Archive for the ‘graduation (HS and college)’ Category

The “Book” on Coaching Decisions Might Need a Rewrite

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

With 3:28 to go in last night’s Chargers-Colts game, Indianapolis was backed up on their own 18 yard line, 4th and 2, down 16-9.  Jon Gruden, as good as he is at analyzing a game, was silent when the Colts decided to punt.  The kick was a poor one, only 34 yards to the Chargers 48 but even if it was 64 yards, i.e. to their 18, would it really have mattered?

Both play-by-play man Mike Tirico and partner Gruden had shared with the viewing audience that the Colts’ defense was decimated with injuries (some that occurred that evening) with the latter pointing out the mistakes made by the guys from Indy who were forced into action.  Why did the Colts’ coaching staff feel, even with three times out and the 2:00 minute warning left, that their banged up defense could stop San Diego when it mattered?  Was it a macho thing – or one “by-the-book?”

Sure enough, the Chargers got a first down, ran more clock, got into field goal range and shunned Gruden’s worries about having the kick blocked or missing the 51-yarder and giving Andrew Luck such good field position (at his own 34).  The made FG gave San Diego an insurmountable 19-9 lead with a little over a minute to go.

One thing that bothers me greatly – and I have mentioned it time and time again – is second guessing coaches and yet here I am doing it.  Actually, I felt this way while I was watching and have a couple of witnesses in case someone challenges my veracity.  What this blog is about is the way so many coaches – even at the professional level – seem to think during crucial situations.  Last night’s Colts-Chargers game was a classic example of how coaches make decisions based on an archaic strategical book that, often, fails to take into account reality.

Example 1: It was 4th and 2 with 3:28 to go and, while the Colts’ defense had only given up one touchdown and three field goals up to that point, they had to have more confidence in Andrew Luck converting two yards, and continuing their drive, than hoping a tired defense would force a three-and-out.  Even it if was from their own 18.  OK, if they don’t make a first down, it’s a loss but, . . . Andrew Luck, the face of your organization, the man you felt comfortable enough to take over re-signing Peyton Manning (knowing you’d have to let him go if you did), with the game on the line, needing two yards, c’mon man, you’ve got to play to your strength.

Example 2: With 4th and a foot and the running game moving “downhill” most of the night, why take a chance on a field goal – and the bad things Gruden pointed out: a block or a miss, giving good field position to Andrew Luck?  If your “O” line has dominated the game, isn’t that a slap in their collective faces when they’re told “the book” says not to go for it?

I haven’t coached football in over 40 years, yet I watch games more as a coach than a fan (it’s pretty much how I watch all athletic contests).  The coaching decisions – and how the players play the game – interest me more than anything else.

Maybe football coaches should follow the words of the late Steve Jobs – from his commencement speech to Stanford (Andrew Luck could have told them):

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” 

News of Sandusky Retrial Bring Memories of JoePa

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

Since some time has passed since the investigation at Penn State, possibly the feelings of hatred and disgust toward Joe Paterno have somewhat lessened.  Toward Jerry Sandusky, no, but toward JoePa, . . . maybe.

From a personal standpoint, I had never met Joe Paterno.  When I was in high school (Highland Park, NJ), the dream school for most Jersey kids was USC.  I mean, every cereal box had contests with the grand prize a trip to Disneyland, or Universal Studios, or Paramount, wherever.  At long as it was in California.  Having lived the past 19 years in Fresno, a word to the wise back east: not everyplace in Cali is LA.  Or SF.  Or SD.

The more realistic goal, however, for the mecca of football for great NJ footballers was, hands down, Penn State.  During my senior year, the head coach of the Nittany Lions was Rip Engle (yeah, I go back a ways).  But his energetic assistant, Joe Paterno, was to be named the following season (1966) to lead Penn State.  Paterno’s reputation as a football mind and a guy who was going to work his players so each would improve and succeed – if not on the field than off it after graduation (there was never talk of a kid going to Happy Valley and not coming away with at least a degree, and usually a good job).

