Category: coaching

Catching Up with Q

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Qamar Lewis was born into a broken home. His “sperm donor” was in jail by the time he was born and they didn’t meet until after he graduated high school. The meeting was just like the few that followed it…an awkward conversation and an invitation to “party” turned down. His mother was better…she didn’t go to jail until he reached middle school. She has been out, they live together and the mere proximity of being there has allowed a relationship to grow. He seems happy about that, and maybe its important to him as the Grandmother that raised him passed away a few years ago.

Qamar was a talented athlete, but bad grades, a stubborn attitude and a late high school diagnosis of epilepsy conspired to make sure his talents never made it out of Oviedo. While most of his classmates are a semester or less from graduating college, he is little more than a semester into the process. His stubborn streak may be diminished, but it damn sure isn’t extinguished. He just spent three months without a job because he couldn’t take the time to find a new one before he left the old one.

This may sound like a story of pre-destined failure, but it’s not. It is about humility, generosity, maturity and curiosity. It is about the winding road of life and a young man’s desire to make it matter. It is about my friend.

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I have coached sports since I was in high school, and one of the greatest pleasures I have known is when the player/ coach relationship matures into genuine friendship. Qamar asked me if, when I was coaching him, I ever foresaw us being friends. The truth is that I hoped that it would happen. If I coach with honesty, integrity and compassion, and the player plays the same way, we will have earned each others respect and trust. Friendship requires no stronger foundation.

Qamar is an assistant coach for his alma mater, Oviedo High School. He wears the school’s orange and black colors as comfortably as his skin. It has been a deeply personal experience as he has come face to face with players abundant in his shortcomings which has opened his eyes to the opportunities he lost. It has inspired him to coach beyond the field and mentor the young men in his care to value the opportunity before them and to extend the values of sport to the life beyond it.

He has adopted the quote, “Grow through what you go through” as a personal mantra. He has gone through a lot and it has made him the man he is today. He doesn’t smoke, drink or party. He let himself become difficult to coach and it hurt him, so he pushes for ways to reach the players that were most like him. He has seen black and white players coached differently, so he coaches them all the same. He knows that he must coach from his heart and stay true to who he is, but he is humble and curious enough to study other coaches to see what they do and how their players respond.

He has learned that coaching is not about sports, wins or losses. It is about relationships, life and the unrelenting push you give your players then friends to make the most out of it.

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I Have A Few Thoughts…

Florida State beat South Florida 34-14.

The Noles put together a putrid half of offensive football. Everett Golson failed to complete a pass in his first six attempts. The offensive line looked overwhelmed particularly in pass protection. Our third down conversion rate rivaled John Starks from the field in game seven. The only points and moment of enjoyment came when Dalvin Cook’s brilliantly weaved, bounced and ran past the Bull’s defense for a 74 yard touchdown. The defense was solid, but gave up a score for a 7-7 tie at the break.

FSU rebounded nicely in the second half scoring on every possession, and even completing a few passes. South Florida’s only points came on a defensive breakdown that led to a long touchdown pass, but the game was firmly in hand at that point.

DALVIN COOK

Two games into his sophomore season, Cook is a star and staking a claim among the great backs in Florida State history. His 30 carry, 266 yard, 3 touchdown game was the second best yardage total in school history, and he has a way of almost making it look easy. He simply does not run into traffic when he doesn’t have to, and his combination of speed and power confounds downfield tacklers.

After the game, Fisher was asked about Cook’s heavy workload, and he responded “that’s why you recruit great players so they can carry the load”. I agree it is a joy to watch a great player take over a game as Cook did yesterday, and it is a great service to this young team. In a larger context though, I am concerned for the team and for Cook.

This team will not contend for a title or major bowl without a balanced offensive attack. Defenses are too good, and someone will load the box enough to minimize Cook’s effectiveness. At that moment, Golson and the passing game must respond.

Per NCAA rules, Cook must spend three years on campus before becoming eligible for the draft. Running backs, even great ones, have an odometer, and it’s best when that thing is not used up before the money starts to come in. I cannot help, but think of Marcus Lattimore.

Stay healthy Dalvin!

EVERETT GOLSON AND THE REST OF THE OFFENSE

Golson struggled to get anything done in the first half, and I see three contributing factors. One, the line play in pass protection is subpar. The line’s inexperience is highlighted in pass protection where they must read blitzes and adjust protections. Golson was under considerable pressure most of the first half, and it impacted his footwork, decision-making and accuracy.

Two, the receivers dropped six balls in only 26 pass attempts, some more egregious than others, but way too many as a whole. Each of these drops adversely impacts the score, possession, down and distance. There is a benefit to spreading the ball among different receivers, but at this point, one or more of these guys need to step up as preferred targets.

