Website – https://ccacornerstone.com/athletics
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter – @BabeKwas
Babe Kwasniak will be starting his first season as the Boys’ Varsity Basketball Coach at Cornerstone Christian Academy in Willoughby Hills, Ohio in the fall of 2021. Prior to Cornerstone, Kwas served 10 seasons as the boys varsity basketball coach at his alma mater Villa Angela St. Joseph High School in Cleveland, Ohio.
Babe was a three time state champion as a player at VASJ under his father, the coaching legend, Ted Kwasniak. He played division one basketball at West Point where the discipline he learned at home served him well during his time in the army. Upon returning to his alma mater as the boys varsity coach in 2010 Kwas led VASJ to five straight state championship games winning it all in 2013, 2015, and 2017. His father Ted was his assistant throughout his tenure as the leader of the Viking program.
In addition to our usual hoops talk, Kwas speaks candidly about the realness of PTSD, dealing with suicidal thoughts and actions, and shares the real life struggles he has gone through over the years.
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Take some notes and listen thoughtfully as we talk with Babe Kwasniak, Boys’ Basketball Head Coach at Cornerstone Christian Academy in Willoughby Hills, Ohio.
What We Discuss with Babe Kwasniak
- Growing up as a gym rat and playing his high school basketball at Villa Angela St. Joseph High School
- Playing D1 basketball at West Point, serving in the army, and coaching the armed forces team, a job he got through his connection with Coach K
- Coaching at University of Missouri – Kansas City for two years before returning home as the Head Coach at VASJ in 2010
- Winning three state titles and going to 5 straight state championship games as the Head Coach at VASJ
- The circumstances surrounding his dismissal at VASJ
- Transferring his sons to Cornerstone Christian Academy where his Dad was now serving as an assistant coach
- The way he was approached about the Head Coaching job at Cornerstone after sitting in the stands this past season
- The opportunity to coach his sons next season at Cornerstone
- “I don’t know if I loved coaching as much as I love the kids that I got to coach.”
- Trying to prove the people who love him right instead of trying to prove others wrong
- His job as civilian aide to the secretary of the army
- The story behind his attempted suicide and how advice from Doug Collins made realize he needed to get help
- The moment when he realized why he had to keep sharing his story with people
- “The name coach is something I will never, ever take for granted because it literally saved my life.”
- Why he uses the hashtag #Winners Win
- How prayer and his wife helped him to overcome his battle on move forward
- You may not see your true success as a coach until 15 years down the road
- Not letting other people define your success
- Be coachable and be a great teammate
- If a coach is your best leader then you’re probably in trouble
- Don’t ever stop doing what you think is right
- “If you’re going to do something, you better try to be the absolute best at it. And you kind of do that. The rest of the rest of it takes care of itself.”
- How gratitude helps fight entitlement
- “You can’t have trust without the truth.”
- How he organizes the mentoring program he uses with his team
- “You just get to a point where you’re like, okay, you just got to realize that you’re not going to be for everybody, right? And you need to do what you think is right.”
- “Your decisions illustrate your priorities.”
- “They’re always going to know that I love them. They’re always going to know that I’m going to build a real relationship with them.”
- “My purpose is much bigger than any of those demons that I used to face.”
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THANKS, BABE KWASNIAK
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TRANSCRIPT FOR BABE KWASNIAK – CORNERSTONE CHRISTIAN ACADEMY (OH) BOYS’ BASKETBALL HEAD COACH – EPISODE 459
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle. And tonight we are pleased to welcome back to the Hoop Heads Podcast guests Number two from way back in August of 2018 when he sat down in person with me, I believe at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Cleveland, following Alan Stein, who was guest number one, I know hard to believe that at some point we actually interviewed people in person instead of via what is now Cast or Skype or zoom or whatever it might be.
But at any rate, Babe Kwasniak, currently the head coach at Cornerstone Christian in Willoughby Hills, Ohio.
Babe Kwasniak: [00:00:45] Mike, Jason. Thanks for having me. Let me make sure I’m hearing this right. But I just got introduced as Alan Stein’s JV team and Greg White’s JV team. But man, it seems like three lifetimes ago, doesn’t it? Mike?
Mike Klinzing: [00:00:59] The fact that you [00:01:00] could sit down in person and actually do some things, seems like it was a long time ago just because of the pandemic, but it also feels like since we’re whatever 440 episodes ago, as we were talking before you jumped on, it’s hard to believe that from those humble beginnings that we’ve been able to kind of get to where we are.
And since we last talked, you have also switched positions, which we’re going to get into and talk a little bit about that as we move forward in the podcast. But we’re going to start out by just having you give our listeners who maybe you can always go back and listen to. Babe’s first episode and go through and hear some of the stories of his childhood and growing up and with his father who was a coach long time at Villa Angela St. Joseph High School here in Cleveland, Ohio, but just got to give us your background real quick for people who are tuning in and maybe he didn’t listen to that episode. Tell us a little bit about your athletic background and sort of the connection that you had to Villa Angela St. Joseph’s growing up.
Babe Kwasniak: [00:01:56] Well, Mike, before I do that, I just want to tell you, man, like just like you [00:02:00] said, being a second episode, I’m so proud of what you and Jason had been able to do. And like we talked about man, who would ever thought that you’d have 400 it’s like, we grew up with basketball junkies. Right. And I know you and I grew up the same way.
So for you to be able to do this and do it at the level I mean, I’m so proud of you and I’m just so honored to be a part of it. And just thank you so much because I don’t even know if you can imagine this would take off like it did. And I mean, I just had so many people telling me how much they enjoyed it and I haven’t listened to every episode, but man, I bet you I’ve listened over a hundred of them.
So just, just great job. You and Jason, thank you so much for what you guys do for, for our game. And the fact that you’re from Northeast Ohio makes me prouder.
Mike Klinzing: [00:02:42] So thank you. Yeah, we appreciate that. We always appreciate the kind words and it’s been a lot of fun and as much value as hopefully we’ve provided out there to people who are a part of our audience.
I think Jason and I would both say that we’ve gotten way more value out of it than what we could ever hope to give. [00:03:00] And it’s just a small way, as you said, growing up with the game of basketball and being in love with it from the time that I could walk to be able to, in some small way, give something back to the game has been really meaningful for me.
And as I told you, before, we jumped on as well, being able to just connect with great people from all across the country at all different levels of the game and develop friendships with people that I’m going to continue to be in touch with and be friends with for the rest of my life is, is truly meaningful.
And so to hear you say, you know how proud you are of, of being a part of it, that means the world to me. So go ahead and just give people an idea. Tell them a little bit about yourself, your basketball, your athletic background, and then we’ll jump into some new stuff.
Babe Kwasniak: [00:03:43] I grew up in the gym, probably hasn’t been a gym in Northeast Ohio that I wasn’t in.
My dad started coaching first off he started coaching the CYO. You know, in the seventies, he was longstanding CYO coach at St. Williams and coach, dear guy, Pat Danchick. And [00:04:00] and then in 82, he got the job assistant job with coach Mike Moran, the legendary St Joe’s and John Carroll coach.
So I just grew up in a gym. I played at St. Joe’s for him. We won two state championships. We won three while I was there. When I was a freshman, I was on the JV team. And when I went on to play at West Point and we’re very good, but I played for a incredible coach, Dino Gaudio who ironically, just got let go at at Louisville, it’s a whole nother subject.
We can start a whole nother podcast has gone and then all that. And you know, from that and went on to serve in the armed forces because I was a West Point graduate. I do five years and one of the jobs I had was coaching the all army and armed forces team and got that gig through through a guy named Coach K at Duke who also coached the armed forces team.
I did that while I was in the service. And once I got out of the service, I was just looking to stay in the game and coach a year at I’m sorry, two years at a University of Missouri, Kansas City in Kansas City, where my [00:05:00] wife went to med school did a year at. Saint James Academy in Lenexa, Kansas, where for guidance, Andy, to lucky, it’s probably the best job I ever had because he dealt with the parents.
He did all the stuff that nobody wants to do. I had all the authority and none of the responsibility, Mike. Right. Which I think that’s what coaches complain about now is having all this responsibility in North Korea. And I met my wife as a dermatologist in Island nights and we moved back to Cleveland and the St. Joe job came open. And I took that in May of 2010 and did that for 10 years. And I think we were pretty successful went 48 and six and the state tournament, which I think it’s pretty good percentage. And three state championships, played on ESPN. Three times had nine guys get full scholarships, won seven district championships in a row, which is very, very, very difficult.
I mean, I got let go. You know, I’m we’ll go into the story. Like I never would have left St Joe’s on my own. You know, the athletic director who got rid of me, Elvis Grbach, was a [00:06:00] NFL quarterback. He was there for 18 months and you know, looking back, I mean you know, it hurt and I was telling my kids attitude and effort are the only two things you can control.
That’s an Alan Steinism right there, right. Something that he always talks about. And looking back, I probably didn’t probably didn’t have probably didn’t control that as good as, as well as I should have. Right. I mean, I was bitter. I was angry because that’s my home and I love the place.
