A year has passed and it seems like it was just yesterday that I was asked to write the initial column about Coach Heimann’s passing. Ironically, this column has been much more difficult than the first one. The column one year ago was easy to write; it was all emotion and reaction to Coach passing. This column was much harder. To think about Coach logically and calmly is still difficult even a year later.
Coach’s contributions to this school will never be quantified. They can never be fully understood, and they can never be put fully into words. He’s gone, of course, but still, in my work in the athletic department, I see him in little things every day. I will simply point out the little things I see him in everyday. There are moments when he is being remembered and talked about and there are situations where he seems to be present each and every time an athlete or coach is active, and that means nearly every moment of every day. Even the simple mention of his name at the beginning of each home basketball game brings Coach to mind.
You can always tell when a “Coach Heimann story” is being told because they all follow the same basic pattern. The initial story starts with the same idea. “Coach used to do this:” wear ugly sweaters, drink Diet Coke, run miles on the track at odd times in the morning, play a nasty game of racquetball with Coach Knosher and many other examples.
The next part of the story is mixed in with a little sadness as whoever tells the story remembers that Coach has passed. There will be a break in the conversation as both people will sigh a little and pause. The conversation ends with the person throwing out his or her own story about Coach, usually laughing as he or she does it. It may go something like. “You remember how he used to . . .”: strike up a conversation with anyone anywhere, make every one of his players take off their hats in his presence, always brush questions about himself away and ask how you were instead, stop and chat no matter what he was doing or where he was going. In the end, the stories are almost always filled with laughter and smiles.
One thing of which I have become abundantly aware is the fact that Coach had pride and respect for each and every person who ever played for him and that is part of his legacy. Listening to alumni talk about Coach, whether they played basketball or one of the many other sports that he coached, they always have the same sense of pride and respect for the man reflected in their voices. With each story or anecdote about Coach comes some statement or story about how he helped them in their time at Knox. Their stories are all different and yet very similar. They have different years, names and situations, but the overriding similarity is the stories all have the same theme of Coach going out of his way to make sure that they had the best possible time they could at Knox. The relationships he has built and the connection that people feel with him are his true legacy, and that is something that is felt every day on Heimann Court and in the entire athletic department.