Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Looks like it might hurt.

Miss it.

I’ve been telling some basketball stories lately, most regarding coaches I’ve had the pleasure to have met over the years. And don’t worry guys, I’ll save the best ones until much later down the line. I’d never do that to y’all.

Not yet anyway.

I kid. Anyway, the story I’m about to tell came to mind the other day, and to this day I have no idea exactly what happpened. All I know is that afterwards I was pretty sure Bob Huggins was a warlock, a soothsayer, a seer, or possibly a combination of all three. Here’s the deal . . .

I was heading out to Morgantown for a game, and as usual I took a friend with me. It’s nearly a 4-hour drive, so we usually made a stop around halfway. We pulled off the main road somewhere west of the Ohio/West Virginia border, took a little side road and ended up at a gas station. My buddy went to use the bathroom as I grabbed some soft drinks and chips. We then loaded back up into the car and were on our way.

After about 45-minutes my friend suddenly yelled, “Damn it! I left my cell phone back at the gas station! It’s in my coat hanging on the back of the stall door! Shit!”

Well, hell. We were planning on attending the 10:00am walkthrough like we always did, and by the time we went all the way back to find the phone we’d miss it. So, we decided to call the phone, hope someone answered, and tell them we’d stop and retrieve it on our way back through the following day.

However, although we used my phone to call the number over and over until we got to WVU Coliseum, nobody was answering. We figured it was stolen or that simply nobody was hearing the phone ringing. Bottom line, we both figured the phone was long gone.

So we arrived at the walkthrough, took a seat beside the court, and got ready to watch the preparation for that night’s game. Soon Huggs came over and sat beside me and we began shooting the breeze. I introduced him to my friend, and I couldn’t help but throw this in:

Yeah, the dumbass left his phone in the bathroom stall of a little Mom & Pop gas station somewhere between Athens and Parkersburg. We tried calling it but I’m afraid it’s long gone.”

At that point Huggs laughed, asked a couple questions about the station (we had no clue of its name and just had a general location), and I assumed it was forgotten.

Except . . .

As we’re sitting there, just chilling and watching practice, Huggs suddenly hands me his phone and says, “Here. Say hello.”

Huh?

“Just say hello, damn it.”

I then say hello, not knowing what the hell was going on, and a woman’s voice says, “Hey honey, don’t worry, we have your phone. It’s under the counter. Just pick it up tomorrow.”

Wait. What? How?

Somehow, Huggs knew exactly the name of the little out-of-way gas station we’d told him about, called it, and explained our problem.

Of course I asked him what the hell just happened. His answer?

“Shoe, I’ve been on every backroad in Ohio and West Virginia looking at players. I knew exactly where you were talking about.”

Huggs, man. He never ceases to amaze.

The other day I wrote a story called Meeting the General in which I recounted the day I first met Coach Bobby Knight. While writing that one I was reminded of the time I met another coaching legend, Jerry “Tark the Shark” Tarkanian. Tarkananian was largely known as the legendary coach of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels from 1973-1992 where he won a National Title in 1990. He also had an overall record of 706-198 so yeah, helluva coach. Because of all this it was pretty exciting to meet him one night back in the fall of 1986.

I was attending a basketball clinic at the University of Kentucky with some coaching friends, and after a day of speakers we retreated to the bar of the hotel in which we were staying. At first the place was pretty full, but as time wore on the crowd thinned out to maybe 15-20 people, mostly high school coaches from around the midwest.

Around 10:00pm I looked up and there at the door was Jerry Tarkanian and Dick Vitale. Both had spoken earlier and were apparently looking for some refreshments. They stopped, glanced around, spotted my group at a table in the back, and proceeded to walk right up to us and ask if they could sit down.

Well, hell yes. Have a seat.

We basically just shot the breeze with them for awhile, Tark being particularly friendly and asking where we were from, what level we coached, stuff like that. As time went on most of the table headed off to their rooms, including Vitale, which bothered me not in the least because he’d been a bit of a smug jackass. Tark? Not so much. Like I said, he couldn’t have been more engaging. Bottom line, it finally came down to four people at the table, with Tark regaling us with stories of his years in coaching.

At one point he and I had sort of drifted into our own conversation and I asked him if he had something simple I could add as a secondary offense for my team, which happened to be a bunch of 8th graders at the time. He promptly asked someone for a pen, grabbed some napkins, and drew up a little motion offense that included a coiuple backscreens and backcuts. He descibed some details and options you could run out of it, and that was that.

We then spent another hour or so talking, and finally got up and walked out together. As he started to leave, though, he turned around and said, “You know, I started out as a junior high coach too. It was some of the best times of my life. If you’re ever out in Vegas give me a call.” He then handed me a card and walked away.

