Archive for the ‘dealing with adversity’ Category

A News Item that Just Couldn’t Be Passed Up

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Actually, I was going to blog on another topic but, while watching the late, local news, I saw a story that everyone needed to hear. For those readers who don’t know about my blog, it originates from Fresno, California. Since my sleep schedule is similar to that of an owl’s, blogging the first thing in the morning just isn’t something that’s ever going to happen. In fact, there are days in my life in which there is no such thing as morning. 

What I found when I picked up this blogging hobby is that, if I hit the “publish” tab after 11:00 pm, the selection posts to the following day. So, readers on the east coast who are morning people, can be exposed to my brilliance just as soon as they wake up. If there is anyone “back east” who has experienced that not to be the case, occasionally, it’s because there have been times that the words and/or ideas aren’t quite flowing as freely as I hoped and “publish” doesn’t get hit until after 4:00 am west coast time. Hey, another reason for retirement.

As I mentioned earlier, last night while my wife and I were watching the late news on one of the local networks (usually that is way past Jane’s bedtime. However, Wednesday night at 10 is reserved for Nashville (not because it happens to be her hometown but because . . . it’s full of wholesome family values). We were discussing the latest episode and commenting about how kind the characters were to each other when we both turned our heads toward what was being reported.

One of the news anchors is a friend, so we’re kind of tuned into her voice. She began to tell a story that was a true head scratcher. If you’re like me, every once in a while, you watch shows like “The 10 Dumbest Things . . .” Last night a new entry occurred in the “thief” category.

Apparently, Riley John Bigger, 19, wanted a soda and some headphones. He rode his bike to a CVS pharmacy and put the items in his backpack. Possibly because he was spooked by the surveillance cameras, he took off from the store. In his haste he forgot the bike and the backpack that had the goods he went there for in the first place. Unfortunately for him, the clerk at CVS realized it, too.

When he returned for what was rightfully his (as well as what wasn’t), he and the clerk had a debate. She wanted her property back. Bigger figured his best move was just to get out of there so he hopped on the bike and left. The video showed that, at one point he realized what he’d left but decided to just call it a night.

If the story would ended there, it wouldn’t make anybody’s top 10 list. But in this case, the clerk called the police and, of course, they checked the backpack. Sure enough, the stolen soda and headphones were in there, along with – this is where RJB separated himself from just any ol’ robber. In it was evidence connecting him to other crimes. But even that fact doesn’t put him in the elite criminal fools category. Also found in the backpack was a very detailed, professional resume – complete with name, address and phone number.

Now, we all have lied (or, at least, stretched the truth a little) on our resumes. George O’Leary at Notre Dame and Steve Masiello at South Florida are a couple coaches who lost prime, if not dream, jobs for lying on their resumes (both have rebounded quite nicely after coming clean and getting second chances). Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson, former president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Sandra Baldwin and Bausch & Lomb CEO Ronald Zarrellais all were caught lying on resumes and, in the first two cases, were fired. While Zarrellais managed to keep his, he did lose over a million dollars in bonus money.

What makes Bigger unique is the description of his skills: “a good customer service person, people person, family oriented and an outgoing personality, raised with good morals on a family farm.” Not one to undersell himself, Riley John Bigger also identifies himself as a problem solver, someone who can stay calm and make decisions based on common sense.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer summed the case up succinctly when he said:

“You don’t have to be smart to be a criminal, but you do have to be smart to get away with committing a criminal act.”  

Is This Taught in Journalism School?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

After losing the series against the Cardinals last night, thus ending their season, a reporter actually asked Dodgers ace, Clayton Kershaw (who gave up the go-ahead home run in another seventh inning disaster, after giving pitching clinics the first six both games), the following question, “How crushing was it to see that ball go over the fence?”

Incredulous – probably at the complete lack of human empathy (I mean, what did the guy think the answer would be, “Elated, now we can finally go home to our families”), Kershaw said, “Is that a real question?”

A follow up question came, “How long will this stay with you?”

The man who will win the Cy Young award – again – (and possibly, the MVP as well), exhibited more poise than could be imagined for someone who hasn’t had anywhere near that success in the postseason. His answer had to disappoint the reporters (who must ask such asinine questions to evoke a nasty soundbite – or worse). Kershaw simply said:

“I’ll let you know. Give me a call.”

