Play Smart Save Lives

The News Magazine of HCU

Cottrell Helps Launch a New Cause in the Wake of Darius Lee’s Death


The 2022 shooting death of HCU basketball player Darius Lee rocked the Huskies’ men’s basketball program, the HCU campus community and the lives of all those who knew him. While helping guide the members of his team through grieving the loss of their friend and teammate, and going through his own personal grieving process, Ron Cottrell (HCU James Sears Bryant Head Men’s Basketball Coach) was contacted by a group of fellow coaches who wanted to help.

“Two months after Darius passed, I was contacted by a coaching buddy of mine who had this group of coaching friends who had been talking about ‘What can we do?’ It was born out of what happened to Darius,” said Cottrell. “We started meeting via Zoom and talking about what we, as college coaches who deal with young men every day who have this going on around them in their communities, could do.”

With Cottrell among those at the forefront of the effort, the group began the “Play Smart Save Lives” initiative which aims to educate coaches and student-athletes on the need for, and benefits of, safe gun storage. Additionally, the group is hosting webinars and working to develop nonpartisan programming that will help coaches speak to their teams about gun violence in general and specifically in the event of an incident that directly affects their team.

“We’re not advocating taking people’s guns, we’re not trying to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do with guns, but we are being realistic about the fact that people own guns and how we can all more safely co-exist with guns in our country.”

On Monday, Nov. 27, when the HCU men’s basketball team faced off against TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, both teams donned “Play Smart Save Lives” warm-up shirts during pregame warm-ups and during the game on their benches, and a number of players wore special socks with the logo embroidered on them.

“Our game with TCU was the kickoff of the Play Smart games. Much like the Coaches vs. Cancer games, which have been going on for 20 years now, we are trying to get something similar going. This is our first effort into this and I was so fortunate and thankful that [TCU head basketball coach] Jamie Dixon wanted to be involved and wanted our game at their place to be involved. As important as it is for fans to come and see it, it’s just as important as a chance for us, as coaches, to talk with our teams before the game about the cause and why we’re doing this.”

On Dec. 5, the National Association of Basketball Coaches sent messaging out to all members highlighting the group’s work, educating coaches around the country on the group’s mission and encouraging others to host Play Smart games of their own.

While “Play Smart Save Lives” is still early in its existence, more than 75 current and former collegiate coaches have already signed on as supporters of the cause.

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