Archive for the ‘dealing with adversity’ Category

Everyone Wants to Know If Rory Is the New Tiger

Monday, July 21st, 2014

A multitude of issues will cause this blog to be temporarily halted. At first, there were only two: 1) today is a trip to Stanford Pain Management for both a refill for my morphine pump and a consultation with my doctor to see if a change in strategy would make my life more “comfortable” and 2) tonight, after the three hour (one way) trip to Redwood City, a trip to Los Angeles for another couple sessions (for Alex) with shooting expert Mike Penberthy. A third roadblock has appeared. My computer served me fairly well for the better part of two years but is ready for extinction. The past few days, it shuts off while I’m working, causing me to save what I’m writing every few minutes or else lose the text. Not only is this frustrating, it’s time consuming. Today I figured out to make a word document and then, cut and paste it to word press (please excuse me if I butchered that explanation as far as proper computer dialogue goes but I’m not from the tech world). All I do is put together words and thoughts people (seem to) like to read.  

If you have a child with a mind of his or her own or one who does as he or she pleases, you’re stuck with the problem - and do everything in your power to understand and help it - but when a computer starts getting impudent, if it negatively impacts your life and it’s more problem than solution, you replace it. While it might be a tad expensive, it’s well worth it. My problem is the one I want has to be shipped in and it might take a week or so.

This blog will return as soon as I receive it. Please check daily beginning Friday.    

Rory McElroy went wire to wire to win the British Open, giving him three of the four Grand Slam championships - at 25 years of age. Now, only the Masters eludes him. Now, the whispers by writers (and the louder chatter of fans) of “the next Tiger” are beginning to be heard. McIlroy is doing nothing to suppress the babble. “Golf is looking to someone to put their hand up and try,” he said. “I want to be the guy that goes on and wins majors and wins majors regularly.”

How long will it take for the comparisons to Woods begin? Ironically, Woods career collapsed after his marital indiscretions became national news while McIlroy’s career has skyrocketed since he got cold feet and put an end to his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki (it couldn’t exactly have been devastating to her, either, at least as far as her career is concerned as she won the Istanbul Cup yesterday). Even if the McIlroy continues his success on the links, and people get weary of Tiger comparisons, there’s always Nicklaus.

Our country wants superstars – even, for some people - just so they can shoot holes in their reputations. McIlroy’s transparent honesty is refreshing but it might be just a matter of time until the media, using the term loosely for those who cross the line between truth and fiction - and enjoy doing so – bombard him with whatever will make for good reading. The fact that many of the stories rely on anonymous sources and twisted words doesn’t ever stand in the way someone trying to get ahead. Or, maybe, get even.

Golf is a sport unlike all others. In order to win, you have to beat the whole field - all at once. In team sports you expect help from your teammates. In other individual sports, e.g. tennis, bowling, boxing and wrestling, you have to win against another competitor, then win against another winner, and on and on, until you’ve beaten all of your foes. The comparison between golf and track & field or swimming is closer, but in those sports, while you have to win every race or heat, you’re only pitted against about seven or eight at a time. Golf and cross country are probably the most similar in that there are a multitude of people trying to beat you but, skill-wise, aerobics is the main ingredient in cc, while golf requires much less oxygen intake but a whole lot more dexterity and finesse.

How will all the scrutiny affect Rory McIlroy? He’s demonstrated remarkable poise thus far but, after more tourneys and more pressers and more demands on his time, will he be able to withstand it or will it make him crack?

We all will see because as Thomas Carlyle once said:

“No pressure, no diamonds.”

 

 

An Unrealistic Plan to Right the Country

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

If you haven’t noticed the United States doesn’t seem to be so “united” these days, you must either be completely oblivious to your surroundings or belong to the hermit association, a group that meets every February 30th. Today, as soon as a proposal by anyone is made, we can be assured that somebody or some group, somewhere will mock it as impractical, illogical, insane and/or irrational. Even before the proposal is completed.

