Sorrell College of Business students heard that learning from mistakes, self-determination and perseverance were key ingredients to long-term success.
The message came from former National Basketball League player and head coach Sam Mitchell before a near-capacity audience in John Robert Lewis Hall.
Cut 13 times from his high school basketball team, Mitchell learned early on what hard work and perseverance really meant.
“I was so bad; Coach had a rule. If you passed me the ball, he took you out of the game,” he told students, faculty and staff members.
He would go on to college basketball with the Mercer Bears, and then played NBA ball for the Pacers and Timberwolves over 12 years. In 2007, he was selected the NBA Coach of the Year with the Toronto Raptors.
“I tell young people this all the time, sometimes you may not know your talents. Other people may see it and when they tell you, you got to take a step back, sit back and act on it if it’s something you want to do,” Mitchell said.
His first coaching job came in 2002 for the Milwaukee Bucks following his retirement as a player.
“I often believe sometimes things are chosen for you. I had never thought about coaching until I got a call from (then-general manager) Ernie (Grunfeld). I never thought I was coaching material, but he saw something in me,” Mitchell said.
Sorrell College Dean Dr. Judson Edwards, who had met Mitchell at a recent Atlanta Braves game, said the Columbus, Ga. native not only had a powerful story, but reflected many of the core values taught in the college.
“To have Sam Mitchell on campus to share his story with TROY students, faculty and staff was truly an invaluable gift for all those in attendance,” Edward said. “Because of his willingness to take a chance on himself, learn from his mistakes, and prepare with unwavering self-determination, Sam not only played in the NBA for over a decade, he also became a head coach in the league, placing him amongst a very elite group of legends, such as Pat Riley, Larry Bird, and Maurice Cheeks.
“Sam Mitchell put our college values of heart, humility, and hard-work on full display and engaged our students in a way that I have not seen in my 20-plus-year career in academia; it was something very special that I will ever forget and look forward to having him back again.”
TrojanVision reporter Simon Schuessler contributed to this story.