Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

Progress Has Definitely Been Made in the Field of Knee Surgery

Friday, February 14th, 2014

College hoops weekend; this blog will return Tuesday.

For the first 39 years of my life I had been in a hospital (not counting visiting friends or relatives) a total of two times - birth and at five years old to have my tonsils out. The next quarter century saw me in hospital beds on ten occasions - some were more serious than others but the general rule of thumb has been each new surgery has been tougher to come back from than the previous one. Until last Tuesday.

For 2-3 months my right knee had been bothering me, worse and worse as the days would go by. X-rays were no help and injections were of only temporary relief, so I finally got an MRI. I went to my doctor to find out the results two weeks ago. It showed a significant tear of my meniscus. Although the doc said my knee was a mess, he told me it would be easy to fix. Arthroscopic surgery would do the trick. Three pinholes, a little therapy and I’d be back on my feet in virtually no time - not at all the experience college athletes I knew in the late 1960s had, i.e. the long “zipper” scar that currently identify athletes from that era, followed by grueling rehab.

“Great news,” I told him. “Can I get it done right away?” He assured me that wouldn’t be a problem, any of the orthopedic surgeons could easily fix it and that the lady from scheduling would give me a call the following day. Sure enough, the phone rang (two weeks ago today). When I answered, the lady said she was calling about setting up a doctor “consult” with me, something that needed to be done prior to the surgery. Since I’m a veteran of many surgeries, I’ve been involved with just as many consult meetings. Suffice to say it’s a slick move to bill the insurance company for another visit. Note: A few years back I had one such appointment and the surgeon didn’t even bother to show up. Rather his PA did. Now, I have no issues with assistants as I was one for 30 years and took pride in my ability to help solve problems, albeit it in another field. However, in this instance the PA basically came in, asked me if I knew what surgery was to be performed on me, asked if I had any questions and, when I said no, told me they’d see me the day of the surgery.

Back to the phone call. I told the scheduler my doc said I could get this done immediately, as it wasn’t a difficult, nor long (15-20 minutes) surgery and I was OK with any of the orthopedic surgeons. She said, “I can get you in on February 27th.” I was somewhat taken back when I heard my “consult” was nearly a month away - but I recovered. At least my cynicism did.

Of what year?” She either didn’t get my attempt or didn’t care as she simply told me that the meeting was to take place this year. I told her my doctor said I should have been able to be worked in much sooner. She said she was sorry but the 27th was the earliest I could be seen - for a consult. After relating this story to a couple friends of mine, they both recommended their surgeon, a guy I’d heard about from several other colleagues in the past. One of my friends was going to see that doctor’s PA for a procedure he was having done and said he’d relay my info. I spoke with him later that day and he informed me that I should call the next day.

To make a long story short (I know, too late), I called, they got me in for a consult - with the actual surgeon - last Saturday and I got scoped on Tuesday. Unlike the other surgeries - laminectomies, implanting devices (or removing them), whatever - I was an outpatient this time. And, happily, unlike the others, I have no pain, am walking with no limp and have only my back issues with which to deal. I’m even driving to Monterey today.

Thankfully for me, the other surgeon’s office believed in the adage:

“We will find a way where there is no way.”

Please don’t think I really believe they moved heaven and earth to get me in but the orthopedic center I usually go with could have gotten me in had they had a better line of communication - or a scheduler who had sharper listening skills. When someone is in pain, try putting yourself in their position, rather than reading charts and having an inflated opinion of your value.

As was posted yesterday, I got my knee scoped last Tuesday.

How to Go from 0 to 600 Wins and Still Remain Anonymous

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

This post is quite a bit longer than most but it’s not everyday that your close friend wins his 600th game. Read on about a true role model - for kids, players, coaches, husbands, fathers - human beings!

The following is the (non-recommended) career path Mark Edwards chose: a 6’8” standout prep player at Peoria Richwoods, he continued his career at Washington University, a Division III school – one of the most prestigious academic schools in the nation. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in zoology (pre-med) and did graduate work in psychology before entering the military.

