Oak Creek — Oak Creek-Coach Mike Jossie often talks to his basketball players about the coaches and team being just like a family.
After last week, his players at Oak Creek know he really means it.
The Knights were given a glimpse into what Jossie means to his former players when current West Allis Central players Nick Starich, Austin Soppa, Darvell Brown, Anthony Harris and Najeal McMillian all showed up at his first game as Oak Creek coach, which was Nov. 29 at Greenfield.
Those players all gave Jossie a big hug and said they were there to support him, as well as one of his current players, Terrence Garner, who transferred from Central to Oak Creek for this year.
"I was moved and touched," Jossie said. "I didn't know those guys would come there. I was just speaking to (the Knights) for the first time before a game about this being a new program and a new direction. I came out of the locker room, shook hands with (Greenfield coach) Jim Nowak and saw those guys behind the opposing bench. I was amazed. Those guys all hugged me and said they loved me.
"I just thought it was a class act by those kids. I also think what those former players did will show my current players where I want to take them. They will know that their coach, as hard-nosed and disciplined as he is, truly does care about his players far more as young men than basketball players."
Starich said he had planned to attend Jossie's first Oak Creek game as a tribute to him and asked other players to accompany him.
"I was really close to him," he said. "He's like a father to me. I played for him two years, as a sophomore and junior, but I have worked with him ever since my freshman year. He's always been there for me, helping me. I know I can trust him."
Jossie said the former Central players were upset when he announced he was leaving to take the Oak Creek job. "Having them there was something I will never forget in my life," he said. "Life isn't about the breaths we take, but the moments that take your breath away. I had one of those moments before and after the game."
He then used the occasion to reinforce his family concept to his new players. "I told them that, as they saw, I am all about family and I do care about them," he said. "This will help us come closer together."
The Knights went on to beat the Hustlin' Hawks, 41-37, as Garner tallied 19 points, much to the delight of his former teammates in the stands.
Just a few days later, the family bonds with Central were strengthened again. Jossie attended the Central-Hale boys game on Friday at Hale, and again, all the Bulldog players came up to him after the game, hugged him and said thank you.
"This all meant a lot to me," said Jossie. "This is not about wins and losses as much as it is about making a difference in people's lives. This shows me I made a difference in (the former players') lives."
Jossie is anticipating a big rebuilding project at Oak Creek but is confident it will be accomplished.
"We have to get everything functional that had been dysfunctional," he said. "We will build a strong foundation. These are great young men, well-respected around the school and community. They value the student part of student athlete, which was the case at Central, which I first laid that foundation down."
Jossie reflected further on the meaning of Central's show of support, saying, "As a coach, I always try to show the kids just how much I care about them. It was nice to see the same thing in return from the Central guys. That is truly more valuable than any win."
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