People (naturally, Italians, of which there were no shortage of great ones) would walk to University Park if offered the opportunity to, not only play at Penn State but, more importantly, for JoePa himself.  His style was a throw back – simple uniforms (blue and white), no names on the back, discipline, etc. and, even more than the prospects, the parents loved and would be honored to have Coach Paterno as their son’s leader for the next four years.

Fast forward 40 or so years, with the discovery of the horrific and immoral acts Sandusky had been committing, and who else goes down with the scandal but Joe Paterno.  And, if his actions, or rather lack of them, as reported, are true, he certainly shared heavily in the blame.  As is the case, though, with a good portion of today’s society, people absolutely reveled in piling on the “Joe Paterno is a terrible person bandwagon.”

My point, now that the smoke has cleared, is that, of course, JoePa should have done more.  However, that lack of action, while reprehensible, should not negate all the good and positive acts of Joe Paterno’s legacy.  From the thousands of lives he touched in a good way to the millions of dollars he raised for the university and all the accomplishments in between, not least of all his (yes, I truly think he was the catalyst) changing the school from an agricultural college into a world class institution.  If your stance on Joe Paterno is that you can’t forgive him for what he failed to do in the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case, I sure hope your legacy is greater than “I never allowed a child to be raped during my entire career.

Acting in such a manner, i.e. disregarding the overwhelming amount of true good he accomplished in comparison to the negligible amount of positive effect you can claim would be sinful and a perfect example of the late Stephen Covey’s famous line:

“We judge others by their actions; ourselves by our intentions.”

Finding Messages While Rummaging Through Old Files

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

As I mentioned in this past Sunday’s post, our house guest, Albert Van Troba (see the blog from 8/15/13 also), helped us clean our garage.  He is a whirlwind and before we knew it, space was created and his easel was up holding his current project – with his tables for brushes and paints, as well as another easel with another partially completed soon-to-be masterpiece, at his ready.  (If you think I’m overstating his talents, click on

One of my boxes that had to be moved was full of interesting articles and quotes that could be used for possible future blogs (you don’t think I knock these out without help and/or research, do you?)  As I went through it, I saw several items had become outdated but that others, even though they were from quite a while ago, were stories whose point is as poignant now as it was then.

One, in particular, was a Sports Illustrated story about former Oakland Raiders running back Napoleon McCallum.  Granted, McCallum’s was a different type story in that he attended the United States Naval Academy.  He was drafted with the 108th pick in the 1986 draft and, incredibly, during his rookie season, he was also serving on a Naval helicopter carrier.  The three years that followed saw the NFL play on without him while he fulfilled his Naval obligations.  To miss three years in the prime of a running back’s career is a difficult pill to swallow for a young guy but McCallum understood his situation and no one ever heard him complain – about serving his country.  He returned the NFL for the 1990 season.

In a 1994 Monday Night Football game, however, his career was cut short by a gruesome injury.  An injury in which he nearly lost his leg.  He said it was at that time that reality set in.  Yet, his attitude made everyone proud.

Wouldn’t it be great if every professional football and basketball player could make the same statement that Napoleon McCallum did when his playing career ended?  Let’s keep in mind they all can:

“Luckily, I had the benefit of an education.”

My Tennis Career and Why I Root for Roger Federer

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Prior to my first two back surgeries, I played tennis quite often.  Mike DePalmer and I got to the University of Tennessee the same year (1980) and we struck up a friendship that continues to this day.  While neither of us could cover a five foot square area now, back then we had some relatively intense matches.  Neither Mike nor I were particularly skilled on the court but one thing about tennis is that you can always find someone who is near enough your level, thereby producing some close, competitive matches.