By then he decided he was going to be a coach. His coaching career was to start as a graduate assistant at the school where his college coach had relocated (Washington State), only to begin his graduate work and discover, one month later, that his former coach/current boss and mentor had been let go. It was 1972 and although the two had never met, the new coach, George Raveling, recognized the value of “this new kid.” So Mark got to continue his career as a Cougar. He toiled for three years as a graduate assistant until Coach Rav had the opportunity to promote him to full-time status. It was at that juncture that their long hours (the joke was that George only wanted his people to work half a day – and he didn’t care which 12 hours they were – and even that is an understatement) produced the success that coaching staffs strive for. WSU reeled off five consecutive winning campaigns, culminating with a trip to the NCAA tournament for only the second time in its history (the other coming in 1941).

In the spring of 1981 Edwards received a phone call that was going to send him on the journey of a lifetime. The year after his senior season at Wash U (as the school is affectionately referred), the men’s basketball program was dropped. The phone call that day was from Wash U’s AD, John Schael, and its reason was two-fold: 1) the men’s basketball program was to be resurrected and 2) would Mark like to be its head coach?

Due to the love he had for his alma mater - and the chance to “run his own show” – he (after consulting with his lovely, understanding and patient wife, Mary) accepted. Since he and I were GAs together from 1973-75, I immediately called to congratulate him and ask him how excited he was to be heading up a new program, especially because it was his alma mater. I still recall his first comment. “Manny” (the name he chose for me the first time he laid eyes upon me – an amusing story, perhaps, for another blog), “You can’t believe it. They don’t have anything here.”

“I know and that must be great,” I said. “To be able to start from scratch, recruiting kids for your first team.”

“No,” he told me with a hint of panic in his voice, “I mean they don’t have anything! I can even find a basketball. Oh, Manny, I can’t believe what I got myself into.”

I tried to calm him down, reassuring him that if anybody could get it done, he could – how he understood the culture of the school, the type of kid it would take to succeed there, i.e. quite a bit more academically-oriented than what he’d been used to (I think he told me the average SAT scores were over 1500, which might have been the total for a certain Pac-10 school’s starting front line), that he didn’t have to get as talented a player as he’d been used to and that he would be able to “coach them up.” He thanked me (although he didn’t sound so confident when he hung up). At that time I was an assistant at the University of Tennessee, where, for recruiting trips, we would use “one of the school’s planes.” My only thought was, “Holy mackerel, am I glad I’m not there!”

After going through his initial three seasons of 3-16, 6-20 and 8-18, most coaches would be disheartened. While Mark didn’t exactly feel it was time to discuss a contract extension, he did tell me that he thought the guys were making improvement. And they did, producing the breakthrough winning season they so desperately needed. And that is what’s been happening at Wash U for 30 consecutive years! Winning seasons – and then some. That initial winning campaign was only the beginning for Coach Edwards and his Washington University Bears. Two years later they hit the 20-win mark (small “m”). Now, however, with the Big M leading the way, there were several other barriers to be broken. Make that shattered.

In 2006-07 Mark accomplished “the coach’s dream,” leading Wash U to the Final Four with a 25-5 record. His team must have enjoyed the experience because they returned the following season after posting a 25-6 record. But this time, they weren’t just participants - they were champions, winning the NCAA Division III National Championship. The ensuing year put Washington University into elite hoops company as one of only four teams (North Park U, 1978-80; U of Wisconsin-Platteville, 1998-99, and U of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, 2004-05) to win back-to-back National Championships, only this time with a gaudy 29-2 record.

Since the UAA conference (better known as “The Brain League”) was established- 26 years ago - the Bears have won over 77% of their conference games. So far this season, the Bears are on a 12-game winning streak, 17-2 overall and reside in first place with an unblemished 8-0 record (for the first time since 2008-09 and we all know what happened that year). Their current national ranking is 4th.

