Sunday, July 9, 2017

Insight Into the Mind and Heart of a Winner -- The Gary Blair Biography

From the moment you open the book, “A Coaching Life,” by Gary Blair and Rusty Burson, you’ll meet a new friend who shares his history and his heart with you. Suspend your preconceptions of who Gary Blair is or “must be like” when you prepare to hear his story. You may know him as the Head Coach of the 2011 NCAA Division Women’s Basketball Champions.

You might know him as a Marine. Or you might just remember him from being the most frequently seen Texas A&M Administrator in the Bryan-College Station area—they're all Gary Blair, but until you read this book, you don't know the extent of his patience, the depth of his love, or the wisdom of his wit.

The persona of Gary Blair has been created over the course of 14 years at Texas A&M but long before he arrived in Bryan-College Station, he was established in Dallas, in Lubbock, in the states of Louisiana and Arkansas and his impact goes far beyond women’s basketball. His passion for baseball and his ability to participate, master, and teach any sport is exceeded only by his ability to motivate, inspire and lead young adults and teenagers.

There are more than a few "famous names" you'll encounter among contemporary sports legends whose high school careers intersected with Blair's days at South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas, or his days coaching at Louisiana Tech, but the beauty is that "each player" Gary Blair coached is a star in his book, and he in theirs.

Most refreshing in this volume is the accurate reflection and statistics on the paths to the various championships he collected with each pursuit. Co-author Rusty Burson is to be commended on two counts; first, the accuracy of the facts, figures, dates and places are guaranteed accurate because of his relentless pursuit of accuracy. (I remember hearing him speak at a live broadcast of the “Gary Blair Radio Show” during basketball season earlier this year.)

Second, Burson is a brilliant co-author in that he “let Blair be Blair,” which means the original authentic voice of Gary Blair remains unfettered, and the stories they share read as brilliantly as if you’d be hearing Gary relate them in person, as he can and does, to a delighted crowd of any size. Unquestionably, apart from sports, apart from his ever-abiding spirit of competition, family comes first with Gary Blair.

In addition to his own family, every student he ever coached is a permanent member of the Blair family collective. His wonderful memory is filled with the accomplishments of his students, and he is one proud papa to the world’s largest collective family, in addition to his own children and grandchildren.

The Marine in Gary Blair is also revealed and it’s no surprise he loves history, he loves his country and he loves people, even when he and a band of brothers were put to the test in boot camp. You learn how and why the famous (+) symbol is written on his left hand before the game (if you didn’t already know from being around his radio show or Aggie basketball fan events).

And no matter how many days you have to wait until basketball season starts again, there is baseball and golf and some other sport played at A&M that seems to generate a large amount of focus. I forget what it is, but unquestionably, Gary Blair is the most important proponent of all things Texas A&M. In fact, from the earliest days Gary Blair volunteered first to do the assignments that no one else wanted, created something from nothing, and took it to the top.

His legend grew, but his ego remained modest. He’s proud of what he’s done to be sure, but he’s never forgotten the joy of why he loves sports, youth, and coaching. Nor does he forget the people in his life who gave him his first opportunities, who stood by (and around) him when he needed them most, and whether he got paid for doing it (often he did not), he was ready at a moment’s notice to step in and be a part of generating focus and enthusiasm wherever it is needed at the time (unsalaried for doing it). This just generally shines through the way he describes the people in his life.

You will find Gary Blair front and center at soccer, volleyball, track and field, golf, women’s softball, and anything that involves competition and Aggies, and he’s the best advocate for women’s sports you could ever hope to have in Aggieland. Read how generous and enthusiastic he is about the accomplishments of all Aggie teams from his very beginning days.

There’s a Bible verse that reminds me of Blair: Matthew 6:33 (“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”) That’s basically who he is and what he does. His ability to connect with people is a real gift.

If you’re a Texas A&M former student, you want this book. Peek inside to meet a vital part of the Texas Aggie family, and stay a while to get a crash course in the making of a legend. This book was a gift to me and now I’m gifting it to others. It’s one you won't want to put down, so budget your time accordingly. Here's the link if you want your own copy: "A Coaching Life" by Gary Blair with Rusty Burson

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