Three, Golson’s over-compensation for turnovers past. Golson has played turnover free football through his first two games which is a pleasant trend away from his biggest perceived weakness coming into the season, but it has come at a cost. I sense Golson, perhaps with a complicit coaching staff, is playing conservatively, and that is fine, but there will come a moment this season where he has to be willing to throw into the shark’s mouth and do it again even after he gets bitten for this team to pull a game out.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The kick return game continued to show signs of improvement with Kermit Whitfield jump-starting the second half with a 50 yard return. Aguayo is death and taxes rolled into that shape of a right foot.

DEFENSE

Jimbo had high praise for the unit acknowledging the one blown coverage touchdown. I am a bit more moderated in my praise as I do not see the level of disruption up front that I so closely associate with dominant defense. The line seems to get penetration, and force the quarterback to move, but we are not finishing those plays with sacks and interceptions.

BOSTON COLLEGE WILL BE A BITCH

FSU is on the road at Boston College next week and this game will be difficult. In 2013, BC jumped out to a big lead before Jameis brought us back, and last season the game was decided by a late field goal. BC plays a physical brand of football that eats up the clock and puts a premium on each possession. Steve Addazio is a good coach and has made steady progress with this program during his tenure. Expect a war!

SERENA STUMBLES AT THE FOOT OF HISTORY

Serena is one of my favorite female athletes of all-time, and her legacy as such has long been secure, but this was a crushing failure. There is no doubt the weight of history was felt throughout this tournament, but for it to all come undone to a largely unremarkable player with more facial wrinkles than my beloved mother, who went on to lose the final to a slightly less unremarkable player who promptly retired, is a skid mark in her Wimbledon whites.

CHANGING GAMES

Several notable games this weekend featured one team dominating a half or more of the game, and losing control thereafter. Tennessee dominated Oklahoma for 3.5 quarters before losing in overtime at home. LSU and Kentucky both dominated the first half of their games, but struggled down the stretch to bring home wins.

Save the narrative about conference strength or lack thereof. The reality is that games are long, and good teams will adjust and evolve thoughout the contest gaining and losing advantage as they do so. Coaching is important in making adjustments and managing the late stages of a game. The decisons and disciplines that win games late often bear little resemblance to those that impacted earlier segments of the game, and this should be welcomed and accepted. Culture also manifests itself in these situations when a team stays together and competes to the end of the game even in the face of poor performance or adversity through most of the game.

FLOYD MAYWEATHER AND “RETIREMENT”

Floyd Mayweather won his 49th utterly boring fight against no defeats, and pocketed an absurd amount of money for hand-picking Andre Berto as his stooge.

He then “retired” as the supreme master of a dying art.

49 is an odd number. Floyd has the spending habits of a third world dictator and no endoresement money. Floyd is insecure and craves attention.

Floyd will fight again…against an opponent he will easily beat…and I will continue to not give a shit.

Jimbo Fisher and the Apparent Futility of Parenthood

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Giorgio Newberry is a fifth year senior at Florida State.  He has had a minimal impact on the program during his first four years on campus.  Last Saturday night, he was player of the game for the Seminoles.  As I read the first few paragraphs of the article, I got somewhat emotional thinking of how many practices Newberry must have attended where he failed to distinguish himself or stood on the side as reps went to other players, and the type of resolve it takes to endure and make the most of his opportunity last Saturday night.  As I read on, it was apparent that for much of his time on campus, Newberry was his own worst enemy displaying a lack of effort and a lack of attention to detail.  The coaching and resources of the program were at his disposal every bit as much as all the players that kept him off the field, and he did not make it happen.

Coach Fisher was proud of Newberry, and said, “It’s like I say, you can coach your kids and teach your kids all you want, when they walk out the door of their house, they’ve got to decide what they want to be.”

I am the father of three teenagers.  I have spent the last 18 years trying to provide love, support and guidance in the best way that I can, and there are many days when it feels utterly ineffective.  As my kids have entered their teenage years, it has increasingly felt like my voice in particular holds less weight than any other, and the frustration of this is beyond measure.

“…you can coach your kids and teach your kids all you want.”

I am 44 years old.  I have experience through lessons learned and mistakes made that may help each of them to avoid a painful pothole or plot a cleaner course through life.  I am a resource, not just of money, but of knowledge that in this most critical of ways remains largely unused.  I have varied my tactics of communication and patiently waited for moments ripe to dispel my wisdom, but the clock is ticking.

“…when they walk out the door of their house.”

My oldest started college last week and he has spoke openly of wanting to move out of the house.  His twin siblings are not be far behind. There is a sense of palpable desperation descending on me that I have not given enough and somehow failed in the most important responsibility of my life.