Mark’s been awarded numerous and varied Coach-of-the-Year honors (including national honors twice). But that’s not what Mark Edwards is about. Everything he’s done has been for his alma mater and the young men he’s coached. People often hear that about coaches but cynicism creeps in when the coach starts doing commercials and writing books. Mark Edwards has always been more comfortable watching commercials and reading books.

At the NABC Coaches Convention (held each year in conjunction with the Division I Final Four), one of the most approachable coaches can usually be found in the lobby chatting it up with his peers. If you have trouble recognizing him, just look for the one with the smile on his face and the 600 wins (and counting) on his resume.

On behalf of everyone who has ever known Mark Edwards, I congratulate him on this outstanding accomplishment. Who knows when he’ll retire, but whenever he does, one thing will be certain for his successor. He’ll have a whole lot more to work with than Mark did when he first returned to the Wash U campus. Good luck to him and his Wash U Bears as they go for National Championship #3.

Charles Barkley - A Truly Amazing (& Comical) Success Story

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Although I’m more of a Letterman fan, these past two days we’ve been watching Jay Leno’s final week on The Tonight Show. One of Jay’s guests last night was Sir Charles Barkley.

The University of Tennessee was one of my nine Division I coaching stops and during three of my seven years there, Charles played at Auburn. Whenever that tidbit comes up in conversation, people ask me if I’m shocked that Charles has become the TV star he now is. My reply is nothing was more shocking than the first time I saw Charles - who was listed at 6′6″ (but said in his book he is 6′4″) and rumored to be as much as 285 pounds (which, while it might have been overstated, it wasn’t overstated by much) - jump. Yeah. Watching Charles jump.

A guy who was 6′4″ and between 1/7-1/8th of a ton you would think would be anchored to the floor. Not Charles. On more than one occasion, he’s admitted his academic record at Leeds HS wasn’t exactly sterling. I can tell you that one of the words he definitely failed on a vocabulary test was gravity. The way I’ve always explained it is when Charles jumped, it was as if his body was filled with helium. That first time I saw him take off? If he had continued to rise up to the rafters like a child’s balloon, it wouldn’t have been any more freaky than when he descended. He didn’t really jump as much as he levitated. Heavy on the scale, light on his feet.

When Charles left Auburn after the 1983-84 season (his junior year), he was invited to try out for the Olympic team. He made it to the final 15 players. The head coach for the USA was Indiana’s Bob Knight whose staff was comprised of Don Donoher of Dayton, George Raveling of Iowa and C.M. Newton of Vanderbilt. I’ve heard George share the story on numerous occasions about the meeting they had to pick the 12 players who would represent our country. One by one they went through the final 15 players.

When Charles’ name came up, it was brought to the coaches’ attention that, during the Olympic trials, he had been the leading scorer, leading rebounder and leading assist man. George said that there was a brief silence, broken by Knight who said, “Look, we all know he’s not going to put up with my shit - and I’m sure as hell not going to put up with his.” When the vote was taken, each coach concurred with Knight’s assessment. “So, we’re all in agreement that Barkley is to be cut?”

Each guy shook his head in the affirmative. At that time, George said, “Coach Knight turns his head toward me and says, ‘Good. George, go tell him.’ “  Rav, ever the good soldier, goes up to Barkley’s room and knocks on the door. Charles opens it, George walks in and tells him that, while all the coaches were aware of how well he’d played, he’d been cut.

George said that Charles took it in stride. He said Barkley looked at him and said:

“That’s OK. I just wanted to prove I could play with these guys - and I did that.”

Truth be told, he probably agreed just as strongly as Knight did with the coach’s assessment what their relationship would have been.

Unwarranted Swag

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Leaving earlier than usual for weekend hoops due to a brief visit with our older son, Andy, and dinner with a friend in Orange County on Thursday. Expect the next blog on Tuesday, Feb. 4.