Mike is an incredible guy of the highest integrity.  Originally from upstate New York, but transplanted to Florida, his coaching career began in basketball in the junior college ranks where he had a ton of immediate success.  His ties to tennis were stronger and one day, he and a friend decided to start a tennis school for aspiring young players.  There were, I believe, six kids who made up the initial “class” – his son, Mike Jr, Jimmy Arias, Aaron Krickstein, Paul Annacone and a couple others whose names currently escape me.  They all lived in Mike’s house.  While his name isn’t as familiar as his friend’s, Mike DePalmer Sr is, nonetheless, in the National Tennis Hall of Fame.

His friend’s name is Nick Bollettieri.

In 1980, when Mike Jr graduated from high school, he signed to play tennis at the University of Arkansas.  Although the tennis coach of the Razorbacks was a close friend, Mike Sr began to have second thoughts.  He’d coached (groomed) his son (the oldest of his and his wife, Vicky’s four children, a girl and two other boys followed) from two or three until the present.  When the UT job opened (in a strange twist, Mike was offered the Vanderbilt tennis coaching position and turned it down, only to have the Commodores offer the job to the Vols’ coach), he took it.  Mike Jr changed his college destination and the DePalmers became Volunteers – along with Paul Annacone the following year.  Note: If the NCAA knew Paul had stayed at Mike’s house when he was young, . . . never mind, the statute of limitations on that infraction is definitely up by now.

In the meantime, friend Nick went on to “expand” their fledgling “academy” which, a few years ago, was bought by IMG.  No juicy story, however, Mike and Nick still remain close.

As far as why I like Roger Federer, well, I had been a fan anyway when, one day, a mother of one of our son’s (Alex’s) classmates said she thought Alex looked like Federer.  Then another parent and another.  One day, Alex told us a story that a group of kids were standing together when a girl in the group told Alex that she thought he looked exactly like this guy she saw.  “Wait right there,” she said as she ran off.  Minutes later, she returned with a magazine and pointed to a picture in it.  “Him,” she said.  The guy in the mag was, sure enough, RF.

I wrote this for a few reasons: 1) Mike DePalmer told me he’d mention me to his friends back in Knoxville if I’d write something nice about him.  Every word I wrote about him is true.  I can only hope he’s pumping me up a little more, y’know, because I don’t have that HOF thing and didn’t have near the success coaching basketball that he did coaching tennis.  Heck, I didn’t have the success coaching basketball that he did coaching basketball!  

2)  Since my competitive juices are now limited to physical therapy, recumbent cycle and sudokus, I wanted to get the word out that, at one time, I was a decent tennis player.  Wish I could say the same about my brief golfing foray.

3) That I have a son who looks like a guy who was #1 in the world – and a nice guy to boot.

4) How much more can be written about the Spurs-Heat series?

After speaking to the wonderful, bright and hard working people of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District yesterday, I needed a reminder that:

“You would do well to remember that the entire population of the universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.”

Turning Pro? Have These Young Kids Gone Crazy?

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Every day the list of those underclassmen who are making themselves eligible for the NBA draft lengthens.  While nearly every person I’ve talked to, listened to or read has said the national championship game between Michigan and Louisville was terrific, nearly all of them thought this year’s March Madness was one of the poorest in terms of exciting, well-played games.  Emphasis on well-played.  Maybe this year was an aberration in terms of all we’ve come to expect from March Madness or maybe the absurd number of early exits has finally caught up with the college game.  If that actually were the case, the deterioration should have happened well before now but there’s no questioning this year’s NCAA tournament was as poorly played as any in memory.

One reason could be that, usually, experience makes offenses and defenses work better.  Those teams who are composed mainly of seniors, some fifth and sixth year seniors or guys who are as old as 24 or 25, are more mature, understand the intricacies better and have greater chemistry than a group of freshmen who just got thrown together and have played a total of thirty or so games, barring injuries.  How, then, a cynic or a fan might ask, could Kentucky have won the national championship a couple years ago?

