Month: November 2011

Crossing East River

 
Last night we won our third game against East River 52-31. Both teams played zone, and our energy level was not what it was against Brantley so the first half moved along quite slowly. I believe pace infected our commitment to running and we did not score enough in transition. Against the their zone we were passive and settled for 3’s.

As the half progressed we became increasingly sloppy with the ball, and must have had six turnovers where the ball was ripped from our hands like the purse of a geriatric women in Central Park. I am not a fan of old people.

So despite a 20-13 lead at the half, and in conjuction with a quick finger on the home clock from Logan Malmberg, I mean “the little wolverine,” I was pissed. We were playing down to an inferior opponent and not playing physical or mental toughness.

We were probably good enough to win playing as we were, but an opportunity would be lost. The opportunity to challenge the team while facing self-imposed adversity, and measure the response. It is the special teams that can dig from within and produce a response when needed that accomplish great things. The ability to respond on command distinguishes victory from the comprehensive analysis of a loss the next day.

Respond we did. We won the third quarter 15-4 and took the last remnants of any will to fight East River had left. Bear in mind this in and of itself was not a great accomplishment. We were better. We deserved to win. The value of the experience to the group was that as coach I went to the whip and we got better. It’s now a collective experience that we can draw from as we go forward into no doubt more perilous situations.

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In Praise of Cristiano Ronaldo

(AP Photo/Armando Franca)

In 1998, a young David Beckham was given a straight red card during a World Cup match against Argentina. He was vilified by the media for his immaturity. England, as is their way in major international competitions, flamed out in an agonizing penalty shoot-out after gallantly playing for over an hour down a man. There is perhaps no greater English tradition than succumbing to a foe by way of penalty shoot-out. I digress, the point of this paragraph is the extraction of a description of Beckham’s play prior to the ejection. He was described as “swaggering extravagantly” in the midfield. I was drawn in by the description and it has stuck in my head ever since.

The description is more applicable to the man who took Beckham’s place at Man United, and later at his current post, Real Madrid….Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo recently responded to anonymous, but to his mind jealous critics by saying their jealousy is unavoidable given that he is too handsome, too rich and too good at football. Ronaldo on first glance “swaggers extravagantly” wherever he pleases. He has won league titles and Champion’s League medal. He led his country to a fourth place finish at the 2006 World Cup, even winking before taking his PK against, you guessed it, England. He scored over 50 goals last season in all competitions and is on pace for a similar tally this season. His combination of power, skill and speed is unparalleled, perhaps in the history of football.

Yet he is destined to spend the peak of his career as nothing more than the second best player in the world. To define him on anything I have written so far is to miss the point. He should be defined upon different facts. He is always in immaculate physical condition and seldom misses a game. He has stepped to the penalty spot for his team and converted his last 16. He has progressively increased his assist totals in the last three seasons. (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the spectacle that is a Ronaldo assist. Tradition dictates that everyone on the scoring team runs to the goal scorer to acknowledge his feat, but Ronaldo invariably lingers alone preening for the crowd just long enough to be noticed, before obliging tradition.) It is in this gesture that I find his true greatness. He is that rare athlete that God has blessed with talent, and he himself has accepted the responsibility of that talent to become great. Great is not just an occaisional feat or zone one drifts into, but rather the day by day, game by game commitment to bring all of one’s considerable talent to bear on the game at hand. Ronaldo by this standard “swaggers extravaganlty” in every match showing us his greatness, and with his lingering, preening displays simply insures that we do not soon forget it.

Musings on Random Offense

While his postings have been sparse of late Mr. Charm got off his ass yesterday and sent me a tweet to a link on Kentucky coach John Calipari. The article quoted Cal on his desire to run more random offense, and less set plays because “You can guard plays. You cannot guard players that can play.” This is very much in line with one of the credos of my coaching philosophy. I strive to teach my players how to play, not how to run plays.

There was a moment in my last game when one of my quick guards had the ball, and Brantley was playing man. After a switch, I had my guard at the top of the key against a brantley big, that looked more like a 30 year old prison guard than a JV player. I started jumping up and down and screaming for my guys to clear out. Advantage us. This was not a set play, but a spontaneous reaction to an obvious mismatch. This was game intelligence.

Truth be told, we have run very little set offense in our first two games, but have averaged 65.5 points per 32 minute game. We have created turnovers which has given us transition points. We have been aggressive in running the floor and throwing the ball ahead make or miss. The best opportunity to score is in these moments of transition when the defense is not back and settled. When you are preoccupied with calling set offense in these moments, the opportunity is lost.

Even if you do not create run out baskets, it’s important to stay fluid. There are principles to the fluidity. I favor a post player running to the rim, and two players filling the floor wide. This stretches the defense vertically and horizontally and opens the middle of the floor for the ball to be advanced. By stressing the defense in this manner, any deficiency can be exploited. The defense may defend the rim run, or stop the ball, or track the wide players, but it’s unlikely they will do all three on a consistent basis. With this basic structure, and without the burden of getting into a set play the ball can attack the weakness and the shot we will get is better than anything our set offense will generate.

