Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

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.

The good news is that Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has a spectacular condo in downtown C-Bus. The bad news is that it’s for sale, possibly meaning he’s signing elsewhere this summer.  Check it out, man. It can be yours for a cool 2.9 million.

Brad Stevens is the head coach of the Boston Celtics. This year his team was expected to be really good but underperformed all year, culminating with a 4-1 series loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the NBA playoffs. All in all a very disappointing season as the Celtics didn’t come close to meeting expectations.

This happens in sports, and coaches respond in different ways. Some blame the players, some blame the officials, and if they’re a first year coach they sometimes blame the team’s previous coach. Not Brad Stevens. Listen up . . .

“I did a bad job. At the end of the day, if your team doesn’t find its best fit, that’s on you. And so I’ll do a lot of deep dives on how I can bet better.”

Take note, young coaches. Don’t point fingers, don’t make excuses. This is how you do it.

Just spectacular.

I believe it is.

In the 11-seasons since the NBA changed its eligibility requirement so that a player couldn’t be drafted until he was at least 1-year removed from the graduation of his high school class, only two teams have won national titles using a one-and-done approach – Kentucky in 2011-12 and Duke in 2014-15.

In this year’s Final 4 just 7% of the team’s scoring came from freshmen.

7%.

And do you know how many one-and-dones (technically college freshmen expected to be 2019 N.B.A. draft picks) played critical roles for Final Four teams this season?

Zero.

And it is not just this year. Freshman stars have not dominated any recent Final Fours, either. There was just one drafted one-and-done player in the 2018 Final Four, Omari Spellman of Villanova, and he was picked 30th over all. There were two in 2017 and one in 2016, with only Zach Collins of Gonzaga being drafted in the top 20.

Why do you suppose this is? Well, there are several reasons.

Clearly a team full of players with three or four years experience can have an edge over a team of 18-year old kids in their first year of college competition. It takes way more than a few months to mesh and develop the type of chemistry to get you to that final NCAA game and to win it. Experience matters, no matter how many 5-Star recruits you have.

It could also be argued that it’s easier for 3-Star recruits to buy in and be more dedicated and less entitled, knowing they’re in it for the long haul, rather than knowing they’re staying for a few months and hightailing it for the NBA like the one-and-dones.

Finally, perhaps 3-Star players are hungrier, knowing they were passed up by the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world.

Note: The reality is that one-and-dones are basically limited to a few schools. Think about it – Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Kansas. Sure, Michigan State will snag one occasionally and even Ohio State had a couple a few years ago with Michael Conley and Greg Oden. Still, cases like that are outliers.

Let’s take a look at Duke.

For many years, Coach K’s Duke program prided itself on team play, family, toughness and “playing the right way” – the Duke way.  For nearly four decades he’s built the most best program in America, and he did this largely by finding players who, regardless of their talent level, fit into the Duke culture.

Not anymore.

Now Coach K goes for the top rated players in America (and beyond) that he knows will only be on campus for 10-months, if that. Sure, they’ve had good records and some good tournament runs, but the truth is that after decades of Duke basketball standing for chemistry and toughness, Coach K’s recent one-and-done teams have been inconsistent and erratic.

99.9% of college coaches don’t even go after the one-and-done players because they simply know they can’t get them. Sure, there are exceptions, but as a rule this holds true. Therefore they recruit players by position as they attempt to mold a team that fits and melds together, one that fits their system and philosophy. Coach K, Coach Calipari and coaches from the few other schools I mentioned just fight each other for the best players and worry about putting the puzzle together later.

More often than not, the pieces don’t fit. Not well enough anyway.

Think about this. Duke won the 2009-10 title with Brian Zoubek as his starting center, zero NBA lottery picks, and only one first-rounder (Nolan Smith) in his starting lineup. The following year they recruited their first one-and-done, Kyrie Irving, and have chosen to go that route since.

Since that 2010-11 season the Blue Devils have won zero regular-season ACC titles and made it to the Elite Eight just twice—with the aforementioned 2014-15 group and with a 2012-13 team that started three seniors and, wait for it, is the only Duke team since 2011 to not have a one-and-done on the roster.

