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Friday, August 31, 2018

Basketball: Narrative and Coaching

Keep the audience (players, fans, readers) engaged. Work the narrative. We don't need a narrator before Game 7 to say, "this is for all the money." Advance the narrative with great dialogue. 

You can't tell stories without drawing from anecdotes. 

Years ago, the officials approached me pre-game asking for their pay. I answered that the league, not the coaches, reimburses the officials. From the tip, we got savaged on every call. Later, the opposing coach came over to me and asked, "did you steal something from those guys? They're killing you." You get what you pay for. 

Another season, we won a playoff game against a very good team from a strong league. Our kids played well, executed in key situations, and won by three. Our opponent had three post players at least three inches taller than our tallest girl. In the handshake line, the opposing coach said, "we would have beaten you if we made shots." Seriously. As David Mamet would say, "unexpected and obvious." It's a make or miss sport.

I worked with a former coach who was working the refs. One said, "if you cross this line, I'm tossing you." My buddy built a wall using the girls' gym bags so he physically couldn't cross the line. Whatever it takes.

Talk about a hostile environment. We played one town infamous for its hometown officials, who doubled as members of their basketball board. Two minutes into the game, their point guard had gone to the ground with the ball (traveled) and habitually used a stiff arm to fend off defenders. No calls. I had the temerity to say, "she can't do that." The official said, "sit down and shut up or I'm running you." I wished I were Peter Falk (Columbo). As a twelve year-old in Little League he was called out sliding into home.  Removing his glass eye, he told the ump, "you need this more than I do." 

UNC women's coach Sylvia Hatchell watched her team sleepwalk through a first half. At halftime, she asked her players to place a hand over their chest. "Anybody feel a heartbeat?" The Lady Tarheels rallied to win after the intermission. 

A coach showed his team a basketball. "The surface of the ball is what there is to know about basketball." He drew a tiny circle on the ball and pointed to it. "This is what you know about basketball. Start paying attention." 

Sometimes, I'm at a loss for words, thinking, "Maybe you should try track..." but "it's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt." The King James Bible quotes, "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."

But the words players need to hear most, "I believe in you." 

Well-known video of Rajon Rondo sniffing out and defeating an inbounds play based on the set... 

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