My wish, as I’ve stated previously (to anyone who will listen, and even some who wouldn’t), is that the Republicans win the next presidential election. I can almost hear the groans now (which further proves my above observation). So, please, let me finish. Then, my hope that the Democrats do to the Republicans exactly what the GOP has done to them while they held the office of the presidency. What would occur is that the roles would be reversed. The party that’s not in power would criticize every move their “opponents” would make. It’s become you don’t want your party to be in power because it’s easier (and more fun) to criticize than be accountable.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Somebody, even better, a lotta somebodies will come to the realization that this attitude doesn’t work. And it never will! Once elections are over - and I know this next statement defies the essence of politics - you’re no longer opponents. You’re actually active participants of the same team. Our team. The United States of America. Kinda like the World Cup. There were basically two types of Americans - those who wanted the U.S. to win and those who didn’t care. I can’t think of anyone I know - or even heard of - who wanted our guys to lose.

Make no mistake about it, it will take a person, or group of people, who will have the courage to tell politicians (especially if the bearer of this news flash happens to be a pol him or her or themselves) that their current actions are ruining the country. Independent of how much money there is to be made in the political game - and, unfortunately, it is a game - our elected officials (and their strategists) must start treating this country like a team. This means everybody working together. In order for all of us to prosper, sacrifices are going to need to be made. Not only sacrifices by others (the kinds everyone favors), but changes that will make our own lives hurt some. Maybe even more than “some.”

People with large dollars will object because the majority of them solve problems by throwing money at them. OK, charge them for that way of thinking. We sure as hell could use the extra revenue. For the rest of us, we have to change our way of thinking - and living. For my people (Baby Boomers), we’re going to have to suffer somewhat for our kids’ well-being. Truth be told, we (and our lifestyle of excess) have screwed the next generations quite a bit. Some of us more than others. Much of it not really our fault, i.e. we weren’t emphatically told much of what we were doing was bad for the nation (or earth). If we were, I wasn’t paying attention.

I once asked a teacher friend of mine if he thought the district administrators pay should be reduced. “Definitely,” he exclained.

“How about the administrators on campus?” I asked.

“Yup,” was his immediate reply.

“How about the teachers?”

“Absolutely not!!!” he screamed.

If we don’t want to tighten our collective belts, than the answer is raise more money. There are brilliant people in this country who might just come up with an idea or two which can lighten the load a little. Or a lot. A giant bake sale probably isn’t the answer, yet, a long, long time ago someone whose group was in need of money came up with the concept of the bake sale. Voila, money was raised, people enjoyed a treat or two and everyone was thrilled. So now the question becomes, “Who will come up with the 21st century version of the bake sale?”

While we wait for that revelation, a Congress that acts together, with the nation’s best interests at heart - meaning no hidden agendas (once again flying the face of what politics has become) - would work wonders for all of us. I admit I’m skeptical, mainly because the greatest indicator of future behavior is past performance but that kind of cooperation, plus sacrifice by all of us, plus some creative thinking will improve the health of our once strong nation.

Our stance must be as simple as the old saying:

“You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying there.”




There’s Never Been Anyone Quite Like Jimmy V

Friday, July 18th, 2014

The following is a blog I posted four or five years ago on Jim Valvano. The V Foundation is in full swing, raising millions on top of millions. This has, as Robin Roberts noted in her autobiography, equated to saving more and more lives (hers being one). I thought now would be an appropriate time to reprint it (since, according to how my hits have spiked throughout the years, there’s a good chance most of you haven’t seen it).

With the ESPYs on TV and the constant mention of the V Foundation, I thought I’d relate an encounter I had with the late Jim Valvano.

The story is taken from my book, Life’s A Joke. It took place in the mid-80s when I was an assistant at the University of Tennessee and Jim and his NC State Wolfpack had won one of the most improbable NCAA Championships, a last second victory over the Phi Slamma Jamma Houston Cougars.

USA Today had done a story on, among other things, how much  (so I’ve heard), you’re getting solicitations (including guilt trips) from people you know, people you don’t know and people you don’t know who swear they know you. “V” was quoted as saying the numbers were greatly inflated and he wasn’t making nearly the amount of money that was being reported.

V played at Rutgers when I was at Highland Park High School, which is located just a mile from the RU campus. We first met at Five Star Camp in the Poconos when he was the head coach at Bucknell and I was a grad assistant at Washington State. Since we were both East Coast guys, I knew he’d appreciate the note I mailed him after the article came out. In the envelope I placed a $1 bill, along with the following message:

V,

Just read the USA Today article. Had no idea things were so bad. Hope this helps.

Jack

About a week or two later, I received a letter with a North Carolina State return address. I was prepared for anything because I knew V wouldn’t ever let anyone one up him.

