The intersection of education and sports forever changed two local men’s lives
Dr. Nate Hearne grew up in poverty: one of eight children living in a small three-room house that lacked indoor plumbing. His mother worked as a domestic helper and his father a gas station attendant in a small West Texas town. He struggled with trust issues. But he left a lasting legacy on many young people along the way.
“I grew up wearing hand-me-down clothes with patches sewn on them,” says Dr. Hearne. “I hated elementary school. I wanted to quit. But when I started seventh grade, I had a science teacher, Mr. Clyde Hague, who greeted me every day with a smile, a firm handshake, and an encouraging word. Because of his affirmations in the classroom, I came to a self-awareness that those C’s and D’s I made in elementary school were not an indication of my intelligence.”
Dr. Hearne met another strong influencer when he tried out for seventh grade football.
“Because of my football coach, Mark Wallace, who affirmed me on the field every day, I came to the awareness that those clothes with patches on them and holes in my shoes were not indications of who I was going to be.”
Hearne went from being a kid who hated school to wanting to be a coach and a science teacher.
“Those men saved my life. I continued making good grades. I went to high school and made the honor roll. I attended college on an academic scholarship. I coached football and taught science for 25 years. And the only reason I went into teaching and coaching was to live out those two men’s legacies. Every athlete that I coached, I wanted to give him that big Coach Wallace hug and tell them, ‘I knew you could do it.’ I wanted to affirm every student that came into my classroom as Mr. Hague had done for me.’’
Dr. Hearne was an assistant coach in the Permian High School football program when they won six State Championships. In 1988, an author followed Permian through their football season and wrote “Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and A Dream,” which made the New York Times “Top Ten Bestsellers” List. In 2004, the film was released. A few years later the television show became an Emmy-Award winning series.
“When my book, “Friday Night Lights: Untold Stories from Behind the Lights” was released, many former students reconnected with me,” said Dr. Hearne. “One of those students was Tony Carimi. I was his basketball coach when he was a 16-year-old high school sophomore. Recently, Tony invited me to speak at the annual executive leadership meeting for his company, Park Place Dealerships, and we reminisced about the good ol’ days.”
Today, Tony Carimi is the Chief Operating Officer at Irving–based Park Place Dealerships.
“Coach, do you remember that conditioning drill you had us do called snakes?” Carimi asked. “I said, “Yes, I definitely do.”
For this drill players would run out of the main gym and up into the stands. They would run up and down the stairs, snaking their way through the stands, across all the stands. And they’d have to do this before practice even began.
“Tony could run those snakes drill all day and never break a sweat. He ran his hardest and never quit… never slowed down. I remember one day hearing the upper classmen berating Tony.”
“Carimi, slow down. You’re making the rest of us look bad, if you don’t slow down we’re going to get you after practice,” his teammate said.
“I blew the whistle to end the conditioning, and called Tony over. I looked him in the eye. ‘Carimi, don’t you EVER let anyone else dictate your behavior on this team. You have been blessed with a special gift, and I want you to use that gift every single day,’ I told him.”
“You have individuals and experiences that leave an everlasting impression on your life,” remembers Carimi. “Coach taught me valuable leadership and character qualities. He invested in cultivating and growing not only great athletes but even better humans. He personally helped maximize my potential for the short-term goal of winning a game, while planting seeds to help maximize my potential in the larger game of life.”
Dr. Hearne and Carimi recently teamed up to make a dream come true for Dr. Hearne’s wife, Callie.
“I wanted to do something special for my wife’s birthday,” recalls Dr. Hearne. “As I drove by the Park Place Motorcars store in Arlington one day, I remembered how Callie always dreamed of driving a Mercedes-Benz. But I absolutely hate the car buying experience. It’s just hard for me to trust.”
Park Place has just the right touch with its “One Touch” solution, providing clients with a single person to walk them through the entire purchasing process. This allows the sales associate and client to build trust to help with all of the client’s needs.
Dr. Hearne remembered Tony was in upper management at Park Place and gave him a call. Carimi said, ‘Coach, don’t worry about it. Call your wife and have her meet you at the dealership.’
“When she sat in the car, I asked how she liked it, said Hearne. “Of course, she said she loved it. And then I told her it was hers. Even the receptionist was crying. It was a magical moment.”
“For me, it is an honor to be part of something so special in his life,” said Carimi. “To help Dr. Hearne purchase Callie’s dream car was a role that was decades in the making. For me to be a member of an organization that reflects the constant striving for excellence that he helped impress upon me as a young man, brings the story full circle. Through my role at Park Place, combined with the relationship I have had with Dr. Hearne for more than 30 years, I was able to leave an impression on his life.”
“My wife and I had never been treated with such respect and professionalism before in the car buying experience,” concluded Dr. Hearne. “Park Place is ‘My Place’ because it’s all about the service.”
“It is more than just games won or transactions that business creates,” said Carimi. “To know that Dr. Hearne is able to look in his rearview mirror as he leaves our dealership and say, ”wow,” makes all of those snake drills worth it!”
Ken Schnitzer founded Park Place Dealerships in 1987 with a single Mercedes-Benz dealership on Oak Lawn. Today, Park Place employs more than 2,000 people. For more info, visit parkplace.com.