Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Good list, good list. I can’t really complain. EXCEPT, I’d like to have seen the one I posted below the first video included.

Uh, yeah. This one. Wait for #1.

Bill Walton was my favorite college basketball player ever, period. In the 1973 National Championship game he went 21 for 22 from the field enroute to scoring 44-points as UCLA beat Memphis State 87-66 for its seventh consecutive title and 75th win in a row. Unreal. He was also amazing in the pros until injuries cut his career short. In the 1977 NBA Finals he had 20 points and 23 rebounds in the clinching Game 6 victory. In the Finals, Walton averaged 18.5 points, 19.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.0 steals and 3.7 blocks. Walton was named the 1977 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. That said, he is now known as a bit of a flake, for good reason. Check out Bill in all his glorious zaniness below:

Over the past few years I’ve posted some of my thoughts regarding coaching, so since basketball season is ready to commence I thought I’d combine them into one compilation. Remember that these are just my personal opinions and nothing more.

THE TRUTH ABOUT COACHING

When I first began coaching over 30-years ago, a lot was different.coaching-1

Everything was sort of black and white for me then, and there has since been a lot more grays. How did that happen? Experience, I guess.

I’ve always loved kids, ever since the first day I set foot in that classroom at Greenfield Middle School back in 1984. Not once did I regret the profession I chose. But teaching and coaching, although similar in a lot of ways, can also be very different. Students are there because the have to be, players are there largely because they want to be.

You have to encourage kids in both the classroom and on the basketball court, and you have to push them as well. However, coaching takes place in a much more public forum.

In the beginning, I’m sure part of the reason I coached was ego driven. It was a way to replace my playing days, a way to compete in front of a crowd. There was that initial thrill of working the sidelines as the fans cheered for your team.

Over time, that changes.

I learned the game from a lot of old school, in-your-face style coaches, great coaches like Rick VanMatre at Greenfield McClain, Gary Williams at the University of Maryland and Bob Huggins at the University of Cincinnati and now West Virginia. By the way, I just checked and those three have a winning percentage of almost .700. That’s 7 of every 10 games they coached. Pretty damn good. I’m not nearly the coach any of those guys are, not by a long shot, but I’ve sure learned a lot from all of them.

You know one of the most important things I learned in my 30+ years of coaching? It’s that kids can handle anything if they know you care about them. Seems simple but it’s true. If they know you love them they don’t take the criticism personally. They know you’re trying to help them.

Quick note – People aren’t completely rational when their relatives are involved, and they shouldn’t be. You can’t take it personally when mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles criticize you. Love is blind, man, and it’s OK.

And as a young coach, if you feel like you’re going through a bad time or being criticized unjustly, go talk to another coach. They’ll top your story every time. We’ve all been there, buddy. Many times. It’s all a part of the game, and it’s all a part of coaching.

I’ve seen guys who thought they wanted to coach start and not last more than a few years, mainly because of the pressures that come with the job.

Of the 33-years I coached, only 13 of them were as a high school basketball coach. I spent time as a coach at the Junior High, JV, Little League, and AAU levels. I’ve also spent a zillion hours as a college camp coach and scout, and I’ve been the international coach of a team from the Caribbean on the beautiful island called Montserrat.

And as coaching has brought me to all these places, to college campuses and incredibly exotic locations like the one in the Caribbean, I’ve also seen the game save lives. I’ve seen basketball take kids from the inner-city to the bright lights, and I’ve seen it literally give young players a reason to live.

That’s not an exaggeration, believe me. I’ve seen basketball save lives.

Being allowed to coach is a gift, one of the greatest you can be given. And you know why? Because as great as all the wins are (and I’ve been on both sides, believe me), that’s not what ultimately makes it all worthwhile.

Ultimately, it’s about relationships.

It’s about developing relationships with your players, because that’s what lasts and that’s what matters. Sure, you remember the big wins, the upsets where you won a big game you weren’t supposed to win. You remember those trips to The Convo, the ultimate goal for teams from our area. But what is lasting, what is important, are the relationships. In comparison, the victories don’t mean so much.

Not really.

I’ve loved every player I ever coached, and I hope they know that. How could I not after everything I put them through? How could I not after they stuck with me through it all, through the tough practices, through the blood and sweat and tears, through all the wins and the losses?

Think about it. What would bring you more satisfaction and fulfillment, winning a District Championship or having a former player ask you to be the Godfather to his son?

No contest, man. And it’s not even close.