Jim had incorporated himself and his corporation was called JTV Enterprises for “James Thomas Valvano” (not sure what he did with the “Anthony” - maybe he felt a four letter corporation didn’t sound as powerful). His return letter read:

Jack,

Got your money and invested it in JTV Enterprises. Enclosed is your return. Too bad you didn’t invest more.

Inside the letter were two $1 bills.

Nobody ever got the better of Jimmy Valvano.

When V was stricken with cancer, he told his closest associates (one of whom told me) that he wanted to make a difference. As he said in his now legendary speech, he felt a cure for cancer might not be discovered in time to help him but that, in time, with enough money and research poured into the cause, cancer could be conquered.

I’ve read several books by the learned rabbi, Harold Kushner. In one of them he wrote that he’d been at the bedside with people in the last moments of their lives. What he discovered is:                               

“People don’t fear death. They fear insignificance.”

V, you can rest in peace having absolutely no fear of that.

Free Agent Market Dealings

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Unlike other years, this off season’s free agent market has dominated the news. The main reason is that the game’s best (current) player happened to be one of them. The only free agent other than LeBron whose signing caused this much stir within the league was Shaq when he left Orlando to join the Lakers.

The NBA has had no shortage of big name, big impact (they hope) free agents who changed unis. Other than James, the list includes P. Gasol, Parsons, Pierce, Stephenson, Deng, I. Thomas, D. Collison, Farmar, Hawes, Ariza and others. While some high quality players moved on, it appears equally as many of the marquis names stayed loyal to their team (or new deal for more money). That list sports, among others, Anthony, Bosh, Nowitzki, Duncan, Wade, Gortat, Lowry, Diaw, Hayward, Swaggy P and Birdman. In addition, Bledsoe, Monroe and others are still on the market.

The players biggest enemy to their earning power, often, is themselves. The last collective bargaining agreement (CBA) heavily favored the owners, as one would expect. While it would be no contest if the contents of the CBA was based on the playing floor, i.e. players vs. owners, the negotiations are held in conference rooms, a definite overwhelming home court advantage for the rich(er) guys. As long as there is a salary cap - and don’t think for a minute that will be repealed - there will be a majority of players who will feel they’re underpaid. The general public has absolutely zero sympathy for those guys and that won’t change unless negative numbers are allowable on the sympathy scale.

Much of the players’ problem is an overwhelming majority of them (my opinion only, based strictly on observation, devoid of any scientific or other kind of fact) think they’re worth considerably more than their skills actually command. This is, in part, due to the fact that basketball has become, on the grass roots level, an ego game, e.g. “I’m gonna light you up” and “You can’t guard me.” Early on, players got this belief from guys like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. The difference between then and now is that MJ and Larry backed it up - and on the rare occasion they didn’t, they retreated to the gym because they were determined that it wasn’t going to happen again. Nowadays, players get the idea due to being coddled at a very early age. If their braggadocio isn’t backed up, they retreat to their respective corner to find the sympathetic (or should it just be pathetic) ears and mouths of their “people” telling them such nonsense as “The refs screwed you” or “The coach screwed you” or “Your teammates screwed you.” Basically, anything but, “Damn, you better get your ass in the gym and do some work!”

Another issue against the players is one that has hit other segments of the work force, i.e. older, more highly paid workers being replaced by younger, less expensive ones. Free agency is about the last refuge players have. And why is it that players hold the upper hand in free agency (assuming there’s a team or teams who find they have value)? It could be because of the old adage (apparently not necessarily etched in stone in San Antonio):

“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slowly you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.”


Wrap Up Quotes from Coaching U

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Rather than blogging about a person, observation or story, this post will sum up the powerful quotes I heard at the Coaching U event I attended last week. In case you missed yesterday’s blog, the final quote was the belief of the Navy Seals:

“Under pressure, you don’t rise to the level of the occasion. You sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”

The following are some others you might want to use or, at least, think about:

From George Raveling, whose topic was building a better bench, a quote from Scottie Pippen:

“Sometimes a player’s greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team.”

One from Phil Jackson:

“85% of all NBA players are ‘role’ players.”

And, of course, one of George’s own:

“Don’t expect the gorilla to cooperate if you’re spanking him . . . insults don’t enhance influence!”

From Billy Donovan:

“You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with.”