Fast forward to the summer of 1989 when I was in Las Vegas with my friend Jigger. We landed, I played some roulette, I lost some cash quickly, and I realized I needed to step away from the tables before I lost my life savings. On a whim I decided to give The Shark a call and see if I could get hold of him. I had no idea if he’d even be in town. His secretary answered, I gave a quick explanation of who I was and how I’d met Coach Tarkanian, and was put on hold. A minute later she was back and told me that he said sure, come on over. Remember that this was nearly 3-years after we’d first met. I was amazed.

Of course I grabbed a cab to the Thomas & Mack Center (also known at the time as The Shark Tank), and sure enough a grad assistant was at the door waiting for me. Long story short I was given a tour of the arena and locker room facilities by The Shark himself. I even got to meet Stacey “Plastic Man” Augmon, a starter on the 1990 National Championship team and future NBA player. All told Tark probably spent an hour that day with me, a guy he’d met in a hotel bar years prior.

Before I left we exchanged information, he gave me a smile and a hug, and I went back to the casinos. He could not have been nicer.

Then, about 2-weeks later, I received a package in the mail. Inside I found an autographed poster, bumper stickers, and some UNLV gear along with a note thanking me for stopping in to see him.

That was the last time I met Tark personally, although we did chat a few times on the phone over the next few years.  And that offense he’d given me back in 1986? I ended up using it for years, very successfully I might add.

We called it Vegas.

Coach Tarkanian ended up being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, 2-years before he passed away at the age of 84. Tark had many a run-in with the NCAA over the years, but his won-loss record and testimonials from the players and coaches who loved him can’t be denied.

As for me, I’ll never forget the kindness he extended to an unknown coach for no real reason, other than the fact he was a good and caring person.

 

Here’s a great documentary on the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV. It’s worth a look.

Check out the highlights of UNLV’s dismantling of Duke in 1990.

 

MJ was an absolute assassin. Trash talk him and you were toast.

Over my coaching career I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of good coaches and have become pretty good friends with a few of them. Huggs, Billy Hahn, Gary Williams, Jimmy Patsos, Mike Lonergan and some others are all friends and top notch coaches that I’ve learned a lot from. Through those connections I’ve been able to sit in on the practices of Coach K, Jerry Tarkanian (also had drinks with him and Dickie V but that’s a whole other blog), Tom Izzo (slept in his basement which was pretty cool), Thad Matta, Joe. B. Hall, Rick Barnes, Archie Miller, Keith Dambrot, Skip Prosser, Pete Gillen, Jay Wright, and The General himself – Bobby Knight.

With Coach Knight back in the news (he returned to Assembly Hall last weekend for the first time in 20-years) I was reminded of the first time I met him. It was w-a-y back in the fall of 1985 and I went to Bloomington for a weekend to watch practices. My head coach at the time had some connections, hence the allowance into the otherwise private practices.

As I recall the first practice was around 11:00 AM, and we arrived at Assembly Hall a good 30 to 45-minutes early. Somebody, I can’t recall who, walked us in and sat us at a table right at mid-court. Shortly after we sat down another guy walked in with a big kid in a letterman jacket and they were seated beside us.

The Indiana staff that year was comprised of Ron Felling, Kohn Smith, Royce Waltman and Joby Wright, and one of the graduate assistants was Dan Dakich, who I’ll get to shortly.

I remember Wright in particular was running around nervously, awaiting the arrival of The General and making sure the players were doing what they were supposed to be doing during pre-practice.

Finally, a few minutes before practice was to begin Coach Knight came strolling in wearing a fishing hat and vest. I’m being dead serious here. He’d clearly been doing some angling that morning and hadn’t gotten around to changing yet. After a couple laps around the court he stopped, shook our hands, told the kid beside me to take his hat off, even though coach was wearing a bucket hat with fishing lures stuck to it.

Everyone was scared to death, including me. Hey, I was not yet 30 and had seen The General on television. Hell, it was just 9-months prior when he did this:

Anyway, the dude was a little scary and I was a young coach who was completely intimidated by the legend that was Bob Knight.

He soon went back to the locker room, changed into his coaching gear, and proceeded to begin practice. As we watched, Knight was patrolling the court, making sure everything was done with pinpoint precision. At one point he stopped, pointed at grad assistant Dakich, and told him to move the line up in a drill he was running. Knight walked away, turned to look back, then went back to Dakich and let him have it:

“Damn it Dakich! I told you to move the line closer to the basket! If you can’t follow directions you’ll be running the damn steps!” 

I have to admit it was a little surprising, even to me. I mean, making players run stairs is one thing but I’d never seen a coach threaten an assistant with it. With that still on my mind, when we went to the locker room after practice I asked Dakich if Coach Knight had been serious and he said that absolutely he was, that it wouldn’t have been the first time a grad assistant had run the stairs.

