Keith Edmonds is a 32-year veteran of teaching and school administration from Fort Wayne. He coached boys high school basketball as an assistant at Snider High School, North Side High School and was the head boys basketball coach at Elmhurst High School for 12 years, advancing to the Class 3A State championship in 2003.

This past week, the entire sports world has been greatly affected by the passing of sports icon Kobe Bryant. His tremendous talent and ability to play the game of basketball placed him among mentioning as being one of the greatest ever. Sure, there are some names that we can throw in the conversation as being the greatest, but Bryant’s basketball talents were only a reflection of his true greatness.

There are so many variables we can use to describe him that we would run out of adjectives trying to fit them all in his diary of Kobe Bryant the man.

His passion to compete and his will to win has been described as ‘Mamba Mentality.’ His ferociousness in playing the game of basketball is unquestioned and rarely disputed among those that have a true understanding of the game. But if I may turn this story for a minute, I’d like to introduce you to another person who I think exuded the confidence of a champion and was the epitome of the term ‘Mamba Mentality.’ His name is Fred Bolton.

Now you may ask who is he? Is he a famous sports figure? Is he a world renowned superstar? The answer to both those questions would be: only if you asked those who knew him best.

Fred Bolton was not known as a sports superstar or international figure, but approached each day with the same passion and undenying spirit that Kobe did. He influenced so many people to do what was right and fair that I would be remiss to not mention him today as my father. Fred Bolton’s passing two days after Kobe Bryant was just as influential, just as impactful and just as inspiring for me as Kobe’s because I knew him.

Sports brings us together in amazing ways and we often idolize those that we see on the stage or screen as people that we’d love to walk in their shoes, if only a day. The problem is that we often overlook those that support us on a daily basis and battling in the trenches helping us to accomplish our goals and get us from one day to the next. Those people need to be given the same reverence and esteem that we give figures like Kobe Bryant. My father was active in his service towards others, believed in the good in people and found ways to honor those in his daily walk that could not either speak for themselves or were never recognized for their achievements by others.

Fred Bolton was a man that had a thirst for life and always shared with me “you should know just a little bit about a lot of things, so you can enter any conversation with a working knowledge.”

His ‘Mamba Mentality’ inspired me to go to college, obtain my bachelors and two masters degrees and continue working with young people to bring out the best in them. This is something that I will always appreciate in him and carry as a mantle of honor as I move forward in my life.

‘Mamba Mentality’ is something that Kobe Bryant carried in his DNA on his way to sports greatness and international acclaim. But for me, it’s how I mirror my successes and failures through my life as a child of the great Freddy Bolton. Today I honor him and his legacy by saying thank you dad for:

• The times that you shared your great knowledge with me.

• The times that you chastised me when I was wrong only to help me get it right.

• The great fun we had playing golf and you allowing me to win as I learned this very complicated game.

• Instilling in me the concept that “If you treat people right they will treat you right, not always, but for the most part they will.”

I approach each day with a sense of purpose. That’s Fred Bolton, that’s the ‘Mamba Mentality.’

Courtside with Coach Edmonds will appear every Monday during the prep basketball season at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. 


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