Archive for the ‘customer service’ Category

Coach As Father Figure

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Coaching in today’s world is more difficult than in any other era. It’s mostly because of social media and how “public” the coach’s job is. Then again, that could be true about any employment position. Coaching is just more visible and people care more about it, i.e. its results.

Mike Krzyzewski is catching heat for the actions of Grayson Allen, one of his players. Last season, Allen had a couple incidents in which he tripped opponents. Video replay, another invention which makes jobs harder than they used to be, makes any excuse indefensible. Up until  a couple days ago, most fans forgot about Allen’s, ahem, missteps, possibly because it’s a new year, possibly because Duke has been without some key freshmen and Allen has been carrying the Blue Devils, possibly because of some other reason.

Fast forward to their last game and an all too familiar scene of Allen tripping an opposing player. Only this time his reactions following the transgression magnified his problem. He was seen yelling on the court and exhibiting disturbing behavior on the bench. Something, obviously, needed to be done. Duke’s coach, Mike Krzyzewski, who’s dealt with nearly every situation a head coach could during his illustrious career, had no lack of assistance in this case. Commentators, writers, studio hosts – both radio and television – even fans, had no reservations about “helping” Coach K deal with such a volatile situation.

As he has done so many times before when facing criticism, Krzyzewski listened and then, basically, said he was perfectly capable of dealing with it, without help from anyone else. He claimed to know Allen better than anyone, certainly better than anyone who was chiming in with an opinion about what needed to be done. He is as protective of his players as any coach in college.

As this story was making front page news, another well-respected coach got in the news for acting in a different manner toward a few of the players he coached. George Karl, whose last coaching gig was with the Sacramento Kings, is coming out with a book and must have gotten advice from his publisher that revealing some juicy tidbits would pump up sales.

He made some inflammatory remarks about players, most notably Carmelo Anthony, a superstar he coached when both were part of the Denver Nuggets organization. Why, other than to help sales, he felt the need to make such remarks about guys he coached so long ago is unknown at this time. While there were critical remarks about Anthony’s game, the most hurtful comment was about Anthony and fellow teammate Kenyon Martin. “Kenyon and Carmelo carried two big burdens: all that money and no father to show them how to act like a man.”

One writer came out and said the line was taken out of context but let’s put aside that part of the story. Karl speaks often about his college coach, Dean Smith, as being a (second) father figure to him. It’s been said a college coach is a father figure to is players, especially for the many players who grew up without one. Mike Krzyzewski is praised by his players as, if not a father figure, a guiding light in their lives. Of course the major difference between a college coach (high school coach too) and a professional coach is just that. Pros shouldn’t need father figures; they’re getting paid and are on their own, earning boatloads of money.

Yet, in this one instance, let’s put some pieces together. George Karl was an adult, coaching Carmelo Anthony who, when he began his professional career with the Denver Nuggets, was 19 years old. Karl had not only a father but, when he was the same age as his superstar, Dean Smith in his life. Didn’t Karl have any sympathy for a 19-year-old who grew up without a father? Didn’t he feel any responsibility in helping this young kid with issues beyond offense and defense? Was he, with his background so diametrically opposed from his rookie’s, so callous to feel he was only supposed to provide Xs and Os help to him? Did it never occur to him that if he were to show even a smidgen of the concern and subsequent advice he received from his mentor, it might make the team better, i.e. if not to improve the kid’s life, make the team more formidable? Whatever else, Karl missed a chance to make an impact on the life of a youngster (independent of whether he was a “professional” athlete or not).

With all the opinions on what Mike Krzyzewski should do and what George Karl didn’t, there is one item I have yet to hear from all these people who have answers after the fact. It’s a topic I brought up with a few coaching friends of mine a couple weeks ago, regarding a subject – a teaching point – that had taken place earlier this football season – the actions of Colin Kaepernick. My opinion was well-received by my colleagues, yet something I haven’t heard discussed to date. How do you feel about it?

“Any coach who hasn’t had a discussion with his (or her) players about the Kaepernick situation should be fired.”


