A Giant Among Us

Louie Golden no longer walks among us but his memory continues to cast bright sunlight over thousands of former players, peers, friends, and his family. I’m sure it continues to shine over people who never actually knew him.

Louie Golden was both jovial and ferocious.  A paradox at times. A mentor and an advocate for his players and his students. He was a defender of what he thought was right…even though I might have disagreed with him a time or two. Louie had the ability to let adversity and disagreement roll off his back although I’m sure he was bothered and, in some cases, cut to the quick.

When I wrote “Winning Was Never the Only Thing….” I dedicated a chapter to Louie…a chapter? The man deserved more than just a chapter. I owe him much although at the time I was too immature, or ego driven to realize it.

If you coached under Coach Golden you had a love-hate relationship. There were always currents at work.  Some were like gentle flatland streams, others like riptides from a hurricane kicking up just off the coast.  You either got a huge grin or a look that curdled milk. If it was about “monies”, it was the latter.

I was no longer a green behind the ears coach when I went to work at Riverside High School. I had been teaching and coaching for twenty years. I had been an athletic director in my own right. I was wise to the athletic world and knew it all, but I was never wise to Louie Golden. There was truly a right way, a wrong way, and Louie’s way. He was sly…sly like a fox with a big grin and an even bigger laugh.

Louie liked to give you the idea he wasn’t too bright, that you might be able to get something over on him. It was a ploy. I can’t remember a time when I was successful getting anything over on him. That speaks more to his abilities than my inadequacies.

He was never far from the young man who grew up hard in St. Matthews. Growing up dirt poor he survived by his wits and hard work, and it translated into how he did his job. As I realize now, it was a tough job, starting a program from scratch.

I was fortunate to sit down with him and listen to his stories about growing up poor, his time at Beck before integration. Being given the job at brand new Riverside with no “monies”, selling his soul to beg, borrow and steal the equipment needed. He believed he had been given the job to fail as the first person of color to be an athletic director in Greenville County. Someone miscalculated.

I knew Louie’s reputation, both as a successful basketball coach and as an athletic director who lorded over athletic assets if they were clasped in the jaws of a sprung bear trap. His reputation was not exaggerated. He was tight with a dollar…or a penny.

I found he could get you to do things you ordinarily would not think about doing. He had a certain charm about him and was quite artful when it came to arm twisting. Sell your soul to the devil? There wasn’t much left when Louie got through.

My bride, the Coach Linda Porter-Miller coached with Coach Golden longer than I did. I was in attendance when he talked her into coaching his tennis and JV basketball teams. We weren’t dating at the time; I was coaching at another high school and the conversation took place on top of a high school football press box. In some ways Louie might have played a bit of Cupid. She denies this but my memory is like Louie’s bear trap. She also held an exalted position for Louie, a position the rest of us mere mortals could only wish for.

The stories I could tell, but I won’t. As I look back, Louie was like a father who presided over a hugely dysfunctional family. We were all like bratty children waiting for an inheritance but somehow, he navigated around our egos and kept the athletic bus pointed in the right direction…if it happened to be running.

I never realized he was the glue that held everything together until after he was gone…and many of us with him. Louie was treated with less respect than he deserved, and athletics in general took a step back…but Louie didn’t. He went on to another school and won a couple of more state championships. More importantly, he was able to mentor another generation of kids and coaches.

I knew Louie was ill, but I thought he would rally one more time. Truth be known, I thought he might live forever. His memory will live on in the hearts of his family, his former players, his students, his coaching peers, and his opponents.

Many of the old guard from the Seventies and Eighties have transitioned to their just rewards. I have a mental image of old coaches sitting on even older gymnasium bleachers with Louie pontificating. I hope when it is my time, they give me a seat in the gym.

Rest in peace Louie.

Louie Golden’s at a glance: 699 victories, six state championships at three different schools, twelve upper state championships. Over an eight-year period, Louie played in the State finals, seven times. Thousands of players, students, and coaches touched.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1zKfonhGNMrFp6OnO7_V5FmXgPR4ZPxyw9luWE-FOptgCCusleBa6euSQ

Image from WSPA News

13 thoughts on “A Giant Among Us

  1. What a beautiful heartfelt tribute. I have found memories of Riverside. Coach Linda Porter Miller was my tennis coach and basketball coach too. There are many life lessons these coaches instilled with us.
    Rest In Peace- Gentle Giant

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to coach against Louie although he probably whipped me a few more times than I got him. When you played against Louie, you had better be prepared because his teams made few mistakes. More importantly, although this man was a grizzly bear on the court, he was a teddy bear off the court. Louie was gracious to me, and I’d like to think he made me a better person.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s