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

Another Winning Feeling

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

With younger son, Alex, leaving to embark on a professional basketball career in Australia later this week – and the stress level rising – this blog will be suspended until next week – June 1.

At this time of the year, winning is nearly all everybody in the sports world thinks about (although I guess that’s true for any time of the year). The NBA Playoffs are underway and nobody wants to “go fishin’.” Major League Baseball teams are desperately trying to get off to a great start (see the Cubs) or, at the very least, are trying not to be eliminated by July (because that becomes a really long summer). On the PGA Tour golfers are grinding away too, except each one has to beat the entire field in order to win. Same for professional tennis players.

Fans of each of those sports, which includes me, are tuned in daily to whatever is televised or listening while driving (to sports talk, if not live action), plus checking results in the paper or online. Hey, whether your team wins or loses is important stuff. But, as hard as it is to believe (especially if you’re a Raptors’ fan), there are other things in life that are even more important than your team winning. I experienced one of them last Saturday.

My wife, Jane, and I have two sons. Our older son, Andy, graduated from the University of California, Irvine in 2011. It was quite a happening, seeing your first born participate in a real college commencement – realizing he had grown from the toddler we raised to a wide-eyed elementary school kid, to a know-it-all middle schooler, to a guy who wanted to prove he could be trusted, e.g. driving and later curfews, to a young man who actually got it done all on his own, away from home.

I had preached to him that business was the degree he needed to pursue since he didn’t have a burning desire for any specific career, e.g. medicine, law, teaching, social work. So he majored in political science (an academic area he enjoyed studying) – and then began working in the sales industry. He improved his position in the business world with each job move (four in all). A couple months ago, he was hired at SalesForce, a $49 billion company which Fortune 100 rated as the eighth best company to work for in the nation. His on-target earnings for this year dwarf my best salary. Better than that, he loves his work. Andy is on his way to a successful life, being a confident sales executive, yet someone who has remembered the life values we instilled in him throughout the years.

Upholding the family tradition, Alex, too, got through college in four years (something expected in my generation but remarkable in today’s). His college experience was somewhat different in that he was a recruited athlete. Not surprisingly, our favorite team was the California State University, Monterey Bay basketball guys. Jane and I would travel to Otters’ games throughout his four years, missing only a handful of them (including a three-game tournament in Alaska his freshman season). His major was business from the start. Of all the areas of business, he enjoyed marketing most, so his B.S. in Business has a marketing concentration.

Alex worked hard on the court as well and wound up statistically as the school’s leader in points and steals, third in assists and fourth in rebounding. More importantly, the team’s win total increased in each of his four years. Now, he has an opportunity to play professionally in Australia’s Queensland Basketball League. A week after his graduation, he’s off to give it a “shot” down under.

The feeling that went through me (other than pain because the commencement was held outdoors at the track stadium and we had to sit on concrete bleachers) was different than it was at Andy’s graduation ceremonies. During each, there was a tremendous sense of pride, both for our sons, who had achieved a goal and for us who, if nothing else, were parents of college grads. For the first one, it was a sense of accomplishment; for the last, a feeling of completion. No one is sure exactly how to define success for a parent, but when you have two children and both of them earn college degrees, that’s gotta count for something.

During the commencement exercises, I could have sworn I heard my late mother’s message to me when I was around 10 years old. Never was it more true than last Saturday:

“The world is made up of things besides sports.”

The Enigma Facing Most of the NBA Franchises

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Two items of business: first, a personal emergency caused me not to blog yesterday. I was in such a rush, I didn’t have time to alert readers and for that, I apologize. Secondly, it’s that time of the year when all the work, blood, sweat, tears and money come to fruition. Yep, college graduation. Younger son, Alex, dons the cap and gown at Cal State Monterey Bay. An academic presentation by him and his group is first, then final residence check out, a grad party or two and the actual commencement ceremony wrap up the week.

For all of those reasons, this blog will take a week hiatus and will return on Tuesday, May 24.

Tracy McGrady made a statement that appalled many, was applauded by many, and is nothing that hasn’t been said before – as in when he was playing. When asked about Steph Curry and his unanimous MVP award, T-Mac said, “Just tells you how watered down our league is. Seriously, think about when MJ played, Shaq. Those guys really played against top-notch competition, more superstars on more teams than it is in our league today. But it’s well deserved; he had a hell of a season.

