Fletcher Arritt wouldn’t want us to spend our time eulogizing his earthly existence, and anyone who knows him would understand that I’m walking a fine line in writing this. I’m not aware of a greater human, and like many of you, I could provide ample supporting evidence. Among the many attributes are his humility and his uncanny ability to graciously accept praise and immediately sidetrack the conversation to something far more entertaining. He greeted the audience at his Virginia Sports Hall of Fame induction by saying, “I thought this thing was a Biology Hall of Fame?”
I’m grateful to have played for him. Honored. Not because of the numbers—we all know about the wins, players to college, pros, etc. Those numbers are a byproduct of all the things we can’t possibly measure. The characteristics, philosophies, and actions worth examining and emulating. I’ve heard guys talk about how much they wanted to please Coach. I agree. He loomed large in our lives, but our desire to please him was not sown by fear. We knew he loved us, and we knew what we needed to do to make him happy -- fulfill our capabilities, do something for someone else, and pray.
Early on, I got the sense that Coach didn’t care about my shot. Likely because he said, “Phil, I don’t care about your shot.” He just wanted me to get to the right spots, keep the game flowing, and “be what you are.”
Coach found his spot at Fork Union. He loved his wife and family. It’s tempting to root his narrative in the virtue of sacrifice. He could have coached somewhere “bigger,” but chose to stay. Isn’t that what he told me to do? Give up my shot, so the other guy could get his? But that’s not the whole picture.
Coach is a model for service. Do things in the service of something greater than yourself. In his case, service to Christ, his family, FUMA, and everyone who crossed his path. He found his life of service, and he wanted the same for each of us. This is crystal clear through his words and actions.
He is a husband, dad, teacher, coach, and friend. All of us have stories about him, and if you don’t, go find someone who does. Then wipe those tears (likely from laughter), and remember to be what you are, get to your spot, and do something for someone else. That’s the simple legacy Coach has left for his family, friends, thousands of students, and hundreds of players. But who’s counting?
Phil Wall '03 is an award-winning filmmaker and former post graduate basketball player at FUMA. He lives in Brooklyn, NY, where he works on independent and commercial narrative content.