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Playing for the Coach

It was August 2006. I was sitting in Ed Bobit’s office for the first time. I was there to interview for a position as the first full-time editor of what was then called F&I Management and Technology magazine.

My first meeting with “Coach” set the template for every meeting that would follow. He expected big things from me. His management style was legendary.

Shortly after I accepted the job, my wife, who is also a journalist, was on a flight to a trade show when the man sitting next to her struck up a conversation. After telling her he worked in the auto industry, she asked if he knew Ed Bobit. He did, and she told him I was his newest hire.

“I feel bad for your husband,” he told her.

Yes, Coach was a tough boss, but he was also the kind I thrived under. I’ve been blessed to have many great coaches and mentors in my life. The ones I remember best are the ones who pushed me. And that’s what Coach did. He was tough to please, but he also knew how to show his appreciation for hard work. If I turned in an article he liked, he would scribble “Wow!!!” on the top of the page. After he reviewed the latest issue, he would walk over to my office and say, “Coach, this is amazing!”

He just had this way of making you feel like a million bucks. But his compliments were usually followed by the same question: “So where are we at with the next issue?”

I realized early on that I had to plan ahead to meet Ed’s expectations. I also had to be prepared to answer any question and defend my position, because he was going to challenge everything I thought I knew. I can see his face and his big blues eyes now. He’d lean forward and peer at me over his reading glasses. He would say, “You can do what you want, Coach, but if it were me …” or the classic, “I know you want to make your mark, but …”

If Ed was known for anything other than high expectations, it was his, shall we say, thriftiness.

In early 2007, we drove to downtown Los Angeles to interview two deputy district attorneys for a cover story about payment packing. He was so excited about that article. He was sure it would establish my name in the F&I industry. And as a former Los Angeles Times reporter, I was looking forward to showing off my interviewing skills. When I worked the metro beat, court cases were my specialty.

The interview was set for a Monday. I spent most of the weekend researching, reading court filings and preparing a list of about 20 questions. After talking my ear off throughout the hour-long drive into downtown, Coach was in a great mood — until we pulled into a parking garage and he saw how much it cost: $5 for every 20 minutes. Shoot, he would have backed out of the parking lot had there not been a line of cars behind us.

Coach grumbled about the money all the way to the elevator. About halfway up, he couldn’t contain his disgust any longer. “Coach,” he said, “I hope you don’t have a lot of questions. I don’t want to spend more than 20 minutes here.”

I was sure he would forget about the parking garage once the interview was underway. We shook hands with the prosecutors and I dived right into my list of questions the moment we took our seats. We were rolling right along when, about six questions in, I looked over at Coach. I guess I was expecting an approving nod. Instead, he raised his eyebrows and tapped his watch.

Several months later, the article was nominated for an editorial award, and all was forgiven. I remember the awards banquet well. It was the last one Coach attended, and he was so sure we were going to win. Unfortunately, we didn’t, but the experience confirmed what I already knew about Coach: As tough as he was, he wanted nothing more than for you to succeed.

They say you don’t know what you have until you lose it. But I was fully aware of what Coach meant to me long before he passed away this past June. One of the last compliments he gave me was, “Coach, you don’t know how much potential you have.” I regret that I never got the chance to prove him right. I’m really going to miss him.


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