Big of him to acknowledge the Curry had a hell of a season, wasn’t it? In addition, he was just saying that the vote was unanimous because there aren’t the players in the league that there were when he was in it, trying to point out that the stats accomplished by Curry were done so because there are so many inferior players in the league now, what with expansion and all. That a guy like LeBron James doesn’t provide worthy enough competition?

His comment isn’t as controversial as it seems for the simple reason there are claims like that made every year – made by players from previous generations. Not only that but there is little doubt, today’s players will fully agree with him – years down the road, i.e. after their careers are over and it’s time for them to reminisce. Hey, imagine what the really old timers think. Back when they played, there were only eight teams in the league. Wouldn’t they be considered the absolute cream of the crop?

Sir Charles Barkley made similar remarks, saying the overall talent in the league is the “worst I’ve ever seen it.” Barkley backs up his statement by saying players are coming into the league much too early, that they need to stay in school. On one hand, Chuck makes an excellent point. How can anybody 19-years old (with the exception of Moses Malone and LeBron James) be ready – physically and mentally – to excel in an 82-game season (plus exhibitions and playoffs) against grown men five, ten, fifteen years older, wiser and more mature than they are? Yet, if memory serves me correctly, the law is what caused the mandatory one year after a youngster’s graduating class to be eligible to be drafted, i.e. the “one-and-done rule.” So while what Barkley says is common sense – that it’s foolish to allow it -it’s illegal to hold the kid back.

Football and baseball have a different set of rules but each of those sports allow early entry as well. So what’s the magic age? Certainly, staying in school sounds good but friends of mine who were on the staff at Auburn used to kid that while Charles loved college, he hated class. Even he has said, when asked if he has a degree, “No, but a lot of the people who work for me do.” So staying in school or masquerading in school?

Mark Warkentien, a high-level consultant to the president of basketball operations of the New York Knicks, shared with me his philosophy. “Stein,” as he’s known to many in the business, is one of the most creative thinkers and down-to-earth people I’ve met in all my years in coaching. When asking him about kids coming out before their eligibility is used up, he turned the tables and posed a scenario to me. “With the NCAA’s 20-hour maximum rule and no such restriction in the NBA, where can a kid improve more – especially considering that 20 hours includes, weight lifting and meetings, not to mention team practice? The NBA has no such rules, plus each team has a staff member (who usually has an assistant or two) whose job is designated as a player development coach? Damn good argument.

NBA coaches, possibly because they make so much money (not their fault when franchises are throwing it at them), are getting fired not only for losing or not making the playoffs, but for making the playoffs but not advancing far enough. David Blatt, Mark Jackson, Tom Thibodeau, Kevin McHale, Frank Vogel, Dave Joerger are all examples and while there might be other underlying reasons other than record, it does seem pulling the plug has become easier and easier to do. And, really, how many teams who practice this henchman technique wind up doing that much better?

So, players are entering at such an early age – largely because the NBA is so enamored with “upside.” Meanwhile, coaches are getting the early hook. The dilemma for the coach (or whoever’s job is on the line) becomes how can we improve our roster – quickly? If the answer is through free agency, allow me to let you in on what an NBA coach told me a few days ago (actually, I’ve heard this from several coaches and front office people). “There are only about 5-6 teams where players really want to play: both LA teams, New York, Miami, Dallas and Chicago.” San Antonio can do well because of their history (see how much of a destination it will become when Pop decides to hang ’em up). Golden State is flying high now but in the recent past, nobody was clamoring to play for the Warriors. Sure, Texas, Tennessee and Florida don’t have state tax but don’t think for a minute players put playing in Memphis and Orlando in the same category as Dallas and Miami. Another factor is the owner. Look no farther than the Clippers to understand that importance. The Warriors and Mavs are winners in that area as well.

The one bit of criticism that makes more sense than anything – certainly more than most of his comments – is what Charles Barkley has been preaching for quite some time regarding the draft. It used to do what it was designed to do – vastly improve a struggling franchise. But now, as Charles says:

“If my team sucks, I don’t want a guy who might be good in five years. That doesn’t help me. I want immediate help.”



Excuse Me While I Brag About My Son

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

This blog will be postponed until after our son’s basketball career concludes. When that will be depends on their performance in the conference tournament. Please keep checking, beginning next Saturday. What follows explains a little more about all that.