How in the World Can Anyone Deny that Football Might Not Cause Head Injuries?

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

It took me a long time but last weekend I finally got around to watching the movie Concussion. One of my nine Division I basketball stops (my first full-time gig) was at Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh. It was during the 1976-77 season – right during the heart of the Steelers’ dynasty. I didn’t know Mike Webster but, like everybody in the ‘Burgh, we all felt we knew all the guys who played for the World Champs. So, when Webster’s tragic story became public, to all of us who were fans of the Steelers, it was like one of our family members was suffering.

While an argument could be made for “Iron Mike” as the best NFL center, his legacy has become that of the poster child for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). One poignant moment from the movie was when the audience was told approximately how many violent hits to the head Webster had endured throughout his football career. As more and more former players were discovered as having contracted CTE, it became all too apparent that, although football is such great entertainment for so many of us, playing it certainly takes a toll on the players’ bodies -and especially to their heads.

Recently, a survey was taken regarding football and one of the questions was “Are head injuries a serious problem in football?” 5.7% of the respondents answered no. My first thought wasn’t that such an overwhelming percentage realized how serious the issue was. It was incredulity that 5.7% actually believed it wasn’t true.

Then I saw the following quote on a story in the November 17 issue of Yardbarker. It was from Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys. “I recently I had a CAT scan done . . . under an assumed name,” the Cowboy’s top man said. “Afterward, the radiologist said, ‘I noticed your age. The reason I came down – and here he called me by my assumed name; he didn’t know who I was – was that you have the brain of a 40-year-old.’ My other doctors were in the room; so was my wife. I’ve got some witnesses. The point is, I was a fullback and a pulling guard. I used my head all the time, and I played football a long time. And that had no impact.”

And that alone is proof enough for Jones that there is no link between football and brain injury. So much for research.

All I could think of was:

“Lord, help us all.”

An Imperfect Ending to a Fun Mini-Vacation

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Ever since we retired, Jane and I have been traveling – a couple week-long vacations to exotic or historical destinations, plus every weekend for the past four years during basketball season, watching younger son, Alex, play for Cal State Monterey Bay. Well, Alex graduated in May (his hoops career continues in Australia), leaving us nowhere to go from November through March.

When Jane told me her sister’s son, David, was playing bass guitar with Amanda Shires and they’d be in Los Angeles Thursday, I realized we hadn’t been out of town in a while – and didn’t have anything planned for the foreseeable future. The last time we saw our nephew perform was last year in Santa Cruz (prior to a two-game home stand for the CSUMB) when he was backing up Patrick Sweany and it was a blast. I started connecting some dots, called our closest friends from my days at USC and asked if they’d be available for dinner Thursday (they were). Then checked in with older son, Andy, and asked if he and his girlfriend would be able to have dinner Friday. We hadn’t seen them since the day we drove Alex to LAX in late May for his flight to Brisbane. If you’re an empty nester, you’d understand it was definitely past due.

Everything went as great as expected – a couple wonderful dinners, an awesome performance and, after seeing Andy yesterday morning, we took off for the five-hour drive home from Newport Beach. Full disclosure: my back pain has been escalating recently, I was put on a different drug and it made my nervous system, which is “on edge” anyway, freak out even more. One of the biggest issues is how my sleep patterns are affected, as in I can’t get to sleep at night until the wee hours – even with meditation, relaxing music, yoga breathing techniques, sitting in a glider (which always had done the trick in the past) and other various methods of calming down. After a few days of sleeping between 1-3 hours (and maybe a 20 minute nap during the day but no more), I finally got 11 hours sleep Friday night, waking at noon. It wasn’t enough. I still felt tired.

On our trip home, we encountered little traffic. We needed gas and I hadn’t eaten since our feast the night before. I figured the car’s (and my) tank could make it to just south of Magic Mountain – to a favorite Italian restaurant of ours. Usually I would get the gas part out of the way first but since the station was located on the south side of the street, decided that it would be more practical to fill up our stomachs first, then get gas just before we returned to I-5N.

