By MITCH ALBOM
This is a story about taking pride in your work, whether it's saving children or cleaning toilets or, in Willie Davis' case, both.
Willie Davis is a janitor. Oh, you can call him a custodian, or a caretaker, or a sanitation engineer. You can call him the King of England if you want. He still takes a broom every day and cleans the dirtiest corners of Arthur Smith Junior High School in Alexandria, La.
And when he's done sweeping, he mops. And he waxes the floors. He does the windows. He mows the lawn. He plucks the weeds. When he has to, he cleans the toilets.
And when the day's work is done, he puts a whistle around his neck.
And he coaches the boys' basketball team.
And it wins like crazy.
"I tell the kids, whatever you do in life, do it well," Davis says. And true to his word, he has led them to three district titles in the past four seasons and has a 91-14 record. His kids listen. They look up to him.
He also has the cleanest locker room in the league.
"Oh, yeah," he says, laughing. "The kids know, if there's a candy wrapper on the floor, I'll be the one saying, 'Let's pick that up.' And they do, too. No questions asked. They say 'OK, Coach Davis.'"
He laughs again. It's the "coach" part of that sentence that he enjoys the most.
Now, we all remember school. Wasn't the custodian often the guy that kids looked up to the most? He was an adult, but he wasn't to be feared, like some teachers. And he usually had a sense of humor unlike almost everyone in the school office.
Davis, 38, who stands just 5-feet-7 ("A Calvin Murphy type," he jokes), was only hired to sweep up and empty the buckets when he took his job nine years ago. He was paid, he says, $1,200 a month, and hasn't had a raise since.
The only increase in his income has been the $900 a year they give him to coach the boys' team.
And that he would do for free.
"My kids ask me all the time, 'Coach Davis, how come you coach us but you're the janitor here?"' he says. "I tell them, 'That's why you have to stay in school and get an education.'
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