And anytime you’ve been kicked out of your home and it wasn’t like, I just coached there for 10 years and still my whole childhood there. So my pretty much my whole, my whole entire life there. And just the way they got rid of me, I mean, they had the police, I mean, they treated me like a criminal.
They had a police escort me out. I mean, none of that was fun. It wasn’t fun for my family. It just wasn’t, it wasn’t good for anybody, both me and my dad. And yeah, but looking back on it, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It really was because like I said, I never would’ve left on my own and I’m sure we’re going to this, but, but God does everything for a reason, Mike, and, and you know, at the time I kind of always defined myself through the game of basketball.
And now [00:07:00] I’ve kind of learned this there’s a lot more of this life. And you know, like coaching, basketball, winning state championships as isn’t who I am I’m not even my accomplishments or, or what anyone else says I am or what I even think I am. I’m who God says I am. And it’s kind of taken a lot of these, a lot of these life lessons to get to that.
And this past this past March my son went to Cornerstone. My oldest son became a junior there with Cornerstone for a year. And their coach Andy Weybrect just kind of approached me and said, Hey man like, what do you think of doing this? And it was of kind of taken back by it.
I mean, we mentioned it and my dad was an assistant for him this year. And it was kind of awesome year to be in to be in the stands Mike and just be a parent with COVID not coaching. Right. What a great year.
Mike Klinzing: [00:07:49] That was a good year. It was a good one to miss.
Babe Kwasniak: [00:07:53] And I was able to hit the reset button.
And again, this has nothing to do, or [00:08:00] very little do with basketball. They never even asked for my resume. You know, there was some other places that I was looking at going through and they just didn’t have any interest in me. I mean, there was one place where I mean, my references were general.
Martin Dempsey was the chairman of the joint chief of staff. He runs USA basketball and Coach K and they never even flinched. Maybe I’m just not meant to coach anymore maybe, maybe what parents say about me is I have too much discipline and I’m too organized. Like maybe I’m just not meant to do with anymore.
And then then this opportunity came up and it was just kind of too good to pass up. I mean, there were a plethora of things. I had people who asked me that they’re like, why? Like I’ve had, if I could pick anywhere to coach, it would be Cornerstone. It’s just a perfect situation for me.
It’s a place where they’re all about glorifying God and that’s where I am in my life. And just the type of the caliber of kid, but I get to deal with there. And the administration far as, as has been great. And I mean, like you talk about, [00:09:00]
I have several mentors and the three of them, I can pick up our top of my head or Sean O’Toole, Bob Krizancic and Eric Flannery, and all three of them mean without hesitation and say their, their favorite thing was the ability to coach their kids. And you know, now that I’m going to have two of my sons playing for me next year is was this something that I can’t pass up now?
That’s not the only reason I’m doing it, obviously, because that wouldn’t be the right reasons to do it. But for every one of those guys who they’re like second fathers to me for those guys who say that Mike was just it was just something I can’t pass up. And it just seemed like, it just seemed like it was kind of God’s plan.
Mike Klinzing: [00:09:37] Yeah, you only get one go round. And when you talk about being involved in senior kid, and I want to talk to you a little bit about what it was like to sit in the stands as a parent, as opposed to being a coach. We’ll get to that in a second. I want to go back to when you left St. Joe’s, what were the conversations like with your dad in that moment, in the heat of the moment as that was all happening, and you’re sitting down, you’re having conversations with your father, what were those conversations [00:10:00] like?
What were you guys talking about?
Babe Kwasniak: [00:10:00] Well, yeah, that’s a great question because I mean, he coached Elvis so, and again, I’m not blaming all of us. I think it was the administration. They obviously didn’t like me. You know, it’s not worth getting in the weeds over, but I think a big point of contention was the principal and Elvis, they didn’t send their kids to VASJ.
And my kid was first in the class, he played four sports. So like, I believe in the place, right? the biggest thing you could do to show you believe a place to send your kids there. And there was something a lot of times probably I was too dogmatic, I voiced my opinion.
Like, yeah, this place is good enough for my kid, but it wasn’t good enough for your kids. And then the principal sends his kid to Holy Name. I mean, my goodness, like so to answer your question my dad was hurt. He was really hurt. Elvis never met with me.
He fired me over the phone, but my dad didn’t meet with them. And the first thing he told my dad was like, why do you do this? What joy do you get out of this? And you know, my dad’s been doing this for, I don’t know, 60 years. And Yeah, he was hurt. [00:11:00] He was really hurt. But at one point when I knew, cause we were going to keep BK there.
The guy who got the job Ashen Ward worked for me. But you know, nobody ever called us. Nobody ever asked him if we were staying. BK, If you want to stay here, this is your school, this isn’t, this isn’t a better school. And now you play four sports at first in the class. No, but looking back, Mike, it was probably the best thing.
You know, that it was after the best thing we ever did. And my dad, when my dad said, yeah, maybe it’s time to go. I was like, Whoa, I know he just loves the place. I mean, my goodness. He’s won seven state championships at that school. And that’s a whole nother conversation we can get on the fact that he’s not in the hall of fame.
Absolutely. Like Huggins not getting in with, with what 900 wins. This was coach not mine. He said, if your dad’s not in the Hall of Fame, they might as well, not have one. That’s a quote from him. And you know, for him to say, yeah, maybe it’s [00:12:00] just time to move on. Sometimes when you’re going through this pain, you just don’t see your purpose or you don’t see God’s plan.
Obviously I didn’t see it. I think there were a lot of other people who love me, who did see it. And it all worked out the way it was supposed to.
Mike Klinzing: [00:12:16] So sitting in the stands this year, what’s that like for you? Where are you more relaxed, less relaxed where you feeling like, Oh, I can’t have an impact on the outcome the way I did as a coach.
What was your attitude? What were you like? What was your demeanor like sitting in the stands? How would you describe that experience?
Babe Kwasniak: [00:12:32] No, I mean, because I’m a control freak. I mean, I know who I am. I know who I’m not, Mike I mean, think about Andy Weybrecht, like, so here’s a guy and he’s going to be my associate head coach.
Like how many guys in the Cleveland area you’ve interviewed a lot of them. How many guys would do what this young man did? Right. Like he basically said, listen, I know what’s best for my school. And I know what’s [00:13:00] best for this program. So he says, I want you to be the head coach. It’s pretty incredible, dude.
Now I can tell you like my ego that was partially why I didn’t want to be an assistant. I knew I needed the time off and it was awesome when he hired my dad. But you know, so now I’m in the stands and I’m back and I try not to be that parent. But like on the other end too, it’s, it’s just who I am.
I obviously Mike, listen, we didn’t win those games by accident. Although a lot of people, I think, probably think we did, we didn’t call them the mountain top. We didn’t go 46-8 in the state tournament on accident. And so of course like my wife would have to get her distance, but again, it was great in the COVID era, because there’s just not a lot of people there.
And you kind of just go sit up in the corner. And my oldest son is he’s basketball is probably his fourth best sport, I guess, fourth favorite sport. Like he’s a golfer and he’s a really good runner. And you know, so now my middle one is a lot more, [00:14:00] my oldest is a lot more like his mother and my middle one’s a lot more like me. He just a gym rat and he just thinks basketball, school gets in the way of basketball. So. It’s gotta be neat to kind of have both of them together. But it was great and it just gives you a whole new perspective. You know, when parents yell at the refs listen, when parents are kids, like, no, one’s trying to screw up.
Right. Everybody’s out there doing the best. And it just makes you think Mike and Jason, like nobody goes into this to screw kids. So your zipper, if somebody’s listening, some of these parents, like you guys should, you should be embarrassed. Like you’re yelling and stuff. Like you think you, like you think, and I use Andy Weber, for example, because he’s a Cornerstone Christian code, but you think like, he’s, he’s taking this job.
He goes, Oh, I want to screw kids. Like, listen, nobody’s getting rich off this stuff. And you know, they’re doing this because they either love the game or they love their school. And an Andy Weybrecht’s case, they love both. And was I’m sure that’s why it hurts so much with me being, let go from Joe’s because I always said, I don’t know if [00:15:00] I loved coaching as much as I love the kids that I got to coach.
And I think I said that on your first podcast. Yes, he did. I, so yeah, it’s just, you got to understand where the other person’s coming from. And you know, now that I’ve been able to kind of work for the Pentagon and go through this whole political climate, it’s like, I’ve never had the appreciation, Mike, you can’t tell somebody how to feel.
Right. Because they feel that way for a reason, you know? So it was easy for somebody to tell me, Hey, let it go. You don’t know, like our school was on the cusp of closing in 2010 and we had 235 kids there and now we got plus 500 kids. You don’t know what we went through. So you don’t know that I grew up there.
So for you to say, let it go, well, you don’t really know what I’ve been through. And now that it’s kind of just kind of give you a perspective as you get older, you get wiser and you realize kind of what’s important in life.
