After my father passed away I got a call from the editor of the book series, “Chicken Soup for the Soul”. They asked if I would write something about what it was like growing up as the daughter of Bill Musselman. Here is what I wrote. Spoiler alert: it was the best.
I grew up in a basketball family, the daughter and sister of two NBA coaches. My brother, Eric Musselman, has been an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and Memphis Grizzlies. He has been the head coach fot the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings.
My father, Bill Musselman, was a coach in the NCAA, the ABA, the CBA and the NBA. He was head coach for Ashland College, The University of Minnesota, San Diego Sails, Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves. In 2000 my father was an assistant coach with the Portland Trailblazers when he suffered a stroke and was later diagnosed with bone cancer.
Days before my father died, at age fifty-nine, he could not walk. His eyes had circles underneath them the color of darkened grapes. His voice was raspy and low. His weight had plunged. His kidneys no longer worked. He had cancer.
The last day we saw him we arrived at the hospital early. He asked to be put into his wheelchair and taken to the chapel. He sat in the middle of the center aisle, hands folded, head bowed, praying to God. He then asked me to say a prayer. When I finished, he whispered to me to take him back to his room and grab his dark sunglasses, which he wore like James Bond in Bangkok, day and night throughout his life. When I returned, I put them over his eyes and then in a low voice he said, “Take me outside.”
It was a beautiful sunny day and we wheeled him outdoors. He turned his face to the sun and spoke to my brother Eric. “E, hand me that phone,” he commanded, waving his hand. Dad grabbed the phone and then dialed with more energy than we had seen in weeks.
“Biggie,” he said to Damon Stoudamire, Portland’s 5’9” point guard, “It’s Bill Musselman.”
And then my father came alive. His voice boomed with an enthusiasm we hadn’t heard in weeks, but had heard so many times in locker rooms and on sidelines. My brother and I were mesmerized and captivated by his words and the rhythm and strength of his voice.
We heard him barking at Stoudamire: “What is going on with you? You have got to dig deep. You have more inside you. Don’t let anyone keep you down.” His voice got louder and gained momentum. “Dig deeper! You have to go deeper! Get in there, fight, be strong, and be tough; we all have more to give than we think! Push yourself! Use every ounce of your potential! I know you have more, I know you can find more inside, we all can.”
Dad’s arms were waving like a symphony conductor. His jaw was clenched. His words were crisp and clear for a man who had lost all of his speech six months earlier from a stroke. Eric and I stood there a bit shocked but smiling and hanging onto each of my father’s words.
On that day in the glorious sunshine, wearing his sunglasses, my father gave us our last life lesson, one last bit of advice that makes you believe that you have something glorious inside you. As Dad spoke to Biggie, he let us know that we have been given a gift from above and must dig deep to find it and then do everything possible to use it wisely and with impact. We must all live up to our potential, and our potential is infinitely greater than we can ever imagine.
My father was a great believer that if you kept your focus and were willing to work harder than you ever thought possible, even when your dreams didn’t happen on your timeline, you could still accomplish great things.
My dad was interested in why people prevail and why people surrender. The will to triumph fascinated him. When I look back at his life, his greatest gift wasn’t a fantastic basketball mind; his greatest gift was the dedication to follow his dream. Behind his steel blue eyes was a life full of passion. My father once told me, “Two percent of basketball players are born with endless talent, the kind of talent that would take a complete fool to mess up. The other ninety-eight percent are going to succeed because of how much they put into it and how deep they dig into their soul.”
I looked back at the road my father traveled and it was filled with great successes, but also some controversies and brutal failures. But he never lost sight of where he wanted to go. Dad’s life was cut short but he had something inside him that kept him moving forward, something that gave his life fullness and energy. His love for basketball was so powerful that no matter how much he succeeded or how miserably he failed, he still felt value in his quest. He was a focused warrior.
At Dad’s funeral, an older man came up to my brother and introduced himself. He said, “Over thirty-five years ago I was driving the two-lane highway on the way to Orville, Ohio. I saw a boy about eleven or twelve years old dribbling a basketball on the side of the road. I pulled over and said, “Son, where are you going?”
“He kept dribbling and replied, ‘Orville.’
“Then I asked him, ‘Do you know Orville is ten miles away?"
“And the boy nodded, ‘Yes.’
Then I asked, ‘What are you going to do when you get there?’
“He looked up at me with this strange kind of smile and answered, ‘Dribble back home with my left hand.’
“That boy was your father.”
Now there is a guy who knew how to dig deep!
Happy Father’s Day to all those dad’s out there believing in their daughters dreams!
Guess what is coming back in stock? The Bahamas Blue Erica and Cece! Just in time for all your summer fun! Grab it Monday, June 21st, before it's gone!
And mark your calendars because the Shell Pink Erica Skirt and Pixie top will be online again June 28th with some other fun, KOCH exclusive pieces!
We have a new Tik Tok contest coming on June 21st and you won’t want to miss it!
We had so much fun shooting our Cowgirl Capsule in Austin this week. Stay tuned for more details.
Calling all Houstonians!! We will be there June 30th from 3-8 PM for a pop-up and can’t wait! Stay tuned for exact details! Fill up your suitcases with lots of KOCH.
Quote of the Week: "My father was a great believer that if you kept your focus and were willing to work harder than you ever thought possible, even when your dreams didn’t happen on your timeline, you could still accomplish great things."
Podcast of the Week: Chris Bosh on How to Reinvent Yourself
Yes, that is the ticket!!! It does not matter what happens to you. You can see that acceptance is an important part of living.
This was a beautiful post. I am sorry for your loss, my mother also passed away from bone cancer and left me many life lessons. Thank you for sharing much love. Xoxo
You have just opened my eyes to the rest of my life! Thank You!! Neither IQ or experience gets us to our goal. Only PASSION will leave a legacy for those whose paths ours has crossed. WPS!!
Hi Nicole , you may not remember me I had the privilege of meeting you once – Eric and I and your dad and Roger Rogos played some pickup games in backyards , gyms thr Y. Your dad and I ran the beach and had breakfast almost everyday together in off season. He was my friend and one of the greatest men I ever met a True blessing in my life. He only loved one thing more than basketball- it was his children- He would be so very very proud of you and Eric and all his grandkids
So good Nicole! Not sure whether you remember as you were 5 or 6 yo in SD. I had the privilege of playing for your Father as Eric and I were starting guards on an all star team. Your Dad’s passion was incredible and I never miss a chance to tell people about our escapades running the court at LJ Rec. much love to you Kris and the family! Brad
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