It seems like the one-and-done trend reached its high point in 2015, when six future freshman first-rounders turned up for the Final Four. Kentucky was there with Devin Booker, Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns, and Duke won it all with Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones.

Incidentally, Duke and Kentucky are basically the same program now. They both practice the same one-and-done model.

But honestly, can you really blame Coach K, Coach Cal, Coach Self or Coach Williams? At this point they have their pick of nearly every 5-Star recruit in the country, especially K and Cal. What are they supposed to do, turn them down? No way out of the rabbit hole at this point. In the meantime teams like Virginia, Michigan State and others like them with experienced junior and senior lineups, guys who have been playing together for years and not months, will more often than not beat them when it counts.

I got a kick out of Coach K’s quote after his Elite 8 loss to Michigan State this past season – “I thought they played older than we did. But that’s happened to us. We are young.

Yes, coach, you are. And as long as you recruit freshmen that will only be in your program for a few months your teams will remain that way.

But as I said, barring rule changes there’s no going back now.

Matthew “Boogie Man” Boling, an 18-year-old Texan sprinter, smashed a high-school record in the 100-meter dash when he completed a 9.98-second run at the Class 6A Region III track-and-field meet on Saturday. His time would have placed him in 6th place in the 2016 Olympic Games.

Sweet Lord almighty that dude can get it.

Gather around young hoopsters, and let me tell you a story from a bygone basketball era, a time when a travel was a travel, teammates executed something called a “box-out”, and players who actually attempted to block a dunk attempt were applauded and not ridiculed.

Kids, what you’d also see is the now lost art of something called a mid-range jump shot! For those unaware, a mid-range jumper was one that was taken outside the key, yet inside the 3-point line. Yes, this happened regularly!

In addition, back in olden times players like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain rarely flopped! In fact, there wasn’t even a word for it because it didn’t exist in basketball until the European basketball players took it from their soccer brethren and brought it to the American hardwood.

And oh, by the way, there once existed rules such as only being allowed 2-steps without dribbling the basketball and keeping your hand on top of the ball whilst bouncing it. Such rules have vanished in the mists of time. You may now shot fake, do the bunny hop 3 or 4-times backwards or sideways without dribbling before taking a shot. You may also charge to the rim unhindered, unhampered and unchecked, all the while cradling the ball under your arm like a newborn babe.

And although you may find the following hard to fathom, in days of yore after a player committed a foul he would not always run whining to the referee! Often, said player would respectfully raise his hand in the air for all to see, thus admitting his infraction. All this is true my children!

In conclusion, and you may find this bit of information implausible, improbable, and dare I say inconceivable, during these ancient times those in attendance could sometimes observe a player help an opponent up after he fell down (you have my permission to sit down if you’re not doing so already). It was called an act of sportsmanship. For those unfamiliar with this alien term, I’ll let Webster’s explain:

sports·man·ship

/ˈspôrtsmənˌSHip/

noun

1- fair and generous behavior or treatment of others, especially in a sports contest.

You’re welcome. Feel free to print and cut and clip to your locker/fridge/dashboard/forehead.

But let’s move on to more shocking news. Back in the prehistoric days of basketball (pre-2000 ish) players were permitted to be much more physical! And horror of horrors, on defense you could actually touch your opponent! I kid you not! Yes, young ballers, defenders were actually encouraged to impede his opponent’s progress to the rim! Insanity!

And finally, there once was a time where team was valued over individual! Very few players tried to draw attention to themselves by preening, dancing, shimmying, or doing The Worm at mid-court. Stunningly, celebrations were saved for, you know, actually winning the game!

You may now take some time to let that marinate, soak it in if you will. I know, I know, it’s all a little upsetting to think about.

And thus concludes my basketball history lesson. I’m sure many of you younger folk will find this too hard to believe, that it’s simply a flight of fancy from an old man longing for a simpler, and better, game.

And you know what? You’d be right.

PS- Listen, I realize most fans prefer the wide-open, free wheeling style of play rather than teams playing tough D and running an offense. To me though, that’s the purist and most beautiful style of basketball.

