His war was a long time ago. He has lost touch with many of his friends with whom he served. Yet he believes it is important that his players realize the sacrifices made so that simple games can be played where wars used to be fought.
"When we played Mississippi, we went to the Civil Rights Museum. When we played in Philadelphia, we went to the Constitution Center. Now we're going to be on a battleship," Foster said of Friday night's game pitting No. 19 Ohio State against No. 7 Notre Dame on the deck of the USS Yorktown, docked in Charleston, S.C. "It's supposed to be about education, and I think oftentimes we lose sight of that."
A Temple alumnus, Foster graduated from Cardinal Dougherty High and coached boys' and girls' basketball at Bishop McDevitt. He has been a college coach since 1978, first at St. Joseph's, then at Vanderbilt, and now Ohio State. With a record of 765-294 in 34 seasons, with 26 NCAA tournament appearances, he is a member of the 2013 induction class of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
That's what he's known for - his coaching. But a seldom-told story of his time before that is instructive about the cerebral man on the sidelines, his reading glasses dangling from a chain around his neck.
He served in the Army from 1966 to 1969, half of that time spent in Vietnam, where he worked on a supply unit of the 4th Infantry Division, stocking gunships and helicopters.
"I think any experience like that, between the ages of 18 and 21 is going to have a significant impact on your thought process about a lot of things," he said. "It was just such a different era and a different time in terms of who was in the military."
He was nearing the end of his tour of duty. His brother John had been drafted and was in camp in the States.
It's unclear whose idea it was, but the idea was proposed to Foster that if he re-upped for another six months of duty in Vietnam, his brother wouldn't have to go.
"As it was explained to me, they wanted us - myself and another fellow - to consider staying another six months. And part of that discussion, I was made aware that by extending . . . that only one family member at that time could be in a war zone," he said. "And my brother was in the infantry and I was in a different venue, so I - my parents had two special-needs children and already had one son in the service. They didn't need the aggravation of another."
So Foster agreed to extend his stay in the war zone. It was a sacrifice that he seldom discusses.
Foster, who gave so much to his family while a soldier, now is preparing a group of young women to play a basketball game on a warship. The irony does not elude him.
Foster's wife, Donna, and two children, sons Christian and Andrew, are regulars at Ohio State's games.
The Foster family also will be a part of the trip to the USS Yorktown.