Todd Abernethy is an assistant basketball coach for the University of Mississippi. He is married to Micah, and they have two daughters, Ruthie and Maria, and one son, Jack.
How would you describe your work?
God has called me to be a coach. As a player, I had 10 to 12 head coaches from whom I learned the good, the bad, and the ugly of coaching. Today I use what I’ve learned to teach my guys how to be good players—and, more importantly, great men. We teach them to play as a team, work together, be unselfish, and delight in the success of their teammates.
A highlight of my coaching career was when we made it to the NCAA tourney, a moment that confirmed my calling as a coach. We were one of the last four teams, so we played a win-or-go-home game in Dayton, Ohio. At the half, we were down to Brigham Young University by 17 points but came back to win 94–90. That was an electric moment in which I realized just how much I love my job.
As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?
God is creative, and I enjoy reflecting his his creativity through player development. I love creating drills for our players to help them reach their full potentials. Also, I try to model Christ for our players through servant leadership. It’s really easy to get entitled and think, I shouldn’t be rebounding or picking up trash from the ground. I preach the gospel to myself daily that Jesus came to serve and not be served.
How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world?
It’s natural to put my hope and identity in things besides God. This was difficult as a player, especially when I was named All-SEC and led the conference in assists in 2006–2007. I had to remind myself for whom I was playing. As a coach, I’m tempted to find my identity in the successes or failures of the team. Many judge us by wins, losses, and recruiting. It’s easy to search for identity in those things rather than resting in my identity as a child of God.
Your father is your hero. What have you learned about loving your neighbor from him?
My dad, Tom Abernethy, played for Bobby Knight at Indiana University. He was a senior on the undefeated 1976 National Championship team. After becoming a Christian, he built a basketball training facility where he has coached thousands of kids. I watched him give people second chances when others wouldn’t. His generosity has translated into how I coach and love our players, serving them and sharing with them what life is all about.
Editors' note: TGCvocations is a weekly column that asks practitioners about how they integrate their faith and their work. Interviews are condensed and edited.