I ordered a chicken parmigiana sandwich but the waiter said they’d run out of sandwich bread (since it was 2:00 and they were getting ready for the dinner crowd) but I could have the dinner. It’s my favorite – so I went for it – the soup, sauteed veggies, pasta and chicken parm. More than I should have had for my first meal of the day. But, as many of us baby boomers were taught to do, I cleaned my plate. Gladly, I might add.

A couple minutes later, I was putting the nozzle in my gas tank which was, as I had planned, almost bone dry. Realizing it was going to take a while to fill it, I went inside to get a Diet Mountain Dew, my favorite caffeinated drink to liven me up some. Inside, I saw a display of big cookies. Jane’s favorite, oatmeal raisin, and mine, white chocolate macadamia, were both looking up at me, begging to be rescued from the rest. I made my purchases and walked out to the car to surprise my wife. When I flipped the cookie into her lap and buckled in, we laughed about how much of a sucker I am for something sweet after a meal.

Then, I put the car in drive and began our journey home, only to hear something hit the ground behind me. First the first time in over 50 years of driving, I forgot to remove and replace the nozzle. What I saw in my side view mirror was a hose on the ground, connected not to the pump where it should have been, but to my gas tank. Suffice to say I was no longer tired. Next, I did what I had to do – put the car in park, get out, remove the nozzle, with pump attached, from my car and place it where it belonged.

Then, with several other customers entering and leaving the store, as well as others getting gas, I made the walk of shame into the convenience store to tell the manager of my blunder. He said I needed to back up my car to the “scene of the crime” and wait for him. Naturally, by the time I got back to the car, another driver had pulled into the pump after mine, so I had to go all the way around to get there. As I was walking back inside, a customer yelled out to the manager, “Oh, wait, he’s coming in now.” Apparently, he thought I was “making a break for it” and was about to call the local police or Highway Patrol.

As I went back to the car, I noticed he was writing something on a piece of paper. While I sat in the driver’s seat, I saw him put a sign on the door and lock it. The sign said, “STORE CLOSED” – because he was the only employee on duty at the time. Now, there were at least 10 customers either getting gas or about to enter to purchase snacks or whatever. If it hadn’t been me who caused this mass confusion, the goings on would have been pretty funny – a guy shooing customers out of his store and locking out others in the middle of the day.

He came over with his little camera. I apologized for my gaffe. He explained he had been given a certain protocol for such a situation and that it happens more often than I’d think. Then he asked for my license and insurance card, took pictures of each, plus one of my license plate and the pump and disconnected hose. As he was snapping away, the lady at the pump opposite me said, “Oh, I have done that, too.” It may or may not have been true but bless her anyway. Really, I couldn’t believe there could be too many people that stupid – until the manager looked up and said:

“My cousin did the same thing here last week.”

A Solution for Explaining Playing Time to Parents

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Anyone who has ever coached has found that teaching skills to players and making in-game decisions is easy compared to one facet of the job he or she most likely didn’t consider when they originally entered the profession – parents.

30 years of coaching in college basketball and never getting a head coaching position was a major disappointment in my life and not just because it was one of greatest goals. Not being the top man meant I never got a break from being one of the prime targets for disgruntled players, fans, boosters, alumni, administrators and parents. The people in those groups feel much more at ease bringing their problems to an assistant because, well, it’s just too uncomfortable to confront the head coach and, besides, who better than to discuss with, i.e. complain to, than the guy who has the head honcho’s ear.

Actually, once such situation that occurred after my first year as associate head coach at the University of Toledo (spring of 1988) led to an epiphany. We’d inherited a 6’11” senior from the previous staff – a nice enough kid but as long as he was on inches, he was about that short on talent. He came into my office and, although his eligibility had run out, wanted to talk about playing time. It was evident he just wanted to get something off his mind that had bothered him the entire season, probably his entire career.

