Molding Men Means More Than Winning


Arizona State University basketball coach Rob Evans is taking a lot of heat in Tempe for not producing winning teams.

There are even some well-heeled alumni and backers calling for his job.


ASU basketball coach Rob Evans needs a winning season to calm the waters on the school campus.

That's too bad.

From what we know about Evans, he is a fine man, the kind that moms and dads would want to trust their sons to.

He requires his kids to do their homework, go to class, take tutoring, get good grades and graduate.

Evans also expects the players to be respectful, obey the law, set their goals high and be accountable for their actions.

He doesn't settle for excuses and he's not the type of coach who will let an 18-year-old act like a pampered, spoiled child.

One newspaper reporter wrote of Evans, "He has poured his soul into helping his players evolve into men."

Ike Diogu, a former Sun Devil who was an NBA lottery pick, said about Evans, "He's an awesome person, and it goes beyond basketball. He's done so much for me."

Watching Evans, it's obvious he has a pick and shovel workman-like approach to the sport and life in general.

His methods and approach are good for ASU basketball and good for the entire school.

Evans' passionate approach to life is the subject of many tales.

While evacuees from Hurricane Katrina were being housed in Phoenix Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Evans and his wife sneaked into the building to deliver gifts and staples. He didn't ask for publicity, he shunned it.

Evans also has offered a pair of prizes for the national online auction to benefit Habitat for Humanity and its efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast. The prizes are a pair of tickets to the Jan. 25 game against Arizona, a golf outing and lunch with Evans and his staff.

While coaching at Ole Miss, on a New Year's Eve, just after an important game, Evans flew from Jackson, Miss. to El Paso, Texas, rented a car and drove several hours to his hometown of Hobbs, N.M. so he could spend a few hours at the retirement party of his high school coach.

He has served as a board member of a children's shelter, the Texas Boy's Ranch and a foster parents program.

Since his arrival at ASU, he has been active in Coaches vs. Caner and helped raised more than $25,000 for Arizona Boys and Girls Club.

Several years ago, my 26-year-old nephew -- a robust outdoor enthusiast and mountain bike racer -- was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Knowing he would soon be going in for chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments, our family struggled to do what we could to build his spirits.

As an ASU alum and basketball fan, I knew there was a player on the Sun Devil team, Justin Allen, who had made a comeback from the Hodgkin's he suffered in 2001-2002.

I called coach Evans and asked him if he could possibly have Justin call my nephew with a few words of encouragement.

Secretly, I doubted that was possible. ASU was in the midst of a crucial two-game set against Southern Cal and UCLA.

But, Justin called that evening and the two talked for more than an hour.

The ASU player told my nephew what to expect, how best to deal with what he was facing and answered all his questions.

Most importantly, he provided a healthy dose of encouragement.

When I next talked to my nephew, he said, "Justin told me more about what is going to happen than any of the doctors did."

The call brightened my nephew's spirits during some of our family's darkest days.

My nephew is now cancer-free, is a father and has resumed his active lifestyle.

We will always be grateful to coach Evans and to Justin. That simple gesture of a phone call made a huge difference in our lives.

Here's hoping those growling in Tempe allow coach Evans to continue on his path as a molder of men.

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