Throughout Pike County today, families will gather to give thanks for all the gifts in their lives and to spend time with one another.
One such family, however, will spend Thanksgiving on a bus traveling to Statesboro, Ga.
That family is the Troy basketball team, which gathered to celebrate an early Thanksgiving of sorts Wednesday afternoon at head coach Don Maestri’s home.
“This is a family celebration and since the players are not at home with their own families, it is important they feel they have a family away from home,” Maestri said.
The family environment is one that both Maestri and his longtime assistant coach David Felix have instilled in the Troy program for 28 years now.
“Coach Felix and I, for the whole time we’ve been here, it has always gone beyond basketball for us,” Maestri said. “We think the players are really an extension of our own families. When we recruit them, we tell them that and we have guys from 20 years ago that are still a part of our families.”
During a time when people often give thanks for the good in their lives, Maestri was no different.
“I’m thankful Coach Felix and I are still here at Troy,” Maestri said. “The coaching profession is a tough business. I joke about my job being 28 years on vacation, but the truth is if you love your job, it’s really not as much like work.”
Part of Maestri’s love for his profession comes from the feeling of youth the job brings him.
“The beauty of coaching is that you never get older,” Maestri said. “Every year you coach guys who are 19, 20 or 21 years old. They were the same age 20 years ago, so it’s kept Coach Felix and I young. We’ve enjoyed their new, fresh ideas and it’s helped us to stay in tune with that age group. It’s a great profession to be in, and we’re thankful to have a chance to be a part of these guys’ lives, hopefully for the good.”
While Maestri said he is thankful for the opportunity to coach, he realizes coaching is nothing without players to coach.
“We have a group of guys that we really enjoy being around,” Maestri said. “They have really enjoyed each other, as well.”
The coaching staff isn’t the only group of people with something to be thankful for, however.
Senior guard Michael Vogler also took time on Wednesday to reflect on what he is most thankful for.
“My sister just had a baby last night about 5 a.m., so obviously, I’m real thankful for that,” Vogler said.
“I’m also thankful for my friends, teammates and coaches. I’m just real blessed.”