Simple.  John Calipari is a master at leading and motivating a young group, getting them all to buy into his philosophy.  However, here is a life lesson that needs to be learned and never forgotten: Above all else, talent wins out.  He recruited them, motivated them and coached them.  Had Nerlens Noel not suffered a seasoning ending injury, we might have seen those results for a second straight season.  Can one man mean that much to a team?  For that answer watch the Lakers from here on out.  Especially if they make the playoffs.  Can anyone even fathom how good Kentucky would have been, forget this year’s incoming class, if the team that won it all – relatively easily – had all returned to UK for another run?  And another?  I started my college coaching career in 1972.  That was what UCLA did.  Beat everybody to death and recruited to fill the spots left by graduation.  Simple formula that worked for quite a while.

Undoubtedly, the early entry rule changed the player’s thought process but what really flipped the college game was the color green.  The talk of giving a college kid a stipend is nice – for the good players who are planning on going to school for four years anyway.  Does anybody really think a stipend is going to change a kid’s mind when he’s looking at the possibility of a six or seven figure contract?  If he can’t make the right decision there, maybe he’s not smart enough to be in college.

Louisville’s Russ Smith has declared for the draft even though most who make up mock drafts have him going mid- to late-second round, meaning no guaranteed money.  You think he’d change his mind if the NCAA passed a $300/month stipend?  $400?  $500?  Maybe, as the old joke goes, “he loves college but hates class.”  What compounds the problem is the timing of when to leave.  OK, most guys are going to go as soon as they can.  There are others, though, who realize they need some more seasoning and another year (or more) under their current “professor” would make them a much better and more ready prospect.  And that’s where the timing dilemma comes in.

Take, for example, this year.  I don’t pretend to know even one foreign prospect.  I leave that up to my man Franny Frascilla who can tell you all of them.  As far as the college players who comprise this year’s crop, there’s not one who doesn’t have “holes” in his game?  The consensus number one pick is Nerlens Noel who’s intercollegiate career was limited to 24 games.  Even if a team is comfortable with the brief showing of his considerable skills, there has to be a concern regarding the injury.  One, did it heal properly and two, is he injury-prone, e.g. Grant Hill, Darko Milicic or the two guys no one can ever forget – Greg Oden and Sam Bowie?

The rest?  In no particular order (since different mock drafts have them in different order), the guys who are consensus top picks are: Ben McLemore, Marcus Smart, Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, Anthony Bennett, Trey Burke, Shabazz Muhammed, Cody Zeller, Alex Len.  Let’s not forget Isaiah Austin.  He hits home because he played with my younger son, Alex, back in the 5th grade AAU days.  What makes it particularly difficult when I evaluate him is that he looks exactly the same as he did when he was ten!  From the long, lanky arms and legs to the same goggles, it’s like watching him through a magnifying glass.  There is little doubt he’s going to be a great one just as there’s little doubt he’s not NBA-ready.  Ready to start banging his slender body with the 25-30 year old men who’ve been in the league for several years, taking advantage of all the professional strength trainers and facilities.  I’m sure Baylor’s facilities are first-class, but if they were placed side by side, I’m certain the state-of-the-art NBA equipment is far superior.  Plus, the NBA isn’t limited as to how much time – or when – coaches can work with players, as do NCAA-affiliated institutions.

Having watched each of the above guys, some on multiple occasions, my belief is none of these guys are NBA-ready.  Yet they’re going to get picked high.  Why?  Because, if they all stayed in college and worked on their skills, strength and stamina . . . here is what the draft would look like: Mason Plumlee, CJ McCollum, Mike Muscala, Jeff Withey, Erick Green, Nate Wolters, Jackie Carmichael, Solomon Hill, Michael Snaer, Brandon Paul, Eric Murphy, Pierre Jackson, Richard Howell, Isaiah Canaan, Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and a whole lot of Franny’s guys from overseas.  And unless Fran has uncovered some real gems, many of those names listed would be lottery picks.  Each of those players are good prospects, but if the thought of your favorite team using a lottery pick on any of them gives you a warm a feeling, check your pants leg because you might have just . . .

