Real life isn't you are undefeated and state champs. Real life is your refrigerator is broke, the car won't start and the baby is sick. You trust God and press on. You say: Good, let's go!
The word "GOOD" is printed across the front of the Boyd Buchanan boys' basketball team's warmup shirts, and it resonates with every Buccaneers player.
While the Bucs have had a strong season so far - they're 18-6 overall, 8-2 in Division II-A East District 2 - the writing is not referring to their ability. Instead, the word is intended to provide mental energy and remind them to be resilient when things don't necessarily go their way.
"That is our answer to pretty much any obstacle that is thrown at us," senior guard Riley Covington said. "When we turn the ball over: Good, let's go play defense and get the ball back. When you don't get a call: Good, give the ball back to the official and let's go."
Nearly 20 years after helping Tennessee Temple make a memorable run to the TSSAA Class A state title game, head coach Josh Templeton and assistants Kevin Templeton - his father - and Gabe Johnson have been blown away in their first season with the Bucs, who won just 15 games combined the past two seasons.
After struggling to find success with just three juniors and no seniors on the roster in 2017-18, Boyd Buchanan players trusted and listened to a new coaching staff that made them do repeated defensive slides and watch Evander Holyfield fights in the early stages of getting to know one another.
"These guys don't make excuses, and they don't whine or criticize," said Kevin Templeton, who has more than 40 years of high school and college coaching experience. "They are accountable. Anytime you do all those things, you have a real chance in not only a game like basketball, but in life.
"Real life isn't you are undefeated and state champs. Real life is your refrigerator is broke, the car won't start and the baby is sick. You trust God and press on. You say: Good, let's go!"
Constant and consistent man-to-man defense has been a calling card this season for the Bucs, who have held opponents to an average of 45 points per game. On that end of the court, Covington has done for them what Draymond Green does for the NBA's Golden State Warriors by providing standout defense.
Covington also leads the Bucs in assists, but his defensive work might be the best demonstration of what his approach means to the team.
"None of this would be possible if it wasn't for a senior leader like Riley," said Josh Templeton, a former Tennessee Mr. Basketball finalist. "He has really applied himself and is a selfless player. He is our defensive point guard."
Now flash back to the 1998 Class A state tournament, when the smallest private school in the state hung with giants.
Those Tennessee Temple boys - Kevin Templeton was their head coach, with Josh Templeton and Johnson team members - allowed only 107 points in their 14 quarters of state tournament competition in Murfreesboro, which included just 36 points to a towering Donelson Christian Academy lineup that featured 6-foot-8 Adam Sonn. Although Sonn went on to become Belmont University's all-time leading rebounder, he scored only 11 points against the Crusaders, whose tallest starter was 6-1.
Both Templetons and Johnson also learned how to deal with a tough defeat as Temple fell 44-42 in double overtime to Ezell-Harding in the title game. Now such lessons are being applied with the Bucs.
"Our program is founded on four principles: Get better every day, be resilient, be great teammates and have a blast. This is the most fun I have ever had coaching a team," said Josh Templeton, who noted his players have shown an uncanny ability to let things that don't really matter slide.
While winning a state championship has never been the spoken goal, a rejuvenated basketball program has helped change the culture inside the school walls, Johnson said.
"I think it's good we have a staff that thinks alike," he said. "We all love each other. It's a family and an environment similar to when we were at Tennessee Temple. These guys have brought energy to the school."
With just two games left before postseason play begins, the Bucs will look to pour out all they have for each other.
"It's important to us that we look ourselves in the mirror at the end of the day and say I am proud of my day," Josh Templeton said. "You can see they live that way from our intense Wednesday practices to the look on their faces before a game.
"All they care about is going out there and playing hard. They don't care who scores. They are warriors who are going to fight until the end."