Mike Klinzing: [00:15:51] So when you were sitting out that year, does it become clear to you as you’re sitting in the stands that you’re like, Hey, I can’t, I can’t keep sitting in the stands.
Like I got to get back [00:16:00] into it. Was that clear to you?
Babe Kwasniak: [00:16:02] No. As a matter of fact, they were probably with the opposite.
I got let go. I was like, no, I’m going to coach again. I’m going to show you. And I think that probably came from just a mentality that I had my entire life. Like my guidance counselor told me in high school don’t even apply to West Point. You have no chance of getting in, okay, screw you. I’m going to show you.
And my whole life was my five 11 white guy was just proving people wrong. And you know, now I’ve got to a point where I want to prove the people who love me. Right, right. I like my I’ve always said that besides my dad telling me that he loves me every day, the number one thing is he’s always believed in me.
Right. And, and, and And so you want to, you kind of want to prove those people, right. To answer your question. Now I’m like the more I was away from it I thought, all right okay. I have other things I was doing life. And in August of 2019, I was sworn in as a civilian aide to the secretary of the army in Ohio at 43, I was [00:17:00] the youngest person in the United States of America in order to kind of, to ever do that.
Yeah. So, so basically I have two jobs. Michael one is one is to recruit for the army. So is, and I’ve had seven guys that have played for me that have grown to serve in the armed forces. So it’s to go into high schools and colleges and basically say, Hey, Here’s why you should serve in the army.
Basically be the conduit between the civilian sector and the army. And then the second part is the soldier for life program, which is kind of like once a soldier, always a soldier and kind of taking care of our own. And you know, that, that probably gets to the next point. And in 2015 we won our second state championship and right.
It’s kind of a long drawn out story, but I’ll tell her because I think it’ll be good for your peer listeners is it was I tried to take my own life. I was yeah, you heard that right? I tried to kill myself. I just got suspended from VASJ, just for a, kind of a blow up with the administration.
And [00:18:00] long story short, I took a bunch of pills and I tried to drive off a cliff. I’m, like I said, I’m a control freak. I don’t, I often think, like, was I hallucinating, like, kinda what was going on. And the next the next week, I was going out to Chicago to go see my kid, Derek, Pardon, play at Northwestern, who made a layup to beat Michigan and the kid who got Northwestern, their first ever tournament dam to the NCAA tournament.
And when I went out there, I befriended Doug Collins. Yeah. That Doug Collins at a Steph Curry camp, one year, we just, we kind of hit it off his, his son-in-law Paul Amandla coach at a school that we played. He played at Penn, his daughter, Kelly played at Lehigh against my wife, Laura at Army. It started out as Chris and I worked Duke camp for years and years together.
I stayed with him. So this is a week after I tried to take my own life. Mike, I’m sitting in his living room and Ohio state played Northwestern [00:19:00] at Northwestern. I’m sitting there at like midnight, eating a cheeseburger. And Doug Collins is, I got to tell you, and you know, we’re sitting there and we’re just talking and I’ll never forget this. He said he called me captain because of the army. You know, he said, he said, Cap, you think you’re gonna find happiness in winning basketball games. And I’ll never forget that it’s like, you think you will find happiness that I’m winning basketball games at 16 and 17 year old kids.
And then I remember that. And I remember him, I mean, here’s a guy who was right, who made the, made the two free throws verse. Russia was number one, pick in the NBA draft. And there’s another guy that joke he’s not in the hall of fame and just done so much for, for basketball. And arguably one of the one of the greatest names in the history of our game,
Mike Klinzing: [00:19:53] Those are the two greatest free throws in the history of basketball.
It’s not even close. It’s not even, it’s not even close.
Babe Kwasniak: [00:19:58] He put his finger right in my [00:20:00] chest. And he looked me right in the eye and he said, Cap, you’re screwed up. And he used another word. It’s not funny, screwed up. And I got to tell you the next week, like I told you, I never failed anything in my life, man.
And, when people told me I couldn’t do something, I was going to prove them wrong. So I failed the week before and take my life. So, so I was gonna try again. I mean, I had it all planned out. I was going to do it. Yeah, and that’s for details for a later podcast. But yeah, after that I went and got help and you know, now I get to kind of go around the country and do keynotes and that’s my story.
And listen, the invisible enemy is real and nobody, and I mean, nobody beats invisible enemy alone, nobody at the time when I went and finally got help I was a lot of, it was for PTSD and you know, folks, it was for what you went through over there. No, I never even deployed.
So a lot of people have [00:21:00] this misconception that PTSD is from killing people or watching someone be killed. I was suffering from guilt. I was suffering from the fact that like, I should be over there and I was coaching high school basketball and it was eating me up inside. And I had people that were close to me that would say you won’t do it.
I mean, it was, it was it was some messed up stuff and you try to trying to so kind of fast forward that Mike a couple of years later, and so I’m like an abused child. I’m not talking about it. I’m not bringing it up in 2017, we went to another state championship. We won our third.
And I remember Mike, after that thinking like, you know what, that part of my life, that’s the chapter of my book. That’s gone. I’m never going to talk about that again. Right? Like that’s, that’s in the past, I’m moving forward. Like my book could’ve ended that chapter, but it didn’t here. I am and every everything’s going to be okay.
And I was, this will be near and dear to your heart. I was, I was actually speaking at Lake Erie college. 2:00 AM for their entire athletic department and their capital, their volleyball team comes [00:22:00] up to me and she says coach, that was awesome. Would you talk with us? And at the time I’m talking about we’re just talking leadership.
And I said, yeah, I’d love to, of course I’m coaching and St. Joseph was, kept the fan of time, but we would keep in touch from time to time. Couple years, I’m trying to think. A couple of months later, I get an email at Liberty line. She, there was this girl, who was struggling with her mental health.
Now, now, granted, I have not said anything about what I went through, but she just said you’ve really, this one girl is really struggling and you really picked her up. You like, I’ve never seen her. So the pep in her step when they recruited her, like, she’s like a new person. I’m like, that’s awesome.
I’m going to work with y’all. So in September of that year, she I I’m sorry. I get emotional just when she emails me. The captain of the team. And she says and I’ll say her name Mo Briggs. Cause I love her more. If you’re listening, you’re the best. And she said yeah, she said this, this, this young lady to grow, to grow in life.
And I came on that night. I walked in my wife’s room. I walked to my room and I said, I’m never not telling my story again. And she said, well, you can’t, you can’t save everybody. I [00:23:00] go, I know, but if I can say one person isn’t worth it. And when the, when I say one person, I’m going to go say somebody else.
If one person could learn from my story you know, that’s gonna help me or people and people. And I get asked all the time, like like you know, what was it? You know? And yes I had to get on medication and that helped. And I had to get therapy and I still do Mike. And that helps. But if my wife didn’t love me, when I probably didn’t deserve to be loved anymore, I wouldn’t be here.
And like I said you know, nobody beats the invisible enemy alone. The guy that I worked for that’s. Probably like my second father is a guy by the name of general, Robert Brooks Brown. If you asked him to tell you, he’ll tell you he’s one of the best players ever play for him, Duke or army. And I, the day after I got sworn in at the Pentagon, I went to have a beer with him and I sat down and I remember I told him I went through some stuff and he got all emotional.
Like, I wasn’t there for you. And I’m thinking to myself, sir, two words, like, what do you mean you weren’t [00:24:00] there for me? And I never told them Mike, cause that was a shame I was so, so then in June of 2020, I, once I got let go and COVID hits and then you start reevaluating everything, right?
You start reevaluating, like everything, like what’s important to you and what’s the meaning of life. And right. This is for a lot of people in the worst of your life ways. COVID was the best year of my life. And one of the things that happened was David Nurse, who is the nephew of the coach for the Raptors would take for me at UMKC he had the 1% er podcasts, and he had me on there and I told my story, and I don’t know if you ever listened to it.
I mean, it went viral on it, pretty hard. And I go back to coach, I’m sorry, general Brown. He tries to, I said, Hey, sir, listen to this podcast. I said when you get a chance to listen to it, and I feel like a coward, Mike, but I didn’t tell him I’m sitting I don’t know the guy was getting ready to retire.
After 38 years, he invited me to his to [00:25:00] his retirement. I was sitting with, because of my position in the military, I was sitting with three-star generals, which dude out of a captain I’m like looking around and all these guys are there looking at me. Yeah. Like I got three heads.
Like what, what are you even doing here? And it’s not like I knew. And so he called me and we both cried and it was, it was super emotional. And he just said that something I’ll never forget. He said, listen you know, of all the guys that have ever worked for me, and there’s been hundreds of thousands that have worked for him, he said, you’re the last guy I ever thought, whatever, whatever, go through whatever, go through this.
And you need to understand that you’re, you’re going to save lives and you telling your story is going to save lives. And just hearing that from him just was, was just, was changing for me because I mean, he’s, he’s been my mentor. I mean my entire life and, and you know, at least at least my military life and he, he always wanted to be a coach and he ends up being, becoming a four-star general.
