Remembering

Remembering Hub

We lost Mike Leach and Grant Wahl far too early. Now let me tell you about the childhood friend to whom I just said goodbye

By Mark Godich

I pulled into a parking spot at Duck Creek Golf Club in suburban Dallas, gathered a few belongings from the passenger seat and popped the trunk. It was an unseasonably cold Friday morning in November 2021, but the sun was glistening and the wind was down. Another good day for golf. Is there ever a bad day for golf?

As I went to slip into my shoes and retrieve my clubs, I glimpsed a guy who seemed to be about my age in the parking spot directly across from mine. He looked familiar, but fearing a case of mistaken identity, I was reluctant to open my mouth. He beat me to the punch.

“Mark Godich,” he said.

“Greg Hubbard,” I replied without hesitation.

We exchanged a strong handshake and a hearty hug. We had spent countless hours together as classmates and teammates going back to our elementary-school days in the mid-1960s. But neither of us could remember the last time we had seen each other.

Hub, as he was known, had made the 250-mile early morning trek from the Houston area to play in the Richardson High School alumni golf tournament. Dave Goscin, Ron Samples and I have played in the event since I returned home seven years ago, and in 2018 we joined with Steve Turner to win the damn thing. Steve was sidelined by a back injury, so we recruited Hub to join us.

Over the next five hours, we hit some good golf shots, a few bad ones and shared a ton of laughs. Remember when … Hub hadn’t changed. He was almost as slim as I remembered him from our high school days. He didn’t talk a hell of a lot, but he was quick with the quip. Unlike his three playing partners, he didn’t play golf growing up — basketball was his thing — but he had discovered a passion for the game. He was always a gifted athlete, and during one five-hole stretch in the middle of the round he rolled in four birdie putts. We finished middle of the pack, then grabbed lunch and a couple of cold ones before Hub jumped into his SUV and headed home.

I have reflected a lot on that day, because late last month we lost Hub. He was in his living room on a Monday night when he got out of a chair, collapsed and died. An autopsy revealed he had a pulmonary thromboembolism. He was 65. He leaves behind Beth, his bride of 32 years, and daughter Rachel. 

I was on the putting green the following morning when I got the news in a group text from Dave, as I was about to begin my regular Tuesday round of golf. I stood in stunned silence, numb. I played 18 holes in a daze, the round interrupted by the occasional text or phone call. One voice mail came from childhood friend Tom Weersing, who said in part, “I’m in shock, man. I can’t quit shaking. This really hit me hard, and I was just thinking back to the old days in elementary school and growing up and playing ball.”

In a subsequent text, Tom wrote, “Feeling very mortal right now.”

Tony Click wrote, “I know we’re getting older, but losing Hub this early really hurts.”

I called Dave when I got home. We reminisced. There were pauses between thoughts as we tried to process it all. He mentioned he had seen Hub not a month earlier. Hub had at long last sold his parents’ house in Richardson, reluctant as he was to part with the property because it held such a sentimental value. The two then drove around town, for old times’ sake, just as they had done on so many nights during our RHS days. Hub had been retired for several years after a highly successful career at Oracle. He liked to spend time in Destin, Fla., and had recently sent Dave a video from there. Hub had the beach to himself. He was the picture of contentment.    

About a month after the scramble, I saw Hub again, this time back in our old stomping grounds. Our alma mater, it turns out, had a pretty salty basketball team in 2021-22, good enough to be ranked No. 1 in the country, and a half-dozen of us convened for dinner and a game on a December Friday night. Hub happened to be in town, but he didn’t dine with us. Covid was still a concern, and he was playing it close to the vest. But Dave persisted, and sometime in the second quarter, Hub walked through the gymnasium door and slipped into a seat alongside us. Unannounced. That was Hub. “The Magnificent Seven,” I called the group.

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Hub (bottom, left) made a surprise appearance at an RHS basketball game.

Hub had starred on this very court. He was a lanky, long-haired two-guard who could flat-out shoot it. I began to wonder how many points he would have scored had there been a three-point line back in the day. The Eagles won convincingly, like the No. 1 team in the country should, and when it was over, we loitered on the court before going our separate ways. Looking back, I regret not having thought to find a basketball and have Hub swish one more jump shot.

Following those Eagles became a happening for us old alumni. Many of us made it to no fewer than a dozen games last season, and more than 50 alums from a handful of classes gathered for dinner and the last game, a stunning upset in the third round of the playoffs. Yeah, the Eagles were really good and a joy to watch, but our gatherings were about much more than the basketball. I was one of the ringleaders, and often wondered what long-lost face might show up at the next game. As the years race by, I’ve come to cherish friendships like the one I had with Hub. I’m grateful we got to reconnect. I’m sad I didn’t do it sooner. 

I wasn’t surprised when 30 or more classmates showed up for Hub’s memorial service on Monday afternoon in Richardson. Word traveled quickly about his death. (One call came from Chuck Carona, our ninth-grade basketball coach at Richardson West Junior High, who continues to look out for us.) Classmates came from as far away as Houston and Austin. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in years. And I learned a couple of things about Hub. He loved cheese enchiladas and he liked to wash down whatever he was eating with a … Keystone Light! For a time, he moonlighted as a tennis pro. I knew Hub liked to play the guitar, and toward the end of the service, “In My Life” by the Beatles was piped through the sound system. It felt like “The Big Chill” all over again. 

I smiled when the officiant of the service, Dr. Clayton Oliphint, said during his homily, “He always had a gleam in his eye, like he was about to say something funny.”

That was Hub.

As we try to make sense of it all, Dr. Oliphint later offered something especially profound: “That hurt is good because it tells us what we shared was special.”

Afterward, about 20 of us headed to an old haunt for dinner and drinks. We toasted Hub. We told stories. From junior high. And high school. And college. Remember when … As he surveyed the table, Greg Broom, one of the M-7, said it best: “This is good. This is better than good.” At least a couple of others echoed that sentiment: “How lucky are we?”

I had a notepad in hand, and as I scribbled something down, somebody said, “You’re going to write about this, aren’t you?” Dave, who I’ve also known since elementary school, was nodding before I could even reply. “Of course,” I said. Why, you might ask? Much has been written and shared lately about the sudden and tragic and far-too-young deaths of Mike Leach and Grant Wahl, a former colleague of mine at Sports Illustrated. And rightfully so. Hub didn’t have a media profile, but he enjoyed a special life of his own and I wanted to share it. 

We vowed we would be back for more RHS basketball games, and in fact, some of us had already been, having attended a game the previous week. Although it shouldn’t come as a surprise, the Eagles are not the team they were a season ago, but we are committed to supporting Tim Jordan and Pharaoh Amadi and Rustan Griffen and the other players who returned. At one point early in the game, Tom turned to me and said, “Can you believe we’re all back here?” I nodded, but with a tear in my eye, I mentioned that somebody was missing.

Oh, how I wanted Hub to walk through that door.

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Hub, flanked by Dave (middle, left) and Ron at the RHS alumni tournament.
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