Finally, we actually got to go into Coach Knight’s office and have a chat with him about practice and the state of the team. He was polite, answered questions, and all-in-all it was a nice visit.

A surprise came later though, when John Feinsten’s book “A Season on the Brink” was published. It was a best-seller that detailed Indiana’s 1985-1986 season, and Feinstein had been given unprecedented access to the team and coaching staff. As I read the book I came to a passage that detailed Knight yelling at Dakich and threatening him with running the stairs. Feinsten then recounted a “visiting coach” asking Dakich in the locker room if it was a serious threat and Dakich saying that indeed it was. I have no recollection of Feinstein being there, but apparently he was. Anyway, in a roundabout way I made it into the book. Wild stuff, man. Look it up.

So that was my one and only interaction with Bobby Knight. I saw him at a clinic a couple years later, said hello, he responded with a “Hmmprfgh” and went on his way. Apparently I hadn’t made much of an impression on him, or maybe he was just being an asshole. I have no idea.

And oh yeah, one more thing. Only later was I told that the kid beside me, the kid that Bobby Knight had instructed to take his hat off, was none other than high school sophomore Shawn Kemp. Yeah, that Shawn Kemp, the future 6-time NBA All-Star:

PS- I also saw Knight throw a high school coach out of one of his clinics for talking during his presentation. True story.

PPS- During that same clinic there were a couple aspiring officials in attendance who happened to be deaf. One of them asked Knight if he thought their handicap would present any problems for them as referees. His response was “I don’t know why it would. We have plenty of blind refs already.” Savage.

Why? Because I care.

Groundhog Day

A Wicked Smaht Pahk

Facebook Groups

The Death of Mr. Peanut

Baby Nut

Going Away Party

Where It All Began

Old Town Road Showdown

Typical Americans

Loretta

Jimmy Works It Out

Be The One

Take 5

Zero Sugar

Before Alexa

Love Takes Action

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Jason Momoa Gets Comfortable

Next 100

Mama Test

Room For You Too

When We All Come Together

[photo]

Oh hell yes he did. Way back in 2014.

PS- And is anyone else wondering what Jack Terrel did with his life? I need to know.

PPS- Also, Kaitlin Rosetta knew exactly what was up.

Well played, Flea. Well played.

Wait. What? This is according to Google searches over the past week.

Looks like a work of art, man.

Basketball rules have changed a lot over the years, even some dramatic ones in the last 30-years or so. Some of these might just surprise you . . .

1900-1901

A dribbler may not shoot for a field goal and may dribble only once, and then with two hands.
Wait. What? What does that even mean?

1908-1909

A dribbler is permitted to shoot. The dribble is defined as the “continuous passage of the ball,” making the double dribble illegal.
Great that they finally allowed the dribblers to shoot, man.

1910-1911

No coaching is allowed during the progress of the game by anybody connected with either team. A warning is given for the first violation and a free throw is awarded after that.
Hear that? NO COACHING ALLOWED. So strange. Then again, maybe they were onto something.

1921-1922

Running with the ball was changed from a foul to a violation.
If traveling was a foul James Harden would be out of games very early.

1923-1924

The player fouled must shoot his own free throws. Before this rule, one person usually shot all the free throws for a team.
Designated free throw shooters, man. Steve Nash would have averaged 50 a game.

1937-1938

The center jump after every made basket is eliminated.
Yes kids, before this rule was changed there was a jump ball after every basket.

1939-1940

Teams have the option of taking a free throw or taking the ball at mid-court.
This would actually lead to some intersting strategy.

1944-1945

Defensive goal tending is banned.

I’m guessing the advancement of player athleticism led to this rule.

1944-1945

Offensive players cannot stand in the free throw lane for more than 3 seconds.
Good rule. Congestion on the court is not a good thing.

1948-1949

Coaches are allowed to speak to players during a timeout.
And thus the modern basketball coach was born.

1956-1957

The free throw lane is increased from 6 feet to 12 feet.
Look at that old 6-foot lane. So damn small.

1956-1957

Grasping the rim is rule unsportsmanlike conduct.
Players be jumpin’ higher!

1967-1968

The dunk is made illegal during the game and during warmup.
Ah, the famous Lew Alcindor rule.

1972-1973

An official can charge a technical foul on a player for unsportsmanlike conduct if the official deems the player ‘flopped’ to get a charging call.
Aaaand flopping is still not called today.
1972-1973
Freshman are now eligible to play varsity basketball.
This is why Alcindor’s UCLA freshman team used to beat the hell of of the varsity all the time.

1973-1974

Officials can now penalize players away from the ball for fouls for acts such as holding, grabbing and illegal screens.
Great rule and hard to believe it took this long to add it.

