As a Kokomo, Indiana kid just learning the game of basketball in the 90’s, the Carver Community Center was the hub of all basketball activity in the area at that time – at least in my eyes. I can still remember the smell of gym shoes, concession stand food, feeling the gentle breezes flowing through the open doors on hot summer days, and the aroma of a freshly waxed basketball court. I can even remember the very first time I’d seen the Michael Jordan painting on the east side gym wall, all lit up with lights that changed color around it. As significant an impact the senses of sight and smell have on the fondest of my early stage basketball memories – I’d have to say my sense of hearing is what I’m most thankful for in this instance. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the biggest voice this side of Heaven!
In the summer months, when you’d enter the front doors of the Carver Center for basketball camp, this great big voice that I described was already going. When you’re a kid 6’4” seems like a giant – who am I kidding, to me that’s still a giant; Phil “PC” Cox was that giant to me. I say this knowing full well that, “We Love This Game!!” was not created by coach Cox it was created by the NBA, but as far as I’m concerned that will forever be his trademark. For so many years I watched him with that chant, lead hundreds of kids in breaking it down at the end of the day at Carver basketball camp. I as well as so many others I’m sure, can still hear that echoing in our minds.
Speaking of an echo, Phil has a voice that can shake the rafters of Kokomo’s Memorial Gym. I’ve heard Phil rock the house singing the National Anthem countless times, in front of thousands of people. I’ve heard him singing beautiful songs in praises to the Lord on Sunday mornings, as I made my way to Sunday school class at Mt. Pisgah when I was small. He has used that “giant voice” of his for so much good in his life. For those of you who have read along with me as I’ve written about my journey in basketball, you know how often I express how thankful I am for how basketball has giving me the opportunity to meet extraordinary people. Phil Cox is absolutely one of those special people. His passion for investing in young people through basketball, gave me the chance to be close to him. Because of him I learned a lot at a young age on a level not many get the chance to witness. In 1972 Phil Cox was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, fresh off a state championship at Connersville High school – and for those of us fortunate enough to be able to play for him, we had access to a perspective on the game that was quite unique.
Over the years I experienced a ton of basketball with my ol’ coach, traveled a long way. AAU tournaments, Middle school basketball where I competed against his teams, and then eventually high school basketball – one thing always remained constant and that was Phil’s passion and desire for teaching. Boy, if it took you several times to get something right he’d sure let you know about it – and at the very top of his lungs. But when you got it right that very first time, his smile, his reassurance and celebration of you did wonders for building up your confidence. I’ve always appreciated his passion for the game, even more so his compassion for people and even more than that for being so down to earth – all while being basketball royalty in the great “basketball state”. I know that has more to do with the Man Who lives within him – if you’ve ever met Phil the love of Jesus is all over him.
I’m so thankful for knowing Phil Cox the man. The time he took to spend and invest in us kids means more to me than he will ever know. It was not all about basketball with him – great life lessons have been gained from knowing him, lasting relationships were made through him, entire families came together all for one purpose. As a grown man, I understand now that all those years he chose to be a part of something bigger than himself, he made the decision to fill us up with his knowledge and wisdom of the game – and of life because he loved us. And with that in mind, I know how detrimental that can be to a man’s family. From all different angles but especially emotionally and financially, it can take a real toll on a relationship. So as much as I am thankful for Phillip Cox, I am even more so for his wife Darlene. Darlene, thank you for being such a strong woman and sticking by him all these years while he builds up young men like myself. It takes such a selfless woman who often goes unseen and unnoticed, to keep a strong man standing – otherwise he would surely fall.