Lawrence Frank offered a Bob Knight quote (what’s a coaching clinic without a mention of Bob Knight)?

“Coaching is getting players to do what they don’t want to do so that they can become the players they want to become.”

Shaka Smart gave the crowd a favorite of his, from the New England Patriots’ locker room wall (Belichick is also a clinic favorite):

“We don’t become you. You become us.”

Shaka also had a couple of his (VCU’s) program:

“We aggressively pursue greatness” and “We fully commit to aligning ourselves with the team.”

And from the master of deep thought, Kevin Eastman (event co-host and Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Clippers):

“He who angers you, owns you.”

“Fill up their tanks” and “Focus their lenses.”

“There’s a difference between ‘buy in’ and ‘give in.’ “

“Players need to understand the concept of ‘every’ - every game, every quarter, every possession.”

And his favorite:

“Go through life with big ears, big eyes and a small mouth.”

Why Some People Succeed While Others Don’t

Monday, July 14th, 2014

For 42 years I went to work as a teacher. My students were kids who were studying algebra, playing basketball or both. Early in my career I realized my instruction wasn’t math or hoops as much as it was life. One of my first bosses was George Raveling at Washington State who took his job as an educator as seriously as anyone I’ve ever met.

It was George who introduced me to reading inspirational and self-help books, and listening to motivational speakers and audio books. So much can be learned from others - if you just keep an open mind. In fact knowledge can be acquired at an exponential rate. Throughout my professional moves (high school, nine colleges, followed by another high school) I would use power quotes and stories I’d heard (and experienced - one of my best skills is the ability to entertainingly tell stories).

The best way to do this is to not only read and listen but to constantly observe. I’ve been retired for two years but I still keep my eyes open (although they open a little later in the day than they used to). At the Coaching U event in Indianapolis last week, I heard longtime NBA coach, Lawrence Frank, make a statement during his presentation that struck a chord with me because it debunked a belief many people think is true. Lawrence gave everyone in attendance the paradigm of the Navy Seals which could benefit all of us. It explains why some people succeed at crunch time while others talk about it:

“Under pressure, you don’t rise to the level of the occasion. You sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”

When What You Do Best and What You Love Happen to Coincide

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

This past Tuesday and Wednesday I attended a basketball coaching clinic event co-hosted by a couple of basketball dinosaurs, Kevin Eastman and Brendan Suhr. The description is meant as a comment. They have coached for a combined 80 or so years on the high school, college and professional levels. While that stat is what impresses the heck out of me (I did it for 35 years and when I look back on it, I have no idea how I managed to do it), what blows others away is that, between them, they have three NBA championship rings (Kevin as an assistant with the 2007-08 Celtics, Brendan in the same role with the Bad Boy Pistons of 1988-89 & 1989-90). They call it Coaching U and have been staging such events for six years. Suffice to say they understand what it takes to put on a first class show.

Somehow these guys manage to get not only the quality speakers other promoters only wish for, they get them in bunches. The cast for Tue-Wed was, in addition to the co-hosts, George Raveling (who invited me to be his guest), Shaka Smart, Lawrence Frank, Billy Donovan and Gregg Marshall. (The speakers for the July 15-16 session are just as formidable). Stop and think: Hall of Fame, Final Fours, NCAA National Champions, NBA Champions were all represented on this program and while all were sensational, this blog will discuss one coach in particular.

During the early to mid-1980s I worked at the University of Tennessee for a coach named Don DeVoe. For that particular era, Don was always mentioned as a guy who, if he was given a group of players he’d never seen before, and seven other coaches were given other groups of equal talent, and a tournament was held, Don’s guys would have as good or better a chance of winning a tournament. In today’s game, one such coach is Florida’s Billy Donovan.

This past Wednesday, Billy took five players from Indiana Wesleyan, the 2014 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Champions and, in 20 minutes taught them the Gators’ pick and roll offense. His comments were for the coaches in attendance but were directed to the players in such a manner that, incredible as it sounds, the five guys ran through the offense flawlessly. Every option, every set, every time. Some of the other speakers also worked with the players and did marvelous jobs, but none as seamlessly as Billy D.

As we watched, I made mention of this phenomena to George, who currently serves as the Director of International Basketball for Nike, and he just shook his head. “Jack, I saw him do the same thing at the U19 championships in Prague,” Rav said. “He hadn’t seen the team until they practiced (for two weeks) and won the tournament even though all the other teams were their country’s national team, composed of the best players in that age group. He’s amazing.”

