I recently read In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson. The book was inspired by one of the most obscure yet courageous acts recorded in scripture (2 Sam. 23:20-21).

The general idea is that our best days often start as our worst days, and our greatest opportunities are disguised as our biggest problems or greatest fears.

Simply put, stop running away from what scares you most and start chasing the opportunities that cross your path.

In February of 1998, I was in a "pit", but with a "bear" on a snowy day. My experience took place over a four-day span:

It was February 24, 1998, and we were finishing up a team film session in preparation for our last WAC road trip of the year. New Mexico was nationally ranked with a 41-game home winning streak. Our second opponent would be the always-tough UTEP Miners, who were led by Hall of Fame Coach Don Haskins.

Having just lost 10 out of our last 11 games, it was all I could do to remain positive. It was difficult to look into the eyes of my players and honestly tell them that we were capable of winning both of these games. We had prepared well, but I knew we had very little margin for error.

As I walked out of the film session, I had a strong impression to pop my head back into the room and tell them how much I appreciated their attitude and effort during a very difficult season. The room was still, and I quietly said, "I believe in you. We are going to sweep this road trip, and qualify for the WAC Tourney."

My first thought as I left the Marriott Center was, "What were you thinking, Steve?" I am not sure I really believed in my heart what I had just said, but I knew it had to be said.

It’s the next day (February 25, 1998), and the Salt Lake City airport has been closed due to a heavy snow storm. All flights have been cancelled. We had to bus it all day to Las Vegas to catch a late evening flight to Albuquerque. There would be no practice, no shoot-around, just the pre-game warm-up of 30 minutes prior to the start of the game against New Mexico.

On February 26, 1998, the unimaginable happened in the Land of Enchantment. We had our snowy day and we survived in The Pit, and found a way to beat New Mexico 83-62 and snap their 41-game home winning streak.

Two days later we were at UTEP and having our game-day shoot-around. UTEP coach Don Haskins came out onto the floor and introduced himself to me and the team. He congratulated the guys on the big win at UNM. He then asked if I might come up to his office after practice for a few minutes.

I was a bit nervous about meeting with Coach Haskins. He had an intimidating presence. His nickname was "The Bear" because of his burly physique and constant growling at his players and officials. But Coach Haskins was a pioneer in college hoops. In 1966, he coached Texas Western College (later called the University of Texas at El Paso) to an NCAA National Championship. Coach Haskins started five African-American players in that game, the first time that had ever happened in a championship game. Kentucky, coached by the legendary Adolph Rupp, started five white players.

That event set in motion the desegregation of college basketball in the South. Coach Haskins was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997.

Then I'm sitting in The Bear’s office. He looked me in the eyes and said, "That was a big win at UNM. I know you can coach, but understand this: everybody can coach at this level. There are three things that you must understand to survive in this business.

"Number One: Recruiting is the most important thing you do. Did you hear me? Recruiting! You can’t win without good players.

"Number Two: Scheduling! I don’t know who made your schedule, but you, the head coach, need to get control of that right now. Find a good balance. If you don’t do this right, you might just schedule yourself out of a job.

"Number Three: Coaching! When you win you’ll get more credit then you deserve, and when you lose you’ll get more blame then you deserve. Don’t read the papers and don’t listen to talk radio. There is no one way to coach or win games. Commit to a system and teach it with a passion."

Coach Haskins then stood up, smiled and said, "Take it easy on us tonight," and walked out of the office.

That night we beat UTEP in triple overtime 76-75. After the game, he shook my hand and said, "Don’t forget what we talked about today."

It was a privilege for me to spend a few moments with a special coach they called The Bear. In 1999, Coach Haskins retired from collegiate coaching. He passed away in 2008.

The "snow day", "the pit", lessons taught by "The Bear" and two very special victories! Those were defining moment that I will never forget. From that day on, I never stopped believing!

Have a great day!

Coach Cleve

FYI: The following are my upcoming broadcasts on BYUtv:

- Jan.16: Halftime Studio Show, BYU @ USD, 10pm ET/8pm MT

- Jan. 19: Halftime Studio Show, LMU @ BYU, 9pm ET/7pm MT

- Jan. 21: Game Color Analyst, BYU @ Pepperdine, time TBA