“This unique platform enables us to express the genuine sense of gratitude we have for the men and women who consistently demonstrate an admirable sense of duty, commitment and sacrifice to serve our country” – Steve Lavin
This morning we would like to bring you the touching story of Operation Hardwood: Hoops For Troops VI, the special way in which eight current and former college coaches gave back to our troops stationed at Camp Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq.
The trip consisted of: Brian Gregory, Jim Crews, Mike Gillian, ESPN analyst Steve Lavin, Mark Gottfried, Dennis Wolfe, Tom Schuberth, Jeff Nix, and Fran Fraschilla.
Each of these legendary coaches took part in a week long trip (August 17-24) that took them from the National Naval Medical Center in Maryland to the Walter Reed Army Medical Institute in D.C. before finally shipping them out to Camp Speicher…which is located just 15 miles away from one of the former homes of Saddam Hussein.
But the concept of Operation Hardwood wasn’t created back in ’05 by advertising executive Rick Kell for coaches to merely visit the troops…the trip gives great basketball minds an opportunity to give back and bond with troops through a shared passion they both have for the game of basketball.
So these eight coaches dusted off their clipboards and took to the sidelines to each coach a team of troops in a four game season, before all battling it out in the tournament that they cleverly dubbed “August Madness”.
The competition was fierce, but in the end it was Steve Lavin, who wearing his Tiger Woods championship red polo, lead his team, the Ballers, to and undefeated record and the victory in the championship game over Jim Crew’s Bad Boys squad.
But Steve Lavin and his group of players weren’t the only ones that came away winners on this trip. Everyone who participated in the program ended up gaining something more valuable than any medal or a plaque could ever be.
We are sure each and everyone of the coaches left feeling as Steve Lavin did, “inspired and in awe by the example the troops set on a daily basis”, while players were able get a break from there everyday duties and learn life lessons through the game of basketball from the best in the business. Needless to say, this was an experience that neither party will ever forget.