Possibly because he had nothing to lose, he came right to the point. “Coach,” he began, “I gotta ask you a question. I realize I’m not the greatest player in the world but was I really that bad that I couldn’t even get five minutes a game. I mean, three minutes in the first half and a couple in the second? Would I have hurt the team that much?”

Since we’d just completed a rebuilding year and our record was below .500, he felt he had an excellent point. In fact, he might have. That’s when it hit me. Distribution of points is something players see through their own eyes and parents think about only as it applies to their kids. Especially the ones who are at the end of the bench.

The following year every player we had on the team was from either Ohio, Michigan or Indiana. One tradition our head coach instituted prior to each season was a fall dinner for the team and their families. It just so happened every guy was represented with a family member. What our graduated center said to me months before had resonated so deeply, I asked my boss if I could have five minutes of the program. I was extremely grateful when he okayed my request.

When I got up, I had a manager hand out one small, blank piece of paper to each player’s family. I said, “Would only one family member (father, mother, step parent, sibling), doesn’t matter who, write down a number on that piece of paper. Please do not write your name or the player’s name. Just jot down the number of minutes per game you think your boy should play this season. For those who are unfamiliar, there are a total of 40 minutes in each game (not including overtime).”

Some wrote on the paper immediately, other families (some of them with the player) collaborated. I asked them to fold the paper in half and the manager collected them. As the manager totaled up the “requested” minutes, I wrote on the grease board behind the head table:

5 players times 40 minutes/game = 200 minutes of playing time

When the manager finished, I asked him to write on the board what the total amount was. “415” was the number he wrote. Later, he told me six of the papers had the number 40 on them – and some of the others weren’t that much lower.

While there was a reaction in the room because of such a disparity, it was relatively minor. I scanned the crowd, focusing on the parents, and pointed to the 415 and said, “This is our problem as a coaching staff.” Then, even though it probably did little to defuse any future problems, I pointed to the 200 and said:

“This is yours.”



Time to Panic?

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

As this blog is being written, the fat lady has yet to sing. However, it’s not difficult to hear her warming up her vocal chords. To many, “President-elect Trump” is frightening. Throughout last evening, television pundits (other than those on Fox) went from confident to condescending to deer-in-the-headlights stunned.

When any team I was a member of – whether as a player or, more often, a coach – anytime we’d lose, we realized – as brutally hard as it was – that we had to look inward. Sure, initially, referees were blamed, “what ifs” were bandied about, record performances (or even a shot) by an opponent who had never done well (or anything) throughout the season (or his career) were used as excuses. Yet, because the result was an L, it was mandatory for us to figure out what we could have/should have done and what changes needed to be made.

So what does the mirror say to the Dems? The message that resonates loud and clear, when you lose to such a presumed underdog, is maybe it’s because people dislike what you’ve done and what you stand for, even more than they like the person running against you. You won on the theme of “change.” Maybe people want more change. Saying x number of jobs have been created during your administration means nothing to the guy who’s unemployed. His unemployment rate is 100%. Or the folks who are underemployed, e.g. have a job but not the one all that training and education was supposed to ensure them. The work force is going to vote the way most people do – for whoever is going to make their lives better. Sure, we all talk about team first but, when it comes right down to it, especially if your and your family’s lives aren’t so good, you tend to roll the dice.

Undoubtedly because this victory was so unlikely, people who were Clinton supporters are worried – to the point of freaking out. (Note: if Clinton somehow pulled a Truman, the following advice should still apply). Are we doomed as a nation? Will a racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic, foul mouthed, egomaniacal bully outsider take down our country?

Not to worry. No one person is bigger than the team – this team being the USA. Do people really think Trump is going to deport all the people he claimed he would? Does anyone believe a wall is going up anytime soon? Does anyone really believe Trump is going to appoint a special prosecutor (although I have no knowledge of the law, it’s my understanding the president isn’t even allowed to do so) to “lock her up?”

No, none of that is going to happen. What has occurred is the nation has spoken and has emphatically said, “We don’t trust politicians.”

