Sunday, May 7, 2023

The Right Bus

 I listened to a brief interview with retired Duke coach, Mike Krzyzewski, and he said, (paraphrasing) ‘My mom sat me down just before I started high school on the first day. She said, Mike, make sure you get on the right bus. I said, mom, I know Chicago and I know how to get around. And she said, I’m not talking about that bus. I want you to get on the right bus with good people, and make sure the driver is a good person, too.’

As a former coach, teacher, counselor and administrator, I’ve seen this played out in real time. I remember, as a coach, I selected my team carefully, with a great deal of consideration. At one stop in my coaching career, I cut almost all the seniors because I didn’t like what they brought to the court in terms of behavior and attitude. It was controversial, because one kid was perhaps the best player in the school. But while he could shoot, dribble, and play defense, he was also a known drinker and partier, and at times, would be dishonest. If I was going to drive that bus, I didn’t want him on it. My first year at that school, we were competitive, but not outstanding. However, for me and the coaching staff and the players, it was a good and fun year.

I had a stint as a graduate assistant at the collegiate level where I was recruited to coach guards, but ended up recruiting and scouting. As the coach said, “Joe, I need you to find me some players.” So for two years, that’s what I did.

My first year there, we had a kid on our bus that didn’t belong and who, it is safe to say, destroyed the team from the inside. Talented? Yes. Could he play? Absolutely. But he also couldn’t get along with the other members of the team. Sort of an I-Me-Mine kind of guy. That attitude wasn’t and isn’t beneficial to any team sport. 

When I began, I would sit away from the crowd as much as possible, and evaluate athleticism, court awareness and game sense. That was the easy part. I would talk to the coach where and when the NCAA allowed it, and gathered as much information on the young man as I could. But I found it wasn’t enough.

As I became wiser, I would sit in the student section, but towards the back. As I watched the player or players I was interested in play the game, I would ask the player’s classmates and schoolmates about the kid. What was he like in the hallways, in the cafeteria, in the classroom? Who did he hang out with? Did he spend any time in the library? 

Kids were, at times, brutally honest- not only in the things they said but also in what they didn’t say. I put this information with what he could or couldn’t do and make my recommendations to the head coach. Most of the time, he accepted it. At other times, he didn’t. 

But I took this with me as I coached high school ball and AAU ball later after that college stint. I wanted to surround myself and place on the bus I drove the good kids. The kids who were not only smart and could play, but who were good kids.

To a great extent, I took it with me as an administrator. I selected teachers and my assistant principals (where I could) with good people- people I wanted on my bus. Beyond the art and craft of teaching, were they the teachers and administrative team members I wanted my own children to be with? Could I trust them? Were they kid-centered? Did they have a good heart? Those were the teachers and administrators I wanted on my bus!

I think the right bus analogy can be used in most every aspect of life. I think it’s an analogy we can teach to our children from little on. I think being on the right bus is sometimes a missed concept, maybe a missed opportunity for the larger questions and influences in our lives: politics, religion, our married lives. It’s something I can point to in my life as I get ready for my real retirement: to drive a bus of good people in my life, and ride the busses of other good drivers- a bus filled with good people. Thanks Mike and Mrs. Krzyzewski for the lesson for today and for every day! Something to think about …

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My Publisher, Black Rose Writing, and I are sponsoring a giveaway for Fan Mail that began on Tuesday, April 25 and will finish at 11:59 PM PT on Wednesday, May 24th. Not much time left!

We are giving away 5 copies to Goodreads members in U.S.

When the giveaway ends, winners will be randomly selected, and I will mail out a signed copy of Fan Mail.

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Fan Mail: New Release! A Maxy Award Finalist, an Eric Hoffer Award Nominee, and a Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner!  

A barrage of threatening letters, a car bomb, and a heart attack rip apart what was once a close-knit family of adopted brothers. Randy and Bobby, along with fellow band member and best friend, Danny, receive fan mail that turns menacing. They ignore it, but to their detriment. The sender turns up the heat. Violence upends their world. It rocks the relationship between the boys and ripples through their family, nearly killing their dad.

As these boys turn on each other, adopted brother Brian flashes back to that event in Arizona where he nearly lost his life saving his brothers. The scars on his face and arms healed, but not his heart.  

Would he once again have to put himself in harm’s way to save them? And if faced with that choice, will he? 

Blaze In, Blaze Out: Best Action Crime Thriller of 2022 by Best Thrillers! A Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Readers’ Favorite Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read! A BestThriller’s Editor’s Pick!

Eiselmann and O’Connor thought the conviction of Dmitry Andruko, the head of a Ukrainian crime family, meant the end. It was only the beginning. They forgot that revenge knows no boundaries, vindictiveness knows no restraints, and ruthlessness never worries about collateral damage. Andruko hired contract killers to go after and kill O’Connor and Eiselmann.

The killers can be anyone and be anywhere. They can strike at any time. They care nothing of collateral damage. Andruko believes a target is a target, and in the end, the target must die. 

Betrayed: Two Top Shelf Awards: 1st Place Fiction-Mystery; and Runner-Up Fiction-Crime; A PenCraft 1st Place Winner for Thriller-Fiction! A Maxy Award Runner-Up for Mystery/Suspense! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read Award Winner! A Reader’s Favorite Honorable Mention Award Winner for Fiction-Crime-Mystery!  

Betrayed is Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback! 

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is talking. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Greed can be all-consuming, and seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted.

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!

He blends in. He is successful, intelligent, and methodical. So far, he has murdered eight people. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, do not know they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. 

Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner! Named “One of the Best Thrillers of 2018!” by 

Caught in a Web is also available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback!

They found the bodies of high school and middle school kids dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. A violent gang, MS-13, controls the drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors. They send Ricardo Fuentes to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay. 

Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else.  
The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:

FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they live in separate parts of the country, the lives of Kelliher, 11-year-old Brett McGovern, and 11-year-old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their futures grow dark as each search for a way out. 

Book One, Stolen Lives: Editor’s Pick by BestThrillers! Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Crime Thriller finalist in the 2021 Best Thriller Book Awards!

Two thirteen-year-old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they will end up like the other kids they found- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. To make the investigation that much tougher, Kelliher suspects that one of his team members might be involved.  

Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:

The boys are home, but now they have to fit back in with their families and friends. Their parents and the FBI thought the boys were safe. They were until people began dying. Now the hunt is on for six dangerous and desperate men who vow revenge. With no leads and nothing to go on, the FBI can only sit back and wait. A dangerous game that threatens not only the boys, but their families. 
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:

Three dangerous men with nothing to lose offer a handsome reward to anyone willing to kill fourteen-year-old Brett McGovern. He does not know that he, his younger brother, and a friend are targets. More than anyone, these three men vow to kill George, whom they blame for forcing them to run and hide. A fun vacation turns into a nightmare and ends where it started, back on the Navajo Nation Reservation, high on a mesa held sacred by George and his grandfather. Outnumbered and outgunned, George will make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his adoptive father and his adoptive brothers- but can he? Without knowing who these men are? Or where they are? Without knowing whom to trust? Is he prepared for betrayal that leads to his heartbreak and death?    

Photo courtesy of Elijah Ekdahl and Unsplash

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Thank you for your comment. I welcome your thought. Joe