You know what the most disappointing aspect of the movement currently afoot to have the gymnasium at Pitt Meadows Secondary School named in honour of its late, great basketball coach Rich Goulet?
That the request wasn’t met with an automatic ‘Yes.’
Of course I understand that the answer is ‘No’ and that tensions have built over the past few weeks regarding this issue.
And I also understand this is one of those in which a storybook ending is not guaranteed.
I do feel, however, that for this not to happen would be potentially one of the the most confusing and unexplainable things I have seen in my 38 years of reporting on both the youth sports and basketball scenes in our province.
I have not tried to count the number of gymnasiums in B.C. named after high school basketball (or other) coaches (and on first guess, I wouldn’t think there are too many), but this isn’t about simply plugging in a set of numbers (of which Goulet’s would top-out in the top .0001 percentile) to generate an answer.
This about acknowledging that most sacred and non-replicable element of our B.C. high school sports community.
It’s impossible to define, but to me I’ve always thought about it as carrying an effusive spirit and spreading it along a daily pathway which transcends the required and ascends to a place where limitless community is created and celebrated.
Anyone with any level of emotional investment in the B.C. high school sports community doesn’t need to read any further. You get it. It’s why, for years and decades and generations, we have all communed in this corner.
Yet if you’ll indulge me a moment longer…
That most intangible description of what I purport B.C. high school sports to be, and why we all guard it with such ferocity, is in and of itself, the best description there is of Rich Goulet and his legacy.
He was every molecule of the DNA which has gone into both defining and sustaining our province’s volunteer high school sports community as a most special eco-system.
And in naming the gymnasium he called his home after him, we both acknowledge and celebrate our complete understanding of the man and the purpose behind his life’s work.
It is why, last Friday, Goulet’s first school — Burnaby’s St. Thomas More Collegiate — decided it would re-name what is essentially the most time-honoured boys high school basketball tournament in B.C. as the Rich Goulet Memorial Chancellor.
In my own memorial to Rich Goulet a few weeks ago, the occasion demanded that those who knew him best get their chance to offer eulogies.
Now, in these early weeks of spring, I can’t help but offer one of my own, spurred by writings from my final year-plus of working with all the good folks at The Province newspaper.
It was in a Jan. 3, 2013 piece in The Province which I offered some memorable career reflections a few months ahead of my impending 50th birthday.
In part I wrote: “Somewhere along the way, you start getting called Mr. Tsumura, or Sir. But you just keep showing up in the gyms and at the fields. Season after season. Decade after decade.
“And the reason you do is because covering the high schools keeps you and your spirit eternally young.
“It is the same reason, I am sure, that some of the guys that were already coaching when I started reporting, are still doing what they do best.
“Although I know they will one day retire — sadly, sooner than later — I can’t fathom covering my beats without guys like Bill Disbrow, Rich Goulet, Ken Dockendorf and Rich Chambers around to chat with.”
With that, I related a quiet moment, away from the crowds and centre court, that for me was that very slice of the Goulet persona so many others mentioned upon his passing… that of the countless hours no one ever saw, but which have ultimately come to define him. So to continue….
“In early December (of 2012), after reporting on a big win by Sardis over Goulet’s (host) Pitt Meadows Marauders in the opening round of the Telus Classic tournament, I needed a place to write my story for the next day’s print editions.
“Goulet, as usual, opened his classroom to me. But as I sat there writing my piece, I couldn’t help but spend more of my time watching him sitting at his own desk. He interacted with parents and players who came through the door, he counted and balanced all of the funds generated through the day’s concessions sales, he prepared for his classroom lessons, and then, after about 90 minutes or so, he excused himself from the room.
“I finished writing, filed my story, and prepared to hit the road, but as I left his classroom, I realized the entire school was empty, save for Goulet’s voice, and the sound of squeaking sneakers in one of the gyms.”
And we’re hearing stories like these about Goulet from every nook and cranny of our high school eco-system.
On Twitter, from @pittmeadowsdayc was this gem: “…He even paid for hot dogs & coffees @ concession, but wouldn’t refuse Purdy’s bonus items, ensuring school staff helpers got them, too.
Said former North Delta Secondary school athletic director and football coach Walter Becker, who spent several years with Goulet at the Fraser Valley Secondary Schools’ Athletic Association: “I refereed his basketball games at STM and in his early years at Pitt, as well as his football games for the football program that he founded. He always made you feel welcome and never had a harsh word to say. Even the fire alarm technician testing the bells on weekends said that Rich was the most accommodating and friendliest basketball coach in the entire district. The school district needs to name the school gym in his honour so that his contributions to the school will never be forgotten.”
For me, the moment above all moments that will best define Rich Goulet?
It’s that evening I spent at Pitt back on Dec. 11 of 2012, some of which I have already re-lived through my writings that day. But there’s still a bit more.
Exiting his classroom and before I heard those sneakers and the coach’s voice in the distance, I found myself standing in complete darkness and fearing I had been locked inside of the school.
I know this is hardly the time to start talking about my love of classical music, but in this instance, it can’t be helped.
Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 opens with what is supposed to be the dawning of a new day, a musical scene in which dark turns to light and the sounds of life, complete with chirping birds, are all revealed through the orchestra.
In my own place of actual darkness that evening, I started to hear my own symphony… the distant squeak of sneakers and then, Coach Goulet’s staccato growl.
So I followed that sound and discovered another kind of orchestra deep in practice. As I wrote:
“I poked my head through the door, saw him coaching the school’s Grade 8 boys team, and asked him if he wanted me to lock his classroom door.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “There’s no one else in the school.”
He knew. Of course he knew. This was his house.
Now, it would seem to me that the only thing left is to make all of that official.
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