SEYMOUR — Sandy Cohen remembers when his life changed for the better.
It was after his freshman season and he had a meeting with his mother, Linda, and his basketball coach Jon Murphy.
They met at Seymour High School to discuss Sandy’s living arrangement and his life. Cohen was not in a stable environment, living in multiple homes and he admits now not always making the right decision.
He remembers the meeting.
“Me, coach and my mom had a little meeting in this classroom at the high school, he kind of brought it up, and I didn’t know what to expect at first,” Cohen said. “I didn’t want to do it at first but she said it would be very good for me.
“I didn’t know what was best at that time, she wasn’t in a good place at that time. Now it’s kind of hard for her because she’s a lot better than she was before. Now she really misses me and wants me to come home more but I just kind of have to stay focused on what I’m doing here.”
So the meeting took place and the plan was for Murphy and his family of six to welcome in Cohen. Murphy couldn’t help himself, as he saw a 14-year-old boy who was going in the wrong direction and he knew he had to do something.
“I talked to my wife, Lucy, one day we took a walk and said, ‘Hey, Lucy, this kid could use a lift, he could use a little help,’” Murphy said. “I don’t know where this is going but let’s give it a shot.
“We can help him. It would’ve been a waste if somebody didn’t give him this opportunity. I just felt he needed it.”
Cohen remembers the day his mother Linda dropped him off. It was emotional.
“My mom was pretty emotional about it, she really loves me, she really didn’t want me to leave,” Cohen said. “She was crying a lot, but I wasn’t crying that much (laughter). She’s not that far away, she comes visits me quite often.
“I still see her a lot. I always knew what was going around me and I know stuff. I knew it was best for me at that time, even though I really didn’t want to because I didn’t want to move away from my family. I knew it was best for me.”
Murphy is a father of four kids, two daughters and two sons. He knows what loving a son feels like.
He knows the decision Cohen’s mom made had to be made, and realizes it hurt.
“I give Linda credit,” Murphy said. “She told me, ‘I’ve got this 14-year-old kid and I’m trying to take care of myself and I just can’t take care of him.’ There were a lot of tears.
“We fixed up his bedroom, got him a brand new bed, trying to make him as welcomed as we could.”
Even though Cohen was on the varsity team his freshman season and knew Murphy, put yourself in his shoes, going to a home that he has never lived in. Cohen was a little apprehensive at first.
What can I eat? Can I watch TV? Is there a bedtime? How do I act? Where can I sit?
It was a little awkward in the beginning but now Cohen feels right at home.
“It’s just nice always coming home,” he said. “I know people are going to be home and be there for me no matter what. If I need help on homework, or no matter what it is, it’s like a safe zone here. I really like that.”
Murphy said Cohen showed up with one duffle bag and that was it. He was a kid without much in his life but that soon changed.
Cohen’s transition to his new family was seamless.
“Sandy stepped in this house; it was like he belonged,” Murphy said. “Everybody says to us, ‘Wow, that’s a really nice thing your family did.’ I just felt like it was the right thing to do.”
A lot has changed since Cohen’s freshman season. He has signed a scholarship to play basketball at Marquette, and he said his mother is much better now. Furthermore, his mother and father attend games on a regular basis and walked with Cohen on Senior Night when he was introduced.
Both of his parents live in Green Bay and appear to be a part of his life. Still, the Murphy home is his home. Murphy remembers a conversation he and Cohen had around Christmas time.
“(He said), ‘When I’m gone, where do I come home for Christmas?’” Murphy said. “We said, ‘Sandy, you come here.’ This is as much your home as everybody else’s. I thought that was a neat moment.”
Cohen has gained two older sisters (Alaina and Bridget, both in college) and two younger brothers (Jack and Riley). They all act like brothers, with Jack and Cohen playing video games, while Cohen and Riley have developed a strong bond.
Jack, a sophomore, at Seymour, talks about having an older brother.
“It’s pretty cool, having him come home after practice every day and seeing him on the court and just being on the court with him, it’s just been really nice,” he said.
Cohen, who has led Seymour to a 21-1 record and a No. 1 seed in the Division 2 playoffs, is now pushing forward for his 3-year-old brother, Silas. While Cohen is not finished growing up, he realizes he doesn’t want Silas to go through what he did, in addition to making bad decisions.
“I really want when he’s older to not see the things that I did,” Cohen said. “I really want him to have a really good upbringing. Hopefully, I will have a really good job one day and hopefully provide for him, whatever he needs.”
It’s possible if Cohen didn’t move in with Murphy and his family, he wouldn’t have this outlook. A lot has changed over the last three seasons and Murphy is proud of how Cohen has matured.
“He’s grown up and it’s been a pretty good ride,” Murphy said. “He’s just become a great, young man. I’m very proud of him.
“The past few years we’ve kind of all grown together. It’s been awesome.”
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay