The best television show in the history of the world, and also my favorite, The West Wing, made a habit out of using the phrase “What’s Next?” The characters would often use it after doing something incredible, either through sheer work and determination or just plain old dumb luck. Being a show about politics, these victories were of a political nature. Toby finishing writing the State of the Union address, Josh getting the blue dog democrat to change his vote and pass an amendment, C.J. working the press room like a pro, or President Bartlett just being President Bartlett. In my writing it doesn’t seem all that exciting, but the writer of the show, Aaron Sorkin, had a way of bringing these seemingly dull moments to life. It was never easy, and it was the journey with all of its ups and downs that made the end so rewarding. They had just done something great, something special that will have a huge impact on their lives going forward. Then they would say, “What’s Next,” and they would have already moved on from the memorable moment to the next challenge.
I can relate. You do something great, you need to appreciate it, learn from it, take it in for all its worth, and then just like that be onto the next. There is always a new challenge. If what you did yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today. My time in Ireland this year is coming to an end. This special, memorable experience with all of its ups and downs that will have a huge impact on my life going forward is nearly over. It’s almost my turn to say, “What’s Next.”
But not just yet. And before I do there are a few things from the past few months I’ve been meaning to put on the blog that I want to look back on before I move forward.
In some type of chronological order:
Two or so months ago Ruth Seligman wrote a great piece on my being in Ireland for the Horace Mann alumni website. I am very appreciative and it’s really well done. Thank you Ruth!
In the article, this blog is referenced and after it was published I noticed an uptick in visits to the blog. It would have been smart to do a few posts during that time and take advantage of all of the extra traffic. So of course I did not do that. That would have been smart. Better late than never!
It’s a good read. You should check it out. Or maybe I just think so because it’s about me.
I felt the same way ‘Sheed.
I was ejected from a game. Rasheed Wallace style. I still cannot believe it happened. For better or worse (it was for worse), I suppose that’s one of the few things in sports I had never experienced. It’s a loooooong walk across the court and out of the building. Thanks to Paul Freeman for not leaving me alone in the Maree locker room that night even though I told him to go. Apparently he missed Andre Tongo put on a show in the 2nd half. Neither of us saw it.
See video below for what I think about refs. ……I’m sure Rasheed agrees.
I might just have to put that ejection on my CV. You never know when that might come in handy in an interview. There’s a positive spin here isn’t there? I’m passionate, right? Right, lets go with that.
My team won the regular season Southern Conference championship. We went undefeated for about 5 months after starting the season 0-2. I’m not sure that we were always more talented, but we had an attitude about ourselves and a toughness; two of the most important traits of a quality team. Confidence makes you better than you actually are.
Southern Conference Champs
On the night we were awarded the Southern Conference trophy, my mom and brother were in attendance. This was the semi-final playoff game, which I was of course suspended for after my bogus ejection. So my family traveled 3,000 miles to see me sit on the bench. It all worked out though. Our team won one of the best games of basketball I’ve ever seen. 99-97 final score in overtime that included a buzzer beater to tie and a game winner by Ditch “Conall” Mac Michael with 3 seconds on the clock in OT. The teams combined for something like 30 3’s. I would have enjoyed playing in that game. I like to shoot 3’s.
Finally eligible to play again, we lost in the finals. We had beaten the team, Blue Demons, twice before during the season, but they were the better team on the day of the championship. I will always remember the support from our fans. We brought multiple busses of supporters to Dublin (from Galway) and they filled our side of the gym. As they had been all year, they were loud. There are few things quite like playing in front of a capacity crowd that is going wild. Even if some of the behavior may be bordering on psychotic. Thanks to everyone.
The loss in the final was the 5th straight championship game loss for the Titans. FIVE YEARS IN A ROW making the final and then losing. Unheard of. This is Buffalo Bills territory, and no one wants to have anything in common with the lowly Bills! No offense Uncle Dan🙂 You can be sure the Titans will be back. They make finals. It’s what they do. One of these years they will win it.
The fam minus Raybo somewhere in Connemara.
My mom came to Ireland and she fell in love with it. After months of planning, preparation, and constant, non-stop, never ceasing talk about her upcoming trip this was hardly a surprise. My mom’s trip coincided with her birthday, which coincides with St. Patrick’s Day. To spend my mom’s birthday on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland was special. It was bound to get emotional.
My mother is a bit of a crier. I don’t mean this in a bad way and by no means does she cry all of the time or really all that often. But she is predictable in her tear patterns. Most things to do with family and an outpouring of love or some jibber-jabber like that will set off the sprinklers. Military service, the playing of God Bless America on a patriotic holiday, and a heartfelt message from her baby boy do it every time. Especially after a pint or two. I know this and I love this about her. But it doesn’t mean I can’t have a little bit of fun with it.
