"I not only use the brains I have, but all the brains I can borrow." -- Woodrow Wilson
The words of our 28th president serve as a motto for Marquette boys basketball coach Donovan Garletts, who firmly believes you're only as good as the people who surround you.
"It's something good to live by," Garletts said.
When Garletts, then just 23, became the Blazers coach in 2010, his first task was to build a staff with as much experience as he could find, people with perspective that only comes with time. He found plenty of both in Jim Bracewell and Fred Mooney.
"It's a value I can't put a price on," said Garletts, who also contacted former Michigan City coaches Earl Cunningham (Rogers) and Dan Steinke (Elston) about joining him. "I didn't want yes men. I wanted people who were going to give me their honest opinion. To have them on my staff is an amazing blessing."
Bracewell was the first person to join Garletts when he took over at the Class A Catholic school. A Marquette school board member, Bracewell coached seven years at St. Gregory's in Chicago during the 1960s and 70s.
"It was a totally different era of basketball," Garletts said. "It was a much more physical game, usually a fast game, like we like to play, and life was certainly different."
Now 71, Bracewell had recently retired from McCormick Place in Chicago when his wife Carol, who works in the school library, connected him with Garletts about the volunteer position.
"I certainly had the time," said Bracewell, defining his role as quality control. "Donovan brought a lot to the job. He knows the game. I like the way he handles things. That first year, he was just trying to squeeze an orange that was already squeezed. I brought a little bigger view of the whole picture, gotten him to calm down a little bit."
A Mr. Miyogi of sorts, Bracewell is a settling hand in the heat of the moment.
"He's got all the wisdom beyond the rest of the guys," Garletts said. "I look to him when I need advice, for basketball or anything else. He's been around the block, through a million things. He keeps me grounded. He's absolutely the calm in the storm. We've formed an incredible friendship."
Mooney wasn't long out of coaching following 35 years at Hammond Baptist when he crossed paths with Garletts on the AAU circuit in the summer of 2011. He won 640 games, 589 of them in basketball, coaching at various levels with the Swordsmen. When Garletts brought up the subject of joining him, Mooney didn't put much stock in it initially. When a coach at another tournament told him it might be a good fit, he started to seriously consider it.
"I'd been doing it a long time, I thought, 'Do I need a break?'" Mooney said. "I thought maybe I did. Then I asked myself, 'Do I want a break?' and it was, 'No, not really.' I talked to Donovan and we hit it off. He's a thinker. Sometimes, he's going 100 miles an hour on the bench. We'll tell him, 'Take a deep breath.' We've got good chemistry."
It's no hop, skip and jump from Schererville to Michigan City, but Mooney has come to find a peacefulness in the solitude of the long drive. The family has run a painting business for over 40 years, but Mooney's sons are involved, enabling him to be involved at Marquette.
"The people are all great to work with," he said. "Donovan gives us the liberty to make substitutions. He has the final decision, but we don't mind telling him what we think. He's very concerned about helping kids get to a better place in life and basketball is a good tool to help them get there. The success speaks for itself."