SOME THOUGHTS ON COACHING

I’ve been a coach for over 30-years now and have experienced just about everything the game can throw at you, a lot of it good and a little of it bad. Honestly, I’d say that my experiences in coaching have been 99.9% positive and I mean that sincerely.

And if I’ve said this once I’ve said it a thousand times: Since I began coaching, kids haven’t changed. Not a bit. However, something has changed, and that is parenting.

Years ago parents let the teacher or coach make decisions and they backed them nearly 100% of the time. Today? Not so much. A lot of parents want to jump in and save their child from any type of adversity, not understanding that letting their kid deal with most of their problems on his/her own is what builds character.

NEWSFLASH: Mom won’t be there to save you when you’re 28-years old and your boss rips you for being late for work. Then again, I’m guessing a lot of these kids will still be living at home, so maybe she’ll try.

But hey, I’ve been lucky enough to have some unbelievably great, supportive parents over the years and I appreciate them more than they’ll ever know. The parents I’ve had since I’ve returned to high school coaching a few years ago have been remarkably supportive. Over the years, however, there have been a few . . .

One year I had a mom rip into me after a game, infuriated that I wouldn’t let her son shoot 3-pointers. Then the following conversation ensued:

Mom: “Why won’t you let Billy shoot the ball! He’s open all the time! Let him shoot it!”

Me: “Uh, you know why he’s open, right? The other team wants him to shoot it.”

Yeah, that didn’t go over too well. When irrational people are faced with logic it’s sometimes hard for them to handle, trust me.

One year I had a parent tell me that I played favorites, and she was a little surprised when I agreed with her 100%.

“You mean you admit to playing favorites?”

“Of course. It’s my job to pick my favorites. And my favorites are the guys who work the hardest and smartest and do what I ask them to do. My favorites are the players that can help us be the most successful.”

Trust me, I’ve rarely known a coach that didn’t put the guys that he thought were his best players on the floor. Most coaches wouldn’t play their own son if they had better players to put out there. To think otherwise is ridiculous.

Another common refrain I’ve heard over the years is this:

“Tommy’s thinking about quitting. He’s not having fun.”

Sigh. Listen up, folks. As Coach Norman Dale said in the movie Hoosiers:

“My practices aren’t designed for your enjoyment.”

Amen.

See, the fun part comes when your hard work pays off and you winThat’s the fun part. Oh, you can have a little fun at practice but if that’s all you do you’ll never achieve that ultimate satisfaction. Oh sure, practice will be fun, but when you play an actual game? Not so much.

That’s not too hard to understand now, is it?

I always tell my guys that you can’t take anything I say personally at practice or games. I may be angry at the way you’re playing, but I’m not angry at you. I love my players. How could I not after the way I push and prod them while they hang in there, listen, and keep working towards getting better?

Players almost always get it. Parents usually do, but not always.

So thanks to those parents who understand, those who know that most coaches really do have their player’s best interests at heart, and that we really do care about them.

Because we do. Promise.

A FEW (MORE) THOUGHTS ON COACHING

Over the years I’ve written a few articles about coaching and my opinions and outlook on various aspects of it. Among these were two called The Truth About Coaching and Some Thoughts On Coaching.

As many of you know I’m not coaching this year so I’ve had the opportunity to watch games and practices all over Southern Ohio, and as I watch thoughts inevitably come to mind. When that happens I jot down some notes with the idea that when I gathered enough I’d publish another article.

Keep in mind I’m not critiquing any coach in particular, and just because I believe what you’re about to read doesn’t mean it’s necessarily correct.

It’s just my personal opinion, kids. Chillax.

Bottom line, times have changed and kids have changed. Actually, parenting has changed and as a result kids have changed. It’s w-a-a-a-y different than it was when I began coaching all the way back in the Fall of 1983. If I tried to coach in 2015 the way I coached in 1991 I wouldn’t have lasted as long as I did, trust me.

As I’ve said many times before on this site and when I speak to teams, coaching is about relationships. That’s always been the case to some extent but it’s exponentially more important today. There has to be some sort of a relationship between player and coach. Your players have to believe in you. As Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “Coaching is 90% creating an environment and 10% strategy.”

That is 100% true.

Some coaches believe that showing compassion for their players is a sign of weakness, as if they’re giving up some essential part of their power as leader of the team. The fact is that yelling and berating without compassion will get old really quickly with today’s athlete, and at some point the coach will lose the team.

The ironic part of all this, of course, is that if your players know you love them you can yell at them all you want because they know you’re coming from a good place.

So showing compassion is not a weakness, but a strength.