There is another reason guys leave school early and this one you won’t find anywhere but right here.  My firm belief is that the real reason people go to college is not to get an education.  The real reason is:

“These kids go to college to improve their station in life, and with what the NBA is paying – even if their careers are short-lived – it is a considerable improvement of their station in life.”

Sometimes a Dad Just Has to Brag

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Unless you’re a person like George Washington, Thomas Edison, Ludwig van Beethoven or someone else who’s given something to the world that will never be forgotten, your legacy is your kids.  Chances are you did your own thing for a while (longer for some of us than others) and then decided to settle down and do what your parents had been bugging you about.  Which included having kids.

I fit into that category, but was one of those who started settling down late.  I waited to get married until I was almost 39.  My wife, Jane, and I had two boys.  We never really thought about what we’d do when they grew up because we got so used to having them around.  Andy was the first to leave, attending UC-Irvine and graduating with a BA in four years.  As if that wasn’t amazing enough, he immediately found employment, albeit as a salesman whose job description contained a good deal of cold calling.  This meant walking past “No Soliciting” signs on many occasions and getting cursed out often by owners (once, in front of the guy’s five-year-old son).

The greatest aspect of that gig, though, turned out to be its training – which helped Andy with his current job as Sales Executive at a company named Booker which sells software, mainly to spas, health clubs, etc.  Keep in mind, what I know about technology can be put on the head of a pin – with a little room left over.  But the fact that I have a 24-year-old who’s living on his own (in Orange County), has a good paying job (with benefits and commissions), is debt-free (we followed wise advice and started early but he’s been smart too) absolutely thrills me no end.  He’s active in his fraternity (SAE), loves golf (which I wish I’d taken up earlier) and is living the dream.

Alex came along five years later and early on, it was evident that he had exceptional hand/eye coordination.  My last coaching job was at the high school level so understand I’m aware that parents think highly of their kids’ athletic prowess.  Alex, however, does have the numbers – and the awards – to back up my beliefs.  He finished his high school career as the all-time leading scorer in the history of, not only his high school (Buchanan) but the entire Clovis Unified School District.  For that matter, he scored more than anybody who ever played in the Fresno Unified School District.  He finished as the sixth leading scorer in the history of the San Joaquin Valley.

Many thought he’d wind up at a Division I institution – including several scouts and professional coaches – but, while he had some D-I interest, at none of those schools did he feel comfortable.  He played very well during an April evaluation period and was contacted immediately by Cal State Monterey Bay.  An official visit followed that next weekend and he found a match.  His play this year was good enough (he averaged 13.4 ppg) for him to be named Freshman of the Year in the conference (he finished 6th in the league in total points scored) and, just yesterday, received notification that he was named to the Division II Bulletin All-Freshman team, the only player from the West region to be so named. He is the first Monterey Bay player to receive that distinction.

I know all of this sounds like I might throw out my shoulder patting myself on the back so hard, but as Satchel Paige once said:

“It ain’t braggin’ if you kin do it.”

What To Do If the One-&-Done Rule CAN’T Be Repealed

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

It doesn’t surprise anybody when I tell them the pull I have with the NCAA and the NBA is equal to the juice I have with the White House.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have a better idea when it comes to the (admitted) problem of the NCAA’s one-and-done student-athlete.  While the following post (which, by the way, I first blogged on 5/3/2010 and altered a little here) certainly could use further tweaking, it’s exponentially superior to whatever has been proposed thus far.  Plus, it’s not illegal nor does it break any NBAPA rule.  Read and let me know what you think.  Better yet, contact the NBA office.  Especially if you have clout.

So many people are up in arms regarding the NBA rule that forces a high school player to attend college for at least a year before heading to the big league.  Of course, there are alternatives, but many are pretty radical, e.g. playing overseas ala Brandon Jennings.  While it (ultimately) worked out for Jennings (keep in mind he had a terrible experience over there), others have tried and haven’t been as successful as the Bucks’ star.

