Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Kelly Meek's always done it his way.
He's been a disciplinarian, a tactician, a phenomenal scout and an incredible game planner.
He's got a mind that can recite the score of any game or moment from the past 36 years.
He's won 544 games in basketball and four state titles in track.
Only Denver Christian's Dick Katte has won more games at one school.
The numbers are mind-boggling, sure, but when looking at the work of Meek, what sticks out isn't just the wins or losses.
If it were all about wins and money, Meek would have left years ago.
It's hard to explain, but Meek's just a guy that gets it. He understands people - impressionable children maybe the best - and can harvest and nurture relationships like few can.
It certainly wasn't all fun playing for Meek. He was hard on his players. He wasn't afraid to single players out if they weren't doing their job or if they weren't doing it right. He'd attack players' weaknesses. There was no slacking off. He demanded perfection, and if he didn't get it, he let players know about it.
As hard as he could be on the court, the minute practice was over, he was there not just as a coach, but as a friend, a mentor and a person players could trust.
He wanted the best for his players. In the classroom, in the community and in life. The lines between the court and the classroom weren't just blurred, they didn't exist.
He's yelled at players, criticized players and thrown players off the team. But in each instance, when a player needed something, Meek was there.
Meek gave everything he had to the program and to the community. He expected the same from his players.
But now, Meek can't give that all-out effort. One of the most influential people in his life needs him.
With his father's health fading, Meek needs to be in Grand Junction for not only his parents and family, but also for himself.
He felt bad for his team when he would miss practices this winter to be with his father. When he was with the team, he felt bad he wasn't at his father's side.
It took its toll on him mentally and physically. He's probably put more miles in this year than at any point in his career. After games, he'd leave from Steamboat late at night to travel to Grand Junction. Early the next week he'd return.
Meek's also got four grandchildren between the ages of 6 months and 3 years old.
Anyone that's seen Meek around children knows his face lights up like he just won a game. Before games, he'd sit in the coaches' office and look at pictures of him and his grandchildren. It put things in perspective, put him at ease and prepared him for the game.
It wasn't an easy decision, but Meek decided it was time for him to leave. He leaves the game as one of the greatest high school coaches in Colorado history. He leaves having affected more people positively than anyone can count.
Maybe most importantly, Meek leaves as one of the most influential people Steamboat's ever seen.
And he not only did it his way, he did it the right way.
- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org