Another thing I’ve noticed while attending games is that coaches, especially at the smaller schools, are successful when they adjust to their talent. Some coaches have their “systems” or style they like and expect their players to fit into it regardless. Here’s the deal – you can’t recruit players at a small school.  So, you have to adjust and run an offense and defense that fits your team’s abilities and strengths.

Over my last 4-years of coaching I had a very talented 6′-11″, 305 pound center. It wouldn’t have been real bright of me to run a fast break and beat him down the floor just because I liked a running style, right? Therefore we mostly (but not always) walked it up and ran our offense through him. Defensively we mostly played a zone where we kept our big man guarding the rim while our guards got out and pressured the perimeter. Hey, you have the luxury of getting out and pressuring when you have a rim protector backing you up.

My point is that just because you, as a coach, like running and pressing doesn’t mean you can – set your ego aside and do what works best for your team.

And that whole “hey, we do what we do and don’t worry about our opponents” argument is about as dumb as it gets. Of course you have to adjust to your opponents. To not is a path to failure.

College, and some high schools, are different because you can recruit or have the numbers to pick and choose your team. At small schools that’s just not possible,

Collegiately it can go both ways. A coach like Bob Huggins at West Virginia or Jim Boeheim at Syracuse recruit their players to fit their system. Same for the majority of college coaches. On the other hand, guys at the really elite programs like Coach K at Duke, Coach Cal at Kentucky or Coach Self at Kansas grab the best players available and adjust their offense and defense accordingly.

But at small high schools? As I mentioned, you have to set your ego and your favorite style aside and play the hand your dealt.

And hell, there are a thousand different ways to coach. Bobby Knight and Jim Valvano were as opposite as night and day but both won National Championships. Be yourself, man.

Finally, if there’s one thing I learned over the years it’s that the best coaches never, ever stop learning. The day you think you know everything is the day to quit. The game, and the players, are constantly changing and coaches have to change with it.

If you don’t, the game will soon pass you by.

PS- As I’ve mentioned before, many of the basic philosophies of coaching – developing relationships, being able to communicate, and more – apply to teaching as well as coaching. They’re closely related.

PPS- One more thing. Team success depends on many variables like team chemistry, injuries, players getting sick, interfering administrators, etc. Bottom line, they’re all a part of sports. Using them as an excuse will only give your team an excuse to fail. As the great Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are.” 

Interesting.

This was a tough one. There have been so many great sports movies. That said, I whittled my list to 18, with several Honorable Mentions. Let us proceed . . .

Brian’s Song – I absolutely loved this TV movie, and I vividly recall watching it with my father in our living room back in 1971. When Billy Dee Williams (as Gale Sayers) made that speech I was in tears. Great, great movie. Factoid: Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo were the first interracial teammates in the history of the National Football League.

Caddyshack

Well der. Of course Caddyshack makes the list. Here’s my favorite scene. Anyone who’s ever played golf has beard this epic line when trying to make a big putt. “Noonan!”

Breaking Away

A largely forgotten classic. It’s an amazing little movie about a bike race in Indiana. Here’s the climactic finale. Victory for the Cutters!

When We Were Kings

When We Were Kings is a 1996 Oscar-winning documentary film about the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight championship match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. The fight was held in Zaire in 1974. It won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and for good reason. Ali was incredible. Here’s the trailer:

 

Field of Dreams

Just a mystical, dream-like movie. One of a kind really. My favorite favorite quote was from Archie Graham: “We just don’t recognize life’s most significant moments while they’re happening. Back then I thought, ‘Well, there’ll be other days’. I didn’t realize that that was the only day.”

Miracle

Ah, the film about the greatest upset in the history of sports, the USA hockey team’s victory over the mighty U.S.S.R. A highlight was Coach Herb Brooks and his pregame speech, delivered by Kurt Russell. It still gives me chills.

 

The Longest Yard (1974)

In my opinion the original was much better than the recent Adam Sandler remake. Hey, it had Burt Reynolds, what more could you ask for?

 

Rudy

Yeah, yeah, he may have been offsides on that play. I don’t care. When Rudy gets in that game after years of paying his dues it brings a tear to my eye every damn time. Every. Damn. Time.

The Karate Kid

“Sweep the leg.” Yeah, we all thought Danny LaRusso was finished when Johnny Lawrence just about broke his leg. Not so fast, Cobra Kai . . .

 

Happy Gilmore

Any movie that has Adam Sandler getting pummeled by Bob Barker is alright by me. “The price is wrong, bitch.”

