(Photo courtesy of Butler Athletics)

I played in the NBA Developmental League for one year, but once the season was over I decided to join the Butler coaching staff as an assistant coach. It's not necessarily an easy choice to walk away from your playing career, but the decision becomes a lot easier when it's to coach at your alma mater.

I was an assistant under one of the most underrated coaches in America in Todd Lickliter. He wasn't a household name, but he led Butler to the Sweet 16 in 2007, and that got him the head coaching job at Iowa. I was lucky enough to make the jump with him.

We expected to continue the same run in Iowa City, and for some reason it just didn't happen. We went 13-19 in our first year, 15-17 in our second year, and then after going 10-22 in 2009-2010, Todd was fired. As was I.

It was a really difficult time in my life, because I believed in what we were doing as a staff, and it just wasn't working. I was giving it my all, and to lose night in and night out is tough. But what's a lot tougher is telling your wife and kids that you just lost your job. They are depending on me to put food on the table, and although they never looked at me as failure, sometimes it was tough not to feel like one.

That's when you realize that you can't do this on your own. Even with your family by your side, we still can't do it on our own. It was a reminder that God was in control of everything, and I needed to put him at the forefront of my life.

In March of 2010, a few days after being fired, I gave my life over to Christ. Later, on June 5, 2016, my wife Destinee, two of my daughters, Ava and Alanna and I all got baptized.

I remembered that the Bible says God has a plan for us to prosper, and I reminded myself that I can't give up. In many ways, feeling God's presence at that time felt just like when my teammates pulled me up off that floor.


(Photo courtesy of Butler Athletics)

Being a Christian doesn't mean that all of a sudden you're going to get the new job you want, or you're going to hit the big free throws, but it does mean that even if you fail, God is there to pick you up. I know He can do it with me, because He already did it with Peter.

In the book of Matthew, it talks about how the disciples were on a boat in the Sea of Galilee when suddenly a storm arose. Jesus, who was not on the boat, suddenly appeared to them from the distance, walking on the water. Despite the storm, one of the disciples named Peter decided to get out of the boat and walk on the water toward Jesus. He was able to step foot on the water until his faith gave way to his fear and he suddenly began to sink.

That's when Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.

I think God allowed me to miss those shots and allowed me to lose my job, because He knew that of all the hands I could have reached out for in those times, I would reach out for His.

My job isn't to know if our team will win or lose, or how long I remain as Butler's head coach, but rather my job is to stay faithful to God's plan and not question it.

I'm now in my second year as Butler's head coach, and every single day I try to express my gratitude for what God has done in my life. In fact, God was the first one I thanked at my introductory press conference. My faith is present in every day of my life, and it's something I hope to always keep.

And if one of our players ever feels like they're drowning and reaches out a hand, I hope God puts me in the place to pull them back up.

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Thomas Hager4 Comments