Four fathers and their lives away from Georgia State University

For members of a Division I athletics department, there are many things to enjoy about the job. They can bring their family and friends to games and events and give them experiences that few will ever have the opportunity to enjoy. They are able to watch 18-year-old kids blossom into fully-fledged student-athletes. 

But sometimes, they have to go on the road or stay in the office late. Sometimes, work needs to come before family. Mike Holmes, Doug Justice, Chris Kreider and Rob Lanier enjoy working here–it is a home away from home.

For Holmes and Justice, they were free the day after the tragic deaths Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, 13. The two are avid sports fans and, like Bryant, spend as much time as possible with their families.

Holmes, Georgia State’s associate athletic director, has two young children, LJ and Hannah. His bond with nine-year-old LJ is one that he could talk about for hours. Holmes and I spoke about how he and his son keep in touch when the Panthers men’s basketball team is on the road.

“I think that’ll help because it does hurt him when I go on these 4-to-5-day road trips where I’m not around,” he said. “Especially when we’re in a different time zone, it’s hard to kinda catch him when he gets home before I go to the game. It’s definitely a challenge.”

He spoke of nights that never saw him leave the office. For Holmes, there is never an offseason, just a less busy time of the year. Usually, that ‘less busy’ time is booked for one person: LJ.

“At the end of the day, when this season is over — whether it ends [on] March 15, 25 or April 6 — whenever it’s over, LJ and I will head to Florida for a handful of days and we will just go live it up,” Holmes said.

Without hesitation, Holmes, a die-hard New York Mets fan, clarified how to party with kids.

“When you have a seven-year-old, it means [that] if they want ice cream, you go get ice cream,” Holmes said. “If they want to play putt-putt, you go play putt-putt. If they want to go to the beach at eight o’clock in the morning, you go, ‘Can we eat breakfast and then go?’ and then he’ll go, ‘Okay, sure.’”

Justice, senior associate athletic director and chief of staff, understands this too. His three angels are his sons Kevin and Elliot and his daughter, Anslee. Road trips do not come often for him.

It is the long workdays in his office at Georgia State Stadium or the Sports Arena that keep him late. He praised modern-day technology for allowing him to talk to his kids from his office that views the scoreboard at Georgia State Stadium.

“Well, there’s a great thing called FaceTime, which I talk to them a lot [on],” Justice said. “My kids usually get home off the bus [at] about 2:50 [p.m.]. A couple times a week, we’ll FaceTime at 3:15 [p.m.]”

While both Holmes and Justice work at Georgia State, they take advantage of their access to sporting events, especially with their children.

“I had the opportunity of taking my son to the Duke-Georgetown swing,” Justice said. 

But his son also lived out the dream that thousands of high school basketball players have dreamed of.

“He was able to go to practice and take some shots in [Duke’s] Cameron [Indoor Stadium]. Those are experiences that not everyone gets. For them, it’s kind of like nothing new,” he said.

Indeed, it is not anything new. Justice is a kind person, loves his family and cherishes the friends who have been with him throughout his journey. As such, it rubbed off on his kids too. 

“There are kids they go to school with [who they will ask], ‘Oh, do you want to go to a football game?’” Justice said. 

However, there are plenty of memories that the staff cannot share with their families. Justice missed New Year’s Eve with his family after attending the Arizona Bowl that took place just a few hours before the world ushered in 2020.

“It was a great experience, but my kids weren’t able to go,” he said. “I missed New Year’s with them. So, that’s just the trade-off. There are long days and this is a lifestyle; it’s all-encompassing.”

But who goes on the road more than anyone else in collegiate athletics? The teams and coaches.

Men’s basketball head coach Rob Lanier, a father of two, works hard to ensure that the balance between work and family is kept.

“I learned at a young age in my coaching profession that I wanted to be a coach that succeeded and found a work-life balance,” Lanier said. “Although there are plenty of times during the year where we have to spend a lot of time at the office and on the road, there is also plenty of time where we can leave the office a little early and be home to spend time with our loved ones.”

Lanier, father of Davidson College basketball commit Emory Lanier, also allows his coworkers to enjoy their time with family. But in his first season with the Panthers, the head coach found a new family as well.

“We have a family-friendly office, and I encourage my staff to have their families stop by, as well as get their work done and then go home,” he said.

Joining Lanier on the bench this year has been assistant coach Chris Kreider, also a newcomer to the program. He never takes what he does for granted, but the former Rice University assistant coach and father to three-year-old Livia admits that there are challenges.

“It is the tough part of the profession for sure,” Kreider said. “To offset it, you have to make the time you spend with them quality time. Maximize the time you spend at work and get everything done late at night in order to spend as much time with your family as possible.”

Holmes, Justice, Lanier and Kreider all share one thing in common: They are fathers first. They understand that time is irreplaceable and that nothing should be taken for granted. From attending sporting events to watching the kids get home from school, all of them cherish family time. 

Coach Lanier put it best.

“With two incredible children who have always played sports, I always wanted to make sure that I spent quality time with them and was able to be at their events whenever possible,” Lanier said.