Many people, including this writer, discuss how coaching salaries have reached unfathomable heights. Billy Donovan is making over $22 million for six years but, as incredible as it may seem, watching him work with those young college kids and see them respond to him so quickly and so impeccably, was infinitely more startling to me than his salary numbers.

To many, money is the ultimate reward. Make no mistake about it, I’m sure Billy (and his family) are thrilled he brings home a paycheck with all those zeroes but the fact that he is enjoying his work has to be fulfilling to him. Paraphrasing Bob Dylan:

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”


Free Agents, Glamor Locations and Winning Teams

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Unexpected out of town trip came up when former boss and lifetime (at least since 1973) friend, George Raveling, told me he was speaking at the Coaching U basketball clinic in Indianapolis, run by the LA Clippers VP Kevin Eastman and longtime NBA coach, Brendan Suhr. Rav told me he thought it would be a great opportunity for us to hang out - like the old times at Washington State and USC.

One thing about being retired, I’m now (pretty much) my own boss. My use of the qualifier is because any such sojourn still has to be OK’d by my wife (some things don’t change with retirement). Jane, still jet-lagged from our recent trips to Hawaii (in May) and France (last month), gave her blessing, so I’m off for a week in Indy and looking forward to spending quality time with George - and, more than likely, some old coaching friends.

This blog will return next Saturday, July 12.

Brian Windhorst, who’s got to be the most unlikely looking basketball insider ever, was sharing his information (which is as right on as any other of his kind in TV, radio or print media). His topic was the current NBA free agent market. Windhorst made the statement, “You’re not going to get free agents in Milwaukee.” Certainly, he wasn’t speaking about only Milwaukee. In its current condition, Detroit wouldn’t seem to be a magical destination for any free agents, either. And those two franchises have plenty of company in terms of locations that would be considered “undesirable” by today’s free agents. It’s almost like the big city franchises bully their smaller brethren.What the little guys have going for them is 4% of more is better than 4% of less so agents can talk their clients into filling out rosters everywhere. Just not the highly sought after ones.

If Windhorst’s statement is truly the case – and one would be hard pressed to argue in favor of the opposing view – how, then, can such cities ever expect to win? Not win a championship, but just post a winning record? Wouldn’t players look at those places as depressing work sites? Even if their “work” is “play?” Especially when there are a number of other franchises that are located in cities that these millionaires would feel much more comfortable spending a good portion of their disposable income. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami and Chicago. Note that many of the NBA’s most successful franchises call those places home.

The redeeming fact for all of the small market clubs, free agency be damned, is that this past season, three of this year’s final four teams competing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy were from small market cities. The Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder and World Champion San Antonio Spurs wound up the only teams standing – along with not-so-giant-a-market (but wonderful place to live) Miami. Each of the first three used different strategies to make them successful and no one would be surprised if the trio were battling in June 2015 (depending on how this year’s free agent market shakes out, of course).

While the Pacers, Thunder and Spurs have employed different strategies to be – and remain – successful, if only one word was allowed to describe their methods, that word would probably be relationships. That’s certainly an oversimplification but it’s the one common thread that seems to bind these franchises. 

However, the NBA cynic (of whom we have an overflowing abundance) would feel the antithesis about relationships that Anthony D’Angelo expresses about them:

“Treasure your relationships, not your possessions.”

A True Example of Finding Humor Most Any Situation

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Anytime you travel to another country, you’re not only excited about the trip but also a little wary. As I’ve mentioned in a couple recent blogs, Alex, Jane and I went on a 10-day excursion to Tourcoing, France for the 20 & under World basketball tournament. Alex was part of a 10 man squad that was to compete against teams from Turkey, Germany, Montenegro, Israel, Great Britain, Croatia and, of course, France. Each team (that needed one) was assigned an interpreter. In addition, our club had a basketball coach from France who was heavily involved at the grass routes level of basketball there, had several contacts in the U.S. (including our head coach) and, most importantly, was an overall gracious and caring person. His name was Jean-Pierre (I imagine it still is) and the fact he understood the landscape (political and otherwise) and was nearly as fluent in English as the rest of our party was - in English - was extremely helpful. I had taken six years of French, counting junior high, high school and college and tried to get by, but his presence turned out to be quite reassuring.

