Sports Retirement and Jeff Holmes

Mike Moffett

 by Mike Moffett
Weirs Times Columnist

Newly retired, I’ve been pondering retirement’s consequences. I hoped retirement meant improving my golf handicap—but, sadly, that’s yet to occur.

Retirements vary. Some are forced into retirement. Some retire too soon. Some too late. Some not at all.
A recent SPORT-THOUGHTS column opined that David Ortiz should NOT retire, given how well he’s been hitting.
After a farewell tour around the NBA, L.A. Laker Kobe Bryant wrapped up a 20-year NBA career with a 60 point effort in his final game. Not a bad way to go out.

Plymouth State grad Jeff Holmes recently hung up his whistle for the last time
Plymouth State grad Jeff Holmes recently hung up his whistle for the last time

Or consider 88-year-old L.A. Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully, presently in his 67th year at the microphone. He started when the team was still in Brooklyn. He could have retired long ago, but why quit doing something that you’re good at, that you enjoy, and for which you’re well-paid?
And then there’s Jeff Holmes. Jeff’s a Plymouth State grad and a former basketball teammate whom I ran into at a recent Plymouth reunion event. He shared that he’d just retired from both coaching and teaching in upstate New York after 35 years—a nice run that left him somewhere between Kobe Bryant and Vin Scully on the retirement spectrum.
Jeff won almost 300 games at Shaker High School—and several league championships. He reminisced about big wins and great players, but what was perhaps most special was coaching his sons—as Jeff’s father Ray had coached Jeff in Plattsburgh, N.Y. in the 1970s.
Great coaches have great character, and Jeff demonstrated his by crediting his wife Lynne for her support in helping raise three sons as Jeff spent countless hours with his hoopsters.
While coaches do get paid for their efforts, their rewards are largely intrinsic. One can cash a coaching check, but the value of hearing former players tell how a coach changed their lives is incalculable.
“I was very dedicated to coaching,” recalled Jeff. “I spent a lot of time studying the game, working at camps, going to clinics, watching film, and spending time with other coaches. I had a note pad next to my chair when I watched games on TV. I did something basketball related almost every single day of my career.”
Dedicated indeed.
But tellingly, some of Jeff’s fondest memories were not from the gymnasium.
“Some of my best coaching moments were in my car on the way home after a great practice,” recalled Jeff. “Seeing players really improve made my day.”
Yes, those intrinsic rewards ARE incalculable.
Now Jeff will finally have time to really improve HIS golf handicap. If he takes on golf with the same dedication that he did coaching, then he’ll have many more of those happy moments driving home in his car.

PAT HEAD SUMMITT AND JEFF HOLMES
The sports world was recently diminished by the death of legendary University of Tennessee women’s head basketball coach Pat Head Summitt. Her 1,098 career wins are the most in NCAA basketball history and her Lady Volunteers won eight NCAA championships. Summitt’s rivalry with UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma was one of the best in sports, although Auriemma eventually surpassed her with UConn’s 11 NCAA titles.
Pat Head was the captain of the first U.S. Women’s Olympic team, which won a medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. That squad featured legendary players like Nancy Lieberman and Ann Meyers.
The aforementioned Jeff Holmes shared that those 1976 Olympian hoopsters stopped in upstate New York en route to Montreal. Coach Billie Jean Moore was looking for a scrimmage opportunity to help her team stay sharp before playing powerhouses from the Soviet Union and Japan. As Jeff’s dad Ray was one of the area’s most respected coaches, he was contacted about putting together a solid team of local All-Stars. Not surprisingly, the boys’ squad included Jeff, who’d just graduated from high school.
So how did the game go? Jeff claimed his guys beat the Olympians and that he scored 16 points.
Hmmmmm. Yeah, sure.
So given the wonders of this information age, I accessed an on-line copy of the July 14, 1976, Plattsburgh Press-Republican—which confirmed that such a game actually occurred.
Of the U.S. Olympic team’s visit to Plattsburg State’s Memorial Hall, sportswriter Andy Armstrong reported that “The distaff dozen gave a local collection of All-Stars all they could handle before bowing 94-89.”
Wow. Jeff’s team DID beat the Olympians. And a box score confirmed that Holmes indeed had 16 points while Meyers had ten and Lieberman eight for the Olympians. Armstrong’s account described the fantastic outside shooting of 5-foot-10 Pat Head, a forward from Tennessee, who during the first half buried four straight 15-footers. Perhaps Jeff was covering her during this stretch!
Anyway, if it’s on the Internet, it must be true.
Jeff Holmes: Great story. Thanks for sharing, and enjoy your retirement.
Pat Head Summitt: RIP.

Sports Quiz
What ice hockey Hall-of-Famer came out of retirement and played three more NHL seasons after his induction? (Answer follows)

Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on July 7 include golf great Tony Jacklin (1944) and 7-foot-4 NBA star Ralph Sampson (1960).

Sportsquote
“To retire is to die.” – Pablo Casals

Sportsquiz Answer
Montreal Canadien star Guy LeFleur retired from the NHL in 1985 and was inducted into the hockey Hall of Fame in 1988. Later that year he returned to the NHL with the New York Rangers and scored 18 goals—without wearing a helmet, as he was exempt. He then played two more seasons with the Quebec Nordiques before retiring for good.

Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management for Plymouth State University and NHTI-Concord. He recently co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is mimoffett@comcast.net.