Johnny Manziel

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

A few days ago, Johnny Manziel made the statement that he missed college life. Naturally, a guy who loves playing football and played all the time last year and now plays none of the time misses it. Since he has a lot of time to reflect, it’s easy to be nostalgic.

Most of us, when we first left college to enter the real world, i.e. to get a job and start receiving a check (although nothing quite like the one Manziel is pulling down), missed college life. After all, what was greater than hanging out on a college campus, being the “top dogs” (as seniors anyway) and going to parties? The only things we didn’t miss were the classes, the tests and the all-nighters spent studying for the tests.

In case you forgot, because of Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy-winning redshirt freshman year, the officials at Texas A&M decided (whether wisely or not is completely up to each reader’s paradigm) that it would be entirely too disruptive a climate for him and the rest of the student body if he were to take classes like other “normal” students. Therefore, “Johnny Football” took his courses online last year.

On 1/9/14 I blogged, “There has never been a more clear cut case for a college player to leave school to play professionally than Johnny Manziel. If anyone knows of one, I’d love to hear it.” I went on to give all the reasons he should stay and reached the conclusion that none of them (couldn’t play in the NFL the way he played in college, too small, not strong enough, not mentally ready for the pros, his arm strength wasn’t as good as it needed to be) could be fixed by returning for another year. Therefore, there was only one conclusion: staying in school would actually be a poor decision.

For those who look at college from the academic angle (also quoting from the 1/9/14 blog), “what about going back to get his education and his degree? Chances are he wouldn’t graduate with another year since less than half of all the A&M white students do not graduate in four years (this year would have been his fourth year in Aggieland). Note: That latest information was available through the 2010 graduating class and I deliberately used “white students” to compare apples to apples).

In any case, we have to give Manziel credit for his statement in two areas. The first is his use of the term “college life” as opposed to “college” (although that might be a stretch). The second, though, cannot be disputed and that is that he takes responsibility for his decision. His quote was:

“I think it’s fair for me to say that I miss college life, but this is the decision that I made.”

Why Is It Older People Think They Can Help Others?

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

This isn’t exactly breaking news but Google is a pretty awesome invention. Or discovery. Or creation. Whatever, it’s way above my intelligence level. If ever there was something that can give you answers – quickly – it’s Google. For someone with a relatively decent level of intelligence, when it comes to technology, I’m, let’s just describe it as, well below the curve. Suffice to say, whoever (or whatever) invented Google is quite a bit above that curve. Yet, on occasion, answers can be found elsewhere.

Because I’ve lived through six-and-a-half decades, in nine different states all across the country and have had jobs of influence over the youth of America, passing on information is something that comes naturally to me. More than having the job of teacher or coach, I have always considered myself a student of life and an observer of people.

Maybe due to an early lack of confidence – which some people who know me would scoff at – I was always worried about being good enough. For those who don’t believe that, here’s an example. When I was a senior in high school, I never considered myself exceptionally bright, e.g. my overall GPA was around 2.7 or 2.8 which gave me a class ranking in the upper 25%. Not bad, but not exceptional by any means. I was smarter and a better athlete than some of the guys I hung around with – in math and a couple selected sports. But they were better than I was in other subjects or sports. 

During my sophomore year, I doubled up taking geometry and algebra 2 so I could take calculus my senior year. There were 12 of us in the class (another kid in our graduating class was so smart he’d taken calculus his junior year so he was taking his math class at Rutgers, located a couple miles across the Raritan River). At that time many colleges were requiring single subject SATs as well as the regular morning tests everyone took to gain college admission. Naturally, the kids in our calculus class (and the brainiac at Rutgers) took the single subject Level 1 math test.

When the scores came in, I got a 756 (out of 800). The only people I knew who’d taken that test were the 13 of us. When I got to class and everybody reported their scores, I found out that mine – outstanding by anyone else’s measurement (but which I had no idea) – was the 11th highest, meaning it was the next to the lowest in the entire group. Eight of the others got perfect 800s. Two of them received a perfect 800 on the Level 2 test. That test was on material we hadn’t even covered in class!