John C. Maxwell is a favorite author of mine (and millions of others). The last book of his I read was entitled, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. While he doesn’t need my endorsement, everybody should read this book. Believe me, you will be a better person for it.

In my opinion, the Democrats didn’t lose to Donald Trump.

“They lost because they failed to connect.”

I’m Back & Doing What I’m Told

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Don’t know how often I’ll be blogging – back issues have made sitting at a computer for an extended period of time nearly impossible. I took close to a two month hiatus, yet my site is still receiving hits on a daily basis. Apparently, there are some people who enjoy reading what I have to say/what my opinions are, so I’m returning. For a while anyway.

As far as the other part of the title of this post, the “doing what I’m told” refers today’s election. There are a plethora of important issues on the ballot – in addition to the presidential race – so every vote is vital. Overshadowing all of this is the one in four years that we are electing a “leader of the free world.”

There have been debates and television ads. In my opinion (and, seemingly, that of many others) the debates were more embarrassing than informative. In a previous blog I mentioned my proposal on how to improve the debates. While I truly believe my outlandish idea would make the debates infinitely more informative, and certainly much less of a mockery, I did nothing beyond simply blogging about it. To inform those who didn’t read it, or remind those who did, my plan was that each candidate was wired and, as soon as he or she 1) went off topic or, 2) more so, in this year’s case, when either mentioned, i.e. criticized the other’s name or plan (both efforts to deflect from answering the actual question), the moderator pushed a button which would send an electric shock to the speaker. Yeah, similar to a dog collar that’s used to correct your pet’s misbehavior. Although I didn’t put a clock on it but I’d wager that if this plan was implemented this year, each debate would have lasted about ten minutes!

Alas, those who had the ability to put this strategy into effect either decided against it or, more likely, weren’t alerted to it. Whenever I decide to vote, I take in as much information as I can and listen to the candidates’ philosophies. So, for this presidential election I’m “doing as told.” Yesterday’s TV ads – the ones each candidate could air and felt would have the greatest influence on us – by both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – shared the identical message: here are reasons for you not to vote for my opponent. A couple guys running for Congress in California waged identical campaigns, each calling the other a criminal.

I’m someone who pays attention. I’m going to take in the information. Therefore, I will be voting for candidates running for other offices and will be placing a “yes” or “no” for other items on the ballot but, in good conscience refuse to have anything to do with placing any of those four “flawed” candidates into office. The message I got was loud and clear. DO NOT VOTE FOR THIS PERSON! Sure, I’ve heard from many people that “it’s my constitutional right to vote.” To that statement, my response is:

“It’s just as much my constitutional right not to vote.”

Back Up from Down Under

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

Although I’ve been to 49 of the 50 states and have traveled to over 20 countries, I do not consider myself an “experienced world traveler.” For one thing the majority of the countries I’ve visited are in the Caribbean. For another nearly every trip I’ve made has had something to do with basketball – be it coaching, recruiting, speaking or watching our younger son, Alex, play.

The latter was the case for my wife, Jane, and my recent sojourn to Darwin, Australia. As with most college basketball players, Alex didn’t want his hoops career to end following his last game at Division II Cal State Monterey Bay. A friend made a call and Alex was off to Brisbane, trying to latch on to a team as an “import.” Each team is allowed up to two non-native Australian players. A major problem was the league had started in April and he didn’t arrive until June 1. Rosters were full. There were a couple potential opportunities but neither materialized. If you read my 8/6/16 post, you can find out why – as well as, when he finally did play, he had scored 53 points, leading the team to its first win. He got there because one of the players on the Brisbane team he practiced with was from Darwin and told Alex that league was about to begin. He made a call to one of the team owners which resulted in Alex landing a spot on the Darwin Eagles. The level of basketball is not nearly as good as the other leagues in Australia but it’s a start.