When I watch basketball games now, I do so for an entirely different reason than I used to. During my coaching career, if I were scouting a team, I’d look to see what their tendencies were, i.e. who they wanted to go to, what they liked to do in certain situations (secondary break, out of bounds under and side, end of shot clock, end of game) besides the obvious - offense (plays, motion, continuity), defense (man, zone, combo), press and press attack, personnel.

If I was just watching a game for enjoyment, e.g. to pass the time before we had to go to practice, on the unlikely day off, or before I went to bed (especially when I lived on the east coast and couldn’t sleep because I was too amped up that we won or too down that we lost), I was always on the lookout for something new, a wrinkle to something we were already doing, a slick OB play, whatever.

Now, except when I’m watching our younger son, Alex, so I can critique him postgame - positive and negative - I look at games purely as a fan. Not necessarily as a fan of either team, but as a fan of the game. One player trait that stands out, and I’m not sure why, is a player’s body language. Some players - and this includes high school, college and pros - exude true confidence. In today’s parlance, they have swag. Some have it, some don’t. Some have poor body language and some possess phony swag. The guy who, independent of whatever is happening, or how bad he’s playing, still moves like the game, and the others playing it, wish it, and they, were worthy of him. After witnessing a high school game last night, I was reminded of a player we (tried to) coach and about whom I wrote a story in my book, Life’s A Joke.

On many teams, lack of confidence by certain players is not something you have to worry about. On nearly ever team, there are guys who, if you bought them for what they were worth and sold them for what they thought they were worth, you could erase the natural deficit (please take into account the book was written in 2001; I doubt whether there’s any player who could erase the problem we currently have). We had one such player on our team at USC. He would never admit to a mistake and, although he had talent, for all intents and purposes, he refused to be coached.

One day he came up and complained that the coaching staff was constantly on his case and that we never complimented him. Wasn’t there anything that he did well?

I looked at him, searched for a while and finally said:

“You’re the best I’ve seen at creating rebounds.”

Young Athletes with Millions Should Never Go Broke

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Posting this notice late (it was supposed to accompany the blog below last Friday). There will be a new blog on Tuesday, Jan. 28. Every weekend my wife and I are out of town watching our younger son, Alex, and the Cal State Monterey Bay basketball team. Blogs will run from Tuesday through Friday until his season ends. 

Whatever you thought of Vince Young as a football player, there’s no way he should be filing for federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at 30 years of age. My life had barely begun when I was 30, yet as I complete my second year of retirement, my wife (retired one year) and I are living large. And neither of us ever had even a six-figure salary, much less were we paid the $34 million Young received. While Vince Young’s life is not anywhere near its end, he has put himself in quite an unenviable position. He currently faces hardships he never, in his wildest dreams, would have considered. Sadly, his case is not nearly the exception.

In a 2009 Sports Illustrated study, 78 percent of former NFL players are bankrupt or are undergoing several financial stressors within two years of retirement from football and 60 percent of former NBA players are bankrupt within five years of retirement. This probably proves two points: one, that these young guys are poorly advised, if not simply scammed and two, NBA players get paid more - because there’s no way anyone will ever convince me that they’re wiser than their gridiron peers.

I hope it takes something other than a fool or an egomaniac (because I don’t consider myself to be either) to quote himself, but in my 5/3/10 blog, I stated: “Why not give (future pro prospects) a curriculum to prepare them for the life they’re about to enter?  That’s exactly what the . . . coach is doing in practice.  How about offering them (and any other student at the university) courses such as money management (including philanthropy for those who hit the jackpot - or need a tax write-off and would like to give back), selecting advisers (mentors, agents, and, although, it could be a sensitive area, friends), dealing with the media, women’s rights (this should be mandatory in the wake of . . . front page stories), nutrition, maintaining (year-round) physical fitness, accepting the responsibility of being a role model and acting appropriately (whether they want to or not, athletes are role models) and, since (professional) players don’t have normal 8-hour work days, nor do they play year-round, a course in how to productively use “down-time” (from doing crosswords and sudokus to keep the mind active, to reading up on topics of interest, to tennis and golf)?  Many other course possibilities exist if people at the top would put their heads together.” For lack of a better term, call the course load: Striking It Rich Early.