PPS- The NCAA Championship game featured two fundamentally sound teams. They screened, ripped the ball through to the triple threat position after a catch, shot faked, cut hard, took good shots, played hard, played intense defense, and nobody did The Robot or Flatulent Llama after scoring a basket. There’s hope!

Oh, how I’d love to see Draymond Green try and guard Wilt.

Why are so many NBA players so damn unhappy? Listen, I understand that money doesn’t buy happiness, but the average NBA salary is expected to hit the $10,000,000 by next season. TEN. MILLION. They’re getting paid to play a game they grew up loving, they’re adored by kids all over the world, beautiful women everywhere are pursuing them, and their families will taken care of financially for generations if they’re smart with their money (which they often are not).

Yet we see guys like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving pout their way through press conferences, argue with random strangers on social media, and generally looking like they’re the most underappreciated, put-upon people on the face of the earth. And have you ever watched an NBA player walking into an arena? They’re normally walking with their heads down, eyes averted, headphones on, hood often up, appearing as if they’re walking into their own execution. I mean, how hard would it be to look people in the eye, smile, and nod a friendly hello?

The answer is not hard.

Even commissioner Adam Silver said of his league’s players, in a conversation with the Ringer’s Bill Simmons, that “A lot of these young men are generally unhappy.’’

Why?

Is it the isolation? The fear of trusting people? Not really knowing who your friends are? Reading what idiots are saying about you on Twitter?

Charles Barkley, for one, wasn’t buying Silver’s line about NBA players:

That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard any commissioner say,” Charles said a few days later. “These guys are making twenty, thirty, forty million dollars a year. They work six, seven months a year. They travel in private jets. They stay in the best hotels in the world—they ain’t got no problems.”

I understand what Chuck is saying, but the fact is all those things don’t guarantee happiness. I read a study that said while happiness increases as people earn more money, it peaks at around $75,000 a year and doesn’t increase afterwards. I certainly get that.

Random thought: It seems like the bigger the star, the more unhappy the player. Think Durant, Irving, LeBron, and Anthony Davis.

It would be easy to make fun of these guys and point out that they’re just spoiled and lacking self-awareness, but the truth is depression and anxiety are not something to make fun of or shame. I know they’re real, believe me. I just wonder why it seems to be so prevalent among NBA players but doesn’t seem as prevalent among NFL, MLB or NHL players.

There has to be a reason, correct? So why are NBA players so unhappy?

Well, at least according to me. Thoughts?

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So the Golden State Warriors (GSW in the glorious tweet below) blew a 31-point lead to the Clippers in the playoffs last night, and it was like watching a slow death right before your eyes. I don’t know if its just that I have a lot of experience watching basketball or what, but when the Clippers trimmed the lead to 25 I started getting a weird vibe that it might happen, and I even told a couple people. Kevin Durant was being his normal petulant self as Pat Beverely was establishing permanent residence in his head, everyone seemed discombobulated and Draymond Green was calling everyone on his own team bitches right on National TV. Sure, the Warriors will win the series but at the very least they lost 3-days of valuable rest by blowing that game last night. Still, the best part of the game was Draymond’s mother and her epic reaction to the loss. Check out her tweet below. She’s not only ticked off, she’s ticked all the way off. Good stuff man.

Yikes.

Quite possibly the greatest comeback ever.

Phelps may have wanted this more than Tiger. GOATS, man.

Dumb.

Tyson, man. Dude’s batshit crazy. Favorite quotes:

My style is impetuous, my defense impregnable, and I’m ferocious. I want to eat his children. Praise be to Allah.”

“I don’t want to be a tycoon. I just want to conquer people and their souls.”

“My power is discombobulatingly devastating. I could feel his muscle tissues collapse under my force. It’s ludicrous these mortals even attempt to enter my realm.”

“I think I’ll take a bath in his blood.”

“I don’t know, man. I guess I’m gonna fade into Bolivian.”

Nothing needs to be added here.

img_5960.jpgI had a lot of amazing experiences as a kid and have written about them on this site quite a bit. I was lucky enough to have a father (and several uncles) who were into sports and they took myself and my cousins to games all the time. We’d load up and head to Cincinnati to see the Reds, Bengals and Royals (the old NBA team), to Columbus to watch Ohio State basketball and football games, Columbus Checkers hockey games, and even make the journey to Cleveland for the occasional Browns or Indians game.

