by Kent Sterling
Charlie Coles died today, and that’s a sad thing for college basketball. Having retired 15 months ago, Coles barely had any time at all to enjoy being away from the game. The game sure didn’t enjoy having him away from it.
I spent a single day with Coles seven years ago when he hosted my son on an unofficial visit. We spent most of the time with assistant coaches Frankie Smith and Ryan Pedon, but the couple of hours with Charlie gave us a unique chance to understand why people either loved him or were baffled by him.
Frankie and Ryan spent a considerable amount of time telling us stories about Charlie. One in specific that I remember well was about Charlie’s lack of desire to learn how to access or use the internet. In 2006, Charlie didn’t use email. Even then, everyone I knew had a minimum of one email address, but Charlie didn’t.
When he needed to complete an online questionnaire on compliance for the NCAA, Charlie treated clicking on the selections as a video game. “Here I come, I’m honing on it,” he would say as he brought the arrow closer to the correct circle.
His stories over lunch were bizarre, and for awhile I felt my forehead furrow in confusion. Some had a point, and others didn’t. I remembered feeling the same way when I saw Al McGuire speak at Indiana University in the early 1980s. Until I gave in to the odd joy of puzzlement, I felt like there was something wrong with me. After understanding that stories didn’t need a tidy conclusion, I enjoyed Charlie’s company thoroughly.
That he decided against pursuing my son was disappointing because I knew there was a lot about life that he could teach my son.
Sad that he’s gone too soon at the age of 71. There are a lot of people who will enjoy life less because they won’t be exposed to Charlie’s wisdom. We should celebrate, though, that so many were.