My brother, Colin, had come to visit with my mom, and he was with us for her birthday. After a wonderful day at the Coughlan house complete with a birthday meal and cake and before our night out in Galway began, I told my brother that I would have mom crying tears of happiness by 11 PM in the Skeff Bar. He replied that there was no way I could accurately predict when, where, or even if this event would take place. He should have known better. Having spent a few hours pub crawling through Galway and showing her some of the town, it was time to start the bawling.
Lo and behold, at exactly 11 PM in the Skeff, I pulled out the “I love you mom, I’m so happy you’re here on your birthday on St. Patrick’s Day in Galway! This is so special” line. All completely true but like I said… queue the waterworks. It may have started in jest, but in the end it made for a perfect way to end a great birthday with my mom. Every word was true and genuinely heartfelt. I couldn’t have been happier I got to share that day and those moments with her. It really was special. The two of us will never forget it.
……You can bet she’s crying right now🙂
With my brother and sister high atop Blackrock.
My sister, Catie, also came to visit. She’s been insanely busy the past four years in college and prepping for her future by running the Georgetown Credit Union (fancy way to say bank or so I’m told), so we haven’t had an extended period to hang out and be together for a long time. We got that the week she was in Ireland, and I’m really happy she came. We even only got into a few sibling fights! Progress. There’s no way she reads my blog anyway, so she won’t mind me congratulating her on graduating from Georgetown last week and saying how proud I am of her. She’s my little sister, but I look up to her in so many ways. She’s doing big things. I hope I can be a part of it.
In the off chance that she is reading this, I can see you rolling your eyes Catie.
U14 Sligo All-Stars
I coached in a lot of places this year, but my main coaching base was in Sligo with the Sligo All-Stars. From my first day coaching in Sligo I knew I was coaching a talented group of players. The kids in the club had been well coached, skilled, and drilled from a young age. The teams had been successful in the past, but this year the goal was to take the next step and earn national respect. The All-Ireland Club Championships was the objective. Fast forward eight months after my arrival, and both the U14 and U16 boy’s teams were playing for the All Ireland Club Championships. The U16’s were playing in Galway and the U14’s were playing in Cork on the same weekend. I was disappointed I could not be in two places at once, but I went to Cork with the U14’s. It was an incredible weekend of basketball. Every player on the team made a significant contribution and we gutted out win after win. The U16’s were doing the same thing and both teams made it to the championship game. In Cork, the U14’s matched up with the heavily favored home Neptune team. The kids left everything they had on the floor and gave Neptune all it could handle. It was the first time in the tournament Neptune had been tested, but in the end we came up just short. It was a great game, and there were many moments from the weekend that will stick with me, but none more than the scene after the game. After the loss every member of this team of 11, 12, and 13 year olds was crying. The best measure of a good season is to see the reaction of everyone after the last game. If the team is crying you know they cared. It’s not something you expect, especially for this age group, but they put so much work in all year and wanted it so badly. Sometimes you learn more from losing than winning. I know this group will continue to work hard and get better. They care too much, and they will remember what losing that game felt like.
When the post game awards ceremony finally ended, we made our way to the locker room. The kids were still understandably devastated. But in an instant, the mood changed. We got word that the U16’s had won their final by one in overtime. The locker room erupted. We went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in a moment. That is sports. It was great to see the U14’s take joy in the U16’s win. It was about the whole club, not just individuals or one team, but everyone. It was a special moment and I hope it is something that can continue to thrive going forward. Everyone in the club, not just the U14 and U16’s, have bigger things ahead of them. I’m excited to see what they do in the future. Shane O’Meara, Glen Monaghan, and Sean McGowan deserve all of the credit in the world for making it possible and taking them to this point. Now it’s the kids’ turn to take the next step. I am confident they will. Sligo basketball is back on the map.
After finishing as the #1 and #2 teams in the country, the U16 and U14’s were treated to a hero’s welcome and reception with the Mayor. It was well earned.
…with the Mayor.
A few weeks after meeting the Mayor of Sligo, I met the President of the country of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins. He moonlights as a leprechaun. No really, see the picture below. I knew leprechauns were real!
…with the President
I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of what’s next. But the concept is too general. I want to know specifics. What is actually next? Asking the question is not enough; I have to already know. I’m a very goal oriented, point to point person in that I like and almost need to have a plan. When I don’t have a plan, I am lost. Recently however, I’ve come to the realization that it is those times when you don’t have a set in stone rigid plan that are the most fruitful and fun. Ireland, and of course Joe Coughlan have had that influence. Heres an example.