And yeah, it was just, it [00:26:00] was just so incredible just to kind of hear that from him. And so now I’m kind of partnering with them and we’re doing our best. We have 25 soldiers a day taking their own lives and listen, Mike, there’s so much, there’s so many parallels between the coach, not only the high school coach, but the coach and somebody who serves in our armed forces, right.
You use this and listen, a lot of my shame was it wasn’t just past, or it wasn’t just military related. It was it was not being a good enough father, not being a good enough husband just not being good enough. So here I was accomplished all these things and I was never, maybe good enough in my own mind.
And you know, and then kind of fast forward to this past September they came and sat on my porch and. You know, they put me in a veterans hall of fame and this was I mean, I somehow, so now I’m going to whole team of us, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, and Woody Hayes, and [00:27:00] folks say all the time, Hey you’ve got a bad deal at St. Joe’s. Yeah. Maybe, but I don’t know if I deserve to be in the hall of fame,
they were supposed to. I mean, sometimes through all your pain, you just don’t see God’s plan. You don’t see his purpose, but my clarity has never been better than theirs right now. My goal is never been as good as it is right now. And I’m not the guy on the street corner, Mike reading Bible verses that that’s not me, but I mean, I can tell you I was saved.
I was saved for a reason. I mean, like I literally shouldn’t be here and I still struggle with it. And folks ask you know your, do you still have to say, yes, I do. Yeah. Yes I do. But I know better now and I know how much it would hurt my family. And I know how much of a hurt the people who love me.
And I’m not, I know just like, it’s hard for me to be completely mad at that experience because if I didn’t go through that, I wouldn’t be able to help other people. And so now I just [00:28:00] have like I said, just I’m found clarity that I never had before. You know, added to that, all the stuff we went through, my wife battled two bouts of breast cancer.
And so I’m sitting on that porch and I’ll watch him dry and put me in his hall of fame that I probably have no business being in another shout out to my dad not being in the Ohio high school, basketball hall of fame with seven state championships. And I think to myself, you know what, none of this matters, Mike, none of it matters.
Well the games I’ve won that ESPN, like this position with the Pentagon, Dean’s List, hall of fame, all that really matters all these people on my porch. That’s what matters. And so I think about, okay, what does, what does, what does the term coach mean? Well, it’s father, right? So, so what type of coach should I be?
I should be that type of coach that I would want my son to play for. And I think of the people that have had the impact on me and every person has had an impact on me has been a coach, or maybe they would the skies as a military officer, like general Brown, but make no mistake about it. Every one of those people in my life you know, you [00:29:00] may use the word mentor or you may use the word big brother to me, the name coach is something I will never, ever take for granted because it literally saved my life.
It was to kind of a quick story going back to coach Collins when the last dance came out you know, I wrote them and after watching that I do, I get real emotional and I, and I said, coach, I’m so proud of you for that, but you know what? I know you coached, Michael Jordan, but for me, the best thing you ever did was you saved my life.
And then this last this last, this last go around with the hall of fame a year, you get, Oh my goodness, he’s got to go in and coach Huggins, you gotta go on eventually. But I said a coach again, man, I’ll never stop telling you that you saved my life. It just, it just goes to show like as coaches, right?
Mike, we’re always looking to see something, somebody they don’t see themselves. Well, like that day you know, coach Collins told me what I rather hear instead of what I needed to hear. I might not even be here. Right. And then my wife and my kids would be, would be without me. And you gotta be pretty Sick in the [00:30:00] head to think that like, those people are better off about you and that’s, and that’s how sick I was.
And there’s no way I was getting out of that. So anyone listening, I mean, everybody, if you think you need help, just go, just go. I mean, even when I was first going through it, the doctor’s like, okay. And honestly, my wife’s a physician, right? She was first in her class in med school and we would have arguments cause I lost 45 pounds and I’m like, this pain is in my chest and this was not my head.
This caused a lot of stress on our marriage. And I remember when I finally went and got help, this doctor says, he goes, let me ask you something. When you have these, when you have these chest pains, is it when you’re coaching? No. No, sir. Is it you’re a keynote speaker, is it when you’re speaking?
No coach, no. I bet you’re laying in bed. I said, that’s it I’m laying in bed, you know? And I threw like, I’m literally gonna die. And you know, so after [00:31:00] 15 trips to the ER or whatever it was. It was finally like, okay like, I’ll go get this aspect of it checked out. And now after I do it just gives you so much peace of mind and you know, and so, so many people see that vulnerability as a weakness.
And I absolutely see it as a strength. Right. That’s just, it’s, it’s just hard to get to me now where it was pretty easy before, because like, after having been through that You know, it’s kind of hard to even even mention anything as coaching as being hard. Mike and Jason, it’s like that’s having cancer as hard partying.
What I did is hard and again, nobody beats it alone. You have to get help losing a basketball game. Is it it’s a challenge, right? Build the rest point is a challenge. So when you’re, when you, when you view it that way, like your whole life, your whole life changes along with the fact that I just realized that, you know what, I, I I’m, I’m not shamed anymore of trying to commit suicide because [00:32:00] I firmly believe that God put me in that position because he wants me to help people.
And, and if he didn’t put me there, I wouldn’t be, I wouldn’t be here right now talking to you guys.
Mike Klinzing: [00:32:09] All right. So I want to. Just offer up before I ask a question, I want to offer up two statements. Number one, I’m sure people have said this to you before. I’m not sure if I’ve said it to you before, but just thank you for your service to the country, both through your experiences at West point when you were actively in the military and what you continue to do as a civilian.
Number two, thank you for sharing your story and not just with us here on the podcast, but obviously with the audience. And that goes to, I guess my question after listening to you tell that story is you were obviously in a place where you weren’t healthy and yet, somehow some way a guy who has had the success that you had both as an athlete, as a student, [00:33:00] as an officer in the military, as a coach, you’ve had success everywhere.
You’ve gone. And now you’re facing an opponent, your mental health that you couldn’t. Beat alone. And coach Collins kind of pushed you towards, Hey, you need to get this thing straightened out. You need to figure it out. How did you initially, because if you go back to that time, even five years ago, there was probably a lot bigger.
Maybe stigma is the wrong word, but it just wasn’t as out open, obviously in the last couple of years, many more people have come forward in the, out in the world of athletics and said, Hey, I’m suffering from this mental health problem. And in a lot of ways you go back five years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years.
And that was looked at, as you said, as a sign of weakness, nobody wanted to admit to that. So how did you, and that in the moment when you were alone with your thoughts, how did you find the strength to be able to go and get the help that you needed? What reserves did you call on? Do you remember what [00:34:00] you were, what the thought process was?
How did you go about just getting the strike to be able to go and say, I can’t do this by myself. I need help.
Babe Kwasniak: [00:34:09] Yeah. You know, I mean, we have a saying in the army that there’s no atheists in a foxhole. I find that to be very, very true. One of my favorite stories is a chaplain we had was serving the 82nd airborne division.
He always used to say, every time a soldier would say turn to them and say, chaplain, I don’t, as they’re getting ready to jump out of the airplane chaplain, I don’t believe in God. And he would say, it doesn’t matter, Sonny. He believes in you when you were taking him out of the airplane. And, and I feel the same way about my faith and, and that’s pretty awesome that I’m now a cornerstone, a place where you know, where, where everything we do, glorifies God, Mike you know, like, listen, I use the hashtag winners win.
And I think a lot of people take that the wrong way. They think I’m talking about the scoreboard and them not when you start comparing yourself to other people two things happen either. You think you’re inferior to people. Or do you think [00:35:00] you’re superior people and you have those glorify God.
So when I was asked to ag winners went on all my social media, I’m talking about being the best version of yourself. And if you think about it, the only way and this life that you can not be the best version of yourself. And I said, I tried to quit out of life, brother. Like I tried to check out and listen as coaches, we always talk about right process.
Like you were talking about the me before and you’re dead, right? I mean, you’re talking about the relationships you made doing all these podcasts. Now I can sit there and I can tell you about West point, how it’s the greatest laboratory of leadership in the world. It’s the number one leadership institution and education in the world.
I remember the games in the classes as much as I remember the person to my left and my right. That’s all it really truly matters to me are the people in my life or the relationships. So when you’re talking about, when you’re talking about winners win I’m talking about are you are you being [00:36:00] the absolute best you can be?
And as coaches, we always talk about the process, right? We talk about, okay, if you love the process, the results will take care of itself, which is what I always do with coaching. If we try to win every possession, we’re probably going to win the game. Right. And I teach my sons that I was on stage every year in business and my seven years.
And I ended up culminating, imagine a $38 million book of business. I worked here in the Pentagon. I won five state championships. If you try to be the best you possibly can be. It’s kind of hard to fail suicide. The only thing where if you think about it, Mike, the process doesn’t matter. You know, what does, is the result.