“…they’ve got to decide what they want to be.”

I can and will love, support and guide each of them.  I am granted only one life to live…my own.  Camden, Holland and Bryson must live their life and “decide what they want to be.”

Rollin

Monday night group chat with Juan and B Rich.

B Rich:  “I’m going to Miami.  50% chance I fly tonight at 10pm.  50% chance I fly tomorrow at 6am.  Juan are you available?”

DJ Cab is always available. 

I happened to be in driving to Miami the next day, and after handling business, met up with B Rich at the famed Fountainblue Hotel on Miami Beach to talk hoops.  Jason Williams was a third party to the conversation via text offering that Wesley Person was the best shooter he ever played with, and B Rich was “8”.  The beauty in the statement was that he offered nothing on shooters two through seven, or any elaboration on B Rich ‘ s rating.

We were joined later by Cliff Smith and Mark Cruz, who were already three sheets to the wind.  Twenty minutes after arriving Cliff was in the pool, fully clothed, playing catch with a random guy and three eight year olds.  Cruz buried a relative in the morning, but seemed remarkably festive.  The balance of the night was a clinic in team bonding and revelry with drinking, eating, tall tales and hypothetical beastiality.

Thursday, I was back in the 407 on the Community Sports Report 91.5 FM with Juan and Jay Rome Brown talking basketball.  After the show, juan entrusted me with the Pedro’s Posse jerseys and a rough draft of the roster for our games on Saturday and Sunday.  Before I reached the house, the roster had changed and continued to evolve and contort right through tip off on Saturday.

With the arrival of NBA and Euroleague veteran Nick Calathes a few minutes after tip off, we had a nine man unit of Calathes, Alex Castillo, Mike O’Donnell, Dee Proby, Luke Loucks, Joey Rodriguez, Deivedis Dulkys, Alex Blessig and scoreless Frank.  We played very well winning by 25 against an over- matched foe.  The guys were great about sharing minutes and Dulkys produced a pair of great dunks that made there way to the orlandoproam instagram account.

By nightfall there was growing concern over the big roster.  It was tough to manage nine and we didn’t even have regulars Jason Williams, Rocky Trice or Andrew Bachanov.   On Sunday, all three returned and I considered myself fortunate that Dee Proby and Mike O’Donnell sat out.  I was left with ten guys including two NBA guys that generally get to play as much as they want.  Thankfully, the guys embraced a Kentucky two platoon system.  J Will put in a 2-2-1 press and we won by 32 with contributions up and down the roster.

The consensus was ten was too many though, and with the playoffs approaching some tough decisions on roster spots awaited Juan as he returned from Atlanta for Monday night’s game.  Throughout the day as many as 13 possible players were discussed with Juan cautioning that it will work itself out.  It did.  We fielded a strong 9 man squad and played some delightful basketball, but so too did our opponents.  For the first time in 8 games, we were in a tight game.  For much of the third quarter we trailed by 5-7 points, but our second unit made a great run to get the lead at the end of three.

Sometimes it’s  the little things that make a big difference.  In the closing seconds of the third, juan wanted to sub Courtney Lee in for Mike O’Donnell, but Courtney waved it off, and Mike hit a rainbow three from the deep corner at the buzzer to put us up 7.  B Rich struggled for much of the game, but hit three big threes to maintain the lead before succumbing to a foot injury.  Juan drew up a “play called Indians where everyone runs around in a circle”, and Rocky Trice blocked 4 shots in the second half and stole the ball at the buzzer to seal the 92-91 win.

At 12-0, we stand atop the league. 

There is a haphazard way in which our roster comes together for each game, but our bond is deep forged in some instances from childhood friendships to a contemporaneous, but common vision of the game.

State Cup Champs

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52 weeks ago, Leg A-Z played in the State Cup Final and lost 6-0. Reaching the final is an accomplishment of no small signficance which makes the opportunity to win such a game that much more precious, and to lose it so badly, all the more devastating. Losing 6-0 resonates much differently that a one goal or shootout loss, where you can endlessly replay moments of the game that could have turned the result. It is an endlessly hollow, hazy recollection of an event that feels more like something you witnessed than actually participated in, and that’s undoubtedly a defense mechanism to distance one’s recollection from the reality of such a profound failure.

Bryson joined the team in December, scarred not by the 6-0 Final’s loss, but by having served half a season in something resembling soccer hell. The culture of his former team was an odd mix of detached, dispassionate coaching and tactical/sporting indiscipline that wore on his passion for the game, and my will to live.

