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April 3, 2016

Smell the Popcorn

Smell the Popcorn

FAMILY SUNDAY – One way to go around the Final Four is to catch up with Coach Shimmy Gray Miller, a lifelong friend who is now an assistant coach at the University of Florida. Shimmy invited me to meet with a group at Champions, and that’s where I met Sue Guevara, head coach at Central Michigan.

Shimmy said that many years ago, she wanted so badly to work with Sue at her camp that she used her vacation days to do so. It was right before a big interview for a coaching job out west. She told Sue, and Sue brought her into her office and put up a list of practice interview questions. They rehearsed the interview.

“I’ll never forget that for the rest of my life,” Shimmy said. “I couldn’t believe that this coach who I never played for cared more about me and my future than my own college coach.”

Shimmy then said that she also remembers what Sue did for her after she reported that she received the job offer. Shimmy looked across the table and said, “You wrote me a congratulatory note and a note about how challenging my work would be. At the end, you wrote, ‘And every once in a while, don’t forget to stop and smell the popcorn.’ ”

Sue’s eyes welled up and then Shimmy joked, “I didn’t stop to smell the popcorn for about six years until I knew I was done as head coach. Then I kicked back and smelled it for a whole year.”

Shimmy then looked at Sue and said, “Any time I am in a mentoring situation and the person follows up or I respond, I always think of you as I write to them, ‘Smell the popcorn.’ ”

Shimmy and Sue have both been in head coaching situations where their contract was not renewed. Sue, who has coached for 32 years, said that being demoted to assistant coach made her come back as a stronger head coach. She said that she learned to know herself better with each position, season, and experience. She said that as a head coach she misses all the one-on-one coaching time with the players that she passes to her assistants just so they have their space. The biggest piece for Sue at this point in her career is to not hold any of her staff or players back.

“Every day on my ride to work – but no, let’s call it school because I love what I do so much that I don’t like to call it work,” Sue said, “So every day when I am riding to school, I go by this church and it has this saying I read every day: ‘Love God. Share Life. Impact Others.’ I read that almost every day of my life and I try my best to live by those words.”