There are other stories which contributed to my inferiority complex in areas academic, athletic and social so I was always looking for ways to improve. So it wasn’t at all strange that when I returned to my alma mater, Highland Park (NJ) HS, as a math teacher, football and basketball coach (after I graduated from college in 1970) that I read one of the most influential books of my life, Psychocybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. It wasn’t until I read Dr. Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that a book had as much influence over me as that one I read in 1970.

For a guy who didn’t particularly enjoy reading in high school and college, once I graduated, I began to read quite a bit (probably because it wasn’t required). When I went to Washington State in 1973 and began working for George Raveling (one of the most voracious readers of all time), I was positively influenced to become a lifelong learner. George would always be giving me books – print and audio. In addition, I’d always enjoyed simply studying people. All of those traits have broadened my life.

Quick story (for real). Once, when I was Director of Basketball Operations at Fresno State, we were returning to the mainland on a red-eye after our conference game with the University of Hawaii. I happened to be sitting near the front of the plane. At that time, i.e. prior to the pain pump that’s now implanted in my abdomen, I just couldn’t sleep (sitting up) on planes. So I would read. Around 4:00 am one of our players came up and tapped me on my shoulder. When I looked up, he said, “Jack, turn around.” When I did, I saw that the only light in the entire plane that was on the one above my seat. I knew I was a good deal smarter when I got off that plane than I was prior to boarding it.

Since I was in a role of teaching young guys how to play and, I can’t stress this enough, also how to succeed in life, dispensing knowledge became an obsession. Those who know me well will tell people I’ve never had an aversion to speaking. One person, two people, 1500 people at the Fresno Convention Center (although I got paid for that one) – doesn’t matter. If you’re around me, you’re going to hear something that will make you think or smile. I can’t help it. I enjoy sharing information, stories and powerful quotes.

People I’ve taught, coached, mentored and assisted in one way or another have asked me why it is I seem so comfortable sharing my philosophies, a few of which seem a little off the wall. Believe me, I’m in no way so presumptuous to think I have all the answers. One day, however, I found the answer. It was on a card I saw at a local Hallmark store. It said:

“Just because I give you advice doesn’t mean I know more than you. It just means I’ve done more stupid shit.”

Was There a Reason for the Success the Cards Had Against Kershaw in the Seventh?

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

As a child, I was as big a Dodger fan (for a good deal of my childhood, they played in Brooklyn) as existed. Once I got on teams of my own – around high school, then college, then coaching in college – I rooted for that team. In layman’s terms, I was a bandwagon Dodgers fan, i.e. if they were playing in the post season, I was interested but I no longer lived and died with every pitch – or game.

Therefore, yesterday was one of those times I was pulling for my favorite ball club. Growing up as a Jewish teenager in New Jersey in the ’60s, no one could tell me there was (or ever will be) any pitcher better than Sandy Koufax. Read his story. It wasn’t just not pitching in Game 1 of the World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day for Jews. It was pitching when, following the game, his arm would be swollen twice the size and would turn black. Back then, no one knew sports medicine injuries. The trainers at that time would tell a player who sprained his ankle to put it in a hot whirlpool – probably the worst way to treat it - because science hadn’t caught up yet with athletics (will it ever)? It was also not retaliating and hitting the opponent’s best player because their pitcher had hit Tommy or Willie Davis or Maury Wills.

“How about I just embarrass him in front of everybody?” was a response his teammates might get. Then, the next time the opposing stud came up, he went down on strikes, often screwing himself into the ground trying to hit the famous Koufax curve ball that looked like it dropped off a table.

Now, the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, another left-handed pitcher opponents can’t hit. Naturally, with all of the television and radio stations, print media, social media, it’s similar to yesteryear in one regard: everyone has an opinion. But now, everyone can be “heard.” And what we’re hearing is that Kershaw is being favorably compared to Koufax. The guy who would know, long time play-by-play man, Vin Scully, put the kibosh on any comparison when he exclaimed, “Sandy used to pitch 27 complete games a season.” Yet, just being mentioned in the same sentence as Koufax is quite an accolade.

