At 22, I was fresh out of college and I knew absolutely nobody. But I was obsessed with becoming a college basketball coach.
Webster’s defines obsession as,“a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling”,
But when you’re young and dumb, none of that seems to matter.
Spring semester of my senior year ar Point Loma College (1982) I sent out 362 hand written notes to every college program I could. 300 and 62 handwritten notes!
I received ONE response back on June 1982!!
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That ONE response was a hand written note from theHead Basketball Coach at NCAA DII San Francisco State, Coach Kevin Wilson. (“I still have the note framed in my office.”) He explained that the school had no money to hire me, but would be open to having me help out on a voluntary basis. I was thrilled. I FUCKING couldn’t believe it. I packed my bag and drove all night from San Diego to San Francisco.13 hours later, broke and in a rundown Honda Prelude, I managed to arrive at 5:30 am the day after I received Coach Wilson’s note.
I stood for 2 hours and then sat for an hour waiting outside his office for Coach Wilson to arrive.
Then I heard steps coming down the hallway and sprung up, straightened my suit and stuck out my hand, “Coach Wilson, I am Gary Trousdale, I got your note yesterday and wanted to show you how bad I want this job.”
He replied, “Sorry Gary, I’m Andy Reid, (yeah THAT Andy Reid) the assistant football coach, Kevin won’t be in for another hour or so.”
I was embarrassed beyond belief and wanted to run out of there as quick as I could but sucked it up and waited.
Andy was the Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and now head coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. Another hour later, I heard steps again, but this time I waited…
Here I was in a city I had never been, with no money in my pocket, waiting for a coach to hire me for a job that paid zero. I’m standing in this strange hallway wearing a rust colored three-piece suit, trying to keep my eyes open from lack of sleep and yet…
IT ALL MADE PERFECT SENSE TO ME.
Then I blinked and reality set in HARD as I heard the footsteps coming down the hall. This wave of fear swept through my body. “I made a huge mistake. What the hell am I doing here, and why didn’t I think this through?” I didn’t think at all because I was obsessed. I was obsessed with becoming a college coach. If even for only a minute, I wanted to tell the world I did it.
As the gentleman opened the door to the basketball office I was paralyzed. I couldn’t speak let alone stick my hand out, so I just stood there looking like a complete moron. He turned to me and smiled and closed the door behind him. I headed back into the hallway trying to gain enough courage to knock on the door. After another 30 minutes (which seemed like hours) I said to myself. “Here I go”.
Now, in today’s era of technology, if you want to find out about a coach, school or basketball program, you just Google it. Not so in 1982. The internet, cell phones and information at your fingertips was just a concept. Kevin Wilson, the man who I was hoping would give me my first coaching job, was a complete unknown to me. I knew absolutely nothing about the guy, EXCEPT that he had taken the time to write me a hand written note offering me a CHANCE. Only later did I learn who he was and how connected he is. AND… that in a very short time he would take me under his wing and become the mentor for me in this profession of coaching.
I knocked on the door and this hyper, balding man answered and said, “Hi Gary, what took you so long?”Turns out that Andy Reid told Kevin I was there and Coach Wilson was timing me to see how long it would take for me to approach him. After the initial embarrassment of stuttering to introduce myself, I composed myself enough to except Coach Wilson’s invite inside. Without me doing too much talking he offered me the opportunity to “help out SFSU”.
Turns out my last minute decision to drive all night got me the job.
As I would learn later, Coach Wilson was connected and had been Bill Musselman’s right hand man at Minnesota. He played for Muss at Ashland College. Minnesota was loaded back then with players… including one that would become instrumental in my future in this profession, Flip Saunders.