Tonight our son, Alex, plays his final regular season game for Cal State Monterey Bay. On Tuesday, the CCAA Conference Tournament begins – Division II’s version of March Madness. Do or die. Win or go home. Survive and advance. Every game is, possibly, the last of his college career.

My friend and mentor, George Raveling, used to tell our players (I worked for him at Washington State and USC), as well as other guys he coached or counseled, that one measure of their career would be: Where was the program when you got there and where was it when you left?

In Alex’s case, the year before he matriculated at Cal State Monterey Bay, the men’s basketball team won all of three games. The win total was tripled his freshman year (he was voted Freshman of the Year in the CCAA conference and was one of 10 selected as National Freshmen All-Americas – the only one from the western half of the country). The Otters’ wins increased in each of the next three years and, for the first time since anybody can remember, they have cracked the Top 25 (22nd in the latest poll, having beaten #3,11 & 23). Another jewel in Alex’s career will occur on May 21 when when his uniform consists of a cap and gown.

He’s currently the school’s all-time leader in points and steals, third in assists and fifth in rebounding. All that is great but, in college hoops, every team but one ends their season with a loss (technically, there are exceptions but in every one of them, the season was unsuccessful). The only way to go out a winner, then, is . . . don’t lose. Because there are so many possessions in a basketball game – and any one of them can determine the outcome – it’s mandatory to be at your best: mentally, physically and emotionally (as the late Jerry Tarkanian preached).

My advice to my son? Three simple words:

“Have no regrets.”

Please Accept My Apology

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

There currently exist over 275,000,000 blogs, making it tough to keep up with all of them on a daily basis. Sarcasm aside, I fully realize that there are only so many hours in a day that someone will devote to perusing blogs. For that reason, on the days that I will not be posting, I have always 1) alerted readers there will not be a blog that day and 2) let it be known on which day readers can expect the next blog.  

My readership has grown since I started back in mid-April of 2007. The blogs actually began right after the NCAA Final Four but, due to my lack of understanding technology and having to rely on someone else (who shall remain nameless – because of his incompetence), several of the original posts have been lost (I imagine they’re somewhere up in cyberspace). You’ll have to take my word for it – they were really good – but that’s another story for another time.

Without sounding too dramatic, I feel it’s a kind of honor that someone would take time out of their day to read my opinion on a topic, be it sports, politics, life in general, whatever. That’s the reason I explain to readers, especially the loyal followers, at the outset of a post when to check back (if it won’t be “tomorrow”). 

Last Wednesday I gave my opinion on how sad it was that, when Supreme Court Justice Scalia died, that so many politicians’ initial reaction had to do with bickering about replacing him. Possibly because I found their behavior so offensive, I dove directly into the blog without first informing people I wasn’t going to post again until today. With so many blogs, it’s only a matter of courtesy to readers to give them a heads-up.

For those of you who are still reading this prolonged apology, here was my itinerary and reasons for the extensive time between posts. Many readers are aware I’ve had several major back surgeries and endure quite a bit of pain. This past Wednesday I had an epidural at Stanford Pain Management to attempt to ease some new discomfort I began experiencing. So far, results have been good.

Since my wife’s older sister was flying into Oakland on Thursday to attend our younger son’s last two home basketball games at Cal State Monterey Bay, I felt we might as well spend Wednesday night in the Bay Area rather than make the three-hour trip back to Fresno, only to have to drive back two-and-a-half hours to Oakland the following day. The plane arrived and, once again, we chose another day on the road instead of driving home, only to leave the following day for Monterey (the benefit of being retired and having saved some money while each of us worked for 40+ years). 

Friday night the Otters soundly defeated Cal State LA (Alex had 17 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal), followed by another wire-to-wire victory on Senior Night against Cal State Dominguez Hills (Alex pitching in with 19 points, another 5 boards, an assist and 2 steals). A final road game and the conference tournament are all that’s left of Alex’s four year college basketball career. Our older son, Andy (who just landed a sweet gig with, a $49 billion company) turned 27 last month and Alex, 22, will be graduating from college at the end of May. 

One of the most well-known cliches of all time is about watching your kids grow up. Believe me, it’s entirely too true: 

“It all goes by so fast!”


Someone Must Be Looking Out for My Wife and Me

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Rare mid-week game. This blog will return on Friday, Jan. 29.

If you’re a Facebook friend of mine, you’ve already seen this, as I posted it yesterday. This version, however, is a little more detailed.