If memory serves me correctly (and at this age, that being true is a toss up), David Stern said the rule is in place due to some “legalese,” i.e. he’s not too thrilled about it either, but it’s the best of all evils.  With that in mind, it means that the “road most traveled” will be to enter college for at least (and for some, at most) one year.  My claim is that the current situation can be changed for the betterment of . . . everybody.

The why are we whining about it?  Let’s deal with it.  How?  Make college more relevant to these guys.  If they are as talented as they think they are (and as influential outsiders are telling them they are), then the school’s goal should be to help them – just like colleges are helping all other students.  As I initially blogged on 5/6/07 (and have reprinted that post at least once), the reason kids go to college is not for an education, but to improve their station in life.

The one-and-dones are going to college because they have to – and once the sand runs out of that year-long hour glass, color them gone – for the big money.  If that actually is the reality – and for the great ones, it is – why not give them a curriculum to prepare them for the life they’re about to enter, e.g. show them there is relevance for them to attend college!  Why not create a major in the field.  Put off the general education classes temporarily and offer them (and any other student at the university for that matter) courses in 1) money management (including the value of philanthropy for those who really hit the jackpot), 2) how to select advisers (mentors, agents, and, although, it could be a sensitive area, friends), 3) how to deal with the media and use it to their advantage, 4) women’s rights, including “no means no” (this should be mandatory for many students in the wake of today’s front page stories), 5) nutrition, 6) maintaining physical fitness, 7) accepting (embracing) the responsibility of being a role model and acting appropriately (whether they want to or not, athletes are role models) and 8 since NBA players don’t have normal 8-hour work days, nor do they play year-round, a course in how to productively use “down-time” (from doing crosswords and sudokus to keep the mind active, to reading up on a topic of interest, to tennis and golf, to . . . whatever)?  Many other course possibilities exist if people at the top (maybe create a mastermind group) would put their heads together.  For the kid who doesn’t get drafted or realizes he’s not yet ready, or better yet, realizes a college degree might be a necessity, and at the very least, certainly wouldn’t hurt, the sophomore year can be devoted to catching up on general ed classes.

What this does is give an extremely talented (in the sport of basketball) young man something that he can actually see will help him in his life after basketball.  Although Charles Barkley is a one-of-a-kind, e.g. an out-of-shape kid who eschewed attending classes, he became one of the 50 best players in the NBA and has been inducted into both the intercollegiate and NBA Halls of Fame.  He has managed to make a great life for himself, currently serving as a studio analyst for both the NCAA and NBA as well as a pitchman for several products.  That is, he’s making a lot of money.  However, for every Charles Barkley, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of kids who never played a second of pro ball, nor cashed an NBA paycheck.

One night a few years ago, the guys on the set of TNT’s NBA game night studio show were giving Sir Charles a hard time about the (lack of an) Auburn education he got and leaving the school without a degree.  Charles had a pretty good comeback (which may only apply to him):

“I don’t have a degree – but a lot of people who work for me do.”

A Great Source of Parental Pride

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Whenever parents are blessed with a child, a gigantic responsibility follows.  I can remember a child psychology course I took in college in which the professor told us there were three philosophies regarding how to raise children.  “Unfortunately,” he said, “none of them work.”  I’ve yet to meet a parent who disagrees with my former prof.

As your kids grow up, independent of the child, there are good and bad times.  Your hope is that the good outnumber the bad – by a significant amount.  There are many moments in a child’s life that put a smile on your face.  In the beginning, they’re first steps and first words.  Later on, they make it to the refrigerator.  Depending on your child’s interests, the events that follow come from different areas of academia, extra curricular, community service, etc.

A gratifying, yet somewhat frightful time, is when your child leaves for college.  You realize you’re about to find out how your parenting skills measure up.  When the alarm sounds for that morning class, does he (in my family, there are only he’s involved) get ready – or turn it off and roll over?  At that time, you, as a parent, have no control.  Your influence happened long before then.

