- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
When our team—we were called the Nets—took the floor on Saturday, I had to agree that Michael's assessment of its size, speed and sharpshooting skills had been pretty accurate. But he had failed to mention the kids' confusion as to the nature of the game. When they weren't running around randomly, they were standing around randomly. On offense, one of our little—very little—guards would dribble, eyes focused intently on the bouncing ball, while the other four players circled him, yelling for the ball. When he stopped dribbling, he found himself surrounded by teammates and defenders, a tangled mass of children pawing and swatting at the ball. These offensive thrusts typically terminated in an intercepted pass, a traveling violation, or, most frequently, a wild heave in the general direction of the basket.
But I behaved myself very well that first day. I violated none of my self-imposed rules. I substituted democratically, spoke only encouraging words, and minimized the importance of winning.
Just as well, too. We lost 38-16.
At our first practice, the following Thursday, I gathered the players around me. "We'll start with some fundamentals," I told them. I held up a ball. "This," I said earnestly, "is a basketball." They stared at it and nodded solemnly.
I smiled, hoping to indicate that my intention had been humorous. Then I shrugged. "The main problem that I saw with the game," I continued, "was with the offense. You played good, aggressive defense. They just happened to make a lot of nice shots, that's all. But on offense you didn't work together. You were disorganized. You just ran around a lot." The image that came to mind was a flock of headless chickens. That struck me as needlessly vivid. "Like a bunch of Pac-Men," I told them.
They nodded some more.
So I gave them an offense. I explained the principles of playing positions, setting up screens and moving without the ball. We learned about the high post and the low post, point guards and wingmen. We practiced floor balance and the old give-and-go. We even walked through a couple of real plays without defenders. They were designed to produce unmolested layups. After a while they seemed to work, although the kids tended to miss the layups. But I was pleased with the kids. They listened carefully and tried hard.
And the following Saturday they ran around like a bunch of Pac-Men. Final score: 44-21.
"It's getting tough," I told my wife. "We're not even competitive. I don't think I'm going to make it. We're going to go the whole season without even being in a ball game, and I'm going to start screaming and sulking and cursing the officials, and Michael will end up resenting me, and the kids will hate basketball forever, and we'll all just be embarrassed."
"You're doing fine," she said.