The best story to come out of March Madness this year – maybe the best sports story of the year in any sport – didn’t involve the thrill of victory.
Saturday, Auburn University suffered a heartbreaking loss to Virginia and missed out on a shot at the national title. The defeat may have hinged on officials missing a potential double dribble penalty by Virginia, which led to Auburn losing by one point. We’ve all seen coaches react to losses of important games due to a bad call. We brace for tantrums, screaming, cursing, flying chairs and legal challenges to the official outcome. But that's not Auburn coach Bruce Pearl’s style.
His response: There’s human error involved in the game. Kids and coaches make mistakes, and “yes, officials will make mistakes. That's part of the game. Get over it."
Pearl went on to tell ESPN, "Sometimes they're going to go your way, sometimes they're not going to go your way. Are we going to give God less glory because we lost and...only because we win? Stop. Grow up, this is part of the game. These kids taught us, I think, in many, many ways how to handle defeat. And that's a difficult thing to do for these young kids. And I'm proud of them.”
Those kids should also be proud of their coach for teaching them a number of life lessons more valuable than a national championship trophy. With so many pro athletes and coaches seeming to care only about winning and not setting a good example anymore, they should look to this college coach for a refresher course in what maturity, humility, sportsmanship and grace in the face of adversity really look like.