Thursday, February 03, 2011


Pride is something often lost in today's world.

Think about it: How many people do you come into contact with that make you say he or she does the best they can all the time, or at least, most of the time?

There's a myriad of reasons those folks are hard to find and, in an ironic twist, one of the primary culprits is the amount of false pride that a lot of us are full of.

Think about how many times you see somebody act like they are above the simplest tasks because of how important they perceive themselves to be. I see it every day.

Two examples from over the last month: A lawyer goes off on the counter help at a deli when he, or his party, forgot to order something. The counter kid responds correctly, asking politely if they'd like to add to the order? His question results in an arm-raising voice piercing fit from the wannabe Grisham-- "you should know I want a dozen latkes by now!"

Really dude?

Then there was the teenager in the mall, who thought it was fine to call her mom a derogatory name out loud, in front of a store-full of people, when her mom asked her for help. I don't condone child abuse in any way, know some folks that went through it and are still struggling with issues because of it, but...maybe that kid would've been better off if she had gotten a smack or two back in the day?

But here's the flip side.

When you observe a person full of the right kind of pride you know it right away.

Quick story about a reunion weekend in Gainesville, Florida, where one of the Gators better teams from back in the 90's was being honored.

I wasn't there but the story was relayed to me by a player from the team being honored that weekend, a guy who had gone into coaching and was an assistant in the D-1 ranks at the time. The honorees were gathering in a conference room and there were boxes taking up one quarter of the room, making it kind of uncomfortable and crowded. A Florida staff member entered the room, observed the problem, and started moving the boxes at a brisk pace. Before long he was sweating noticeably, but the boxes got moved and there was more room for the players and their families to mingle.

That staff member? Billy Donovan.

"This guy just coached his team to an NCAA Title and he's gladly busting his butt moving boxes," the guy told me, "some assistants and DOBO's would throw a fit if someone even asked them to move boxes, yet Billy Donovan is doing it without a word, kind of makes you understand why some programs are so successful."

A few weeks ago I was at the Peterson Events Center and witnessed a similar, albeit smaller example. Pittsburgh assistant Brandin Knight strolled past a group of us waiting to interview Jamie Dixon and some players. Knight was pushing/carrying a huge bucket of liquid and taking it out to the floor, where another team was getting ready to go. Might have been water, might have been Gatorade, but it was heavy and full of ice. Job needed doing, Knight was doing it, with a smile on his face.

That's pride. And maybe more than any other person, Knight has a pride about what it means to be a Pitt Panther. He was there when this all started, but unlike so many of his playing peers, he's also been there on the other side, the coaching side, to help pass that pride on to current players.

Players like Ashton Gibbs, who comes out of the same programs that molded Knight.

Gibbs works tirelessly at his game. He came in as a freshman and was a spot-up shooter in limited but key minutes. As a sophomore he produced more big game-changing/game-winning shots than any other player in the Big East. Now as a junior, he's not content with being one of the best guards/shooters in the country, he's working to develop/improve his game's arsenal every day. Gibbs' work ethic is legendary inside the halls of the Pete. The stories about him are similar to the ones about Sam Young when he was at Pitt -- legend has it that Young used to sometimes sleep in the arena so he could get shots up if he happened to wake up during the night.

Former Pittsburgh video coordinator, and now Xavier assistant coach Rasheen Davis confirms the stories about Gibbs. "Ash lives in the gym," says Davis, "he never rests, in fact we had to ban him from the gym last season." Gibbs says the grind is just a way of life for him, a principle he kind of lives by, one instilled in him by his father Temple and mother Jacqueline.

"It's something I want to do as a livelihood so I take it serious now," says Gibbs. "My father always used to tell me do what you have to do right now so you can do what you want to do later so I take the approach of if I do what I have to do now I'll be fine later on in life." Gibbs says his focus lately, at least basketball-wise, has been on expanding his repertoire offensively -- on top of still making sure his stroke feels right by getting up at minimum 500 shots a day.

"I'm definitely trying to make my game more versatile, trying to do more floaters in the lane and get to the basket more and more ball handling work," says Gibbs. "Just trying to mix everything up and expand my game more to help the team." Helping the team is something Gibbs has done since arriving at Pitt, while also managing his time to make sure he takes care of the academic side too.

Gibbs currently carries a 3.3/3.4 GPA as a Communications major, something he'd like to improve upon (surprise right?). "I'd like to get it up to at least a 3.5," says Gibbs, "it's like having two full time jobs so time management is key, but I definitely want to get the GPA up a little." Gibbs plans on using his degree to go into broadcasting, sports, or something in that area if he doesn't end up coaching.

"I'm real interested in broadcasting or commentating or worse comes to worse I'll be a coach," says Gibbs. "I just want to be around the game of basketball and sports in general so that's why I take pride in my schoolwork and why I just have to keep it up both on and off the court." Gibbs hit a huge jumper against Rutgers, just the latest in a series of big shots he's hit in the last few years that helped Pitt get a tight win.

Gibbs finished with 24 points on 7-14 shooting and former Pittsburgh assistant Mike Rice, now the head coach at Rutgers, was not surprised. "That's why he's a first-team All Big East player," said Rice while bemoaning the fact that he needs someone on his team to hit big shots like Gibbs.

Gibbs was happy to have a big game in front of so many family and friends back in Jersey. But the main thing was the win. "We got the win , that's the most important thing," said Gibbs, "now it's on to the next one." On to the next one.

Next shot.

Next practice.

Next game.

Just the daily life for Gibbs during basketball season.

Next class too.

"Our program is a great one," said Gibbs, "both athletically and academically and that's one of the main reason I chose to come to Pitt...I mean they're giving me a free scholarship, so why not take advantage of it."

Free is debatable. Gibbs, like a lot of D-1 players, is definitely earning his scholarship. But he's also taking advantage of his opportunities off the floor.

And unlike some, he's grateful for it and takes pride in his daily quest to get better both in basketball and in life.

I wrote the following words earlier in this meandering piece -- When you observe a person full of the right kind of pride you know it right away.

Ashton Gibbs is definitely one of those people.

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