Elite athletes would see the relevance of these courses (certainly more than they do accounting, world history and ultimate Frisbee). Attendance should still be monitored (as it is at most universities) so the “special admits” (the guys who wouldn’t have gotten into school based on their academic record alone) would be forced to attend. Undoubtedly, before too long, they would feel more comfortable in the classroom. Then, athletes like Vince Young (who may or may not have been a special admit at Texas) would be exposed to the numerous examples of others - like him and before him - who’d been misled, lied to and swindled. The goal would be to have athletes who lost considerable amounts of money serve as guest speakers, if not adjunct professors.

Maybe one bit of advice would be, “If you want something, go ahead and buy it, as long as you invest an equal amount of money in something safe, e.g. Roth IRA, with the stipulation none of the invested money could be touched without two signatures, the athlete and someone trustworthy.” Who would be considered trustworthy? The athletes can be taught that if they ever want to withdraw out of that (those) account(s), the other person on the account should be someone who would not sign. Maybe that idea is too over the top or impractical, but Vince Young and others like him probably wishes they’d done something like it back then. There’s absolutely no reason any 30-year old person should have gone through - should have been able to go through - $34,000,000. It’s posted that way for effect because $34 with a word following it doesn’t have the impact on your brain.

Young invested poorly, overspent and, generally, suffered from bad advice. Ed Butowsky, a Dallas financial adviser, who was shown in an ESPN Films documentary about pro athletes’ inability to properly manage their money, said of Young:

“He’s ultimately responsible for all his decisions, but the people around him should have taken better care of him.” 

Fans Say the Darnedest Things

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

So often in this space I comment about the remarks fans and talk show hosts make when it comes to second guessing players, and more often coaches - usually after their favorite teams lose. Most of the time I’ll listen to an audio book in my car but when I finish a book and don’t have another “on deck,” I’ll turn on sports talk radio (unless I get that feeling for 50s on 5 - if you’re from my era, you’ll understand; if you’re not, sorry).

It’s often comical to hear callers (if not the hosts themselves) chime in on their favorite calls and non-calls - by coaches and referees. Sometimes it’s readily apparent the callers who bet the wrong side (”Why the hell would he call for a field goal in that situation? They were up 10 and, sure it was 4th & 8 with three minutes to go from the 20, but they were already up two scores and a touchdown would have put the game out of reach?” - and covered that 14 point spread). Other times you can swear people call in so their friends will tell them they heard them on the radio. I heard a guy on Mad Dog Sports on my way back from Chico last Sunday that reminded me of a caller from years gone by - when I was doing postgame Dog Talk during the Tark years at Fresno State, although our caller was a lady. The story is in my book, Life’s A Joke.

Chris Herren (whose life story is amazing in itself - if you don’t know him, or it, Google his name) was going through a really bad shooting slump, although his overall floor game was still quite good, especially his assist to turnover ratio. After a game we’d won, which was about the third game in a row in which Chris shot poorly, a woman called in and said, “I don’t know why Jerry Tarkanian continues to play Chris Herren. His shooting is absolutely horrible.”

I always tried to deal more in facts than opinions to keep the show as balanced as possible. I replied to her, “You’re right. Chris isn’t shooting well, but do you realize that over the last three games he has 32 assists?”

The lady’s response was classic. “Yeah, but has each of those assists accounted for a basket?”

As Benjamin Franklin once said:

Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain - and most fools do.

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain - and most fools do.”

Ignore My Advice at Your Own Risk

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Since I retired, I have to find something to fill up my day (because not enough of you are purchasing the greatest baby gift of all time (seriously - check out - if you think I’m joking). So, until more people come to their senses and buy our company’s professionally done, unique, personalized artwork, my latest venture is . . . to write another book, a sequel of my first (and only) one, Life’s A Joke. This one, however, will be an eBook. It will also be filled with funny stories that happened to me (or at least with me involved) - either those that occurred after the first book was published or, like today’s blog, some I forgot to include. I made a few changes to the original post of the 5/10/11 to improve, or embellish, its message.


