The year is 1960 – the place is a parking lot. The lot was adjacent to Memorial Coliseum (the University of Kentucky home basketball court for both practice and games) and Stoll Field, located across the Avenue of Champions, which was the home of the UK football team.
The car that entered the lot was driven by a young, fairly new, assistant football coach by the name of Howard Schnellenberger. Being late, Howard thought he had caught a break by finding a parking spot close to Memorial Coliseum, which meant he was just a short walk away from where the meeting he was attending had already started. He felt fortunate to have found such a prime parking spot.
Sadly, his good fortune was short lived. The prime parking spot he had taken was one that belonged to another coach, Adolph Rupp. As you can already imagine right after his meeting he received an invitation to make an appearance at the basketball office. Upon his arrival, Coach Rupp informed him what a poor decision it was to park in his spot. The football coach should have known better because everyone knew where Coach Rupp parked. The legendary coach also informed him that if he were ever going to move up in the ranks of coaching and be successful in sports, he would have to start making better decisions.*
Schnellenberger must have learned those lessons. He would go on to become a very successful football coach and over his time at Kentucky, he and Rupp became friends. Howard had the honor of being one of the non-basketball coaches that was given permission to slip in and watch Rupp’s teams practice.
It seems silly, but at the time for the young coach, it was not so silly at all. It also serves as a powerful reminder for all of us that there is always something new for us to learn. No matter who we are, where we are, and where we are going – there is a great big world of discovery waiting for us. For a young football coach it was a lesson learned in a parking lot – don’t park in Coach Rupp’s spot.
But on a bigger level, for the young football coach, it was a funny story that is best remembered with a gentle reminder that if he hadn’t been late for the meeting in the first place, he might not have made the mistake.
Timing is everything. Being on time at the right time makes all the difference.
(*Jamie Vaught in Chasing the Cats, shares this incident with much more detail)