Last night, Kershaw was moving along as his Koufax-like Kershaw-like pace – a couple mistakes for jacks, but still cruising with a 6-2 lead, heading into the bottom of the seventh. Color analyst Harold Reynolds commented that it was the first time all game that Kershaw had to pitch from his stretch position. A single put Cards on first and second. St. Louis proceeded to hammer Kershaw – like no one has done since, maybe, they did last year.

Morgan, as nearly everyone at Dodger Stadium, grew bewildered at how easily the Cardinals were handling baseball’s best pitcher. His location was off but he was still throwing 93-94 mph fastballs. I can’t remember exactly when, but Reynolds made the comment that it was almost like they knew what Kershaw was throwing.

Was he tipping his pitches? By the time he’d been knocked out, Reynolds seemed certain the Cardinals had stolen the signs which explained a mystery for which no one else had a clue. He finally said, nearly screamed, that he couldn’t believe that, not one time, did A.J. Ellis meet with Kershaw and say something to the effect, “The hell with the signs, what do you want to throw this pitch?”

Rinse and repeat, if necessary. By the end of the inning, I was incensed that no one in the entire Dodgers’ organization thought of something so obvious. Was that really happening? Was it the X factor in the game? Unfortunately, we’ll never know. And you can bet the Cards ain’t saying.

Is it illegal for somebody in the dugout to listen to the broadcast? And not to listen to, as sensational as he is, Scully. Come to think of it, have somebody listen to the St. Louis feed, too. If it’s not kosher, have somebody in the stands listen and relay information. Something! All this newfangled help didn’t exist in Sandy’s day but, shouldn’t the question be asked:

“With the incessant use of sabermetrics and analytics in baseball, does no one pay attention to common sense anymore?”

Full disclosure: I didn’t tune into the game until the 4th inning and, to these old ears, Harold Reynolds sounded just like Joe Morgan (whom I always admired as a commentator). Once I read the game story and realized my mistake, I corrected it. For those of you who read it prior to the correction, I apologize.

Is Michael Phelps Really Sorry?

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Michael Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence in Baltimore, Maryland. TMZ, today’s celebrities’ BFF, reported he was doing 84 in a 45 mile zone around 1:40 am. Phelps failed his field sobriety test and his blood-alcohol limit was almost twice the legal limit.

My old boss, Jerry Tarkanian, used to tell his players that nothing good happens after midnight. I’m not sure how he figured that out but the guys seemed to do whatever they could to prove him right. In Phelps’ case it’s understandable that the time was after midnight.

After all, how early in the morning would he have had to start drinking to have his blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit by 1:40 pm? In addition to the speeding ticket and DUI, Phelps was cited for crossing double lane lines.

This is a repeat offense for Phelps. In 2004 when he was 19 years old Phelps had a DUI arrest, also in Maryland. In that case he struck a plea deal with prosecutors and pled guilty in exchange for 18 months probation.

Following this latest discretion, the Phelps’ camp released the standard celebrity response: “Earlier this morning, I was arrested and charged with DUI, excessive speeding and crossing double lane lines. I understand the severity of my actions and take full responsibility. I know these words may not mean much right now but I am deeply sorry to everyone I have let down.


There must be a school that agents and PR people attend for just these situations because all the releases sound the same. The person who broke the law always “understands the severity, takes full responsibility and is deeply sorry for letting fans down.”


Harvey MacKay is one of the world’s best speakers and authors, as well as an extremely successful businessman. He’s also a syndicated columnist and in yesterday’s column he included several of his favorite quotes. The one that sums up Michael Phelps’ most recent transgression, as well as many of the other negative issues that have occurred all too often lately, is:


“Saying you’re sorry and showing you’re sorry are not the same thing.”

Who Ever Thought We’d Be Pulling an All-Nighter at Our Age?

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

After spending last weekend in Monterey visiting our younger son, Alex, Jane and I are making the trek south to visit our firstborn. Andy also has chosen to reside in a resort location, Newport Beach, working as an account executive for Booker, a company that sells software to health clubs, spas and beauty salons (I’m sure I misrepresented something there, so suffice to say he’s gainfully employed in Orange County, CA).

While we’ve grown to love our life in Fresno, it’s hard to beat either of those two magnificent locations, so we usually overextend our stay a day or two. This blog will return Thursday, Oct. 2.  