Unless you’re someone whose accomplishments transcend time, e.g. George Washington, Jonas Salk, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, etc., your legacy tends to be your kids. This past week our two sons made my wife, Jane, and I proud beyond words (although anyone who knows me realizes that what comes next will naturally be . . . plenty of words).

Our older son, Andy (27), has been gainfully employed ever since he graduated from the University of California, Irvine in 2011. This statement sounds somewhat absurd (after all, isn’t that why you go to college?) but with today’s business climate, it’s actually quite a feat. His jobs have all been in the sales field, in particular, software.

He first worked at a company called cBeyond, “a provider of managed technology services to small and medium-sized businesses.” It was an incredibly tough job, but the perfect entry level position for a guy who was a new college graduate. He had quotas for both calls made and business cards obtained, i.e. inside and outside activity. It was a real grind. When inside, it was constant calling. Out of the office, Andy was instructed to walk past “No Solicitation” signs, enter businesses (small and medium-sized) and give a pitch, with the goal of getting business cards from the owners. While the job was extremely frustrating, the training was sensational – and has proven to be invaluable.

From cBeyond, he moved to Booker whose service was “Cloud-based business management” (whatever that means). He sold (inside only) software to beauty salons, health spas and like companies. When he left Booker, he had another inside sales position, this one at Kareo. His clientele were doctors and physical therapists. (Note: Don’t quote me on any of this as I’m sure I’m doing a disservice or misrepresenting exactly what the companies were or what his jobs entailed.) What I do know is that, for both jobs, each month he would have a quota and, nary a month would pass when he didn’t hit that quota – which, I would imagine, led to his being contacted for his next – and current – place of employment.

A week ago Monday, Andy moved up, way up, in the world of business when was hired as an account executive at Salesforce. For those of you who have never heard of Salesforce, it’s a $6 billion company which, this past year, was ranked 8th in Fortune magazine’s “100 best company to work for.” Nice.

Not to be outdone by his older brother, our only other child, Alex (22), achieved a significant milestone. Alex is a senior co-captain of California State University, Monterey Bay’s basketball team and, this past Saturday night, he broke the school record for points scored in a career – with nine games to go (not including post season play). He already holds the record for most steals in a career.

Cal State Monterey Bay is the newest Cal State school, thus without a whole lot of hoops history. In fact, Alex could end up in the top five of nearly every major statistical category (points, rebounds, assists and steals) other than blocked shots – which would be quite an accomplishment.

What separates Alex even further is that he is also the record holder for career points scored at his high school (Buchanan HS in Clovis, CA). In fact, Alex left Buchanan as the sixth all-time scorer in California’s entire Central Valley. His mark of over 2,200 points is the highest total for any male player from either the Clovis or Fresno Unified School Districts.

Count us as two very fortunate parents. As any parent will tell whoever is listening:

“The most difficult job, yet most rewarding, anyone can have is that of raising children.”

Boykin’s Actions and Apology All Too Common

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Another weekend of college hoops, watching Alex play in SoCal. Also happens to be the 27th birthday of his older bro, Andy (who lives in Newport Beach). This blog will be back on Tuesday, January 12.

There have been some pretty stupid and selfish moves made by athletes throughout the years. Some have been criminal, derailing the player’s future (a couple as severe as murder cases), as well as missteps which, if not cripple, place the program in negative light. Most, however, are mostly immature errors in judgment than outright subversive acts. Over my 30-year career in intercollegiate athletics, I have been a member of coaching staffs that had to deal with, for lack of a better term, such acts of tomfoolery.

When it’s a player on your own squad, you invariably feel worse because you know the athlete in question. In fact, you may have recruited him, got to know his family and others who are closest to him. Maybe you just made his acquaintance since you got to the program but, quite possibly connect to him. Whatever the case, the athlete has  put you in an untenable position by violating a team or university rule or policy.

When you are not directly involved with the “wrongdoer,” your reaction can be like anyone else who heard or read about the transgression – and your immediate reaction is one of shock and incredible disappointment. Although the case I’m referring to happened over a week ago (when I was out of town), I made note of it so I could comment at a later date. Right now is that date – and TCU’s quarterback, Trevone Boykin, is that individual. As previously mentioned, I’ve been involved with my share of these acts of ignorance, but this one must have struck a chord I didn’t realize even existed.