At Oviedo, I grew incredibly frustrated with our head coach’s insistence on blowing plays dead in practice the second someone messed up a set play. Play would stop, correction made and we would plod along for another thirty seconds until the next whistle. In doing so, we did not condition our players to play the game. Sets will be blown, defenses will scout you and take you out of your comfortable offensive sets. The game is decided on what you do in response. It is important to integrate that into your practice., it is ignorant if you do not.

While I recongize the value of set offense and believe strongly in the Princeton offense, it must be viewed more as a means to play than playing itself. One of the things I enjoy most about the princeton offense is the spacing, built in ball reversals, and multitude of actions. I do not view the offense as strict sets, with designated counters. I believe you can take the various actions availabe in the offense and tailor them to your personnel. In teaching the offense, I try to emphasize to the players that the various actions, are intended to force the defense to move and make decisions, and to give you the players freedom to make decisions an play basketball. It is in those decisions that the offense can take on the random quality Coach Cal talks about.

Holiday Reflections

Today is Thanksgiving. Ostensibly a time to reflect and be thankful. On that note, I am thankful to be 2-0 and having great fun coaching my team. I am thankful for the 24 ounce steak I grilled and ate today, and the enormous piece of carvel ice cream cake I just polished off. Not so thankful for the intestinal stress this meal caused.

I am thankful for my friends. They are important to me, a source of humor and motivation.

I am thankful for good movies, good music and toilet humor.

I am not thankful for the general disruption the holidays make on my beloved routine. I was able to work out this morning, but otherwise it has been a dreadfully boring day. No games. No practice. Not even a decent game on TV. I have over eaten, and suffered the consequences. I have passed out around 5pm for an unspecified amount of time, and I am writing this post at 6:46 pm to avoid passing out for good secondary to utter freaking boredom. The day has progressed at a snail’s pace.

In the space of less than five weeks, I will have to suffer through the economic crisis known as Christmas. FML.

I am thankful for my kids. Camden (supaflyc) is an emerging musician and in certain confines a funny guy. Today he finished a turkey leg, and announced, “The lion is done, which of you vultures want the remains.” Holland is a cheerleader, who appears to be getting her swagger back….finally. Bryson is a soccer player and an all around pest.

The Glossary of Nicknames Part I

Chicharito! Getty Images/IAN KINGTON

I frequently say I hate animals including, but not limited to most people. This is probably an overstatement as I have considerable amount of fun with people and specifically bestowing upon them nicknames. The list is long and hardly distinguished, but it’s been festering in my head for over a week, and with the plethora of relatively humorous game reports that have filled the blog the last few days it’s time to get stupid.

George Takei – a bizarre dark-skinned Asian official that fashions a gold tooth. His claim to fame was ejecting a drunken fan, with whom you will become acquinted later in this glossary.

CK – Charlie Koepsell, former Oviedo player and current fire diver….uh I mean fighter. Claim to fame he was once ejected from a varsity basketball game, while reportedly intoxicated, by the aforementioned George Takei.

Pete Chilcutt – student manager for 2005-2006 at Winter Park. He suffered the double misfortune of following Juan Bernal: 407 Hood Legend and wearing a full UNC Tar Heel uniform to an open gym. A largely anonymous tour of duty that was highlighted by somehow breaking a hotel room table in South Carolina during a holiday tournament. He was also relieved of his water cup filling duties mid-game during the same tournament and replaced by my then seven year old son Bryson.

Pistol Pete (original) – Third assistant on our 2003-2004 Trinity Prep team. Doubled as 7th grade coach. Insisted on wearing fine suits to games, and then wearing them downtown to drink and party post-game under the dodgy rationale that wearing a full suit, and bragging about “coaching” as a third assistant for a 2A high school somehow advanced the search for pussy.  Suffered the indignity of being relieved of camp duties during the Matt Hixenbaugh Basketball Camp.

Pistol Pete (second edition) – Tried out for the JV team recently. Try outs were held on Holloween night and the Pistol wore a full uniform (team unknown) and a head band to contain his flowing brown hair. Was briefly mistaken for Will Farrell in Semi-Pro. Went on to be cut from the team not once, but twice.

The Big Kahuna – local JV coach, large in stature, small in talent and vaguely Hawiian in general appearance. Absorbed the original Oviedo skull-fucking, and suffered legendary meltdown in the final minute of UCF team camp game where he was T’d in the final 15 seconds of the game when his team had the lead. It goes without saying they lost.

Coach Cowher – fantastic friend and law school classmate. Name originated in law school when he guided the Madden Steelers through an undefeated regular season. Drank too much beer during a Friday afternoon kegger on the law school green, puked at the half and lost a playoff game ending a dream season.

Jackass – Law school classmate and Auburn grad. Once wagered his body hair on an undefeated Auburn season during the Terry Bowden era and won. Saw nothing unusual about confiding to classmates that he regularly sat around nude in a hot tub, drunk with only male friends. Once analyzed reading an article on golden showers by offering the article said…..”you shouldn’t be peeing on people”.