Because I’m still here, brother. I’m still here. Hey man, I’m still standing. I’m still standing right here. So like in that case, it’s like, okay, the end result right now is I can go back and do anything about that. And I can do now that the end [00:37:00] of my book, and yes, I tried to put my life in. I probably deserve it to be done in my life, but by God’s grace, I’m still here.
So now I do something with that. Right. And, and it’s just so important, especially for us coaches, as young people is to understand, no matter how down you get on folks and no matter what you think, it’s not, this is a chapter in their book. Right. And I think so many times as coaches, we think like, Oh, this kid’s had cancer.
If we get, if we get rid of you, no, that’s the easiest thing to do, Michael. That’s the easy way out. Like our job as leaders is to find a way to make it work. Not for us, not for our team, but for them. Because we might be the last, we might be the last chance we might be the last hope and there was so many kids figure it out later in life.
So it’d be the wrong roundabout way to answer your question. Number one is I prayed and number two would definitely be my wife. She wasn’t, and I’m sorry, I get so emotional talking [00:38:00] about her, but she didn’t tell me. She loved me every day to a point where you know, at some point, like I probably didn’t deserve her.
Well, then I wouldn’t be here. And I think that’s another great lesson is if you love somebody, you probably shouldn’t go a day without telling them that. And, and listen, man. And what I do now, like it’s hard. Like, I mean, it’s. Jason it’s, it’s tough. Like I I’m talking about like 12, 14 year old kids.
Like these times never crossed my mind when I was at age everyone talks about get off my grass and I, our world was Mike. I know you’re not talking about that last time about growing up, but that’s the playground and we’re going to put these kids. It’s a messed up nasty world. They’re growing up in man.
Like everything’s on film.
That’s crazy. It’s nasty. Nobody gets on there and says, Hey man it’s everybody’s highlights. Nobody gets on it and says you know, I just lost my job. I just got fired. My wife left me and I’m and I’m, I think I’m thinking about killing myself. Right. Very rarely do people do that. [00:39:00] And you know, we have 25 veterans a day taking their own lives.
I mean, veterans are 50% more likely to commit suicide and listen, it’s a problem, an epidemic throughout the whole country. Like we have kids that I’m dealing with. I’m actually gonna tell you like a day I go through and, and listen, I love doing it, but it’s, but it’s exhausting. And you know, if the rep can we do as a society, like just tell people we love a man and even as coaches, just understand that we’re in a profession where you’re not really going to realize the impact until 10, 15 years from now. I mean, right. You know, and I know you’ve told me about about guys like Rob Williams, right? Like until the kind of human beings they end up like, and the rest of society is instant gratification microwave.
Okay. I’m gonna transfer here. I’m going to put this all right here. I’m going to get my, now I’m going to, or I’m out of here, like where the reality is, is we’re affecting [00:40:00] and impacting more lives. And I guess that’s why I’m talking to you right now, because I know the best place where I can impact lives are, are here.
I haven’t been differences before. I probably do myself as. A coach as you know, and probably a good one or not. I really don’t care what people think of me as a coach. I really doesn’t. It doesn’t matter to me. I really don’t let them define my success anymore. I know where I’ve been. And I now know like what success looked like.
And I also know what my hashtag winners win means, and it has got very little to do with the plus on that scoreboard.
Mike Klinzing: [00:40:38] All right. So let’s transition from that piece of your story and let’s get into Cornerstone when you get the job. And it’s a little bit of a unique situation in a lot of ways. One which we’ve already talked about that you basically grew up.
With Villa, Angela St. Joseph’s and that was the culture and the environment that you [00:41:00] knew and were comfortable with. So now you come into a completely new environment, but not only that, but your, the head coach, Andy becomes your assistant coach. And so when you sit down and you’re in the interview process, and you’re in that first meeting, you’re talking through that with him.
What does that process look like? Because obviously again, you’re two different coaches. You have a way of doing things that you’ve had success with in the past. So how do you sort of bridge that gap? Bring him in where. You’re both on board. You’re both on the same page. You’re not stepping on his toes.
And just, what was the plan from day one when you first get the job? What does that look like?
Babe Kwasniak: [00:41:42] Yeah. Well, first off, I mean, you say interview and I’ve talked to other places, you know what I’m saying? Like, I lived in Higland, Mayfield talked to me. I didn’t even get an interview. I go to West Geauga.
I don’t finish their top three. I mean, like, so you know, just sort of [00:42:00] seeing like, okay, am I not meant to do this anymore, but do I have this reputation? So that was the thing over there is I went and met with the with DK, went over there. I went and met with the admissions director Kate Baxter.
And this was just a sweetheart, just an absolute doll. And, and at that point, Mike, I didn’t even think we were moving out to Chesterland. So we kind of assumed our kids would go to West Geauga. You know, and like, okay, we’re just going to. No kind of move on here like pivot and redirect.
And I remember I was telling her she asked my story and nothing against Kate and Katie, if you’re listening, I’m sure she won’t take offense to this, to like, she didn’t care about basketball at all. I cared about sports with all she knew she was getting tough, tougher line kid. And she basically asked me for my story and the thing she caught onto was me talking about my wife, having cancer.
And at the time I was 43 years old. And I’ll never forget this. She goes, can I pray with you? I’m like, I’m Catholic. I’ve grown up in the Catholic church, my whole entire [00:43:00] life, Saint Williams. And VASJ, my dad still goes to church every morning. And this was the first time anybody’s ever asked to pray with me.
Now people are praying for me. And especially with said, they’re going to pray for my wife. And some of you believe, and in retrospect, some of you look back, you’re like, ah, I don’t know. But like that, that was crazy to me. And I’m thinking to myself, like, I think I want my kids in this environment.
It’s not Andy it’s when we got, let go. Andy’s cousin Jason Weybrecht is my very best friend. He’s my brother. And I mean, you have connections to him. He’s grew up it up some playground and play. We both played for Pat D and Marcia Cohn, no, growing up a Saint Williams and you know, he’s kinda, and Andy was just, he was just, you know after we live it he’s like, this was, and you got a place here and I just don’t know.
And so after that interview with the admissions director was like, okay, like this, this place is like, maybe this is at least it’s the right place for my son. And that’s a start. So then as you kind of meet the [00:44:00] folks and I mean, I’m not just saying this, they misses the dominantly. I mentored her.
They never asked for my resume same thing with Mrs. Ortiz. And now you can say, Oh, why would they want places? Like, I mean, some of my even getting their top three. How so lately, and I’m not saying this to sound gratify or whatever, Mike, the reality is. And I’ll ask you this question. What did winning games do for my high school coaching career?
So like a lot of reasons I’m of course, like nobody else really wanted me. Right? Like, I’m not saying that to be funny and that’s going to be self-deprecating, it’s just a fact like because I do a lot of the same with Jesus did not hang out with the righteous that was the broken I know what people like me lepers and prostitutes and hung out with, with the broken which we’re all sinners and we’re all broken, whether we want to admit it or not, and we’re all sinners and we all need a savior.
And so it just kind of like stemmed from that. Like, I know this is the basketball [00:45:00] podcast and. You know, you don’t want me to sit on my pulpit here, but it has nothing to do with basketball. There was not one basketball related question. Now with Andy, it’s kind of like he worked for Dan Sellers, who he absolutely loved who was somebody I just love and respect.
You know, and Dan sellers was another guy that I called and said, Hey, this is this is kind of what’s going on. And you know, let me talk about that because you know, those guys won a state championship in 2016, then in 2018 they lose two. I think it was Marion, Marion, local.
Yep. Loaded Michael Buffalo is probably going to be a pro in some, in some facet. And I I’ll never forget. The first time I ever met Dan Sellersl was in like 2013 and they were in our district of Garfield and I came to exchange films with them and he asked me to talk to his team. And I was like, pluggable.
I’m like, you already talk to your team, like, dude, you’re in my district. And he was such a Christian. Like it almost came off fake. [00:46:00] Like this is a facade. I just, I can’t really be this like, just nice. Like he just can’t be this. I don’t know. Whatever, whatever you want to, like you hear the term Jesus freak or whatever, like, like this guy, this can’t be real.
And now that I know him, it’s just absolutely genuine. And when they love 2018 and we’ve talked about the podcast before people think winning’s an accident, they think it’s easy. And he had a loaded team and they lost and they would add a favorite. But I remember him going in the locker room and shaking hands with the other team.
And I just thought that was so classy. And it was like okay. You know, and, and I don’t think people understand you know, my story. I mean, my goodness, it was Jay Bellis retweeted it and there was, it was it got 17,000 views or whatever, but like, like what that guy did for Cornerstone, like St. Joe’s. With or without babe cause I mean, my goodness is got a story tradition, but what that guy did for Cornerstone and everything. So, so if it weren’t for him saying this is, this is a great place. You know, my kids went [00:47:00] here and it was, it was the same thing, the dead, she was like, listen, all my kids went here.
