Coach takes credit whenever, however his team scores

SATURDAY'S HERO

March 11, 1995|By ROB KASPER

Another basketball season has ended, and I still haven't coached one of my kids to a championship. Not that it matters.

What matters, of course, is that the kids have discovered the joy of the game, the delight of playing good defense, the thrill of scoring a basket.

What would matter even more would be if a team I coached would one day win a recreational-league championship, thereby proving to the basketball world that I am a coaching genius.

It didn't happen this year.

This year, for the second year in a row, I took an undefeated team into a championship game. And for the second year in a row -- how shall I say this -- we came up short? We didn't quite get there? No, wait. I can get it out. We l-o-s-t.

Not that I am dwelling on defeat. I have stopped thinking about last Saturday's title game in the Towsontowne 9-10 boys league. OK, maybe I still think about it. But now, one week after the five-point loss, I am down to thinking about the defeat only once or twice a day.

Locker-room wisdom says a good coach can add five to 10 points to his team's score, especially if the coach is a genius. That bit of wisdom usually reminds me that last year, when I coached my older son's team, we lost the championship game by only two points, a margin well within a brilliant coach's alleged area of influence.

There is a slight chance that I have an unrealistically high opinion of my ability to convey basketball wisdom to 9- and 10-year-old boys.

I say this because during the one game when I was without the services of my assistant coach, Chuck Fleury, I had trouble getting the correct number of players on the floor.

The rules of basketball say a team is supposed to put five players on the court at one time. But during the game when I was alone at the helm, our team tried playing with only four players on the court. One of our kids had decided he wanted to sit on the bench for a while. He had failed to mention his need for a little respite from the fray. It took me several minutes to recognize what was wrong with my offense. It was outnumbered.

Later in the game, in another surprise maneuver, we put six players on the court.

It is also possible that in an effort to exercise my alleged coaching skills, I made the game too complicated for the kids on my team. For instance, our team had one play that it ran to score a basket. Essentially it consisted of passing the ball either to our tallest player, Pat, or our quickest player, Sean, and letting either kid shoot.

As the season wore on, I tried to add more plays to the offense. I would explain the new plays to the kids. We would practice them. Then during a game, we would start off running our new play and would somehow end up running the old one. The tall kid or the quick kid would shoot. More often than not they would hit. So much for new plays.

One of the more challenging parts of coaching was rotating all the players in and out of the game. We had eight players rotating through five spots.

Much of my brilliant coaching career this season was spent kneeling on the sidelines saying, "Now Joey, you are going to substitute for Michael, and Karem, you are going in for Hugh, and Stuart, you are going in for John." The substitute players would nod in agreement. Then a few minutes later, when it came time to enter the game, everybody, including me, would forget who was substituting for whom.

The highlight of our season occurred a few Saturdays ago. The teams in our league were known by the color of the T-shirts they wore. We were the orange team. We were playing the maroon team. This was a good team, a team that a few weeks later would beat us in the championship game.

This game was close and confusing. One of our kids had forgotten to wear his orange shirt. This meant that every time he entered the game, my assistant coach and I had to pull a shirt off a player who was coming out the game, and put it on the substitute.

I remember the game as a blur of orange shirts, ending with a dramatic basket tossed in by our guard John, who made only one basket during the game, the winning one.

Some might say that such a game was an example of what happens when you put a bunch of kids and a basketball in a gym on a Saturday morning.

I prefer to think of it as an example of sheer coaching genius.

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