FIFA corner flag – freshman oviedo player that ran to the deep corner on the right hand side of the floor every offensive possession and didn’t vacate until the Lions lost possession or scored.

Soca Warrior – shirtless player at try-outs who wore a tribal necklace the entire time.

The Fall of Tanh – Asian player that was having a tough try-out that was ended when he inexplicable fell to the ground with a thunderous smack of the floor.

Big Bird – Tall lanky player bereft of any basketball talent, but had a cool hair cut and awkward gait when running that was rather funny.

Chicharito – Tried out for the team recently. Unfortunately he was a junior with freshman skills. Had a few moments of productivity in open gym to earn his nickname. Embraced his nickname like few ever have despite the fact that he was Puerto Rican, not Mexican.

The Furroughed Brow – Local JV coach, recently promoted from the religious-based middle school league.  Middle aged guy with furroughed brow always seems to be preparing to ask a profound question, but his next will be his first.  Recently aqcuired a large centurion as his assistant coach.  It is unclear what this man’s role is in basketball terms.

KTA – Ken the Asian, originally gained noteriety as Ken the Camera Guy at Winter Park.  I met this man in 2005, and had no idea the depth of his sarcasm and angst until I recently followed him on twitter @keiteay.  He is Japanese and produced some wonderful material during the earthquake and Women’s World Cup.  A regular on the Pedro’s Posse bench.

Dallas’ Mom – See Mr. Charm.

2-0! Beating Brantley

In our second game of the season we played Lake Brantley with no practice between games. Lake Brantley has been the most consistently productive team in our county at all three levels of play. They seldom feature any genuinely great players even at the varsity level, but they have an abundance of tall, physical players and do a terrific job defending, rebounding and playing with confidence. They are the only team that I have a losing record against as a JV coach 1-3 going into the night.

My one victory was memorable for cementing my reputation as an anti-time out coach. I was at Oviedo with our original FBGM team. We played very well….until the 4th quarter when Brantley pressed us and cut into out lead. For several possessions, there was growing sentiment on the bench that a time out was in our best interest. I held off. Even when Brantley tied the game and pressed. We inbounded to mid-court without the benefit of a time out and had a 2 on 1, but we missed the lay up. On the other end we got a jump ball, and i got my sub on the floor. Whip Green, a wiry left hander with a streaky shooting stroke. We inbounded underneath and Whip trotted up the left side of the floor to the deep corner, caught the ball and shot us to a three point lead. We never trailed again and won by four. Whip was about 1/8 from the field before the shot, and when i watched the video later that night our videographer, Charlie Koepsell, was screaming and cussing me out to call a time out. A timely substitution always prevails.

Back to last night.  Clearly inspired by my pregame speach on the Honeybadger,  our kids came out on fire defensively. Our activity level was off the charts and we surged to an early double digit lead. We went a little bit up and down, through the middle two quarters which i expected given how much energy we expended early, but seemed to have an answer for every thing they threw at us. We led 54-37 to start the fourth.

We had mild foul trouble, and wanted to control the tempo so we went Oranges which is our spread delay game. We varied between impatience and missing open lay ups. As our offensive efficiency bottomed out, our defense crapped the bed. We lost our shape, gambled too much and didn’t rebound well enough. We did however do enough to hold on 64-61, and have our first meaningful crunch time minutes.

At this point of the season, I believe this type of win is vitale. Had we cruised home by 15-20, we could become complacent. As it was, we have numerous things to work on, and in the drama of the win the impetus for the players to listen and learn.

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We Win!

I have developed the habit of uttering this phrase at the final horn of every game I win. The intensity of the phrase varies almost at random from sarcastic to cathartic, but it’s meaning remains eternal. We win! We are better than you tonight, and perhaps every night, and we are gonna savor it.

We win last night was right down the middle. I was unusually tense all day given this was my first win for Winter Springs and thus the catharsis, but we won 67-34 so an ample measure of sarcasm was evident as well.

I was very pleased with the squad. We lead throughout, and won every quarter. Stylistically we pushed the ball, created easy baskets, and defended like we gave a crap. Two different coaches approached me after the game and expressed how much they enjoyed watching us play. Despite being arrogant, I am always grateful for this compliment because it means that what I am striving for is plainly evident.

The downside of our performance was 28 turnovers. A number fit for a girls game. We were sloppy with the ball, and if we are so tonight, we will not win. Many turnovers were unforced, and can be corrected.

We play tonight with no practice in between. I challenged our players to give their own feedback on individual performance and text me 3 things they can do better. The feedback has been in line with my thoughts which is always encouraging. Without practice, we cannot change anything physically, but we can change and improve mentally.

Final note. We were up 20 at half, and had seen our freshman team go up 20 and then win by 11. I challenged our kids to grow the lead, and told them about the Mel Gibson movie “The Patriot”. Of course no one saw the movie and I had to use the bulk of halftime to give background. Point is I got to the scene where Mel’s son was murdered and he uses two of his younger boys to set up an ambush. The scene culminates with Mel swing his axe on the head of the final Brit as his boys look on in a mix of horror and admiration. In the second half we would “swing the axe”.

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