Yesterday was “return to yester-year” for my wife, Jane and me. Earlier in the day, she mentioned to me that the Ryder Cup was going to be broadcast at 11:30 pm. At first I thought she was just making conversation. It wasn’t until late last night that realized she intended to (try to) watch the competition.

What shocked me about her revelation was she normally goes to bed early while I’m somewhat of a night owl, especially since I’ve retired. When we were first married, I used to tell people Jane and I went to bed after SportsCenter. She’d go to bed after the one at 7:00 and I’d go to bed after the one at 11:00.

Because I’m more of a night owl than a morning person, I blog at night. Another reason for doing so is that if I post after 11:00 pm (Pacific Time), the blog posts to the following day. So, last night, while I began to blog, there sat Jane, eyes (somewhat) open, ready for the Ryder Cup to begin. I looked at her and said, “Pulling an all-nighter is something we’d do in our 20s, although the reason was more for partying or studying than watching golf” (OK, probably more the former). In any case, there we were, glued to the TV, ready to check out the U.S. vs. Europe, not going to bed until 4:30 am.

Ryder Cup is such an interesting phenomenon, unlike any other sport, except for tennis’ Davis Cup. The following paragraph was written (by me) way back in a blog on 9/23/08 and it’s just as true today.

“Golf has become such a lucrative occupation, that when we see one of its competitors miss a shot which would have extended his lead or pulled him to within a stroke or two of it, we can almost see his thought process: ‘Damn, I really needed that one … but I’m still assured a pretty good paycheck.’  The last part of that thought is a rather presumptuous conclusion on my part, but the fact remains the only person who is affected by the tour golfer’s performance is the golfer himself (and those close to him, e.g. his family, caddy or anyone whose livelihood is dependent on his performance).”

Some former athletes I know can’t stand watching golf. Most of them played team sports. Golf doesn’t captivate them, mainly because it’s every man for himself (forget about bringing up watching the LPGA) and these guys were taught “teamwork makes the dream work.”

What makes the Ryder Cup (and Presidents Cup) so riveting is that you have individual athletes, taught (and sometimes pampered) that the only thing that matters is how YOU play. It’s all about you. Now, here they are in a team setting. So yes, you need to win but you’re now on a team, i.e. it’s not all about you. You’re part of something bigger.

It’s an interesting study, observing individuals who, for the most part, have only thought of themselves throughout their professional lives, deal with the pressure of playing for others – and how they react when they let people down. As one of the announcers said (in the wee hours, names of those other than players, escape me):

“There’s no place to hide at the Ryder Cup.”

SI Disappoints

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

For decades I’ve been a subscriber and avid reader of Sports Illustrated and many readers have mentioned to me that if it wasn’t for SI, I’d have to make this a weekly blog instead of a daily one. When I was about 10 or 11 years old, one of my aunts got me a year’s subscription to Sport magazine. I was so thrilled and told one of my friends at school the next day. He said that Sports Illustrated was the best sports magazine.

Naturally, he and I got into a heated argument, the kind only pre-teens can get into. You know, the kind that will never have a winner because, not only will neither admit defeat but because neither will even give the other credit for even one shred of truth. Eventually, I gave up denying the obvious – and my admission came well before the demise of Sport.

It’s not that I’ve always felt SI was right in every story they published but I did believe they always did a bundle of research and tried to report it fairly. Which is why I was so disappointed in Alan Shipnuck’s article on Anthony Kim in this week’s (9/22/14) edition. Until 4-5 years ago when my back issues became so bad I had to give up golf, I absolutely loved playing. I was so bad I’d never play for money and, for that matter, never even had a handicap. Had I been given one, undoubtedly, a record high would have been set. Yet, probably due to my coaching background, I thoroughly enjoy watching the guys on tour because I realized long ago how hard a game golf is and am fascinated with the strategy they use as well as the mental toughness they display.

When I saw the title of Shipnuck’s article (Where Have You Gone, Anthony Kim?), I was surprised. While not an avid fan, I often watch golf on TV. It wasn’t until after seeing the headline did I realize Kim had gone. I’m not so into golf that I knew what a party animal Kim is/was. I put present/past tense because the article doesn’t make clear if Kim still has the lifestyle he did when he was on tour.

