In life, I believe the moments that change your life are when you meet that one special person. For me, I was lucky and came across this person at a young age. His name was Rick Majerus, whom I call Coach.
Our friendship didn't develop until I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 8. During those difficult days in the hospital I received visits from Coach and he had the ability to make me feel like I was going to be OK. He motivated and encouraged me to battle this tough disease at a young age and told me to never give up.
I then began my love for basketball. I lived, dreamed and breathed the sport. I attended every University of Utah men's basketball game and studied every move and play Majerus gave to his team. Coach could see my love for the game and encouraged me to pursue it. I was proud to be one of the only girls at his all-boys basketball camps and his ball girl on the sideline at games. (I never told him, but I used to pull pranks on opposing teams, because I wanted Utah to win.)
Throughout his coaching career at Utah, Majerus took me under his wing and taught me everything I needed to know about the game, as well as a couple words my parents weren't too pleased about. Coach had the ability to transform his players to not only be the best on the court, but off the court. I believe this rare quality made him to be one of the greatest basketball coaches in history.
My friendship with Coach grew the older I got. And during the trying times of middle school, he would pick me up and take me to dinner with the give-it-to-me straight "life lesson" chats. He also knew how to embarrass me to the fullest, by calling me out in front of the team and announcing my love obsession for one of the players, Hanno Mottola.
One summer during high school, he gave me the "first job" speech and how everyone needed to go through it. His plan was to make me head of the snack bar during one of his summer camps. I was fired after a week because he thought I was focusing too much on getting the players' numbers, instead of getting them a Gatorade.
He also was adamant about me going to Wisconsin for college, giving me a Wisconsin sweatshirt to wear all senior year. Unfortunately, I went another route, and he eventually forgave me for that.
Coach believed in me during the times I thought nobody did. He gave me confidence and reassurance to pursue all of my dreams. Being around Coach made me feel calm, like everything was going to be OK. His love for the game of basketball made me realize what life is all about: To find your passion and live it.
Although a piece of my soul has left me with the passing of Coach Majerus, he will forever live on in my life. I am the person I am today because I was blessed to have had such an amazing friend and mentor. I always promised Coach (after his approval) that he would be front and center at my wedding one day, and I will make sure to keep that promise by having a seat reserved for him with a plate of bratwursts.
May his legacy live on and inspire others the way he inspired me.
Liddy Huntsman is a recent University of Pennsylvania graduate and a writer and producer at ThomasArts Agency in Farmington. She also is a host on the radio show "Dabakis Factor" and a self-proclaimed failed comedian.