To sum up Boykin’s indiscretion, which turned into a felony, TCU was in San Antonio, as a guest of the Alamo Bowl. Thursday night prior to the game, Boykin, who was in his room when coaches performed bed check, slipped out some time afterward, apparently looking for some extracurricular fun. What happened next almost any college football fan can tell you (even without knowing the circumstances of this case). The QB was at a bar, words were exchanged, a fight broke out, police were summoned and the entire scene escalated. Boykin was arrested and charged with a third-degree felony for assaulting a police officer.

What followed next could also easily be described by your average fan. Boykin either wrote, had help writing or had written for him, a three paragraph statement of pure remorse regarding his actions, in which he expressed his heartfelt apology to his family, teammates, school and community. What follows is Boykin’s statement (with my remarks in italics). My comments are probably too harsh (based on similar personal experience of a few former players). In this case, obviously, what started out as a prank got out of hand. It will be interesting to see where he winds up in the NFL draft after this all blows over (who am I kidding, as far as the NFL, it already has blown over – they saw video of that night – now, they’re poring over different, e.g. game video). Soon, he’ll be just another millionaire with a story to tell young kids about how they should obey team rules. Here’s his statement (with commentary):

“Words can’t describe how sorry I am (actions speak louder than words). I truly let down my family, teammates and the TCU and Fort Worth communities (and anyone else I may have missed) who have supported me so much. I have no excuses for my very poor decision, and I’m embarrassed about it (ya think?) My teammates are my brothers (and they understand brothers like to have a little fun). There’s nothing I wanted to do more than play one last game with my seniors (actually, there was one thing I wanted to do more but getting caught wasn’t part of the plan).

Having my TCU degree means more to me than anything (let’s hope having a felony conviction doesn’t hinder that goal). I’m going to do my best to restore every Horned Frogs’ confidence in me (how, with a speech at the post season banquet?). I love TCU and our football program (I just think the rules should be a little looser). With Coach Patterson’s leadership, our team is greater than any one individual (as their play showed). I have full confidence in my teammates when they take the field Saturday (how’d you feel at halftime?). I wish I could be there, but I won’t because of my mistake that I have no one to blame but myself (although, if I thought long enough, I could probably find somebody else to, at least, partially blame).

I sincerely thank TCU for everything it has provided me, including an opportunity to earn my degree which I will always cherish (laying it on a little thick now, Trevone). I will forever be a proud TCU Horned Frog, and I apologize to everyone again for my lapse in judgement (yeah, that’s a good term for it, “lapse in judgment”). I hope others can learn from my mistake (why, you didn’t – and surely you heard of an athlete doing something equally foolish?) I can assure you that I have because it took away the incredible honor and privilege it was to wear a TCU jersey (damn, I can’t believe I got caught).”

As the quote says, Boykin’s sincerity will be tested by the “third part”:

“Any good apology has 3 parts: 1)I’m sorry, 2)It’s my fault, 3)What can I do to make it right? Most people forget the third part.”


Clinton Portis Saga Simply the Next in a Series of Bad Decisions

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

It’s become a broken record, but one that no one seems to have any desire to fix. This time the tragedy is named Clinton Portis, a terrific football player – college and pro – who is filing for bankruptcy. I have written previously, and have preached to more people than care to listen, that if players are allowed to leave school early (which I believe is their legal right), then their college academic courses should prepare them for life after sports.

After signing with Duke out of high school, Jahlil Okafor told the Blue Devil fans his goal was to help his team win a national championship before heading to the NBA the following year. He came out and said he planned on attending college for only one year before turning pro. And this was Duke he was talking about!

Portis did not go to Duke. His college choice was South Carolina but a fight in high school resulted in his scholarship being rescinded. He wound up at the “U” – the University of Miami, a football program known for many things, discipline not being high on the list. His collegiate career can be summarized as: freshman year, great; sophomore year, dropped to second string; junior year, return to great. So much so, the Hurricanes won the national championship.

And, similar to Okafor, after copping that big trophy, Portis, too, declared for the (NFL) draft. His professional career had to be considered successful by even the harshest of critics. Financially, his nine seasons as a pro amassed quite a fortune – in excess of $43 million.

My aforementioned suggestion to the NCAA, or to the schools themselves, is since they know these guys aren’t going to be around to graduate (or even two years in some cases), why not put them in classes that will prepare them for life after they depart? That’s what the purpose of college is supposed to be anyway. Courses like how to select people who will shape your life, e.g. someone they can trust, investment strategies, how to deal with the media (including social media), how to live by yourself, even a course in proper decision-making. Use real world examples, maybe bring some people in as guest lecturers to explain the trappings of an affluent life.

