Warrior of the North coaches Air Force basketball team
GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE -- The road to the 319th Force Support Squadron command section is a make-shift gravel road. It is temporary. It is utilitarian. It is unassuming. It is very good at what it was made for, and about twice a day, one of t...
GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE -- The road to the 319th Force Support Squadron command section is a make-shift gravel road. It is temporary. It is utilitarian. It is unassuming. It is very good at what it was made for, and about twice a day, one of the most successful basketball coaches in the Department of Defense uses it to get back and forth to work.
Like that road, Don Fellers, is very good at what he does. He tries every day to make the airmen and their families on this base enjoy their quality of life, and about one or twice a year, he takes a road that leads him to the bright lights and squeaking shoes of international basketball championships.
Recently, Fellers was invited to coach the men's United States Air Forces in Europe basketball team in a tournament in Germany. They played against eight other countries' teams made up of the best military members from their air component. What's more, according to Fellers, in Europe military members play on the country's professional basketball team.
"The German air force releases their players for the entire Bundesliga (German federal league) season, and for a few tournaments," said Fellers in Stars and Stripes.
Last year, the USAFE team lost to Germany in the championship game. This year the USAFE team, whose tallest player could barely look eye-to-eye with their opponent's point guard, beat the Germans. What's more, the USAFE team had to overcome a four point deficit with only 34 seconds left on the clock, eventually winning by three points.
This game is just the most recent contest for Fellers who has been coaching Air Force basketball teams since 1984.
"I've been fortunate enough to coach some of the most talented players in the military," Fellers said. "It has been an honor every time."
Regarding this team, Fellers said it was easily one of the best teams he has ever coached. He had only 12 days to trim 19 players into a team of 12.
According to Fellers, from the moment he first met them, the team exemplified the core values.
"Hello coach. We just want you to know we've already paired up, everyone has their wingman," the team told him. "If we practice, we practice together. If we eat, we eat together."
According to Fellers, that team attitude is what allowed them to beat what equates to Germany's NBA, but after the last basket was made and the awards were presented, the road back to Grand Forks AFB and his true passion awaited Fellers.
"The basketball championships, the fans, the adrenaline, are all fantastic, but my job here is who I am," he said. "Thanks to good friends like Brig. Gen. Darren McDew who gave me a recommendation for this job, I am able to serve the Airmen and their families at the greatest base in the Air Force."