A few weeks ago on a drizzly (of course) lazy Sunday I got a call from Joe asking if I wanted to go for a drive. Now, first of all, you have to realize what a drive with Joe Coughlan entails. You could literally be in store for anything. Its safe to assume, however, that should you say yes you will be out of contact for the rest of the day, if not longer. You might be driving clear across the country. If you made plans, you had better be ready to break them if you tag along for the drive. You can’t have plans around Joe, things just happen. This drives me crazy.
But I had no plans for the day, so I agreed. We picked up Joe’s son and a friend, and headed though the hills and rocks of Connemara and somehow ended up in Mayo. Upon arriving into Mayo, Joe remembered there was a castle I might like to see, so we set out to find it. Joe then tells me we are going to Ashford Castle, an exclusive hotel and golf destination built on the grounds of a medieval estate where numerous U.S Presidents and Hollywood stars had stayed. That sounds cool. So we must be driving by to get a look in the distance and be on our way I think to myself. I should have known better.
In his rather large, “traveler” van, Joe drives through the massive front gates and parks right in front of the impressive castle in a space that is clearly marked “Residents Only.” These signs never seem to apply to Joe.
This is great; we were able to see the castle from up close. Time to be on our way, right? Wrong. Joe gets out of the car and makes his way towards the entrance. I am wearing sweatpants and sweatshirt at this point, so there is no way they are going to let me into this 5 star luxury hotel that is also a castle. Joe even begins to realize we might be pushing our luck now and tells his son and friend to run around the castle while we attempt to go inside. It’s a big castle, so it should give us a few minutes to try and get inside as the kids run around. Its raining outside and the boys are in shorts and t-shirts, but what’s a little cold. Gillian (Joe’s wife) won’t know how they got sick, so we’ll be fine. (Whoops! Sorry Joe!). So with the kids occupied, we ascend the staircase and come to the doorman at the front door. Oh well, we made it pretty close I remember thinking. It was a nice run. But instead of the doorman questioning who we were and my attire and turning us away, he opened the door and asked if there was anything he could do for us. What?!?!!? So we were in. Bill Clinton had just recently been there, and now so too were Joe Coughlan and Brendan Barile. After this adventure, we are both ready for a pint. The bar is on the other side of the castle so we have to walk through the lounging areas and the people to get there. As we started to walk, you could feel every eye on us. We did not belong there. This place was too nice. My sweats probably didn’t help our image. You could just feel the money is this place. We finally made it to the bar, sat down in maybe the most comfortable seat I’ve ever sat, and started to drink the only pint of Guinness I’ve ever actually enjoyed. As I’m an obnoxious and dumb American, I’ll describe the moment in the most descriptive way I can. It was awesome.
Right about then, little Joseph and his friend Aaron came racing down the hall. They were covered in mud. Surely we would get tossed from this posh castle now. Alas, no one seemed to mind. As usual the boys were full of energy and could not sit still. When we were finally able to settle them down, they seemed to appreciate where they were too. Wide-eyed and mystified little Joseph sat back in his chair and let his eyes wander in wonderment. He gets it too, I thought to myself. A minute later he springs back to life and yells, “Do you know what this place would be great for???” He paused for what I’m sure was dramatic effect, and screamed….. “hide and go seek!!!”
Two peas in a pod…if the pod were a castle.
He and Aaron then tore off to explore the castle, completely oblivious to the multi million-dollar refurbishments and medieval history still present.
A few moments later, an impeccably dressed manager began to make his way toward us. I saw him moving our way out of the corner of my eye. As he continued down the long corridor, I turned to Joe and told him thanks for the great day but this is it, we’re out. Even Joe had come to that conclusion. Neither of us moved a muscle. For some reason we were hoping the manager was like T-Rex and we were in Jurassic Park. If you don’t move he can’t see. When he got to the table, instead of escorting us out of the castle he asked one question….. “Are you Joe Coughlan?” Of course he knew Joe. Everyone knows Joe. We were then treated to another pint, a lovely bowl of fresh chowder,
That pint went down easy.
and left with a story about that time we snuck our way into Ashford Castle in plain sight and were treated like kings.
Not bad for a day that started with no plan.
Two thumbs up!
I’m ok not having a plan now. At least sometimes. It’s amazing how much can change in a year. I could not be more grateful for the opportunity and overwhelmed by the kindness of everyone I’ve met in Ireland. I am especially indebted to the people in Galway and Sligo who without I don’t know where I would be. The support from my family at home made this possible. I hope they know that. The year of basketball in Ireland was the experience of a lifetime that I will never forget.