The crowning achievement for any child who attends college is graduation day.  As for parents, the feeling is one of exilharation.  You reflect on memories and realize the tremendous accomplishment.  Last Sunday, at the University of California-Irvine, our older son, Andy, walked across the stage at the Bren Center to receive his degree.  My wife and I might not have been the proudest parents in the building, but we were definitely tied for first.

Since I’ve always been in the business of giving advice, here’s some I borrowed from Ben Franklin – for our college grad, and all the others:

By improving yourself, the world is made better.  Be not afraid of growing too slowly, be afraid only of standing still.  Forget your mistakes but remember what they taught you.”

The Wisdom of Charles Barkley

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Throughout Charles Barkley’s career at Auburn, I was an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee.  He was amazing to watch.  You couldn’t believe a guy with that body could get up in the air so fast and so high.  It was almost like he was made out of helium.

Our staff was close with the Auburn coaches and they regaled us with Barkley stories that, if we didn’t know them so well, we’d swear the tales had to be apocryphal.  Yet, here’s a guy who never got his degree – or is even close to one – who has made a great living for himself – after he retired from the game.

While Charles didn’t hit the books very hard (or at all), in addition to being extremely entertaining, he is quite insightful in the ways of the NBA world.  The perfect example of taking what he learned in his first job and adding common sense to come up with opinions that have a good deal of substance.

Regarding the area of players coming out of college early – in particular the one-and-dones – Barkley’s quote in the 4/11/11 issue of Sports Illustrated sums up the situation as well as anyone could:

“It’s ruining the NBA.  The draft is designed for bad teams to get better, not to draft someone who’s going to be better in five years.  It ruins the integrity of the game.”

Central High’s Decision Defies Logic

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

It was reported in the Fresno Bee in December, 2010 that several of the members of the boys’ basketball team at Central High School were caught smoking marijuana in a hotel room.  The team was playing in an out-of-town tournament and one of the CHS coaches, apparently during a bed check, made the discovery.

Child psychologists claim that the reason teenagers take such risks is because . . . they’re teenagers, and teenagers experiment.  While this might be an explanation for the boys’ actions, it shouldn’t detract from the fact that smoking marijuana (for now, at least) is against the law as well as being detrimental to a person’s body.  Although what smoking marijuana might lead to is debatable, no one ever made a case for it being helpful

Central took immediate disciplinary action.  The team forfeited the remainder of their tournament games and promptly returned to Fresno.  The school district then made public their punishment – dismiss the boys from the squad – and expel them from school!  Many of these youngsters lived for basketball.  Wouldn’t taking away their love send a clear enough message?  Throwing them out of school seemed to be compounding the problem.

Did these administrators (many of whom are probably from the Baby Boomer generation – one notorious for anti-establishment behavior during their teenage years, which might have included some episodes of . . . MaryJane?) stop and think that such a severe punishment could lead to even worse consequences?  What do these “educational leaders” believe – that these kids will feel they learned a lesson and will now spend their newfound free time in the local library?

I have spoken to many people about this, including some who were directly involved in the incident, and explained what I thought the decision ought to have been.  While not a scientific survey, no one has disagreed.  It would be fair to kick the boys off the team but, rather than take away their high school education too, they should have been made to attend additional schooling – in the way of Saturday School, after school (and possibly lunch) detention and a mandatory course detailing the dangers of drugs.

Educate them that their poor judgment created consequences, even if their mistake was mere experimentation (and in some of the cases, it may have been exactly that).  The lessons were 1) they could no longer compete in the game they loved and 2) that they obviously needed additional instruction in determining right from wrong – and the school was going to help them do that.  This would have allowed the seniors to graduate with their fellow classmates and given a strong warning to the underclassmen regarding any future transgressions.

Too often, actions like these are taken for politically correct reasons.  The school district has set a precedent in its ruling and if it thinks that these kids are the only ones at Central High who dabble in drugs, they’re could be in for a rude awakening.  

In all, cooler heads (at the administrative level) should have prevailed.  It’s my belief the administration let these youngsters – and their families – down.  It’s a case of: 

“Some people take themselves too seriously and their jobs too lightly.”