Posted Feb 21, 2017
In her excitement at how decisively and well Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis answered her call on Tuesday during a 45-minute visit at the end of the day at Withrow High School, Katie Frankey thought of the ultimate in athletics. “A hole in one,” but the 10th grade English teacher immediately caught the mixed metaphor. “Wrong sport,” she acknowledged. But her instincts cut right through a fairway that has not always been so easy to negotiate these days.
Even at storied Withrow on the eastern fringe of the Cincinnati Public Schools, where down through the years it has stood as an architectural gift as well as a local powerhouse yielding a diverse roster of alumni. A Hollywood legend in Rosemary Clooney. One of the most powerful women CEOs at the turn of our century in Lifetime’s Carole Black. A secretary of defense under President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Neil McElroy. A former NBA player and college head coach who was the first big school sleeper recruit for a young Syracuse assistant coach named Rick Pitino prowling Madison Road in Louis Orr.
Last month, after the campus got hit with a spray-paint hate crime of swastikas and racial slurs, Lewis is one of the first people Frankey thought of that could help a student body that is 98 percent minorities. “I work with such amazing students and they were really shocked and surprised by it,” Frankey said. “So their reaction to it inspired me to want to contact somebody who can shine light on them and let them see that they mean everything to this community and that they are worth caring about.” Even though Frankey comes from up the road in Columbus, she has been at Withrow for four years and that’s long enough to know what Lewis means in Cincinnati.
“I was thinking about a leader in the community,” Frankey said. “He has a heart for kids in this community. Everything I’ve read about him ever since I’ve lived in Cincinnati has always been about ‘How can I benefit the kids in the Cincinnati community?’ He’s always willing to help them. The worst that could happen is he can say no.” Lewis doesn’t say no to kids. That’s how you become a community icon for, well, the biggest applause from the assembly of about 250 students culled from the leadership position came when he ran through his resume and noted he was in his 15th year as head coach of the Bengals. It may be the offseason. But the Bengals are still September big. You don’t become just the 11th head coach in NFL history to be with the same team for at least 15 straight seasons dwelling on the negative.
Speaking in an old school Lewis talked old school. Don’t let anyone label you. Don’t let anyone limit you. The man whose father told him he had to work twice as hard to make it talked about hard work. The man whose father feared he would struggle to advance as a professional coach because of his color told the kids to embrace whatever they wanted as long as they committed to be the best they can. For more pictures, click HERE.