We almost always had good tickets, for between Dad and my Uncle Myrl we had the connections to make it happen. Myrl was State Representative (and later Lt. Governor) who obtained tickets through political channels, and my Dad was Purchasing Manager at Mead Corporation, a prominent paper company in our area. Dad’s job required buying anything and everything the company required, so as you can imagine salesmen were always bombarding him with gifts to sway his decisions. This was before the ethics laws tightened up, thank God. Anyway, great tickets.

My family had a pretty intense interest in sports, and our traditional Thanksgiving weekend basketball games were legendary. There was no such thing as “friendly” competition, and after one particularly spirited game featuring some broken ribs, a black-eye, some shattered eyeglasses and what might have been a ruptured spleen, Aunt Dorothy put a stop to it. After all, we were aged mid-20s and upwards at that point so it seemed like the prudent thing to do.

But back to high school. Most of us were pretty good athletes, and some were better than good. Among these were Mick Shoemaker, a 1st Team All-Ohioan in basketball, baseball and football who went on the receive a D1 scholarship to the University of Cincinnati, and John  Shoemaker, a terrific athlete who played basketball at Miami of Ohio, was drafted by the Chicago Bulls, but chose to play baseball after being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. There were many others from back then (let’s not forget Mark Litter, a 1st Team All-American middle linebacker football player) and plenty of others, way too many to mention (sorry Mike, Todd, Lisa, etc.).

However, without a doubt the best of all was Greg Cook. Greg was the nephew of my Aunt Dorothy, which technically made him not my cousin, although he always called me Cousin Dave and even signed a football and sweatshirt in that fashion. Hell, he probably thought I was his cousin because I was always with his cousins Keith, Kevin, Brenda, Mick and Deb.

Anyway, Greg played football at Chillicothe, then at the University of Cincinnati, and finally for the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted him in the 1st Round of the 1969 draft. Because of Greg all of us got to go into the locker room after games, where we got to meet a lot of famous players. I remember meeting guys like Joe Namath, Daryl Lamonica and even OJ Simpson. Pretty big deal for a 13-year old kid as you might imagine.

Bottom line, Greg was really good and a big deal at the time. He was even selected as the NFL Rookie of the Year. Coach Bill Walsh, while talking to NFL Films, said Greg “threw, by far, the best deep ball of any quarterback I ever saw”. Walsh called him “A combination of Terry Bradshaw’s size and strength with Joe Montana’s instincts and feel for the game”.

Keep in mind that Bill Walsh coached the Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers and Joe Montana, kids.

But while going to games, getting great seats, and going to the locker room were all great, those aren’t my favorite memories of Greg Cook. What I remember are the days when he’d come to visit my Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Myrl.

It was always during the off-season of course, and if I wasn’t already at the house (like I said, I practically lived there), somebody would call me with the news:

“Greg’s coming. Get up here.”

And up there I would get, as fast as my 1966 Schwinn Stingray bike with the banana seat, rear slick and sissy bar would take me.

Some days Greg would just sit and watch TV while I would cast furtive glances his way, amazed that a famous NFL quarterback was watching the Reds-Dodgers game with us. But on other, even more special days, he’d ask us if we all wanted to go outside to run through some passing drills with him.

Well, hell yes we did, and we just happened to have a few footballs at the ready for that very thing.

Sometimes we’d go out behind the old Twin Elementary School (right beside the house), other times we’d all pile in Uncle Myrl’s pickup truck and head to our local high school, Paint Valley, where we’d actually play on the field there. Cousin Mike was the high school coach there at the time so we were good to go.

I’ll never forget Greg’s workouts with us. To begin, the man with the strongest arm in the NFL would get on one knee at the 10-yard line, instruct my cousins and I on which routes to run, and begin zipping passes to us. After 20-30 throws he’d move back to the 20, then the 30, and continue on until he was on the 50-yard line, firing passes to us, all the time while on one knee.

So yeah, strong arm.

Those were great days for a Bourneville kid, man, running routes and catching footballs from an NFL quarterback.