That’s because, in that entire article – six pages (including pictures) – Shipnuck finds that almost no one wants to talk about Kim, e.g. Casey Wittenberg who said, “I’m not going to comment. He’s a great friend of mine. Sorry, I know you’re just doing your job.” Others (IMG & Nike) refused to comment. There are a few comments from a guy SI said was probably Kim’s best friend on tour, Colt Knost, but he admits he hasn’t seen much of Kim lately and no longer has his BFF’s phone number. The one guy in the entire article who will allow himself to be quoted is today’s favorite media source – “the anonymous friend.” Could there be more of a coward than somebody who wants to be a real somebody but doesn’t have the cojones to say, “It’s me.”

The author ties in “anonymous” and an insurance policy with quotes from past stories in a veiled attempt at making the story look current. Shipnuck dredges up Kim’s past unstable relationship with his father, along with the young golfer’s spendthrift social life and dislike among certain tour players (all of which happened more than two years ago) and adds a good deal of conjecture to make it into a juicy gossip narrative.

The insurance policy supposedly pays Kim somewhere between $10-20 million (more conjecture there) for a career ending injury (he hasn’t played in 28 months). Basically, he was a young American golfer who had a boatload of potential and played some phenomenal golf for a short period of time but, due to injuries, hasn’t been heard from since. He was 6th in the world – six years ago. For his career he has four wins (three PGA wins) and his best result in a major was third in the 2010 Masters.

Shipnuck went to find what happened to him, couldn’t and instead of leaving it alone, decided to make it a thriller about a guy who partied big, won a little and is now in hiding, trying to figure out if he can collect on an unimaginable insurance policy. It should be noted that Shipnuck did get someone famous to go on record and make nasty comments about Kim – Sergio Garcia. The same Garcia who lost to the 23-year old Kim 5 & 4 in the first match of the Ryder Cup Sunday single matches in 2008. Not like Sergio would be the type of guy who would have an ax to grind.

With all the seamy side of professional sports that’s been reported in the past few months, was it really necessary to chronicle a “maybe it’s a story, maybe it’s not” piece? It’s not like he’s Bison Dele who disappeared. Paraphrasing what Mark Jackson used to say as an NBA commentator:

“C’mon, SI, you’re better than that.”

Only I’m not sure if they are anymore.

The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back for Me and Social Media

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Since It’s still really, really hot in Fresno and our boys live in Newport Beach and Monterey AND we’re retired, Jane and I have decided to make a few more visits to see our sons. While we’ll be making trips every weekend during basketball season, we felt it was time to check out Monterey and Carmel – for fun. In a week or so, it’ll be down to O.C.

As a result, this blog will return on Wednesday, Sept. 24.

As you readers have been told close to 4 or 5 (hundred [thousand]) times, I am the opposite of what’s known as “tech savvy.” This could be because of my age, although there are people much older than I am (believe it or not, there really are people much older than I am) who absolutely thrive in this new, techno world. It’s just that when the “tech” generation began, it left without me – and I was content to live in the (lack of) information age I’d been inhabiting for a good, long while. And quite enjoyably, I might add.

There actually was a day I felt I’d try to learn the new forms of communication. You know, join the 21st century. As a high school teacher, I needed to be able to comfortably use email – even though I saw many people, among them, administrators who needed to be able to speak to someone – hiding behind it. It also had served as a means for parents to vent to teachers regarding their children’s grades, behavior and other issues that could have been much more effectively handled using person-to-person voice interaction.

During “Back-to-School-Night” I used to tell the parents, “I know some of you are really good at banging out some nasty emails.” At that time I was still a member of the National Speakers Association and my main topics were team building, trust and effective means of communicating, two out of three of which were being handled in ways I never mentioned to any of the audiences I faced.

“My feeling is face-to-face communication is, by far, the most effective form of solving a problem,” I continued. “The telephone is next. Anything that comes after those two pale in comparison when it comes to effectively solving a problem. However, if email is your favorite means of communicating, go ahead and bang away.

“Just remember – I bang back pretty hard.”

My foray into the world of “advanced” technology began with learning how to text. I’d text one, or the other, of my sons, he’d text back, I’d text, his turn . . . Then I felt, “It takes me a heckuva lot longer to text than to talk.” So, I’d call him.