1976-1977

The dunk is made legal again.
And a nation rejoiced!

1981-1982

The jump ball is eliminated except for the start of the first and second half, and overtime if necessary. An alternating arrow will indicate possession of the ball in jump-ball situations in a game.
And the Possession Arrow was born.

1985-1986

The 45 second shot clock is introduced.
The shot clock is coming to high school basketball as well . . . soon.

1985-1986

If a shooter is intentionally fouled and the basket is missed, the shooter will get two free throws and the team will get possession of the ball.
Hard to fathom that I was coaching before the addition of the intentional foul.

1986-1987

A three point shot was introduced at 19’9″.
And everything began to change . . .
1989-1990
Three free throws are awarded when a shooter is fouled from three point range and misses the shot.
Oddly enough, for a couple years after the advent of the 3-point shot you only got 2 free throws if fouled while shooting it. Dumb.

1993-1994

The shot clock is reduced from 45 seconds to 35 seconds.
Will it get shorter?

1997-1998

Timeouts can be made be players on the court or the head coach.
Seems odd now, but before this coaches could not call timeouts. You had to yell for your players to do it.

So yeah, the game has changed. A lot. I wonder what it will look like in 50-years?

Nope. Not that Moses. There’s another one.

It all started way back in 1983, when my my brother-in-law and great friend Jigger asked me to coach the 7th grade basketball team at Paint Valley. Jigger had coached high school basketball at Bishop Flaget in the early 70s, and since this was my very first coaching job he gave me some old books about coaching.

Now, when I say old I mean old, like 1940s old. They were so old in fact that I put them on the shelf, only occasionally glancing through them. I mean, what could I possibly learn from a book that was written when coaches weren’t allowed to talk to their teams during timeouts?*

*Dead serious. Coaches weren’t allowed to do this until the 1948-49 season. Look it up. 

Anyway, at some point during that first year I coached we needed a baseline out of bounds play (a BLOB – sideline out of bounds is a SLOB) and on a whim I revisited a couple of those books. Low and behold, in one I found a BLOB that looked pretty damn good. It was fairly unique because it was a BLOB that flooded the baseline. At the time everyone played zone defense while defending out-of-bounds plays, although that’s completely changed over the years. Because of this the top guys on the zone weren’t used to coming all the way down to the baseline and by flooding it with your players you could catch your opponent off guard. Here’s the initial setup, as drawn on an idex card by me a million years ago:

When the play started this was the initial movement, although we added wrinkles that I’ll talk about in a bit:

You put your shooters on the blocks, and they would sprint to the corners. We’d put our best shooter on the opposite block because the corner he ran to seemed to be the one that was open the most. The player in the middle was our best post man and the player at the top of the key was usually our point guard. When the post player screened the point guard, the opponent had to either switch or not switch. If they switched the post man would be open and roll straight to the basket. If they didn’t switch the point guard would be open. If defenders sagged to help that action one or both of the corners would be open. Simple but effective, and it was just as efficient against zones as it was against man-to-man.

Over the years we added wrinkles, such as having the players on the blocks cross and go to opposite corners, or moving the two players in the middle to different spots. We also added extra movement if nobody was open, but to be honest that rarely happened.

I can’t recall what we called the play in its early years, but I do know how the name that stuck came to be. It was in my first year at Paint Valley and of course I was showing it to my players. After explaining how it worked I asked the team what they wanted to name it, and my all-league point guard Todd Shoemaker said something like this:

“Everybody parts like the Red Sea and I go right down the middle. Let’s call it Moses.”

And so it came to pass.

I’ve had a lot of former players become coaches, guys like the aforementioned Todd, Craig Kerns, Josh Case, Clay Archer and others. Many of them have used it and used it effectively. Hey, my team from Montserrat has used it as well.

Not only that, and I won’t name names but college coaches have watched the play at camps, asked about it, and have used it over the years. I’m talking Division 1, big-time Top 10 college programs. Some even call it Moses. In fact, next time you watch a college game look for the set I showed you on a baseline out of bounds play and see if you can hear the player taking the ball out yell “Moses!”

It happens. True story.

I don’t know how many points my teams scored on Moses over the years but I do know it was a lot. It got to the point where our opponents knew the play, so we disguised it. Anytime we yelled Noah, Abraham, Abel, Adam or any other biblical name it was essentially Moses. In reality though, it didn’t matter if they knew. It was that effective.

Yep, a simple little play I got from a book written in the 1940s is still used today in all levels of basketball. And you know why?

Because it works.

 

Color coded with each team’s colors.

I’ll take The Block at #1.

Gold, Jerry. Gold!

Can’t stop watching.

Classic.

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 heard 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. Knowing what was about to happen, 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.