So it was like, they knew kind of what I went through. Like at St Joe’s was like, okay, they want me to send my kids here, but the missionaries won’t send their own kids here and listen, that’s the one thing I learned at West point is the oldest and truest form of leadership is leading by example. Right.
So, okay. This place is you can work here. You can get paid to go here, which by the way, I never took a dollar from the SJ in 10 years, but no, it’s not good enough for my kid. And I just didn’t agree with that. So I ended up Andy, I think just, I think he loved working for Dan Sellers and he’s like, listen, like I know I’m an assistant coach.
And that’s what I want to do. And I’m at two workouts already, and he’s been at two open gyms. He’s been at both of them and like, he’s fired up and you know, he’s getting married and he’s got some other stuff. So it’s like, he’s going through a transition. It just, it seemed like an easy just, just an easy transition and just like me.
Like that’s why I know this year because it’s like, [00:48:00] I don’t want to be that guy. I know I cast a big shadow. You know, and I don’t want to be that guy casting that shadow and even going back. And I didn’t mention this when I probably should have, so I jumped out of Pat rang then Terry isle and brother, I got to tell you.
So my first game was saying, as we moved her niece I gotta tell you, I could see, I still want to work with those guys. I had a blast, Mike. I had an absolute blast doing those games you know, color commentary, Jerry should be doing this for the calves. He’s so good. If you haven’t had a chance to watch those games, those guys talk back fan podcast, man.
The hoops said you know, like they, they just do an incredible job for high school sports. And yeah, I was, those guys grabbed me and I was doing games with them and I’d have a blast. So this wasn’t even like something I was seeking out. It just kind of just kind of found me.
Mike Klinzing: [00:48:53] So what do you do, how do you go about putting your stamp on what it is that cCrnerstone Christian basketball [00:49:00] is going to be about layout, lay out the plan.
What’s the plan as you move forward?
Babe Kwasniak: [00:49:04 Yeah, that was believed in if you do these three things, you’re going to be successful. If you teach kids number one, how to be coachable you know, number two, how to be a great teammate and I’ve students. I lost the game from afar this year and I studied it and I was just watching so much.
Yeah, there’s so much garbage. And it’s like, everyone talks about all when your, when your best player is your, is your hardest worker, you’re going to be in good shape. I’ll tell you this, when your best player is your best teammate. I coached three state championship teams and every one of those cases that rang true.
My best player was my best teammate. And he was definitely my best leader. And that transition was a third part. And that’s something I like to take pride in is be coachable, number one, discipline’s a form of love or another be coachable. Number two is learn how to become a great teammate.
And that leads into becoming a leader and everything I have in my life, [00:50:00] everything I’ve accomplished was because things I learned from West Point and from my dad and from growing up as leadership and that’s what separates, I think the good from the great and you know, you hear all the time, it’s if a coach is your best leader then you’re probably in trouble. And I looked back and the best teams I had and they weren’t necessarily, they weren’t necessarily state championship teams. My favorite team I ever coached, lost the state championship in 2016, it was incredible. Like we had no business being there. We were the best version of ourselves and we got a little.
Yeah. You know, and then you’re watching again, doing the talk back fans’ podcast. You’re watching the lobbies teams that got a little out of a lot. Mike y’all it’s like, man, like so, and you know what, if you teach kids go three things that applies to the rest of their life, doesn’t it, Michael? Like, it applies to the rest of your life.
Like like you’re gonna have a boss you don’t like, you’re gonna have to learn. And even from my own examples, like, I [00:51:00] wasn’t perfect. There were things that that I probably wish I would’ve did different. I know this now, but I’m a new administration at Cornerstone Christian.
I’m going to learn from my past mistakes. And I’ll definitely do things different. I always stick to my core values. I’ll always do what’s right. Even if you’re, I’ll always, always say an administrators, shouldn’t be intoxicated in front of kids. Even if it cost me my job, I’ll always say, Oh, you know what I do, I’ll never stop doing what I think is right.
For my favorite things to have mater told me, he said, don’t you ever, there was one time where I kinda got into a little bit of a verbal altercation with Coach Matta, at least as much as you could get into. And he said to captain Kwas don’t you ever stop doing what you think is right. And that always stayed with me.
And so yeah, the other we’ll try to build leaders and along the way, hopefully we’ll win a couple of games. And, and I think probably in my past that was, that was everything to me. It’s just not as important now. I think it’s more important to I don’t think God cares how many basketball games you win, but I think he does care about your attitude and [00:52:00] your effort. I think he cared that you glorify him and everything you do. I think he, I think he cares that you always do your best, no matter what. And if you’re going to do something, you better try to be the absolute best at it. And you kind of do that. The rest of the rest of it takes care of itself.
Mike Klinzing: [00:52:13] What does developing leaders look like as a basketball coach? So how do you take that sort of abstract concept of, I want to teach kids to be better leaders. What does that look like day to day? Whether that’s. You see, in kids off the practice floor, whether that’s in the film room, whether that’s on game night, how do you develop leaders?
Give a coach who’s out there who might be listening and says, well, I’d like to be able to develop my players into leaders. How do they go about doing that? What are some things that they could do or some things that you’ve done in the past successfully to turn kids into leaders?
Babe Kwasniak: [00:52:47] I’ve been a simple thing.
And we’re from number one thing. We’re fighting, right? Mike, and I’m sure you and Jason talk about this all the time with all your high school coaches. What’s the number one thing we’re fighting entitlement, hashtag entitlement, right? That’s the number one [00:53:00] thing we’re fighting with today’s youth and with today’s society through them, I’m sure.
I’m sure I’m shy of a plenty of it in me. And the only way you find that is by gratitude. If you’re grateful for what you do have, it’s hard to be entitled for what you don’t have. So I’ve looked back on my own life and I look at, look at Do you know you know, I look back at, at what’s my biggest accomplishment.
Well, I think the highest form of selfless service is serving your country. So the fact that I had had seven guys serve you know, like that, that’s, that’s a pretty high form of of, of gratitude, you know? And I would show him coaches like sometimes just an easy exercise, like, Hey, what are you grateful for today?
And if you get your kids in that mindset of what you’re grateful for, if you’re grateful of what you do have, it’s hard to be entitled for what you don’t have. And these kids are like, have you gotten, just to think about what man, like think about your parents drive you to practice every day.
Yeah. Think about it. Like we’re at a private school, somebody making sacrifices to send you here. What do you think them have you thought about saying, Hey mom and dad, thank [00:54:00] you. A couple of years back for coach to show that Steph Curry select camp for the top 20 players in the country. And we were going around going around the room, the NBA was doing this.
I don’t know the sense of session or whatever. And it, you got to go around with like, what’s your biggest accomplishment? I mean, I was a bit pass Holden and like step was like won two world championships and I’m like next Mike, like I completely choked. I said we just went to five streets, state championship games.
Nobody in Ohio has ever done that to include LeBron, Ramon James in school. St. Dennis St. Mary and I. And like afterwards, I’m like. That’s not my biggest accomplishment. Like I said, my biggest accomplishment is the fact that I’ve got seven guys decide to join the armed forces. And what that tells me is that they’ve learned not completely from me, but they’ve learned how to be a part of something bigger than the shelf.
Like I tells you, my number one job is to recruit for the army. So I’m talking my recruiters, stop going to these [00:55:00] administrators, stop going to principals. Now, if you can’t get through them, grimmer coaches, coaches are used to dealing with crazy parents and most coaches, Mike, they believe in being a part of something bigger yourself.
If you’re playing a team sport, why did we get involved in the first place? And the army is the greatest locker room I’ve ever been in my life. I left in 2004. And you know, now that I’m rejoined as a civilian aid in 2019, it’s like every day I got to put that uniform on. I’m like, shoot I am on the greatest team in the world?
Like, we’re all-in-one in the world Wars. We are our guys are still the most lethal mobile hostile. Like we’re still, it was still a cat’s pajamas. And you know, why we’re that is because everything’s team and go back to your question. I mean, we’re at a crossroads man because we’re individualizing a team sport.
I mean, there’s going to be what 2000 kids in the transfer portal and there’s going to be you see all these [00:56:00] highlights all these mix tapes. And the high school coach’s job is harder than it’s ever been. I mean, it’s hard, right. And nobody, I mean, nobody’s doing this for the money, unless you’ve been over at Richmond for 30 years, nobody’s doing that.
Nobody’s getting rich off this and you know, you’ve had to develop your own podcast to do that. So right. So pretty much put them in a team environment and talk about that. Talk about the best know, what are the best qualities of teammate has you know, get them talking about other folks.
I mean, that’s something I did all the time. Like, Hey if you could tweak something, that’s fine too. What about your teammate? And you’re going to get interviewed. That’s fine. Talk about your teammate. You know, it sounds really simple, but you know, it’s, it’s kind of your style a little bit. Right. And you know, we, I firmly believe in, like, you can’t have trust without the truth, unless then there’s going to be some things I’m telling you that you’re not gonna like to hear you, I don’t know, Well, like, like I read a kid of course I was averaging 27 points a game last [00:57:00] year.