The Sandlot

Just an All-American classic that gave us the line, “You’re killin’ me Smalls.” Love it.

Secretariat

If this final scene doesn’t get to you you have no heart.

“It’s impossible. No horse can take this pace.” 

“Let him run, Ronnie. LET HIM RUN!”

We Are Marshall

The incredible movie about the plane crash that took the lives of every Marshall football player and coach on the team in 1970. The administration didn’t want to continue the program, but the students did. This is one helluva scene:

Rocky

I couldn’t have a list of favorite sports movies without Rocky, now could I? “Adrian! ADRIAN!”

Bonus video from Rocky II when Adrian wakes up. “Win.”

 

Hoosiers

My favorite sports movie, hands down. Based on a true story, it’s about the time Indiana’s tiny Hickory High knocked off giant Muncie Central in the State Championship game thanks to a last second shot by Jimmy Chitwood. Best line? “I’ll make it.”

Teen Wolf

Well, der. A wolfman playing basketball? Sure. Warning: Contains some of the worst basketball playing these eyes have seen.

Major League

With Charlie Sheen as Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, this movie was destined for greatness. Behold . . .

Honorable Mention:

Eight Men Out, He Got Game, The Replacements, Remember the Titans, Bang the Drum Slowly, The Natural, Raging Bull, Any Given Sunday, Tin Cup, The Wrestler, Pride of the Yankees, Ali, Invincible, Coach Carter, Blue Chips, Slap Shot, White Men Can’t Jump, Friday Night Lights, Foxcatcher, Chariots of Fire, Seabiscuit, Bull Durham, Hoop Dreams

I’m crying. You’re also crying.

Simply put, the NBA as we know it today wouldn’t exist without the ABA, or the American Basketball Association.

Formed in 1967 and lasting until 1976, the ABA played a flashy, distinct brand of basketball, one far different from what the NBA was playing at the same time. It had an awesome red, white and blue ball and 3-point shots (gasp!). And oh, by the way, it also featured the first slam dunk contest in 1976. The league only lasted a few seasons, but its impact on the game continues to this day. Four ABA franchises that merged into the NBA (the Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs) remain today. And those innovations like the three-point shot have continued to help the NBA evolve over time.

The league consisted mostly of players not quite good enough for the NBA, although they did swipe a few from the older league. Some great players that chose to play with the league were Julius “Dr. J” Erving, George “The Iceman” Gervin, Spencer Haywood, Dan Issel, Louie Dampier, and Rick Barry (who they signed away from the NBA). They also signed players that had been banned from the NBA for various reasons, great players like Doug Moe and the legendary Connie “The Hawk” Hawkins. Both were banned for alleged gambling violations that were never proven.

Although only four teams eventually merged into the NBA, the original ABA featured some really cool names and logos. Some still exist today. Check ’em out:

 

Here are some random photos from the American Basketball Association. Like I said, they played the game up-tempo and wide open, much like the NBA game is played today. At the time the NBA was a walk it up, pound the ball inside league. And man, that ball. The way it spun was almost magical. Ah, the memories.

Finally, for an in-depth look at the ABA I beseech you, dare I say implore you, to check out this video. Amazing stuff.

And whether that level is upward or downward is entirely up to you. See, Cam wore this ensemble at his post-game presser last night and it set the internet ablaze. Some say he looked like the Queen of England, others say he resembled the wolf disguised as the grandmother in Little Red Riding Hood. He reminded me of Mother Goose but that’s just me. Cam had a terrible game, and afterwards he gave us this gem of a quote: “It’s time for me to look at myself in the mirror.” I agree Cam. I agree.

As of yesterday, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy had been a major league manager from 1995-2019. His career record? 1995-2019. Mind blown.

Oh my.

According to data gathered on all 50-states by the National Federation of State High Schools Association, more girls are playing on boys football teams than ever before. For the 2018-2019 school year 2,404 girls played 11-man tackle football on boys teams at the high school level. That’s more than has ever been recorded in the NFHSA’s history.

Well, you can’t question his enthusiasm.

PS- The Jackson State mascot is named Wavee Dave. Awesome.

LeHigh’s Davis Maxie gave no damns and no mercy for this dude. Pray for him.

Norwegians are nuts, man.

So Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is dealing with the holdout of running back Zeke Elliott and the contract demands of Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. Here’s what Jones said regarding his players:

Anyone care to interpret that for me?

 

Loved this guy.

