‘I am the dream’: Ursuline coach gives emotional speech during MLK tournament

Sports

Keith Gunther reveals personal accounts of racial injustice and the people who helped him through it

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – “Together We Can”… players from both Ursuline and the Youngstown Academy for Urban Scholars donned that message during the “I Have A Dream, Martin Luther King Day tournament” Monday night. But the event was far more than a basketball game with a free T-shirt. Ursuline head coach Keith Gunther saw an opportunity to reach out to the community and make everyone a part of Dr. King’s dream.

“I thought about what I wanted to say to the team. I thought about what I wanted to say to the crowd, and basically, what I wanted to do is, I wanted to take the crowd, our team, through a personal experience,” Gunther said.

The veteran coach of the Irish recalled, “I remember me and my wife, I was 18 years old. We were on the beach in Myrtle Beach and we got kicked off a property because she was with a black man. I always tell the story that it was an interracial couple but the reality was she was with a black man and that’s why we got asked to leave that property. Thirty years later, good friend of mine, Mike Kernan, great business guy, showed me how to own, on that same piece of sand, a property in South Carolina. That is the dream. Mike Kernan does not have the same color skin as me.”

Gunther was once told that Ursuline High School would never hire a black coach. So when long-time athletic director Jim Maughn gave him the job, they both became part of that dream, part of Dr. King’s vision for this country.

“I remember Jim Maughn when we won our first district title,” Gunther said. “Tears pouring down his face. He’s part of the dream.”

Gunther added, “I think the most important thing that I get out of any of his messages is that inevitably we get there. We get there. We become united. We become one great race. We become that human race. The question is how soon do we want to get there? That’s the big question, how soon do we as a nation and as a world want to get there?”

“Read what our shirts say,” Gunther told the crowd. “What do they say? Read it. Think about it, and let’s make this country a better place.”

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