Wouldn’t you know it, voice mail! Then, if I sent a text, here comes back his response. Later, when I would ask what the deal was, I’d hear, “I was in the library.” That made sense – but not as many times as that situation occurred.

After 30 years of college coaching – and nearly as many Final Fours (the National Association of Basketball Coaches – NABC – convention coincides with the Final Four) – I came through on a promise I made (to myself) that I would take my sons to a Final Four. I always thought it would be when I got a head coaching job but that never happened and with my moving back into high school coaching (I taught math and coached my first two years out of college), I realized it never would.

Sometime in 2006, I checked my mailbox one day and I was informed that because I had been a member of the NABC for so long, I had the opportunity to buy two tickets to the Final Four. I did and taking my boys to the 2007 Final Four turned out to be the trip to hell. When we returned, I told a guy about it and he said, “You tell great stories. You ought to blog.” Naturally, my first question was, “What’s blog?”

He explained it and, wouldn’t you know it, the first three blogs I ever did were about that trip (yeah, it took three blogs to tell the whole SNAFU). Due to some technological screw up (this one can’t be blamed on me), those three blogs, along with a couple others that followed, were lost somewhere in blogosphere. That this happened made me dislike technology even more than I originally did.

But . . . I did learn how to blog. And, to help out our baby gift business (, I have a Facebook page. Well, one day, along comes Twitter. Hey, baby, let me at it.

A friend of mine told me that was the way to go (yeah, imagine me being limited to 140 characters) and he set up a Twitter account for me. I figured, if high school kids, not to mention NBA players, could do it, how hard could it be? The answer never really was known because, although a friend had set up a Twitter account for me, one day, our younger son, Alex, mentioned to me something he’d seen. I asked him where he saw it, Twitter?

“No, Instagram.”

They’re inventing them (Pinterest, LinkedIn, Etsy, Snapchat), faster than I can – or want to – learn them. Back to phone calls and emails.


Coaching Ought to Be Easier Than This

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Coaching is all about communication. It’s not what the coach knows; it’s what he (or she) can get across to the player. If players can’t absorb it, thoroughly understand it and put it to use, it doesn’t matter how much of a genius the coach is.

Coaches display various personality types. Some guys are rah-rah guys, some are screamers, some try to be buddies with their players and some are simply professorial, i.e. a simple teacher-student relationship. All are motivators; they just employ different styles.

Which is the best method? That answer is simple – whichever one works. Make no mistake about it, all coaches believe in what they’re doing. The key is to get the players to believe in it, as strongly as the coach believes in it. If that’s the case, unless completely outclassed from a talent standpoint, you have a sure winner.

Personally, I can remember specific days, weeks and even years in which my instructions worked to perfection and the individual or team achieved incredible success. I, and every other coach, would be lying if I said there were times what I told guys either didn’t work at all or, worse, backfired.

Here’s an example of a coach’s instruction gone awry: The coin toss at the Texas-UCLA game. While this part of the game isn’t as vital as, say, everything that follows, it still gives the coaching staff ammunition for motivation, e.g. if the team wins the toss, it’s “Yeah, we won it – and don’t think that’s the only thing we’re winning today!” If the team loses the toss, the reaction will be (in nearly every instance), “Yeah, we got the ball – let’s score and set the tone for this game!”

In terms of coaching a player for this part of the game, it’s relatively simple. “If we win the toss,” say, ‘We will defer.’ If they win – and defer – say, ‘We want the ball.’ If they win – and take the ball – say, ‘We will defend this goal’ ” (pointing to which end the coach desires). If the coach doesn’t have confidence in his co-captain (then why is he allowing him to speak?), he could replace the third command with, “check with me.”

Prior to the UCLA game, Texas DE Desmond Jackson was the co-captain who was in charge of deciding what to call for the coin toss, meaning “Defer,” “Ball” or “Check with me.” The Bruins won the toss and deferred. The referee asked Jackson, “They’re deferring, what do you want?” Jackson said:


Jackson’s decision didn’t lose the game for the Longhorns (UCLA won, 20-17) but it had to be a bad omen. But give him credit, Desmond Jackson took to twitter to apologize and say that he will never make that mistake again. Bet on it – for a couple reasons.