Tourcoing is a small city. Over here I’ve heard similar areas referred to as “burgs,” to give you a visual of our surroundings. Our plan to go to Paris at least once during our stay got squelched when we learned of a train strike. Jane and I managed to take the tram to Lille one evening which, while it wasn’t home to the Eiffel Tower and Louvre, would definitely be considered a city here.

We leaned on Jean-Pierre quite a bit as he was always with us. In fact, his room was directly across the hall from Jane’s and mine. We became fast friends. One reason was he was interested in “stories from the U.S.” and “stories” are something I have in abundance.

Four of the other teams were staying in the same hotel we were, including Israel. Since the United States is a big draw in France (kind of like the Yankees, the team people love to hate), our first three “pool” games were played at 6:30, right before the home team would play. On the night France played Israel, Jean-Pierre told me he wanted to give me a heads up. After our game, outside the arena, there was going to be an anti-Israeli demonstration by Palestinians living in the area. The fact that I’m Jewish lent a little more intrigue to the story, although the demonstrators had no idea I was anything but a part of the U.S. contingent. When I asked him what he thought we should do (Jane and I always went to dinner after each one of our games), he told me there shouldn’t be a problem, he just wanted to make me aware. He reiterated that we had no real reason to worry.

We lost the game but Alex had played pretty well. As with every game he plays, afterward my mind is usually thinking of what he’d done right, what he’d done wrong and the feedback I planned on giving him. As we got near the exit, I could hear a guy on a microphone. One reason the situation wasn’t as frightening as it might have been was that, at this time of year (or maybe all the time, I didn’t ask), it doesn’t get dark until after midnight (Jane and I marveled at this - and that it got light again about 4:30 am). Once we got outside, the guy with the mic could be heard yelling, “Boycott,” while the crowd would respond with “Israel!” Crowd might be overstating the situation. There were five people in the adjacent parking lot (where the guy with the mic was) and two people on the concourse level of the building. That was the attendance for the demonstration- eight participants. Not to minimize the content of their message, but I’d seen more people at a juicer demonstration at Costco. There were five times as many people there, congregating on the concourse and down below just to chat - or have a cigarette (apparently, our Surgeon General’s report didn’t make it to the other side of the Atlantic).

When I saw Jean-Pierre later that night I said to him, “Jean-Pierre, you told me there was going to be a demonstration tonight. There were eight people there! That’s the best they could do? Eight people?” We shared a laugh and he said he just wanted to warn me. I told him I sincerely appreciated his letting me know but what a (pleasant) shock it was finding the situation as it existed.

All along, I should have thinking about Will Smith’s quote (undoubtedly, from one of his movies):

“Danger is very real, but fear is just a train of thought.”


The Alpha and the Omega of Draft Night

Friday, June 27th, 2014

On draft night Jay Bilas offered the following evaluation on Julius Randle, saying he is “the most physically imposing big guy around the bucket in the draft. However, he is he is not reliable when he steps out 15 to 18 feet.” He was selected seventh by the Los Angeles Lakers and in the immediate post-selection interview with ESPN’s Jay Williams said, “I think I should’ve went (sic) higher, for sure but, you know, the teams that passed on me will regret it.”

He was picked seventh! There were only six guys picked ahead of him and not one of them said, “Wow, I can’t believe I got drafted before Julius Randle. He’s a much better prospect than I am.” Who are these guys? He just got drafted and one of the first things he does is issues warnings to the six teams who had the nerve to select someone else. Most every mock draft had the first three guys as a consensus top three, with maybe the order changing. So, we’re really talking about Randle firing salvos at three other franchises.

Three! Really? You’re upset that the three other teams had the nerve to pass on you for other players? On the biggest day of your life, the day you fulfilled a life long dream, that’s your attitude? Prepare yourself for major letdowns in the days, months and years that follow. After historic moments, many players contend they’re speechless - then go on and on speaking. Hey, make up your mind. In many cases it would help if the person actually was speechless because often what follows is something he eventually will regret. They might even know it would be better for them to try and be humble but, possibly, because they’ve never been in such a situation before, humility is not a viable option.

