50 for 50 – Len Bias’ Golden Moments #44…High School Coach Bob Wagner

Through Nov. 18, Len Bias’ 50th birthday, the Born Ready Blog will provide each day a new item that helped define Len’s legacy, 50 in total.

Part of him died when Len died.

For a year and a half after Len Bias died, Bob Wagner fought a deep depression. He stopped coaching and teaching and returned to school, taking computer-technician classes. In the evenings, he worked as a night manager at College Park Towers, an apartment complex that catered to students who attended his alma mater, the University of Maryland. “That’s where I disappeared,” says Wagner, Bias’s head coach at Northwestern High School. When not at work or in school, Wagner retreated to his house in Hyattsville as much as possible. “I wanted to get away from [high-school] kids,” he says. “I didn’t want anything to do with basketball. I didn’t answer the phone. I didn’t have much of a life at all. I was sleeping, studying and working. … There wasn’t anything I could do.”

Wagner says he still thinks about Bias every day. Sometimes, he cries. After Bias died, he endured typical stages that accompany a loss. “Depression. I questioned myself, what did I not see, what really transpired,” he says. “Not knowing any of that side of him partying. In those days, I was the big brother to all the kids. We had a unifying spirit around basketball. It gave us a positive identity within the community. That’s what hurt a lot of people with the tragedy. Here was a P.G. County public-school kid who did just as much if not more than a kid that might have gone to DeMatha or St. John’s or some other top D.C.-area program. He wasn’t given anything along the way. He had to work for what he got. It hurt the whole community. He was part of us. Most of us were part of him. So when he died, part of us died with him. The pain of his loss and the death of hope. He represented hope for a lot of kids.”

Bias_cover_pngExcerpted from the book, Born Ready: the Mixed Legacy of Len Bias

Learn about the Born Ready Project that teaches life skills, using Len’s legacy as a teaching tool.

BornReadyLogo_Finalv2b (1)Find out about the Born Ready Hoops Festival  Nov. 22-24, that will honor Len’s legacy as a basketball player.

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