Dick Devenzio

Ten years ago, a dear friend and mentor of mine, Dick DeVenzio, lost his battle with cancer. Dick was a former player at Duke, he played and coached professionally overseas, he was an author, and he ran the best basketball camp I was ever privileged to attend, The Point Guard Basketball College.

I won’t begin to share the many lessons I learned from Dick’s writings, or from himself through the time spent with him at camp and through our personal correspondence, back when people wrote “letters.” Dick loved to write a letter.

Dick required all athletes to write him a letter as to why we wanted to attend the Point Guard Basketball College. When introducing everyone on the first night of camp, he said, “And you’re Todd from Mississippi, I remember you. You’re a big point guard, I always resented big point guards.” I liked him immediately!

I was thrilled when he sent me a complimentary copy of his book, “There’s Only One Way to Win” about his father who, like my father was a basketball coach. Reading it was like reading a mirror image of my own upbringing in the sport of basketball. Even the part about being nose to nose with your father in the middle of a game while he yelled because a player you hit in the face with a ball missed the pass.

I was also very saddened the day I found out about his death. I emailed his brother Huck, who thanked me for my sentiments and said that he would share them with Coach DV. I hope Huck and Coach DV knew I meant every word.

Dick embodied so many great things that are missing from not just basketball, but sport. Not a mere pursuit for excellence, but a pursuit for just 88% efficiency or effort as few people honestly ever give or achieve that much. My copy of his first book, “Stuff! Good Players Should Know” is barely held together by the binding, entire sections have been underlined, starred, highlighted, etc. by both myself and my father who gave me the book as a young adolescent.

I’m 6’5″ and an above average athlete, but not an extraordinary athlete by any means. Thanks to Dick I was able to hone some skills, increase my knowledge and develop a discipline and work ethic in every aspect of my life that allowed a little boy to live out some of his dreams by traveling the country playing basketball, and later coaching. As a coach I would often catch myself using phrases that Dick used, trying to remember as closely as possible the way he worded things in order to ensure maximum transfer to players.

In my personal life I’ve often harkened back to his 88% rule, ‘Beating you yesterday,’ and perhaps the greatest lesson one can EVER learn: Excuses are for losers.

I could write endlessly about the teachings, writings, and stories of Dick, but I’ll leave with this; he once told me, as we were discussing goals, that his dream in life was to write an influential novel. Now, I don’t know the type of novel he intended to write, but the most influential book I have ever read was his very own, “Think Like a Champion.” I read constantly, I’ve always been particularly drawn to sports books, biographies by sports figures, etc. Books on success with a sport tinge and so forth… Every book I have ever read comes off as a cheap paraphrase in comparison to “Think Like a Champion.” I’ve said before that it should be required reading for every high school athlete and their parents. Colleges could do well to offer a class on the book to their athletes.

Whether you are an athlete, parent of an athlete, businessman, just like sports, or just work at WalMart, “Think Like a Champion” can make you better. I can recommend a book on virtually any topic, but regardless of the topic, it is the book for over ten years that I have always recommended when recommending books.

When someone passes, many people have just one more thing they would have liked to have told that person. And while I would love to have a hundred more conversations with Dick about any number of topics, if I could just tell him one more thing, it would be something I told him a dozen times before with the only caveat being that while I was always sincere, I mean it even more now….

Thanks Dick, Todd

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