These classes wouldn’t have to be exclusively for athletes. The typical freshman year course load is outdated. I mean, if a kids didn’t like, or do well, in world history in high school, why make them take it again in college? Same with the physical and social sciences. I admit to having a bias toward math because I majored in it and taught it, but I’m not so sure freshman algebra isn’t more of a torturous experience than one of value. So, other than English (although seeing what’s on twitter could make someone wonder the value of that as well), most of the freshman curriculum can be overhauled. Note: From a personal standpoint, I hated physics and world history in high school, yet had to take both in college. Guess what? I hated them in college too.

Sure, my idea is radical. But is there any way someone with the career earnings of Clinton Portis should be filing for bankruptcy – in debt to the tune of nearly $5 million? It breaks down to a half a mil to his mom, another half to an Entertainment Tonight correspondent and CNN contributor (what was she doing lending that kind of dough?), nearly another half to a couple casinos, $412K in back child support (to four different women – maybe there ought to be a college course that teaches that making a baby and being a father are not one in the same – and it’s an epidemic in this country), almost a million-and-a-quarter in mortgage deficiencies, $390K in back taxes (somebody, somewhere, somehow, needs to teach people who will be coming into big money about paying taxes) and various and other sundry items. Total tab: $4,857,659.50.

Did Clinton Portis fail himself? No doubt. Could his current financial mess have been avoided? I’d sure like to think so. Until somebody steps up to help these young people before they err, it would be a shame that their lives will be governed by Tiger Woods’ statement:

“I once heard – and I believe it is true – that it’s not what you achieve in life that matters, it is what you overcome.”

No Matter Our Situation, We Should All Be Thankful

Friday, November 27th, 2015

While it’s unfortunate that in this country there’s only one day a year that’s designated to acknowledge how thankful we ought to be for whatever we have, it does afford us at least some time to reflect. Whether we have a lot or a little, we could have less. Sure, we could have more but the holiday is called Thanksgiving, not Greedy Thursday. Phrase it however you like – “half-empty vs. half-full,” “grateful for what we have vs. upset over what we don’t,” whatever your station in life – Thanksgiving is a day (and night) to ruminate on how we got to where we are and to show appreciation to those who helped get us there.

As someone who worked in college basketball, I had the “pleasure” of moving quite often. Like 17 times since I graduated college. The first 12 of those relocations were before I got married and, honestly, being fully aware of how much of a transient lifestyle it can be, was the main reason I waited to get married until I was almost 39 years old. Once I became an adult, I had three goals: I wanted to be a husband, a father and a Division I head basketball coach. As the saying goes, “two out of three ain’t bad.” Plus, if I was told I could only have two of three, those are the two I’d have picked. Got married in 1987, became a dad in ’89, and again in ’93. As far as health goes, the one of us with the most issues is me – which, if I was told one of the four of us was going to have multiple surgeries and experience chronic pain, is the one I’d have selected.

Jane is the poster girl for good health. Her diet is borderline perfect (not counting those extreme folks, e.g. vegetarians and the off-shoots of that type). She loves her classes (Pilates, kick boxing, sculpting and possibly others that escape me at the moment) and attends them faithfully. In addition, she always manages to get in her daily walk (her FitBit reminds her if she doesn’t). She retired when I did (2012) and we’ve enjoyed a great deal of travel ever since, e.g. a couple of places she’d never been (Oregon and New England), our second trip to Europe and vacation resort destinations like the Cabo, the Big Island and beach cities on both coasts. We even managed a Caribbean cruise – a first for her.

In terms of the “parent dictionary definition” of a child, #1 son, Andy, has been textbook, i.e. graduated from college in four years (UC-Irvine) and got a J-O-B immediately thereafter. He has no student loans (working while he matriculated helped) and he’s employed at his third different company (as an account executive), each move having been of his own volition, as well as each one being an upward move in the software sales industry. Although he can’t claim membership in the top 1% of wealthy Americans yet, he is off of the “family scholarship,” is living the life of a bachelor in Orange County, CA and getting by quite nicely, thank you.