When I grew up could name every starter at every position on every major league baseball team, I kid you not. In 1971 you could have asked me who the 2nd baseman was for the Montreal Expos and I could have told you in an instant – Ron Hunt. I had several favorite players, including Oakland A’s pitcher Vida Blue who was 17-3 at the All-Star Break in ’71. Hey, he ended up 24-8 but still. I also loved the ’68 Detroit Tigers with 31-game winner Denny McClain. I could go on and on with names like Willy Mays, Ernie Banks, and Mickey Mantle. And oh, how I loved Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, the greatest baseball team ever assembled. Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo and Ken Griffey, Sr. Those 8-players were referred to as “The Great 8” and included the all-time hit leader (Rose), three Hall of Fame players in Bench, Pérez and Morgan (and Rose should be in), six National League MVP selections, four National League home run leading seasons, three NL Batting Champions, twenty-five Gold Glove winning seasons, and sixty-three All-Star Game appearances. Those eight guys played together eighty-eight times during the 1975 and 1976 seasons and lost only nineteen games.

Incredible.

Man, I loved baseball. Loved everything about it. From early childhood I remember traveling to games at Crosley Field with my Dad and sometimes my Uncle Myrl and but always with a car or truckload of kids. I remember going down to the little fence that was separated the fans from the players (it was different back then) before the game when Pittsburgh Pirate Willie Stargell ambled over to talk to my cousin Kevin and I. He asked where we were from and generally just chatted us up. It was great and I was in awe. Once, when my cousin Mick cut his knee goofing around as we walked into the stadium we were directed to a room so somebody could take a look at it. It was the actual training room. I don’t know if Dad had connections or something but there we were, and there on the training table beside Mick was Pete Rose. As I stared he talked to us like we were old friends.

Great memories, man.

I also played baseball as a pitcher from a young age up through high school and was even offered a few small college scholarships. Nothing big, just some little like DePauw in Illinois, places like that. Bottom line, for years baseball and basketball were by far the two main sports in my life.

Oh, I still enjoy high school and little league games, but the majors? Not so much. Over time, my love for major league baseball faded away. Why, you ask? I think there are several reasons.

The Big Red Machine.

First of all, when I was a kid you could count on your team to have the same players for much of your life. Sure, there were trades but for the most part guys stayed on the same team. This is true for other sports as well, especially the NBA, and although I understand why it’s happening I do believe it’s harder to maintain loyalty when players are hopping around from team-to-team. Today’s kids have favorite players more than they have favorite teams. If your guy leaves you simply go with him.

In addition, players have become commodities to the point that they’re removed from games at the slightest hint of injury. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a line drive nick a pitcher in the shoulder, only to see him taken out as a “safety precaution.” Do I get it? I guess I do. Like I said, they’re commodities. I do realize the days of Pete Rose playing with broken bones and Bob Gibson throwing 28 complete games are gone forever.

Still, it’s hard for me to watch players getting a boo-boo and sitting out games.

Note: This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. I remember when Pete Rose managed the Reds back in the late 80s and Eric Davis sat out a game because he’d slept funny on the plane and had a “sore neck.” I can imagine Charlie Hustle looking at him like he had a platypus on his head.

And what about the length of games? Good Lord man, in 1975 the average length of games was 149-minutes. In 2019 it was 188-minutes. That’s a 26.2% increase. There are several reasons, including TV delays and pitchers coming in to face just one batter, but the primary reason is the length of time between pitches. The total time for the inaction pitches in 1984 – the elapsed time between a pitcher releasing one pitch and his release of the next pitch – was 32-minutes and 47-seconds. The total time for inaction pitches in 2018 was 57-minutes and 41-seconds. In addition, in 1984 there were an average of 70-inaction pitches that were returned to the pitcher and thrown back to the plate within 15- seconds. In 2018 the average was 10. Amazing really.

Today’s pitchers lollygag around doing God knows what instead of throwing the ball. Do your damn job, man! And oh yeah, major league baseball needs a pitch clock. Badly.

Note 2: The pitchers aren’t the only ones to blame. The overall pace of the game is s-l-o-w. Everyone needs to pick it up.

Noted asshat Joe West.

Another reason I find it hard to watch games is the behavior of the umpires. Umps used to stay in the background and do their jobs professionally. If they were approached they maintained dignity and stayed above the fray, rarely interacting with a player or manager. Nowadays? Not so much. I’ve seen umpires stare down players, go charging towards managers, just generally behaving like they were the main attraction.

So umpires, just do your job like a pro. After all, it’s not about you. Nobody paid admission to watch you call balls and strikes, act like a clown or try to exert your dominance out there as if you’re the main attraction. You are not.