Jane and I had planned to make a visit once he’d gotten settled in Australia. The planned trip to Brisbane became Darwin once he joined the Eagles. Everyone I’d spoken with raved about Australia. Actually, one coach told me that of every ten players he’d sent over to play, that seven of them stayed there – a fact I didn’t immediately share with Jane. Nevertheless, we packed for a fortnight. I’m still not sure exactly how long we were there because, while you lose a day going and gain it coming back, the trip wrecks havoc on your body. At least it did with mine.

Darwin isn’t as glamorous a vacation spot as Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney (or several other destinations I was told – mostly by residents of Darwin), but getting to see Alex – and watch him play – made the trip a blast. In order to get by financially in Australia, he referees games, works kids out, coaches an under-12 team and runs little mini-clinics, e.g. the Aussie Hoops program. He pays no rent and has no car or gas expenses. Because his only costs are food (excluding the few meals each week the owner, who is a good cook, prepares) and an Australian cell phone ($60/month), he’s been able to sock away some money. Not all that much but he’s learning how to save which is a valuable lesson for young kids.

Basically, all he does is basketball. While this might not pad his resume with experience in his field of study (a degree in Business with a marketing concentration), he’s in the gym every day, performing the above tasks or working on improving his game and body – lifting weights, cardio training, shooting, flexibility and practicing. Through the years I have been his biggest critic but, after watching him for the past two weeks or so, I told him several times how much better a player he’s become. As far as I was concerned, what made it wonderful (for me) was how well Alex played and how much his game has improved since he left the U.S. His immediate goal is to move up to a better league (with better pay). The success he’s having has kept his passion for the game high.

Jane and I did all the touristy things (brought Alex along with us and he actually enjoyed “the places we went and the things we saw”). I’m not one for sight seeing but, since I’d never been to Australia, I figured it would be foolish to go there and not come back with some Aussie knowledge. Whether it was the crocodiles, the termite mounds and the waterfalls in Litchfield National Park, learning of the devastating effects of Cyclone Tracy or just downtown Darwin, each of the visits were rewarding in one way or another. The one thing that was most remarkable, however, were the people.

We left for Australia the week before Colin Kaepernick began his protest. Having grown up in New Jersey, racism is a topic I’ve read about more than experienced. I have spent much of my adult life in the world of college basketball so my sense of racism is more acute than that of the “average” white person, having dealt with so many people of color, be they players and recruits (and their parents), coaches, co-workers and bosses. Because of all the attention caused by Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem, I was looking for any signs of racism. Yesterday I spoke with a former boss of mine, George Raveling (Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, 2015) and mentioned to George, a black man, that I saw not one racist act the entire time I was in Darwin. Taking into consideration that the Aboriginal population (the original residents, i.e. Darwin’s version of our Native Americans) makes up nearly a third of the city’s population, the positive interaction and mutual respect between whites and blacks is absolutely remarkable.

All that said, though, it was the basketball – and, of course, Alex’s play – that most interested me. In one of the games he scored 50 and every game he played but one, the Eagles won. He’s currently the leading scorer in the league, averaging nearly 41 points a game. The icing on the cake is:

“It’s a terrific experience and he’s having a great time.”


Is It Really an Advantage for a College Guy to Be the Olympic Basketball Coach?

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Two-and-a-half week hiatus. Headed Down Under to visit younger son, Alex, and watch him play for a couple weeks in Darwin, Australia. Plane tickets? Check. Place to stay? Thanks to time share (for once, with no hassles), check. Rental car (remember, they drive on the other side of the road)? Check. House sitter? Check. See you around September 12.

Sure the USA won the gold medal in men’s basketball for the past three Olympics – which is what the goal was after coming home bronzed in 2004 but, in this country, we need some controversy. Talk TV and radio wouldn’t exist without somebody bitching – about success as well as failure.

So was it an advantage for Mike Krzyzewski to coach the Olympic team for the past three Games? Of course. But, it wasn’t like he was begging for the job. Jerry Colangelo sought out Coach K for a reason. Looks like Jerry knew what he was doing. Could Colangelo have selected another coach who could have produced three golds? Maybe, maybe not and that’s a question we’ll never know. OK, probably, but let’s analyze the positives and negatives of being the Olympic coach.