One year during the early-mid ’80s, when I was a member the University of Tennessee basketball staff, I attended the Five-Star camp at Robert Morris College. In between sessions, one of our other assistants and I went to the nearby Denny’s for lunch.

As with nearly all college coaches, we were in our identifiable gear - in this case, orange Sandknit shorts and a UT golf shirt. Probably because of our attire, a guy in his early 20s approached us, said he was from West Virginia (Buckhannon, WV to be exact) and wanted to know if we’d mind hearing about his idea for a new scouting service. He had planned on calling it the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.

Naturally, I wanted to help out this young man from (the good people from Buckhannon will have to excuse me but I have been there) “the sticks.” First, I made a suggestion to him that he change the name of his publication. There was a company, I told him (not at all trying, but certainly sounding as condescending as possible) that was founded on January 25, 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports by Bill Bowerman who had been the track & field coach at the University of Oregon (I knew about this because I’d been a graduate assistant at UO in 1975-76) and one of his former runners, a guy named Phil Knight. Of course, that company officially became Nike, Inc. on May 30, 1971. Certainly, he didn’t want a name so close to avoid confusion.

The look on his face told me nothing I’d say was going to squash his enthusiasm - for his project or his title. Undaunted, my guidance continued (due to my abundance of wisdom). After all, I was in my early 30s and who knew more than I did? Of course, it never occurred to me that he might have been a card carrying member of the “don’t trust anybody over 30″ club. No worries, there was a young man who was in desperate need of my mentoring.

As far as those publications were concerned, at that time there were more than enough of them. Honestly, though most colleges did subscribe (the cost was not prohibitive, at least not to major universities), it wasn’t so much that we needed them to find prospects as much as we couldn’t afford to upset the people who were publishing them. To not buy one might risk incurring the wrath of the writer which could be quite harmful to recruiting efforts, especially if the authors were actually close to the prospect we were recruiting.  Truth be told, I’m not sure there was ever a recruit uncovered by one of these touts who wasn’t on each of their competitors’ lists - and if there was, that new budding superstar would be in the rival’s next issue.

Since the market was so flooded, my sage advice was simple. “What’s the reason for your venture?” I asked him. “Are you doing this to join the world of college hoops or is your goal to make money? If it’s to be another Howard Garfinkel, Dave Bones, Bill Cronauer or Clark Francis, I’m not sure how much of a dent you can make into that market. But, if you want to make some big money, my suggestion would be to start a service for girls.” Title IX had been passed in 1972 but it wasn’t until the ’80s that colleges started taking it seriously. (For many, not seriously enough).

Because I was a coach from a school as prominent as Tennessee, my advice was pure gold. At least I thought it was. Why? Although Pat Summitt had yet to win the first of her six national championships, UT was still one of the major powers in women’s basketball, a fixture in the women’s Final Four. I spoke with a great deal of conviction. The guy listened but I could tell he wasn’t the least bit interested in my pearls and would soon be off to follow his dream.

As is the case in so many of these stories, the guy turned out to be a “someone” who would eventually realize his dream (something, sadly, I never did). He is none other than Chris Wallace, currently the general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies.

He’s recognized as one of the top NBA executives - and I’m blogging. The moral of this story is, to paraphrase Linus Pauling:

“The best way to get a good idea is to listen to a lot of ideas - and throw out the bad ones.”

New Book on Tark Should Be Fantastic

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

A couple days ago I received an email from Danny Tarkanian, Coach Tark’s older son and former highly skilled point guard. Danny was informing his father’s former players and coaches that he is currently writing a book on his dad’s career and was requesting any funny or memorable stories.

There were a ton of humorous stories from my Fresno State days with Jerry, some involving him, most not, all hilarious. They make up a good portion of a book I wrote called Life’s A Joke. The following one, especially in retrospect, is a classic.