And how about the hitters and the way some of them armor up? Hell, Barry Bonds looked like a damn medieval knight out there. It took him 5-minutes to unstrap all the protective gear he wore to hit. Because of this he could crowd the plate and not fear an inside pitch. Cowardly, man.

Barry Bonds, pre and post roids.

And let me tell you about the days of yore, w-a-y back in time when I was a youngster. Back in those days the number 61 was magical, mystical, even awe-inspiring. Roger Maris had hit 61 home runs in 1961, breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 60 that was set in 1927, a span of 34-years. You know how many players have topped 61 since? Six. Bonds hit 73, Mark McGwire 70, Sammy Sosa 66, McGwire 65, and Sosa 64 and 63. All these home runs were hit in a span of 3-years, 1999-2001. Whether it was steroids, a juiced ball, smaller parks, or a combination of the three, something was amiss. Hence, the sacred records of baseball mean nothing anymore. Thanks cheaters!

Note 3: Babe hit his in a 154-game schedule, Maris in a 162-game schedule. This was quite a controversy at the time.

Like I said, back in the day I could name every starter on every team in major league baseball and most of my friends could too. Baseball was the game and was in fact called America’s Pastime. Sadly, those days are over. In today’s fast-paced society and instant gratification era, kids have shot the National Football League and the National Basketball Association right past Major League Baseball, dropping it to at least number three in America’s hearts. If you don’t believe me, count the number of baseball jerseys kids are wearing next time you go to a mall or a school. You’ll see a lot of football and basketball jerseys. Baseball, not so much.

I don’t know, it just seems that the times have passed the game by. One of the few major league players anyone would recognize walking down the street would be Bryce Harper, and that’s because of his hair. Quick, picture Mike Trout in your head. You can’t, can you?

Sad really.

PS- I swear I didn’t look this up. Off the top of my head, here are the World Series starters for the 1968 Detroit Tigers:

1st Base- Norm Cash

2nd Base- Dick McAuliffe

Shortstop- Mickey Stanley (moved in from the outfield for the Series for his bat, replacing Ray Oyler)

3rd Base- Don Wert

Left Field- Willie Horton

Center Field- Jim Northrup

Right Field- Al Kaline

Catcher- Bill Freehan

Notable pitchers were Denny McLain (31 wins), Mickey Lolich (World Series MVP) 

 

Listen, there’s no place in the game for nonsense such as this. What a horrible example for the youth of America. Get it together, Drake, for the sake of sportsmanship, and dare I say for the spirit of America. Disgusting. I’m embarrassed for you, Kalamazoo Growlers.

Note- Everyone knows I’m being sarcastic, right?

Seriously, Drake had to be channeling Earl Weaver, amirite? Earl Weaver was the best.

Las Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer could buy the 15-most valuable NBA teams and still have 5-billion dollars left in his bank account.

 

What a terrible person. Grayson Allen was enabled, defended and babied at Duke by Coach K and is now pulling this garbage in the NBA. As Dan Dakich says in the video, it’s one thing if you’re a hard-nosed guy like Draymond Green and are out there mixing it up with people, but it’s another if you’re soft and can’t even handle a simple backscreen without retaliating like a spoiled punk. Get this guy out of here, man.

This is Joe Westerman. He plays rugby for Betfred in the Super League whatever that is. As you can clearly see in the video, Joe’s kneecap gets dislocated and is facing right when it should be facing forward. Since he’s a badass rugby player and also batshit crazy, Joe just gave it a pop, put it back where it belonged, and proceeded to walk it off like a boss. On a related note, a hockey player would have been out for a day, an NFL player a week, an NBA player a month and a soccer player a year and a half.

So I was watching hockey last night, which I rarely do but it was Game 7 so why the hell not? Plus I love to see the city of Boston lose no matter the sport so fingers were crossed, ya know? For some reason Charles Barkley was there giving his 2-cents which made no sense but not much does anymore. Anyway, Charles started with a simple polo shirt, but came back wearing this ensemble:

That, my friends, is your classic unbuttoned button-up with some sort of paisley design thrown in for good measure. You can see the polo underneath. So what’s up, Chuck? As always I have some theories, ranked in order of probability:

1. Charles was having a delicious bratwurst, or perhaps some Dippin’ Dots, and dropped a dollop of mustard or ice cream on his polo. Hence the cover-up. But what are the odds of someone having a XXXXL shirt handy?