I can vividly remember fifth grade basketball games between Fresno’s Valley Oak elementary school (where our younger son, Alex, attended) and Fort Washington elementary who had, among other good players, a tall, gangly kid who wore these funny looking goggles. During summers, Alex would join that spindly character, his talented Fort classmates and others in the area to form an AAU team. His name was Isaiah Austin. The guys played together for a couple years until his family moved to Minnesota, his mom, Lisa, accepting a job there.

Falling under the “small world” category, my close friend, Dave Severns, who currently holds the position of director of player development for the Los Angeles Clippers, coached Isaiah’s dad, Alex, many years ago at Gridley High School in Northern California. Following graduation, Alex joined his brother, Ike, at Arizona State. With those bloodlines, it certainly would be no surprise if Isaiah Austin became a major college player as well.

A few years ago, we walked into a high school gym in Las Vegas and there I saw a tall, gangly, spindly kid - with those same goggles - and turned to my wife and said, “Look, it’s Isaiah!”

She took one look and said, “It sure is.” He hadn’t changed one bit. Well, maybe one. He had now grown to 7′1″. Although there was no doubt in my mind, I checked the program and, sure enough, that kid was none other than Isaiah Austin. I read on to find out that he was regarded as the #1 post player prospect in the country. I had been out of college coaching (and recruiting) for ten years or so which is why I had no idea who the top prospects in the nation were. Needless to say, we followed Isaiah’s career with great anticipation.

For whatever the reason, the family had moved again, this time to Texas. After I asked some of my college coaching friends about Isaiah, they told me he’d committed to Baylor. Jane would announce, after checking the newspaper’s TV listings that “Baylor’s on TV tonight” and we’d watch our “old” friend. Possibly due to the coach in me, i.e. look for positives and negatives, I noticed he would spend more time facing the basket than with his back to it. Odd, I thought, for a guy who could have been dominant on the low block. Then came the news that during his teenage years, he’d experienced vision problems and when the doctor checked him, it turned out he’d lost vision in one eye. He never told anyone, although there had to be many people in the Baylor program who knew. Whatever the case, he declared for the draft after the season, his second with the Bears.

After completing an NBA physical, he was hit with devastating, yet in all probability, life saving news. He had Marfan’s Syndrome, common in people with his body type. When I was on the staff at USC in the early 1990s, I made several recruiting visits to Morningside High School in Inglewood to recruit California’s Athlete-of-the-Year Stais Boseman (sidebar: we did eventually sign Stais who went on to have an excellent career - although I, to this day, think he would have made a great NFL defensive back - he was All-State in football as well). But, as the saying goes, I digress. Each time I would visit Morningside’s campus, I’d notice the name on the gym which was named after one of their alums, Olympic volleyball great, Flo Hyman. Since I am a member of the Baby Boomer generation, I distinctly remember Flo Hyman, the 6′5″ leader old the women’s US Olympic volleyball team which won the bronze medal in the 1982 World Games.

Following the Games, she was playing volleyball overseas when she died during a match. Although her death was originally ruled a heart attack, it turned out she had Marfan’s Syndrome. That was the first time I had heard of the disease. After her death, Hyman’s brother was tested and he, too, had the affliction. Her death probably saved his life.

As did the detection of the disease in Isaiah Austin. No longer will he be allowed to participate in any contact sport. While there’s no cure for Marfan’s, it can be treated and the person afflicted with it can lead a relatively normal life. Based on all the reports, Isaiah Austin was not going to be a first round draft pick, although most “experts” felt he’d surely be selected in the second (and final) round. So, it wasn’t like he had a lucrative career taken away from him.

In another shrewd public relations move by new commissioner, Adam Silver, he called Isaiah to the stage (in between first round picks 15 and 16), proclaiming - as he did with each pick - “The NBA selects Isaiah Austin,” allowing him to realize his childhood dream of hearing his name, walking onto the stage and shaking the commish’s hand. It was a classy thing to do and Isaiah was overcome with emotion - as was Lisa (who looks the same as she did during those elementary school games) - and pretty much everyone in attendance or watching it on TV.

Isaiah handled himself beautifully in his interviews - considering his goal of playing in the league would never be realized. He spoke of how he was on a mission to help others who might have this disease, or any other, offering advice on how to handle setbacks. This was in stark contrast to Julius Randle, who in all fairness, did a better job once his vindictive rant ceased. Still, it’s always better to buy into author Nicholas Sparks’ philosophy:

“It’s funny, but have you ever noticed that the more special something is, the more people seem to take it for granted?”