Osborne displays love and sacrifice to all
By John Herndon, 110forChrist.com
OWENTON, Ky. — For years, I had known Bob Osborne to be one of those great high school basketball coaches who probably didn’t get the credit he deserved on a wide scale.
He’d never coached an Owen County team past the Eighth Region semifinals, always running into a larger school with a few more weapons during those seasons when Owen was one of the region’s best teams.
But those around the region knew about Osborne, who won seven district championships — including five straight at one point — in 12 years. He’d been an Owen assistant for 25 years before that. Osborne was known as a strong tactician whose preparations were always evident.
But there was more to Osborne’s legacy than X’s and O’s. They paled in comparison to the people involved.
“He taught about life,” says current Owen County girls’ basketball coach Amy Wesselman, who was Osborne’s assistant during his 12 years leading the program. “Before every practice, he would meet in the circle and have the quote of the day. He talked about how you approached situations, not only in basketball, but in life. He was always big on your attitude.”
Osborne retired from Owen County after the 2016-17 season, when the Lady Rebels won the 31st District and advanced to the Eighth Region semifinal. He stayed out of coaching for a year but the desire to be back on the sideline was too great. He joined the staff at Anderson County, one of the favorites to represent the region at the Sweet 16, as an assistant coach, last fall.
Soon after practice started October, Osborne was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” after the New York Yankee Hall of Famer who battled the disease. There is no cure, but Osborne is still positive and still serving.
I wrote about Osborne’s battle and his impact on the Anderson team in December. You can read that story HERE.
Saturday, Osborne was on the sidelines at the Owen County gym for the first time since his retirement. This time he was wearing Anderson’s red and navy blue instead of Owen’s maroon.
“I knew he missed coaching and that was before the (ALS) diagnosis,” Wesselman says. “I was happy for him because I knew he wanted to get back in it and I knew it would be hard for him to come back here. We are happy that he’s able to contribute and we have a lot of respect for Anderson County.”
While Osborne was on the opposing bench — Anderson rolled to a 65-33 win — his lasting legacy was apparent. It was a lesson in the ways a coach who tries to live as Christ wants can make differences in people’s lives.
Christina Johnson Perkins played four years for Osborne and returned to Owen County as an assistant coach in his final year leading the Rebels. The 2011 Owen graduate was part of a team that advanced to the regional semifinal in her senior year. She’s now a paraprofessional coach who works in public health and says her coach taught her more than the pick-and-roll or help defense.
“To be successful as a basketball player, he taught me to work hard every single day in practice,” Perkins said as she fought back tears. “Outside the gym, he wanted me to work hard in school. He wanted me to work hard in community service projects. That carried over into life. You can’t just expect things to be given to you.
“When you want through the doors of a university or on your first day on your first job, you have to earn it and work every single day.”
Osborne’s work at Owen is like that of just about any successful coach in any sport.
Wesselman sees that relationship even better now that she leads the Owen program. “The dedication and commitment and the time you put in,” she said when asked what Osborne meant to her as a coach. “You don’t really understand that until you become a head coach. You see the amount of time he put in and the sacrifice.”
It is a life that left a deep impression on Perkins.
“He preached character day in and day out,” she says. “You act the way you are supposed to act. When we have an away game, you act like you are supposed to act. When you lose, you act like you are supposed to. You treat people with dignity. You treat a freshman with the same respect you would a senior. You treat the custodians with respect. Everyone deserves respect. You have to be the first one to give it to them.”
Despite the ALS, Osborne is able to drive the 80-plus mile round trip from Owenton to Lawrenceburg for practice or a game nearly every day. He’s leading the Lady Bearcats by a strong example and still serving on the Owenton City Council as well as being active in Owenton’s First Baptist Church.
It’s a living faith in Christ.
“Absolutely,” Perkins says. “He genuinely cares about everyone he comes in contact with. Christianity is about love and sacrifice. I feel that his entire time here, he loved every person and he sacrificed so much of his time.
“Sacrifice and love are what he is known for.”
And when the wins are forgotten and the trophies are tarnished, those will be what really matters.