2. One of the suits in charge told Chuck he needed to be more presentable, that a mere polo wouldn’t do. Being the irascible rascal we know him to be, he grabbed whatever he could find and threw it on, buttons be damned.

3. Being a hockey game and all, it was cold. Charles adjusted accordingly. Also oddly.

4. Charles didn’t want to carry a bag on his flight to St. Louis so he wore a couple sets of clothes simultaneously. He also has on two pairs of pants, underwear, and so forth. 

5. Charles Barkley thinks this looks good.

Bottom line, the fashion world as we once knew it has been forever altered. But for whatever the reason, this must be investigated post haste. Questions must be answered.

Charles, the world awaits.

It’s June, and that always meant a month chock full of basketball. We had Monday and Wednesday night league games, shootouts, our PV Youth Camp, and of course our annual pilgrimage to WVU Team Camp, the Gary Williams Team Camp before that, or even the Bob Huggins Camps at UC and the Ohio U Camps under Billy Hahn back in the late 80s and early 90s. All were always great times.

As you might expect, stories abound from those days . . .

One year we arrived in Morgantown on Friday, got registered at camp, and I got all the guys checked into their hotel rooms. About an hour later my hotel phone rings, and I pick up.

“Hello?”

“Coach, this is T-Bag Medley. I have a question.”

Yes, he gave me his full name.

Because you know, it could have possibly been T-Bag McGinnis or T-Bag Mertz or any other number of my friends named “T-Bag” that happen to refer to me as “coach.” You can’t make this stuff up, kids.

Anyway, I told the guys and for the rest of the weekend and probably forevermore “T-Bag” would be known by his full name of “T-Bag Medley.”

Good Lord.

One time at WVU I heard some of my players being too loud in the hotel lobby. I went out there (pretty upset with them since their were other people in the lobby) and found a couple of my guys in the little room with the snack machines and stuff. They were talking loudly so I ripped into them pretty good, and as I did I noticed a player named Boom slowly disappearing behind one of the machines until he was completely behind it.

Me: “Boom! Why are you hiding behind the machine?”

Boom, in a small, trembling voice: “Because I’m scared.”

Keep in mind this was from a senior and 3-year varsity player. All I could do was laugh and walk away.

Some of my players hadn’t spent a lot of times away from home or in hotels, as was evident one day when one of them took me aside and whispered, “Coach, while we were gone today somebody came in and cleaned up our room. They made our bed and everything. It was awesome!”

The kid was tickled to death, like he’d hit the lottery or something. Couldn’t have been happier.

McCloy vs. 911 Wings.

Draise vs. 911 Wings.

And I’ll never forget a yearly tradition at Hugg’s camp at WVU – the yearly Eating of the 911 Wings. You see, there was a place called Kegler’s that had the hottest chicken wings on the planet. They were so hot they were called 911 Wings. Although we didn’t force players to try one we always told them it was a PV basketball tradition, a Rite of Passage if you will. Almost all the players tried at least one. Those wings were absolutely brutal. To watch them take a bite, then nod their head like it wasn’t that bad, only to see the heat kick in and tears come to their eyes, well it was memorable to put it mildly.

I like to think of it as the ultimate team-building exercise.

Note: 2017 grad Jay Riley could order a plate of those damn things and not bat an eye. Kid had an iron stomach. Or maybe no taste buds.

Once while we were out eating at a restaurant I had a player order extra futons for his salad. The waitress just looked at him blankly and asked, “You mean croutons?” as the table erupted in laughter.

I used to take my teams out to the University of Maryland for the Gary Williams Basketball Camp. It’s a long story but I used to be the Commissioner of the camps there for Gary from 1989 to 2002.

The kids who attended Maryland Camp came from the Washington DC area as well as Baltimore, Philly, New York City and schools all along the east coast. To say my Southern Ohio boys were out of their element was a bit of an understatement. Still, my guys hung out with the city boys, stayed in the dorms with them, and more than held their own on the basketball court. To me it was a win-win all-around. You know, expanding cultural horizons and all that. Not to mention it made my guys better playing against such good competition.

Which brings me to a story that Gary Williams, legendary former coach at Maryland, still tells to this day. Remember that it was 1992, and “trash talking” was in its early stages. Understand that trash talking hardly ever led to violence on the court, it was just a part of the game for players from the playgrounds of the inner-cities. My team, however, was not used to it. It hadn’t made its way to our neck of the woods yet.