Leg A-Z is different. It is a small club in Gainesville, Florida coached by Darnell Bernier. Darnell cares about his craft, this team and having lost the State Cup Final 6-0. The nucleus of the team is from Gainesville and Ocala, but we travel from Orlando, our goalie from Stuart, a midfielder from Spring Hill and our striker from Fort Walton Beach. Bryson now plays with 5 of his state of Florida ODP teammates, who have traveled across the country and to Europe together.

The team showed well at the Disney Showcase in December placing third in their flight, and rolled through the Weston Cup in February winning all five games, but it has been clear throughout that the State Cup was the prize.

Our opening game was in Tallahasse against the Gulf Coast Texans. Our striker, Nelson Hunsinger, used to play for the Texans, and scored our first two goals in a comfortable 5-1 romp.

Our final two games of group play were in Miami the following weekend. We beat Lakeland FC 2-0 to advance to the sweet 16, but lost to Coral Gables 0-1 in our final group game assuring that we would be a second seed from the group. The Coral Gables game was distressing. We conceded a soft goal midway through the first half, and struggled to generate any meaningful chances. It seemed to suggest a blueprint for beating us, and asked questions of our capacity to play from behind.

Our sweet 16 game was against IMG, who won a difficult group. IMG was physical and took the game to us for much of the day, but could not score despite hitting the crossbar well into the second half. As regulation time would down, it was evident that this would be a one goal game, and may end in a penalty shoot out, but with 7 minutes left, Trey Jackson struck a wonderful dipping free kick that baffled the IMG keeper before hitting the post and finding the back of the net. On the whole, we were probably on the back foot more than the front foot, and it felt like an escape. The following day, we beat overmatched Ponte Vedra 3-1 to reach the final four.

In the semifinal, we played Plantation FC. We kicked off, but seemed unusually shaky through a series of back passes before turning the ball over for a goal. Plantation led 1-0 45 seconds into the match, and it seemed possible another 6-0 disaster could be underway. We wobbled about for the next ten minutes before finding our footing. Chris Fregley put away a cross to the tie the game, and a few minutes later Daniel Wear earned a penalty that was converted by TC Anderson for a 2-1 advantage. We were denied a penalty a few minutes later, but led 2-1 at the half and had established control over the game. Midway through the half, Trey Jackson found Wear on a free kick for our third unanswered goal. Plantation pulled a goal back with about ten minutes to play, but Jackson responded with a volley making it 4-2.

Back to the final, and the weight of last year’s failure reached critical mass. From the opening minute, this match against FKK had the feel of a tight, tactical game that would be decided by a mistake. Both teams were well-versed in each other’s strengths, and the first 80 minutes produced very little in the way of clear chances. With extra time seeming increasingly likely, the decisive mistake came. A misplayed ball in the back sent Daniel Wear through and he slid the ball inside the far post.

Jubilation, ten minutes of defending, and more definitive jubilation followed.

Leg A-Z is Florida State Cup Champions!

I did not play any minutes, assist or score any goals, but I am so happy and proud. I am obviously proud of my son for his contribution to the success of the team, but very much for the whole group.

I do not generally emote very well particularly when the emotion requires more than four letter words so for me there is always a bit of awkwardness to balancing the celebration with my feelings. I was compelled to seek out Darnell after the podium ceremony. He had taken several pictures and was sitting in the grass a few feet away from anyone else. I approached and shook his hand thanking him for his work with Bryson and this team. He responded politely and then looking out into the distance said more to himself than to me, “it’s been a long journey.” Though I had only been a peripheral part of the journey for a few months, it is a credit to his sincerity and transparency that in that moment it felt I had been along for much longer.

Spurs

I love my family…couldn't ask for a better group #spurforlife

A post shared by Danny Green (@greenranger14) on

I was scrolling through Instagram this morning when I came upon this picture posted by Danny Green.  I do not know when the picture was taken or to the extent it was posed, but I could not stop looking at it.  It was everything Spurs.

There is Tony Parker sidled up next to the only female in the shot, assistant coach Becky Hammond, raising interesting carnal questions. 

Manu on the periphery with his arm around a staff member framing the photo and speaking to the inclusive yet exclusive nature of the Spurs culture.

Kawhi is in the back literally out of view, but present in his unassuming way.

Boris is smug as always.

George Hill makes a cameo, but doesn’t  look out of place which made me think of a Bill Simmons anecdote about Pop inviting Avery Johnson to a midseason team dinner as though he were still an active member of the team.

In the center, poetically, are Pop and Tim.  Pop extending an arm to touch Tim, and Tim front and center, yet bending over to simultaneously accommodate the group.

They are obviously not in uniform, and Green’s caption mentions family.  It is fitting.  Their longevity, their titles and their losses have made them one.  I hope with all that makes me a sports fan, and all that makes me human we see them compete again.