Number one positive for a college coach is recruiting. “Hey, young fella, how would you like to play for our Olympic coach?” is a pretty nice entree into a prospect’s home. Something no other school can say. Of course, this is assuming THE USA WINS! Can you imagine what rival coaches would say if the we lost? Really, they wouldn’t have to say much because the talking heads would be slaughtering the poor guy enough for everybody. Some might consider coaching NBA players a plus but, then again, have they forgotten all that was said and written about the joys of having Boogie Cousins and Carmelo Anthony on a squad? Well, we could ask their coaches. Each can be found in the unemployment line.

How about the money and first class travel and accommodations that go along with being the head man? OK, not the money (although there’s certainly a book deal in the future – oh yeah, he’s already done that) but the perks? Check what Coach K makes from Duke, Nike, other endorsements. With what he’s pulling in, he could own his own plane and hotel if he wanted. And Rio? If he asked Micki where her dream vacay would be, does Rio even medal?

Mike Krzyzewski is no fool. He knew the recruiting advantage that he and Duke would get with the job. Just as he knew the pressure that came along with it. As well as the time commitment. Which was added to the pressure and time commitment his “regular” job brought.Duke’s freshman orientation starts today. Nice break from the grind. Don’t forget, it’s not like for the past 12 years he only thinks about his “part-time” job in the summer.

Some people may scoff when he speaks of the duty to his country and the honor he feels as its head coach. Yet, one thing that can be said for him is that, when it comes to patriotism, he has a decent track record of walking the walk. I always told my kids that college would be the best four years of their lives. Not so at West Point, or any of the military academies. Their goal isn’t to produce graduates like other schools. Their mission is to turn out leaders. So, as far as taking classes, hanging out at the student union in between them, going to parties and enjoying a great social life – which is what “normal” college kids experience – well, that doesn’t quite happen at the academies.

Early wake up calls, marching (double timing for plebes), being continuously screamed at (in the name of leadership or seeing who can handle it and who will crack under the pressure), falling asleep studying at your dorm desk at night? Heck, fours years of playing basketball for Bob Knight must have been considered recreation. Then, there’s the military commitment of five years after graduation. Anyone who knows Mike Krzyzewski, or has heard him speak, understands what West Point and this country mean to him. Does anybody think the underlying reason he accepted the job was for recruiting? He certainly knew the residual benefit he would get from being the Olympic head coach and rubbing elbows with the best of the best (except for this year). But don’t think for a minute this job was a cakewalk. This year’s pool play results – and the criticism that followed (“Is Coach K the right coach for this Olympic team?“) – would be enough to question why somebody would undertake such a thankless position.

So, for the guys who are espousing the unfairness of it all, rest assured it’s over. Gregg Popovich is the next coach and, if the rumors are true, Doc Rivers after that. Which means one thing:

“The critics will have to find something else to complain about.”

Women’s Basketball Ahead of Men

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

The title of this post is deceptive in that women’s basketball is only considered to be ahead of the men’s game – at the same point in history. Some important dates in the history of basketball are: 1891 – James Naismith invented the game; 1936 – men’s basketball introduced as an Olympic sport (1976 – women’s game becomes an Olympic sport); 1939 – first NCAA men’s championship (1972 – first AIAW women’s championship, 1982 – first NCAA women’s championship).

Notice the women’s game is between 35-40 years “younger” than the men’s version from a chronological standpoint. It’s my contention that the women’s game, due to “going to school” on the men, is more advanced than the men at a similar stage. Men’s hoops learned on the fly, e.g. the development of the jump shot, how to utilize a “big man,” introduction of zone defense and full court pressure, strategies involving the shot clock and three-point line, etc. These were brought into the men’s game and the players and coaches had to figure out the nuances – in terms of how to most effectively use (or disregard) them. Women had the benefit of seeing what the men had accomplished – and how they did it. This allowed them to avoid many of the mistakes men made – or make, and correct – them earlier. This holds true for all aspects of the contest, i.e. the women’s game – after, say, 20 years (1992) is played at a more sophisticated level than the men were after 20 years (1959).