Sadly, Greg’s career was cut short due to a rotator cuff injury, an injury that went untreated for too long and, incredibly, could be fixed rather easily by today’s doctors.

Although he went on to be a motivational speaker and continue a lifelong love of painting, Greg was always remembered as the player whose greatness was cut short by injury, a name that begs the question “what might have been.”

Greg died in 2012, and he was only 65. His life, like his career, cut short.

But for me, it’s not only watching him play in Nippert Stadium and Riverfront Coliseum that I remember, it’s those days behind Twin School or on the Paint Valley HS field, long blonde hair blowing in the breeze, smiling as he rifled those passes to a few of his lucky little cousins.

1969 Bengals Signed Football

Great video about Greg:

https://youtu.be/tVzDtrgybjc

Just a friendly reminder of how difficult it is to become a college athlete in any sport, at any level.

So Coach Bill Bilicheat Belichick once again went through the incredibly obnoxious tradition of renaming his boat a couple days ago, updating the name from VII Rings to VIII Rings after his sixth Super Bowl win (he won two as a defensive coordinator). Deservedly Bill is catching hell for his pretentiousness, but in my opinion the lead is being buried here, and that lead is DAMN THAT’S A TINY BOAT. Holy shit Bill, I have friends that fish in bigger boats on Paint Creek, let alone Boston Damn Harbor. What is that, a 2-seater? Your net worth is $35-million, dude. You’re embarrassing yourself.

PS- Wanna see a real boat? Check out what Tiger Woods tools around in:

PPS- Tiger after seeing Bill’s dinghy:

Believe it or not I used to coach football. Sure, basketball has always been my true love but I actually coached junior high football for 4-years back when I first started teaching. I coached 1-year at Paint Valley and 3-years at Greenfield McClain. I had a couple good years and a couple that were, shall we say, suspect. Ah, what the hell, I’ll be honest – I had no freaking idea what I was doing, and the story I’m about to tell is evidence of that.

The very first year I coached I had an 8th grader named Donnie. Donnie was a strapping young lad, probably 5′-11′, 200 pounds, in other words a big dude for being just 13-years old. Donnie was a good, honest country boy, simple in his ways and speech.

Anyway, in our infinite football wisdom my assistant and I made the decision to insert Donnie at the fullback position, because hey, the dude was monstrous for his age and could just truck the hell out of any poor 110-pound youngster that might foolishly attempt to tackle him.

On a related note, my assistant had the same football background and experience that I did, which amounted to a grand total of none.

So for the first couple of games Donnie played well, gaining a lot of yards whilst annihilating the occasional player, both on the opponent’s team or ours, that got in his way.

Defensively however, our young squad was struggling. Our guys had a lot of heart but exhibited a distinct lack of interest in, you know, hitting somebody.

Did it ever occur to our brilliant football minds to give Donnie a try on defense? Sadly, it did not. Until one day . . .

My assistant and I were standing on the sideline before a game, lamenting our lack of a defense, when Donnie walked up to us. The words he then uttered not only opened our eyes but changed the football fortunes of the young Bearcat squad from that moment forward.

“Coach, can I ask you something?”

“Sure Donnie, what is it?”

“Coach, I don’t wanna carry the ball anymore. I wanna get that guy what got the ball.”

It took me a second to interpret the words, but I finally realized Donnie wanted to play defense, to get the guy that has the ball.

Well, we weren’t the smartest football coaches on the planet, but if Donnie wanted “to get that guy what got the ball”, then damn it, who were we to get in his way?

Long story short, we put Donnie in at linebacker. On the very first play of the game he steamrolled two linemen trying to block him, grabbed the horrified opposing quarterback by the neck, threw him about 7-yards backwards, then picked up the resulting fumble and lumbered about 40-yards into the end zone.

Like it or not, from then on Donnie did have to carry the ball, but only after he extricated it from the shaking hands of our whimpering opponents.

I would never turn into a great football coach, but I did learn a valuable lesson from Donnie – listen to your players. Sometimes they’re smarter than you are.

 

 

From a couple years ago but still . . .

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 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? You have to set your ego and your favorite style aside and play the hand your dealt.

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.”