Quinn's greatest strength at T-More is his ability to turn 'no' into 'yes'

Montville — There are few more rewarding endeavors in our corner of the world than postgame chats with the great Jere Quinn, whose depth, reflectiveness and moral courage have fortified not merely the basketball program, but the very foundation of St. Thomas More, all these years and more than 1,000 wins later.

Funny how basketball is always the backdrop and yet the discourse ping-pongs its way into the everyday realism of life. There's just something mystical and fulfilling about St. Thomas More and the synergy between its mission and geography: back to basics amid the serenity that allows it.

Quinn was a happy guy over the weekend, following the Chancellors and their conquest of the Founder's Tournament, when we got to talking about basketball, prep schools and dealing with today's kids. It turned into an impromptu blueprint for all of our self-improvements.

"It's interesting," Quinn said. "All our kids had some success in high school, but not incredible success. But they still came in here comfortable. The first thing we try to introduce them to is getting uncomfortable and the word 'no.' A lot of them have difficulty with that.

"They're starting to understand that we are about everybody. And when we show our stat line with 10 kids getting between 18 and 23 minutes per game — that should be strength rather than a punishment.

"One of the things I show these kids is the agate page of the sports section and the boxscores where it says 'DNP.' I ask, 'do you know what that means?' They say, 'did not play.' Right. It happens. What I encourage here is for our kids not to get a DNP, which here stands for 'Do Not Pout.' I try to say, 'It's OK. Things will be fine. But get going. This isn't easy."

Quinn's stream of consciousness just took the basic concept of playing time on a basketball team and provided us with a counterintuitive, cautionary tale for a better way to live our lives and raise our children.

Why counterintuitive? Because we're being sensitized to the idea that the word 'no' and the feeling of discomfort are negatives. They're not. They are the greatest vessels of change. Nobody ever got better at anything by being comfortable. There's just no motivation to change anything. Change happens when life throws its inevitable curveballs and all their inherent pattern changes, discomforts and ensuing lessons.

Who knew "no" could be such a ... "yes!"

And that's what Quinn has taught for almost 40 years now at 45 Cottage Rd: How it's uncanny the number of affirmatives that happen in life after you conquer discomfort.

But who really has the time, strength and interest to do that anymore?

Quinn's courage to spit in the face of the disturbing societal trend of 'no' as a four-letter word ought to be a beacon for coaches as well. It's OK to have rules. Kids and parents can like them ... or not. 'No' is a great motivator. So is discomfort.

"You know what makes me sick to my stomach?" South Carolina coach Frank Martin said after a game in 2017. "When I hear grown people say that kids have changed. Kids haven't changed. Kids don't know anything about anything. We've changed as adults. We demand less of kids. We expect less of kids. We make their lives easier instead of preparing them for what life is truly about. We're the ones that have changed. To blame kids is a cop-out."

The loving rigidity Quinn shows his players runs afoul of some new prep school rules, too, which demand less, not more. Happily, they'll never apply as long as Quinn is the sheriff here.

"The world of prep schools is changing," he said. "The NCAA has made some recent decisions on postgraduate student athletes that have hurt us. One is that you are only allowed one course as a postgrad unless you have a learning disability and then you can have three. They allow you to take an online course. They're telling everybody if you do a postgraduate year, you should get an 'A.' Any athlete who needs an 'A' takes an online course. Certainly, nobody's watching.

"What a lot of these programs are doing is telling kids to take an online course, do online SAT work and then we can work you out (on the basketball court) all day. St. Thomas More is school first, basketball second. It's incredulous the number of parents who have reached out to me and said, 'Does my son have to go to school as a PG?' I cringe at that question, recognizing we are a college preparatory school that's trying to prepare, assist and organize kids for the rigors of higher education."

And no place has ever done it better.

Through teaching the concept of uncomfortable and the most underrated word in the dictionary: No.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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