With this in mind, my Ohio boys had been in a particularly intense contest with a team from Philly, which we happened to have won. Afterwards, in a corridor outside the Cole Field House floor, words were exchanged between an opposing player and one of my guys. After the other player challenged my player with some unkind words, a punch was thrown.

Somebody got throttled, and he wasn’t from Ross County.

Gary Williams, the aforementioned Maryland coach, happened to be in the corridor and jumped between my player and the other guy who was, well, on the hallway floor. At that point, as Gary will tell you, the following conversation took place:

Coach Williams: “What are you doing, man? Why did you punch him?”

My guy: “Coach, where I come from we only talk like that for a minute. Then we start to hit.”

Gary thought that was the greatest thing he’d ever heard, and he could hardly wait to tell me about it.

Another story at Maryland involved a certain player of mine whose name I’ll leave out to protect the not-so-innocent. This guy liked the ladies, and it just so happened a girls rugby camp was going on the same week as our basketball camp. During our lunch break I was in a car, and as we drove I noticed him flirting with a young lady.

Sorry, but this was too good to pass up. As we passed I stopped the car, rolled down the window, and said this:

“Hey man, we should be getting those STD test results back any time now. I’ll let you know if you’re clean.”

I’m telling you, the look on his face was priceless. Hers too.

Then we drove away.

My last story from Maryland didn’t involve my players, but instead involved me. You have to remember that Cole Field House was a legendary basketball arena. All the ACC greats played there, guys like Len Bias, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, Kenny Anderson, Billy Cunningham, Christian Laettner, Ralph Sampson, James Worthy, Joe Smith and David Thompson. In 1966 the famous National Championship game between Texas Western and Kentucky took place in Cole. Texas Western had an all-black starting line-up and Kentucky was all-white. Led by the legendary coach Don Haskins, Texas Western beat the Adolph Rupp coached Kentucky 72-65. Bottom line, it was a storied, historic arena. Knowing that makes the following story more relevant . . .

It was the last day of camp, the parents had arrived to pick up their kids, and I was announcing the championship game. The contest was nearing its conclusion when I said the following:

After the game all parents and visitors need to go to the tunnel end of the gym so they can watch the awards ceremony.”

Believe me, I said this with all sincerity and honesty. Never gave it a second thought. But then, all of a sudden, future Hall of Fame coach Gary Williams is looming over me screaming:

“Does this look like a GYM to you, Shoe? Michael Jordan did his first cradle dunk here! Lenny Bias played here! An all black Texas Western team beat an all white Kentucky team on this court in 1966! This is COLE FIELD HOUSE, MAN!”

I’m paraphrasing but that was the gist of it. At this point I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe, which only made Gary angrier. I mean, he was serious but it was so funny at the time I couldn’t help myself. In the meantime any coach within 10-feet was slowly backing away as to not get caught in the line of fire. As far as Coach Williams was concerned I’d insulted the sacred grounds of Cole Field House by referring to it as a “gym.”

Believe me, to Gary Williams that was sacrilegious, man. 

Being the good guy that Gary was we laughed about it together later, but at the time I thought I was gonna get coldcocked by one of college’s all-time greatest coaches. Whew.

Believe me, there are more stories that will have to wait and be told another day. But bottom line, these few stories are what’s great about coaching. Not all the great memories are from time spent during a game. They’re from practices, camps, on the bus, and when we together as a team far away from game night, developing relationships that will last forever.

Ultimately, it’s all about relationships.

Too many high school athletes across the country are dying, and the epidemic isn’t getting better. About fifty high school athletes died last year from direct or indirect causes related to their sports. Thirteen of those deaths were football players. The worst part about it all is that most of them could have been prevented. More than 90% of sudden deaths in sports are attributable to sudden cardiac arrest, heat stroke, and head injuries. This map shows what states are meeting the minimum best practices regarding the health of high school athletes.

 

How much swag do the Browns have right now? Can you imagine Andy Dalton tooling around in a whip like this? Guarantee you Andy drives a sensible Chevy Malibu or something. Anyway, this Beckham’s Rolls features a hood ornament that pops up, and that hood ornament is Odell Beckham, Jr. because of course it is. I bet Odell, Baker Mayfield, Kareem Hunt and Jarvis Landry are taking that baby for a spin as we speak.

PS- Whether this translates to wins remains to be seen. Gonna be fun finding out though.

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So there was a big hubbub regarding Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his appearance on Game of Thrones, which incidentally I haven’t seen yet. Hey, give me time. I’ll get around to it. Anyway, here is said scene. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

Yep. You’ll have to trust me on this one but that’s Aaron Rodgers. What a thespian.