it's in the more that makes a story already worthy all the more worthy.
Read the whole thing.
Thanks Tod, great stuff!