NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When the moral crisis of college basketball motivated a meeting this past fall of the NCAA's Division I coaches, New Mexico's Ritchie McKay came armed with what he thought could help turn the tide: Rick Warren's book "The Purpose-Driven Life."
College basketball hasn't been "feeling so good" for the past year, and McKay thought the feeling might change if the coaches gained an understanding of what life is all about.
"We usually try to replace a feeling we don't want to feel, and we often replace it with sin," McKay said, speaking of human nature in general.
"To avoid replacing it with the wrong thing, we have to have a reason not to, a purpose for why we shouldn't replace it with sin. 'Purpose-Driven Life' gives you that purpose. It talks about your relationship with Christ and how He created you for His purpose.
"I thought it was so applicable for where college basketball is right now that I wanted to purchase a copy for everyone."
So he took 300-plus copies to the special called meeting in October in Chicago of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
"The nature of college basketball hasn't been so positive in its reputation because of some of the events that have taken place over the past year," McKay said, referring in part to fiascos involving Dave Bliss at Baylor, Larry Eustachy at Iowa State and Jim Harrick at Georgia. "So [NABC Executive Director] Jim Haney decided to call a meeting to talk about getting back to the reputation we once held.
"I'd been through 'Purpose-Driven Life' – my wife led me to it – and it just hit me that many were going down the wide path to destruction, but here was a narrow path that gave purpose to our agenda."
Response to "The Purpose-Driven Life" has been very good among the coaches, McKay said.
"I've gotten tons of letters and calls in appreciation for the book, and a lot of support for being a witness," McKay said, referencing calls from Steve Alford at Iowa, Dan Monson at Minnesota and Dale Layre at Colorado State, among others.
Haney, who is a Christian but points out that the NABC is not faith-based, was pleased with McKay's action.
"I've talked to a few coaches who said they really liked it and were strongly impacted by it," Haney said.
"I think for some of the coaches it was a book for right now, for some it was a confirmation – a concise reading of something they knew God was doing in their lives – and for others it will be water and seed, one of those things where it may sit on a shelf for a while until a certain day when God says, 'Remember that book? Now's the time.'"
McKay said college coaches must take every necessary step to set and maintain a high moral standard in their programs and to emphasize the many good things about college basketball.
"There's a great deal of positive things going on in college basketball," McKay said. "But it's usually the negative that is reported. When the negatives are to the extremes of the [last year], the issue is all the more heightened.
"I think what drew many of us into coaching was a sense of purpose, a commitment to student athletes. Most of us want to be role models, to show young men what it means to be a good husband, a good friend," he added. "I think there is an innate desire in most coaches to benefit the ones we coach. The motives of some coaches will be wrong, but I think the motives of most coaches are right.
"I hope everyone feels called back to their purpose, and I think ['The Purpose-Driven Life'] can help them do that."
McKay emphasized "the only thing that lasts for eternity is relationships, not wins and losses and trophies. If we're obedient to God and put people first, it will bring about a blessing in that person's life, whether it's immediate, in six months or in 16 years. If you teach them right, they'll be blessed by it."
Victor Lee is the sports editor for pastors.com. Used by permission.
© 2004 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.