Our younger son, Alex, is a senior at Cal State Monterey Bay and is one of the captains of the Otters basketball squad. He’s been a positive contributor to the program and is in the top 10 in career leaders in ten statistical categories, including currently being the second leading scorer in school history. He had better will graduate in May with a degree in Business with a concentration in Marketing. Possibly, he’ll have a chance to continue playing basketball professionally overseas. If that doesn’t pan out (or when it finally does), a job in the business world (there are a couple opportunities he’s been angling for) should be waiting.

As I’m sure other every person with a mailing address experiences, I get 2-3 requests for donations daily. When I receive one that hits close to home, maybe a relative or close friend who has or has passed away from a dreaded disease, I’ll enclose a small gift. What’s annoying is that, in no less than two weeks, there will be another letter, from the same organization, asking for more money – and it seems that group has passed along my information to various other charities. If only the associations would give me some buffer time between overtures. And please don’t treat me as a target for their partners, mostly because I don’t know which organization is legit or which is a scam. There have been so many reports of “organizational or hidden costs” that are attached to some charities, well, I’d like to think that 100% of my donation goes to the charitable organization.

On Tuesday evening’s local news, I saw a story about an owner of a company who had one of his drivers deliver a truckload of turkeys to a homeless shelter. Great idea. First thing Wednesday, I went “shopping” for the biggest turkey I could find (you can’t believe how many people wait until the last minute to grocery shop for Thanksgiving dinner), paid for it and went directly to the Poverello House, a homeless center serving the hungry and homeless of Fresno and handed it to a very gracious worker there. When he asked me if I wanted a receipt, I declined. The reason, as flawed as any accountant will tell you it is, is that it seemed that getting a receipt would benefit me (albeit in a very small way) and I wanted the act to be completely for others less fortunate. If you think you have it rough, drive by one of those neighborhoods someday.

As far as our family Thanksgiving, only Andy could join us yesterday for a wonderful dinner prepared completely by Jane (hey, that right there was another thing for me to be thankful for). Alex was in Monterey practicing and enjoying Thanksgiving with the team. I give thanks for the three of them and, all things considered, how fortunate our lives have been. I certainly don’t mean to preach, but you should be grateful for your circumstance, too. No complaining. Why not? Well, here’s some advice I learned long ago (when I was a member of the National Speakers Association):

“Don’t tell people your problems. 80% don’t care and the other 20% are actually glad!”

The Biggest Disappointment in the Lamar Odom Story

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

The Lamar Odom saga is a terribly sad one. There’s one part of it that is so intriguing to me. Anyone who knows Odom, or just knows of him, realizes he was dealt a bad hand growing up. He overcame such a disastrous childhood because of his size and basketball skills. As far as a player, he was nothing short of amazing, considered by many to be the next coming of Magic Johnson. And, having seen him as a prepster, I can honestly say that the comparison wasn’t all that far off. However, while Johnson had a strong family support, i.e. people he could trust, the group guiding Odom might not have always had the ballplayer’s best interests at heart. Another major difference between LO and Magic lay in the area of academics (as in “attitude toward”). Although Magic left Michigan State early and never did graduate, reports of his academic work were positive, as opposed to Lamar, who truly took advantage of the “one-and-done” rule.

Full disclosure: I know neither man – so in other words this is a “two degrees of separation blog.” From what close friends of mine who know and/or have worked with each guy say, though, both were great “locker room guys.” In that regard, Odom and Johnson were near equals in that both absolutely loved the game and were loved by their teammates. Also, both players won NBA Championships, although, for lack of a better comparison of the two, Magic led his teammates while Lamar followed his. Each of them were extremely popular but, other than both guys being “big guards” and womanizers, the similarities ended there. Magic speaks out against such care-free, dangerous conduct (granted, he did experience a rather sizable scare), while Lamar continued to embrace such conduct (let’s see what path Odom takes from here on out, assuming he can continue with a relatively normal way of life). Ultimately, what separated the two stars was that Magic understood how to be a pro better than Lamar did. Or, at the very least, knew how to have fame and fortune work for him instead of destroy him.

As a player Odom had the reputation of competing at a high level – and partying at a higher one. Once, when asked if his wife, Khloe, was going to be joining the team on a road trip, LO allegedly said, “Why would I bring sand to the beach?” As is blatantly apparent now, Odom’s off-court habits included many activities that, while they were a helluva lot of fun at the time, were basically nothing other than destructive. What’s so shocking to me is that, of all the people who knew him, none of them were remotely astonished. His friends and teammates were well aware of the big fella’s lifestyle and the choices he was making – maybe not to the excess he was living, but no one expressed shock when he was found in that Las Vegas brothel. Grief-stricken, yes, but not shocked.

