Assistant coach turns to Flagler basketball for support and comfort
By Michael O’ Donnell
Many people around the nation take the saying, “basketball is life,” to heart. But for men’s basketball Assistant Coach James Link, basketball has been more than just life — it has been his salvation.
Link began his basketball career at Buchholz High in Gainesville, under the tutelage of Coach Bob Hordodyski.
He came to Flagler and played for Coach Bo Clark from 1999-2003 as a non-scholarship walk on in his first year at Flagler.
“He was the ultimate teammate,” Clark said. “In my 22 years of coaching, he is the best lock-down defender I ever coached.”
After graduating, Link decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, Art Link, who is an art teacher at Santa Fe Community College, and his brother Artie Link, who is a Div. I football coach at Campbell University.
“My brother [Artie] is my hero and anything he says, I take into consideration,” Link said. “So, after graduation, I did not know what I wanted to do and my brother suggested that I pursue a career in coaching basketball — so I did.”
After a short volunteer coaching stint here at Flagler in 2004-2005, and becoming a full-time assistant at high power Div. III Washington College, Link returned for a second go-round at Flagler as a part-time assistant coach,
“I came back because Coach Clark needed someone he could trust and rely on,” Link said. “Div. II is a step up for me, but more importantly, I love this school, the program and the players on the squad.”
Since his return to Flagler, things have not exactly gone as planned. Over the course of a year and a half, Link has lost three of his family members, his grandmother, Elaine Kane, his sister, Charlaine Boone and most recently his mother, Tina Link, who died Jan. 7 of bone cancer and leukemia.
“The whole fall semester I knew my mom was sick, but I though she had been doing great,” Link said. “She just lived every day to the fullest and was really the glue that held our family together.”
Finding comfort and salvation in basketball, Link never faltered or missed a beat with his coaching duties over the course of the season.
“The day after my mom’s funeral, I was right back on the court, figuring out what we could do and who we could recruit to make this team better for next year,” Link said. “My mom was our No. 1 fan and I came back because I knew that this is what she would want me to do, because this is what I love. I love recruiting and teaching the game of basketball.”
Not only has the game of basketball brought Link inner peace, but according to Clark, so has the Flagler basketball team.
Because Tina loved the team warm ups, when the Link family held the funeral, to honor her memory, the entire team wore their red warm ups to the funeral.
“I think this season and the team in general helped a lot with the grieving process,” Clark said. “We want this team to be a second family for him, because he is a huge part of this team and our success and we want to be there for him, like he is for us.”