And I think he’s, I think he’s transferring, I don’t think it’s all on me or whatever, but like it just gets to a point where like, okay, I mean, you gotta want to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Right. And what you do is there’s a lot more important than what you say, right?
Like, I can tell my wife, I love her. Or I can do her dishes and do laundry and do the things that she wants me to do. And that’s a lot more. Right. And, and I think it’s just so many kids, they think like being a leader just barking at somebody will know, like the oldest form of leadership is leading by example.
And when you always set that you always set the example you know, then that gets you and, and to the next level, right? Where when you can actually be concerned with somebody besides yourself, you gotta, you gotta learn you gotta learn to love somebody else.
And I just, it sucks because in team sports, we’re just, we’re just, we’re losing that. And I think it shows, right? Like you [00:58:00] watch great basketball and still the bad moves and you watch bad basketball. It doesn’t matter rubber. Right. Mike, it’s just, it’s just hard to watch. Right. And you don’t have to be a junkie like us that like, you would just be a casual fan and just you’ll get up, go outside, literally become a part of something.
It’s not about you. Like, that’s the essence of leadership. Isn’t about you. It’s not about how many points you score. It’s not a standard about your scholarship, right? It’s like, I’m so sick at reading, you know? So blasted, like you’re talking about these 90 offers. You can only take one of them. Right. Like what happened?
You know, what happened to just the, just the giant to be the best team you can be in letting the rest take care of itself. And it always does. It’s the information age. If you can play, they’re going to find you. So that’d be the first thing I want to suggest is, is you know, for all your listeners is to maybe start by the suburb and say, Hey, what, what are we grateful for today?
I mean, you’d be amazed at what their mindset would do. And the other thing that I suggested that we always do at St Joe’s and I’ll continue to do here is [00:59:00] we have a mentor program. So every upperclassman is assigned an underclassmen. And the theory behind that is. Okay, you’re gonna learn how to take care of somebody besides yourself.
And that’s from the army model is you’re you become a team leader that a squad leader that maybe have a two stars, and then that first Sergeant major, it’s the same concept and you’re going to get more and more people under you. And you know, it might be something that’s like, okay, this teacher is, has this idiosyncrasies, maybe this girl’s real mouthy or, or, Hey, coach clause.
Doesn’t let you say yeah. Say yes or no. And you know, they’re just going to learn again, to take care of something. Besides this life. Everything we do in society now is me, me, me, me. I, I I mean, okay. And it’s a challenge for coaches because we’re in a team sport and everybody’s trying to individualize it.
So I think the more you can do as team, team, team, and listen, if it was easy, everybody would do it, man. Right? Because as soon as you start the stuff, kids just leave. They don’t know. [01:00:00] Because a lot of coaches are going to let you do whatever you want and they’re going to make you promises because you got to catch the fish before you clean it.
And they’re going to do whatever they want and it’s happening at the college level. Right? Like, listen, recruiting has changed, man. Even, I mean, in the last five years, guys, coaches are gonna recruit transfers first because they’re looking to feed their family. So they got to win, that’s how they feed their families.
Like, I don’t care. I don’t care. We don’t want another game. Like it’s not going to change. I mean the second change, what? I think I’m all for it. That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to develop you, take you as a boy and turn you into a man. And it’s college chances. First Juco kids, second and prep school kids.
Third high school kids. You look in the area like how many division one scholarships were there? Mike were many. There were a
Mike Klinzing: [01:00:48] lot. Yeah, this year, there were not a lot. That’s for sure. The extra, the extra NCAA year of eligibility, which we’ve talked with a couple of different coaches about that. And the impact that that is having [01:01:00] is going to continue to have.
And then as you said, it’s like, if you’re a college coach, why not recruit a transfer? Who’s already proven themselves at the college level versus a kid who know you can scout them all you want, but there’s no guarantee with any high school kid that they’re going to turn into a good college player.
And if you can already see the results out on a college floor, why wouldn’t you recruit a transfer first? It just makes sense. As you said, if you’re trying to feed your family makes sense to me.
Babe Kwasniak: [01:01:28] I mean the best player on the ACC this year was a, was a grad transfer from Sanford brother. I mean, pro Louisville, like the, I mean, that’s a think about that.
That was the best player in the ACC this year. So what happens is if you can play a D two or at a mid major or low, low major, like you’re going to be going somewhere else. And, and I mean, I look back in 2015, I called him brag and Derek Pardon and Brian Parker and grandfather with the mirrors.
And then a bunch of people wanted to take them afterwards. Like, [01:02:00] I think we’re going to look in 10, 15 years. And the most amazing thing we did was keep all those kids together. That might be like the last weekend. I mean, I think we were, we were as high as Seventh in the country. We’re playing Oklahoma and ESPN and we’re up 14 in the fourth quarter now, apparently we had very poor coaching and that they got us at the end.
We probably would have been number one in the country, but like I tell those kids all the time, like they were over here Monday night for the national championship game. I said guys, and 15 years, like the most. Yeah. And that was six years ago. I said, we’re going to be sitting at a bar someplace. And the most amazing thing we did was keep you guys together, because that’s not going to happen anymore with prep schools.
And I mean, some of the stats, how many kids that transfer in high school don’t transfer in college. Ain’t many of them brother. And I thought you had to replace in CA twice in high school. Like it was less than what, less than 5%, maybe even more. And there’s more men that are transferring college.
The culture of this has, [01:03:00] has changed and listen, man, these guys can’t say it, but I will write. And I have a lot of friends okay. That are doing this for a living. And they will tell you, it is never been as bad as it is right now. Meaning the college coaching profession. I mean, it’s not like mean, cause because again, if you want to feed your family You, you maybe have to make the sacrifices, where as bicycle coach, unlike with you and I were kind of coming up alive is real.
We’re always teachers now a lot of times they don’t want teachers. So, I mean, could you imagine, I can’t imagine that feeding my kids based on the decision of some of my 17 and 18 year old kids that I coach Brad put, you want to eat captain crunch or a rice Kristy. So you’re telling me like my whole, life’s going to be undecided on whether, what colleges do you decide to go to?
Like that’s it is crazy.
Mike Klinzing: [01:03:53] I think we talked about it before, when you were on the last time, just about the challenges of being a high school basketball coach in [01:04:00] 2018. And I think that trend has only accelerated now that we’re in 2021. And when you think about a college coach, I don’t care what level you are.
I guess division three. There’s some insulation because. You can’t work with your players during the off season. So there’s at least that piece of it. But when you look at the division one level compared to when you and I were playing and the amount of time that those coaches can, and because they can, they have to spend with their players in the off season with individual workouts and all the different things that they have to do, it just becomes, I mean, it’s a 24, seven, 365 day a year, grinded out to make a living.
And we’re talking about, it’s not just the head coaches, we’re talking about assistants who are making next to nothing. I mean, it’s a challenging, challenging profession. We’ve talked to, had division one coaches on the podcast. And we’ve talked to guys who are just starting out that are basically unpaid [01:05:00] assistant coaches at small level schools.
And it doesn’t make it matter if you’re making big money or you’re making no money, the demands of the job. In terms of your time are very, very similar and you may be doing slightly different tasks, but it’s just to be a basketball coach. And again, I don’t care what level you are. It is challenging. And I think it speaks to the power of the game that we all keep coming back to it because, because we love it.
And whether that’s, whether that’s right or wrong it’s true. I know it’s true that we just, we just keep coming back. We’re drawn to it. Cause it’s such, such a special game and we know what it’s done for us. And I just look at the coaching profession and anytime I see a coach that has any interaction with any of my kids, I’m just so thankful that they’re willing to put in the time to help my kids to get better.
And that’s really what it’s all about. And I don’t care if it’s a seventh grade coach, a fourth grade coach, an AAU coach, a high school coach. Those people are putting in their time to try to help my [01:06:00] kid be better if they’re doing it right. And you know, you talked, you talked about it that look. It’s fun to win.
Don’t get me wrong. You’re as competitive as anybody I know, and I love to win too, but ultimately, as you said, it’s the relationships that you remember and that ultimately are important. And I think that it’s sometimes easy to get lost in the day to day of the minutia, we got to win the next game. We got to prepare, I got to watch more film.
What can we do differently? And when you really zoom out and you look at the big picture of the totality of your coaching career, your playing career, it’s not those individual wins and losses. That really matters. It’s the people that you got connected to and the people that you were able to impact. And I just think that when you talk about coaching to me, that’s really what it’s all about.
Babe Kwasniak: [01:06:47] There’s no doubt. And I mean, you agree with me, right. That it’s as hard as it’s ever been. Right.
Zoom last night with coach Bielein and he was [01:07:00] talking to a bunch of veterans and it was awesome. He was so transparent. He’s, he’s just a huge Patriot. And I mean, think about it, look at this situation, right. With the cab. So he’s making Nick guy like making millions and millions and millions.