During the 1997-98 season a television documentary was done on our basketball team. It was entitled Between the Madness. A crew from Fox-TV followed our team every day from the first practice until the final day of the season. In one scene, the night before our game against Pacific in Stockton, assistant coach Johnny Brown was assigned bed check. Although bed check wasn’t until 11:00pm, Johnny decided to start at 10:50. Since I was rooming with Johnny, I went along but hung back, not wanting to have anything to do with what I figured would be shenanigans of some sort. We didn’t have to wait long. Prior to knocking on the door of the first room, he thought he heard the sound of girls talking. He knocked on the door and heard some scurrying - an obvious stall tactic.

“Hey, it’s JB,” he said. “I’m doing bed check. Open the door.” One of the guys opened the door and Johnny barged in, saying, “I know there are girls in here.”

In unison, the two players said, “Aw, c’mon, JB, we don’t have any girls in here.”

Johnny went out and looked on the balcony. No one. “I know I heard girls’ voices in here,” as he looked under the beds. Nothing.

By now, these guys were pleading. “C’mon, coach, we told you there aren’t any girls here.”

Johnny’s next move was into the bathroom. He pulled back the shower curtain. Again, nothing but the tub and fixtures. “I know I heard them,” he said.

Just then, he opened the closet door and there were shrieks. Busted! Out of the closet sheepishly step four girls. The shock hits them as they realized they got a little more than they bargained for. They were facing a live television camera. Little did they know they had cameo appearances on a national TV documentary. The girls were ushered out of the room, possibly thinking how they were going to explain to their parents (and, possibly, boyfriends) what they were doing.

Two days later at a staff meeting, Danny brought up the incident to his dad, saying there was a potential problem. He then described what happened - from Johnny checking curfew, to his knocking at 10:50, to the four girls in the room, to the guys denying it, to the cameras following them out. The assistants’ question to Tark was, “What should we do about it?”

Jerry leaned back in his chair, briefly thought about it, and said, “So the girls were out before 11?”

Think of this story the next time you hear the phrase:

“He’s a real player’s coach.”

A Absolute Must Site to Visit

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Heading to Los Angeles for more Q&A with my former boss, George Raveling, for his website, This blog will return Thursday.

Today everybody and his (or her) uncle (or aunt) is posting about the BCS Championship game. To me, it was a contest that, except for the final 4-5 minutes, was a struggle between two explosive teams during the season who played so conservatively, it could have easily been called the Republican Bowl. So, to take a page out of the NFL owners’ book on Black Monday, I’m going in a different direction.

This blog is going to be about today’s trip to LA. When George Raveling decided it was about time for him to have a website of his own, we knew two things for certain. One was that he had to hire somebody to put it together for him. The other was we knew everything about it would be first class. He hired Alex Cervasio, a young computer whiz kid from Florida whose knowledge of technology is only surpassed by his love for his Florida Gators. Thus, was born.

Anyone who knows Rav even remotely, isn’t surprised that his website has a section on great books to read (monthly) - and a section on his favorites (cities, hotels, wines, restaurants, places to shop). In addition, a visitor to his site will receive life lessons, articles on basketball and, naturally, information about the ol’ coach. There’s also a “video” section.

The purpose of my trip to George’s home is that when I first went to his site, I saw the “Video” link. I clicked on and noticed he interviewed some prominent people in basketball, e.g. one of his bosses, Lefty Driesell, Michael Jordan’s agent, David Falk and Ann Meyers Drysdale, to name just a few. An idea struck me that I passed along to George.

“George,” I said, “you interview a lot of interesting people, but this is your website. You ought to have somebody interview you. And,” I continued, stretching the truth just a bit, “who knows you better than I do?”

George thought about it (very briefly) - it doesn’t take him long when he hears a good idea. “Let’s do it,” was his reply.

