After more than 30 years coaching high school and college basketball, retired Columbus Northland High School basketball coach James “Satch” Sullinger is releasing a book titled “Winning with Purpose.” Sullinger is also the father of Jared and J.J. Sullinger, who each spent at least two seasons playing basketball at Ohio State.
While coach at Northland, he coached two of his sons, Julian and Jared, with Jared helping Northland win the school’s first ever state title in 2009. Coaching Jared, who was named national player of the year in 2010 — the same year Satch was named national coach of the year — was a “balancing act,” Satch said.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said about his time spent coaching his son. “On the basketball court and in practice, he couldn’t talk back to me ‘cause I’m coach. But when we got in the car, I got nothing but mouth.”
The goal of the book, which is set to hit shelves Nov. 15, is not only to help improve the lives of readers, but also to inspire them to improve the lives of others, Satch Sullinger said.
“The purpose of the book is for everyone to look at themselves, and hopefully better themselves so that they can better the community, or the relationships of the family that they’re in and make it a better situation,” he said.
Co-author John Dauphin had known of Satch Sullinger for years, but it was not until 2011 that the two actually met.
“Satch was out (at the Memorial Tournament) with (former college and NBA player) Ralph Sampson, and they were hanging out,” Dauphin said. “I, of course, recognized Satch … and took an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I’ve appreciated what you’ve done over the years, and if ever there’s an opportunity to, I’d love to talk further with you. I think there’s a great story there.’”
Eventually, Satch Sullinger picked up the idea and talked with Dauphin. They worked for two years on the book, and Dauphin joked it was similar to Mitch Albom’s 1997 best seller “Tuesdays with Morrie” because he met with him on Tuesdays.
“Mine was ‘Tuesdays with Satch:’ weekly, two to three hours a pop, phone calls in between to tie up loose ends,” Dauphin said. “It wasn’t chronological, that’s not the way I operated, and I was filling in blanks and pulling pieces from here to there.”
Former Buckeye and current CBS basketball announcer Clark Kellogg wrote the foreword for the book. Kellogg played for OSU from 1979-82 and was the eighth overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft.
“(Satch) reminds us that, while winning is a worthy aspiration, playing the game and living the right way is much more important and impactful,” Kellogg said in the book.
Satch Sullinger leads Part I of the book with the struggles in his life as a child and a young adult. He said he was “living a double life,” selling drugs and counseling kids at the Ohio Youth Commission.
“I had a real serious problem earlier, though, with the transgressions in my life earlier, I tried to act like they didn’t exist, and tried to move on,” Satch Sullinger said. “It was a battle inside that I wasn’t aware of, but I knew something wasn’t right.”
Counseling was the key, Satch Sullinger said, it helped set him straight, and one conversation in particular kept him on the right path.
“The counselor said that the old me helped develop the new me, and that if I am proud of the new me, I have to be friends with the old me, because the (old me) was a part of the journey,” Satch Sullinger said. “As soon as that hit home, it felt like all the pressure in the world just uplifted off my shoulders, and I was able to accept my past.”
Once he was on the right path, Satch Sullinger graduated college and began a coaching career that would see him at five different head coaching jobs in Columbus. His final landing place was at Northland, starting in 2000. He led the Vikings to five straight Columbus City League titles from 2007 to his final year in 2011.
When asked about the most important part of the book, Satch Sullinger said he was unable to put a finger on just one.
“It’s all about life, all about the rough edges, to smoothing out the edges, to watching the process work, to see the success. It’s a process, it’s a journey, each (section) is very important,” Sullinger said.