I hung around for a year after graduation from seminary, taking a couple of classes to “further my well-rounded education.” I was also offered the position of New Testament Greek Instructor at Open Bible College, a training school for ministers and missionaries of the Church of the Open Bible, a home-grown Pentecostal group based in Des Moines. The president of the college was a seminary classmate who, when interviewing me for the job said: “Milan, I know you smoke, but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t around our campus—if any of our trustees happened to see you smoking, it would mean both of our jobs.”
One day after Greek class, the guys in the class were sharing that they wanted to start a basketball team but did not have a coach. They had discovered my passion for the game and asked if I would work with them. This meant that I also had to help them find teams to play since there was no league for their school. I entered them in the YMCA men’s league and arranged some pickup games with a couple of settlement houses. That was the first time most of them had met any black people, let alone play against them. It was an eye-opening experience for all of them, as they tried to compete while watching some of these guys soar over them. It might as well have been Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant on the other team, to amplify the comparison just a bit. All of my considerable coaching experience and even my playing on their team couldn’t save them. I told them they had better pray harder because only Jesus was going to get them through this game.
Because it was such a small college we often did not have enough players at practice or games to have more than 6 or 7 guys show up at any one time. I had to be player/coach and I was not in the greatest physical shape. After the game with the above-mentioned young black men who had “taken us to basketball school” one of our players said to me as we were dressing: “You know coach, if you’d give up the weeds you’d be more able to keep up.”