He conferred with Alex as to what dates were available and we all met at George’s house. I had a list of questions and, as much as time permitted, George answered each as only he can do. Viewers learned how he was able to recruit a superstar like Howard Porter - from Florida - to Villanova: “In those days, none of the southern institutions, other than the black colleges, would recruit black players” and what the worst news his parents ever gave him was: “Save for a rainy day” because, as he puts it, “In my life it rains every day.” Insight into his three head coaching jobs: he had the most fun at Washington State, Iowa was the best job he ever had and he felt most comfortable at USC.

To date, we’ve had two such Q&A sessions which have made up 40 or so interactions currently on his site (called “JackAndCoach“). On a couple occasions, he gets really emotional while on others, he’s telling stories like he’s holding court at the lobby at the Final Four headquarters hotel. Today is our third taping and he’s pledged to continue as long as I can keep coming up with questions. It’s guaranteed enjoyment and, as is the case any time Coach Rav speaks, the listener might just find out something that can be helpful - here or down the road. If ever there was a Renaissance man, George Raveling fits the bill.

I’m not sure this quote has anything to do with this blog but it’s by one of George’s favorite authors, John Maxwell, and I happen to love it (not that going to Rav’s website will make you a winner - although it wouldn’t hurt):

“The difference between winners and losers is winners know how much they still have to learn to be considered experts by others, while losers want to be considered experts before they’ve learned enough to know how little they know.”

A Better Perk than Getting to Go Home for Xmas

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

About four-and-a-half years ago the following was part of a blog. Heart warming and funny story at the same time.

Although there are all kinds of perks Division I basketball players get, going home for Christmas usually isn’t one of them since it occurs during the heart of the season. There are so many exempt tournaments being held (meaning the games the teams play count on the record but do not count against the NCAA limit of allowable games). Therefore, teams usually take a nice trip and/or go up against some top notch competition just before conference play begins. Players are fortunate if they get a two, or a maximum three-day break from hoops. One year at USC I went from feeling sorry for one of our players who couldn’t make it home, to feeling sorrier for myself after I discovered his alternative.

During the 1993-94 season, we had a freshman guard on the team from Washington, DC named Claude Green. This brief “vacation” certainly wasn’t feasible from a time or money standpoint for Claude. The day after Christmas, I said to Jane, “Oh, I feel so bad. I totally forgot about Claude” (who as a freshman, probably was spending the holiday season away from home for the first time in his young life). “We should have invited him to spend it over here.”
On our first day of practice after the break, I made it a point to go up to Claude and apologize for not extending an invitation to our house. Then I asked him, “Did you survive your first Christmas away from home?”

“Yeah,” he replied with a sly smile. “I went to my girlfriend’s house and I had a great time. After dinner, we gathered around the piano and sang Christmas carols with her dad.”

My jaw dropped and my eyes bulged. One of my jobs, in addition to coaching, scouting, recruiting and speaking, was taking care of complimentary tickets. Through the recruiting process, I had already gotten to know the guys’ parents. With this extra duty, I got to know other friends (including girlfriends) since the NCAA had started closely monitoring ticket lists. For years players had been selling their tickets to “boosters” and were really cashing in (obviously a major violation).  Every comp ticket request had to have a name of a person (who had to show valid ID). I remembered Claude’s girlfriend was Tamla Robinson.

I did a double take when Claude smiled that, “How about that!” smile after he told me. I could only manage saying to him, “You went to Tamla’s house for Christmas!?! And I was worried you were stuck out here by yourself.”

He nodded and laughed as he walked away. No longer could I feet sorry for him. Tamla’s father’s name was William - William “Smokey” Robinson, one the greatest singer-songwriters of all-time, and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His label was called Tamla Records. To this day, it brings a smile to my face when I think of apologizing to him because he missed the opportunity to join Jane, Andy (who was about to turn five), Alex (who was two months old) and me for, I think, a spirited game of Chutes & Ladders. Instead, he was burdened with having to sing Christmas carols around a piano with Bill “Smokey” Robinson.

Wonder if there was a tip jar on the piano?

I guess Claude subscribed to Emily Dickinson’s theory:

“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.”