Editor's note: After Bert Hammel stepped down last Friday night we were inundated with people, including several former players, who wanted to honor the coach after 36 years as head coach at Merrimack College. We have this story and several more inside (on Pages D6 and D7) with people talking about the influence Hammel had on their lives.

 

For the past 34 years, former Merrimack College men's basketball coach Bert Hammel has been my mentor, my role model and, above all, my best friend.

Being a part of the Merrimack College men's basketball team was the first stability that I had in my life after coming from a one-parent household and being only 18 years old. Mind you, I wasn't a player, a statistician and scorekeeper.

It's been an honor to be a volunteer for the Merrimack men's basketball team since 1982, a tenure that later turned into the author of the team newsletter.

Bert never taught me a specific lesson on how to handle a particular business or family matter, but the basic life lessons that he taught a young man helped mold me heading into the most significant parts of my adult life.

Every decision I make in business, as a family man or Little League coach all comes around from the life lessons and confidence that Bert instilled in me at Merrimack.

Bert taught me about being part of a larger family and he installed in the importance of the Academic Basketball Awareness Camp (ABA) into my life and, eventually, into the lives of two oldest sons -- Kevin and Kyle -- who volunteered their time at ABA. Volunteering is now a basic part of their life.

While many will spend the next few weeks trying to pinpoint the Hammel legacy on the basketball court, my advice is to leave the analyzing to those who now live a better life thanks to coach Hammel's care, compassion, and understanding and for bringing out the best in a person.

Throughout my long association with the men's basketball program, particularly with Bert, I learned lessons about caring for others, helping those in need, having a passion for something that you enjoy and, overall, establishing a stability in your life.

Today I lead a 23-person organization as part of a large worldwide company. I wouldn't have this position if it weren't for Bert's lessons of confidence, decision making, and passion for your job.

To understand the caring aspect of coach Hammel, the perfect example comes from the time my wife, Maureen, and I had our first son -- Kevin, a three-month premature baby.

When my wife was sent to the hospital in premature labor -- the first two calls were to our parents. The third call was to Bert, who, prior to that, was counting on me to be his scorekeeper when the season started in a few days.

For the next 100 days, until Kevin came home from the hospital, Bert and I spoke almost every day, always asking "How is Kevin doing." It meant a lot then. It still means a lot now.

The friendship we've had -- me, my wife and Bert and his wife (Jill) -- was bonded at that time and I will always remember the evolution of watching their three children (Alexandria, Lucas, and Cooper) grow up on the North Andover campus with our three children (Kevin, Kyle, and Kaylee).

Thank you, Bert, for all you have done to better the life of me and my family. Above all, thank you for helping make me the person I am today.

Steve graduated from Merrimack in 1986 and resides with his family in North Andover.

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