Amy Donaldson: Newland found inspiration and inspires through being a coach
"It felt cool because I've been dreaming of doing it forever and I finally got my chance," he said after helping Hughes and the other coaches during the 1A state tournament. "It's a big responsibility. It's harder than being a manager because you have to teach and draw up plays. A couple of times I was pacing before the games. This (motorized wheelchair) goes about 10 (mph), but I just go in circles."
He admits his mother is right about him coveting Jerry Sloan's job. His favorite player is forward Paul Millsap because "he's tough."
He still might like to coach the Jazz for a day.
"I'd start being harder on them," he said. "I'd tell them that just because they're getting paid so much, it doesn't matter. They have to actually play some defense."
The hire has been a huge asset for Hughes and the other coaches. Newland loves to break down games on film and offer his advice. He may speak softly, but he doesn't get overlooked.
Conner would love to be playing alongside his classmates, but he's grateful for the opportunity to immerse himself in sports in another way.
"I use that energy of thinking about playing to go towards coaching," he said. "It's been hard, but the kids get better and that's what I like."
Newland hopes to continue coaching in some capacity when he attends CEU next fall, as many of his classes will be on-line. Coaches, players and his mom say he is an inspiration, but not because he battles an insidious disease with a positive attitude.
"They don't use him as, 'Let's get motivated because of Conner; let's win this for Conner,'" said Valerie Newland. "They don't make it special because of the condition he's in. They don't have to do that because he's such a part of them. He just motivates them."
And the experience has changed Conner.
"I have learned that if you don't come serious, you can lose games," he said. "I've learned that if you dedicate yourself to something, you'll have a good outcome."
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