I was a member of the basketball staff at Fresno State when Chris Herren played for the Bulldogs. When we discovered he had his demons, we did what we could to get him help. After his return from a facility in Utah, we truly thought he’d beaten his addiction. The primary reason was, as Chris says now in the speeches he gives throughout the country, because he was such an accomplished liar. That was not at all the case with Lamar Odom. His lifestyle was transparent.

So here’s what I need someone to explain to me. With all the outpouring of love and the number of prayers that have been sent Lamar Odom’s way in the past week:

“Why didn’t SOMEBODY intervene to keep him from doing what, for all intents and purposes, everyone who knew him had more than a sneaking suspicion he was doing?”

NBA Goes Global – at Players’ Expense

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Heading out of town for a wedding party – in of all places – Monterey. This means we will get a chance to visit with younger son, Alex, as he prepares for his final basketball season as captain of the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters – and, not to be forgotten – graduation. This blog will return Tuesday, Oct. 13.

It can be debated that the best commissioner ever, regardless of sport, was the NBA’s David Stern. When it came to having a vision, no one came close. Stern presided over the league as it went from a sport of meager fan interest to the mega popularity it now enjoys. His right hand man, Adam Silver, who succeeded Stern, is continuing with his boss’ dreams. With progress, however, comes some hurt.

The Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte Hornets will play two exhibition games in, of all places, China (October 11 in Shenzhen and October 14 in Shanghai). Why? China is the NBA’s largest non-American market. Silver has even broached the subject of changing tip times of regular season games to accommodate fans in that time zone. The most popular sports league in China is the NBA and basketball is the nation’s number one team sport – with 300 million people playing it, according to the releasesent out by the NBA. Take that, ping pong. Some may wonder why the Hornets and the Clippers? One is a contender for the championship; the other hopes to make the playoffs in the weaker division. Think advertising. The most exciting NBA team (remember “Lob City”)? And if you think Charlotte got selected for their style of play, players, coaches, uniforms, well, dig deeper. 300 million people in a country and there might be only 12 of them who wouldn’t recognize the Hornets’ owner.

“Basketball is more popular than ever, and Global Games China 2015 is part of our ongoing commitment to growing the game in the world’s most populous nation,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “These games will not only bring the excitement of NBA action directly to Chinese fans, but will also provide the league another opportunity to experience the rich history and culture of China.” Still, if anyone isn’t sure of why the NBA has been wooing China (as well as other foreign countries), you can start with reasons numbers 1-4: money.

Is there any cause for concern? Any collateral damage, perhaps? Well, they’re taking two teams and placing them on flights (10 hours for the Clips, 15 for Charlotte) far from home. One complaint players have during the season is their bodies having to adjust to different time zones. Sure, it’s early and these are non-counting contests, but I’ve spoken to so many NBA players and coaches who have relayed stories of the wear and tear on their bodies (the coaches were talking of the wear and tear on the players’ bodies). While today’s NBA player enjoys an infinitely greater comfort level on planes than the stars of yesteryear did, that many hours cooped up in what amounts to a big room with a lot of chairs, has to take a toll on a person’s body – especially when that person is upwards of seven feet tall (are the bathrooms on those planes that much bigger)? Shhh, if you’ll listen, you can almost hear the fans screaming, “With the amount of money they make, they shouldn’t be complaining about anything!” And that’s a valid point because the salaries of NBA players doesn’t border on the obscene – it’s leaped way across that border. Note: check earlier blogs and you’ll see the reason salaries are so gi-normous comes back to us – the consumer.

Be that as it may, it seems as though each year, more and more injuries are occurring and that hurts the quality of the NBA Playoffs. How many references have been made to the fact that the Golden State Warriors didn’t have to face a healthy point guard from the beginning of their championship run through the Finals? Wouldn’t it have drastically changed the playoff picture had Kevin Durant not gotten injured, as well as a few key members of the Cleveland Cavs?

Stern had said on many occasions, while he was commish and after, to look for the NBA to eventually be a global league. Interest in hoops is a major reason. But, in this day and age, it still comes back to money. How much? To paraphrase the late Moses Malone:

“Mo’, mo’ mo’.”