Right. Like, and he couldn’t deal with it. Right. Right. And, and hopefully I mean, he was a history teacher and hopefully he gets back into it because he’s such a gem and he’s such a, such a great teacher of the game. But yeah, it’s the whole thing is just it’s just evolving. Right. And I just I mean, if there’s one thing I would want the listeners just to take is like, listen, I went down that I went down that pigeon hole, Mike and I rated my success on, on what the scoreboard says.
And you know, to the point where and again, it was a combination of everything and I’ve seen it with so many guys. And when you get to the next level, you see guys that are trying to be somebody that they’re not they’re trying to act like Bobby Huggins or Coach K or like, listen, you gotta be yourself because there’s [01:08:00] only one person you can be.
And I, I mean, I think I told that story on your first podcast, and I’ll never remember. I’ll never forget being at Duke camp. And I was on the outdoor courts, my first year of camp and, and coach Gantt comes out and I mean, I was a second Lieutenant Navy and the army. This is like 2002, 2003.
And he comes and he tells me, he said, Hey, listen. He said he said, Kwas. He goes, a lot of people are going to be turned off by your energy saying it’s fake. He’s like, but you control that going and I remembered that. He said, you can always control how much energy you bring. And a lot of people are, they’re not going to like that.
And I think for so much part of my career, Mike, I cared about not that I put too much value in what other people think. Right. And then you just get to a point where you’re like, okay, you just got to realize that you’re not going to be for everybody. Right. And you need to do what you think is right.
And understand that you’re not trying to screw kids. You’re not, no matter what a parent says or you’re not [01:09:00] trying to listen at VASJ I had the greatest parents, like the parents have nothing to do with me getting ousted. And you hear so many of those stories that was a hundred percent of the administration.
They didn’t like me. Like my parents were, as a matter of fact, I think they were the other way. I think they were more disheartened than anybody when I left. But again, I think you just need to kind of step back and say you know, what’s important. You know, I mean as a father and you don’t get to get this time back my players constantly come back and they say, coach, you change what you’re doing.
Right. I changed. And like I say, number one, you gotta understand. I was ready for the army when I had you guys. And like, I’m older, number two, you can’t not that, not that it wasn’t. I did not that I swore at kids, or I acted like an idiot, but like, you can’t do it anymore. You just can’t. Right. Like you, we all have stories.
I mean, do you know God, he was one of the biggest influences in my life. If we went back and watched tape on the things he said to [01:10:00] me, it wouldn’t hold up in court. He might still get arrested. Okay. And the number three, and probably the most important is I told those guys, I mean, I would study with you. I were to work out with you.
I would do everything with you. And every minute I spent with you was it was time. I spent away from my own kids and they deserved that time. But they’re my number one priority. And your decisions illustrate your priorities. And I’m at a point in my life now where my kids and my family need to be one number one. And that’s something you can never forget. No doubt
Mike Klinzing: [01:10:32] All right. I want to wrap up with one final question. It’s a, two-parter tell me, as you look forward over the next year, what is your biggest challenge that you see ahead? It could be basketball. It could be life could be anything. And then number two, what’s the biggest joy that you’ve gotten to this point out of being the head coach at cornerstone Christian.
So the biggest challenge, biggest joy.
Babe Kwasniak: [01:10:54] I think the biggest challenge is just whatever, whatever the coach faces of kids just [01:11:00] like understanding that if you’re a certain way it’s going to repel some people it’s going to repel more people and that it used to attract. Right. Again, the number one thing I hear about myself, Mike, is that I have too much discipline.
I’m not so sure. I want to change that brother. I’m really not. I don’t care about how much he knows, so I know how much you care. I think kids are the same way. So they’re always going to know that I love them. They’re always going to I’m going to build a real relationship with that.
That’s a challenge. Like it’s just kids understanding that I’m not creating, correcting you as a person I’m correcting the behavior. Right. And I think the, the great advantage I’m going to have in overcoming that obstacle is the fact that I got my two sons and I can promise you, I’m not going to go to anybody as hard as like my coach.
And you know, I coached my eighth grader this year who’s really, really good if I’m out of practice probably once a week. And so he’s getting used to it. And just, I don’t know, the, the, the biggest joy so [01:12:00] far You know, has been, has been that I know coach Drew’s joy because you use the word is Jesus, others, and yourself.
And just being in an environment where again, like I never would have left St Joe’s on my own ever. So I had opportunities to, to leave and I didn’t, and I had college opportunities to leave and I didn’t, and I never would have left on my own. I, well, I took the job there because I wanted my kids to come there and I wanted them to play for me there.
So just my biggest joy is just having them in an environment where you know, Jesus is worse than others or second, and you know, you’re last. And you know, you put kids in an environment like that. I just feel so blessed to be around, to be around those types of things. Not that there weren’t great people at St. Joe’s because they’re some of my nearest and dearest friends and those relationships will never be changed. But it’s sometimes man, again, through all your pain is, is God’s purpose. And you know, I’m just I just feel so blessed [01:13:00] to just have this opportunity.
Right. And that’d be my last thing. All your coaches out there. Just understand when something else happens. Listen, I don’t want to hear it either. Man. One door closes another one up. I want to hear it, Mike. I didn’t want people who love me most. I didn’t want to hear it, but it’s absolutely true. Like, and sometimes you gotta say what do these tribulations man?
That’s really awesome. And I just, yes, I just made up my own word. That’s really awesome.
Mike Klinzing: [01:13:29] I do that all the time ask Jason. I do that all the time. They
Babe Kwasniak: [01:13:31] don’t work. So, yeah, and that’s what the and I know the toughest things I’ve ever done in my life, going through West Poin, making it through, being suicidal you know, making it through my wife being sick.
Those are the greatest benefits that, that makes you just realize, stop and say, man, you know what? I got a pretty good life, this is pretty incredible. And everything I need is right here and listen out. You’re talking about a guy who constantly battles the shame of not being good [01:14:00] enough. Like I told you, listeners, dude, I still have suicidal thoughts.
Yes I do. But I also know I know why I’m here in my purpose. Is much bigger than any of those demons that I used to face. And, and so for anybody, that’s mostly on that I know if it’s just one Mike and Jason it’s worth it. So if somebody is listening to me today and just realizes, dude just, just keep going, man.
Just keep going because, and I’m sorry. I, sorry. I get emotional, but yeah, I mean, I was in, it’s hard to be any lower than I was brother. People talked about people talking about the rock I was below the rock I was below the rock. I was buried. I was beneath the dirt man. And, and I’m here now, I’m here now talking to you guys.
And if you can just get through it and you just realize, man, the only way I lose is if I give up and that’s not saying you shouldn’t change your situation or you shouldn’t transfer, I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying, if you just keep giving your best effort at everything you [01:15:00] do, it’s impossible to fail.
And when you go out with that mindset, life is pretty good.
Mike Klinzing: [01:15:05] Absolutely before we get out, I want to give you a chance to share how people can reach out to you. Social media, email website, whatever you want to share. And then after you do that, I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.
Babe Kwasniak: [01:15:18] Yeah. I’m very active on social media, Mike, as you know man, I still love the Hoop Heads.
Right? Like I still got my picture on there. So don’t don’t ever quit.
Mike Klinzing: [01:15:28] You’re staying. Yeah. Your picture staying. If you’ve ever checked out, I’ve ever checked out the website or our Twitter. That’s that’s Kwas and I on the front cover of most of our social media pages.
Babe Kwasniak: [01:15:37] For sure, @BabeKwas on Twitter and Instagram you know, yeah.
I’m extremely active. Listen, this happens to me all the time. So, I do want to do this. If anybody is struggling out there you know, I’m not a doctor, but I’ve been through it and this is something I do for the secretary of the army for veterans. And this is something I do more than you think.
So if [01:16:00] anybody is struggling out there and they just want to talk to somebody who’s been through it, my email is Babe Kwas@yahoo.com Bravo alpha, Bravo, echo, Keela whiskey, alpha firstname.lastname@example.org. And if there’s anybody listening to me and it just says, you know what, man, this guy gets it. And they want to reach out to me.
I’d be happy to get back to them Mike. Thank you so much, man
Mike Klinzing: [01:16:21] We cannot thank you enough for coming on and sharing your story, which is obviously intensely personal and something that clearly you have a passion might not be the right word, but clearly you have a desire to help people who have been in a similar situation to you.
And I think anybody who listened to the podcast can truly understand that the type of person that you are, the type of coach that you’ve been and that you’re going to continue to be. And for you taking the time out of your schedule to jump back on as guests, number two, as we set off the top and [01:17:00] now guests number, I don’t know where we are, but I think this will probably end up being like episode 459, maybe or 460, somewhere in there.
It’s crazy, but we cannot thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule to jump on to everyone out there. Hopefully you were entertained ,educated and just enjoyed this episode here in, quats kind of pour his heart out to our audience really means a lot to me. So to everyone out there. Thanks for listening to Claus.
Thanks for jumping out with us and we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.