This is not at all to say the distaff product is better in terms of, for example, dunking. There will always be a difference in what the bodies can physically do that will always make the games completely different. However, watch a video of a men’s game in 1970 and a women’s contest from 2003. See which one has more “trash talking” or outward displays of emotions – and you’ll see the profound influence the men have had on their female counterparts. The proliferation of female black players in the women’s game grew more rapidly also (a major reason, naturally, is they have had a much easier access to it). However, African-American girls have identified with the game much earlier and have had more role models than the men did.

Title IX was passed in 1972. At that time, the women’s coaches were almost always men. To make this point with my high school classes (between 2002-12), I would ask the girls in the class how many were involved in a sport. Never less than 25% – and often as many as 75% – of the hands would go up. I’d then tell them to ask their grandparents whether or not they participated in sports during their high school days. The next class period they would come to class and mention how shocked they were – not about their grandfathers bragging of their athletic exploits (all stories get better with age), but that none their grandmothers played. The family matriarchs had to explain to the girls that the reason they didn’t play was that sports were not offered to them.

One effect Title IX had was that the initial generation of girls’ coaches were males. This was because Title IX was passed in 1972, meaning the generation of girls growing up in that era were coached by men since the previous generation of women didn’t have a working knowledge of the sport, i.e. they had had no access to it.

Today, there is no debate about which game is more dominant on a global level. If they haven’t already caught up to the USA, the rest of the world is extremely close to catching us on the men’s side. The USA women, though, are virtually untouchable, having won six consecutive gold medals, including this year’s Olympics, by an average winning margin of a whopping 37.2 points. In addition, the women have won 49 consecutive contests. Which leads to the cheer overheard in many areas of the nation:

“You go, girl!”

What If the Olympics Were Like Politics?

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Imagine Michael Phelps in position to begin his race, or Usain Bolt in his blocks waiting for the starter’s pistol, or Simone Biles about to take off for a vault – and as they were about to start, rather than actually perform their event, they instead set their mouths in motion, spewing nasty comments about each of their opponents, saving the best quips (independent of whether or not they were true) for their closest competitor.

“Do you know how poorly my opponent swam in his last meet? He was a joke. Why is he even out here?”

“I’m the fastest person on earth and I don’t understand how anyone can think differently. How can anybody even consider giving that title to a person who has next to no (sprinting) experience?”

Isn’t it great that actual performance is how the winners are chosen?

Well, what about the events that aren’t measured – like gymnastics, diving and boxing? How awful would the Olympics be if the people who voted for the winner has to do so based on negative blather and insults?

“By now, it ought to be oh-so-obvious that no one can touch me in anything that has to do with gymnastics. To my opponents, I say to you, ‘Don’t even waste our time with your dumb ass routines.’ People know who the best is.”

“Did you see that last dive? Sad effort. The country should be frightened if the judges were to, somehow, choose my opponent over me. It’s readily apparent his lack of experience will doom the entire Olympic Games. Basically, he’s not trustworthy.”

Naturally, choosing a politician to lead our cities, states, country isn’t based on 10 seconds, several minutes or routines over a few days. Because of the competition among news sources (being first trumps – no pun intended – being right) and the irresponsibility and complete disregard for factual information on social media, combined with the general feeling of so many citizens that their lives, to use the most popular word in today’s vernacular, suck, the majority of information the public receives is of personal flaws of the politicians.

Is everybody in politics unfit for office? We can’t have grown so cynical to, deep down, believe that. There most likely are people who would enjoy serving who are qualified and have no skeletons but, in today’s world, political strategists will dig up (or make up) something to cast negativity on a candidate. Even with that, there are people who would run because they feel they can make a positive difference and can handle personal attacks. Yet, they choose not to run because they refuse to subject their families to such vile intrusions.

The Olympics is about realizing dreams, so maybe the motto for political elections ought to be:

“We can dream, can’t we?”