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Top Basketball Coaching Websites

Top Basketball Coaching Websites

Coaching Websites
Brought to you by teachhoops.com

I didn’t make this list into a top 10 per se, because I’ve used all these sites multiple times. At the same time, I do have favorites on the list depending on what I’m looking for. Most of the time I search, it’s for drills. Occasionally, I’ll search for an area we’ve struggled (a certain zone press, sets off of a certain man-to-man defense). These sites reflect that perspective.

Teachhoops.com: I have to start with my site.  I started in 5 years ago to give back to coaches who were looking to win more game, in less time with a fun mentor.  It is a full mentoring site that is valuable resource for coaches at any level. Weekly newsletter, mini-lessons. full length coaching videos, online community, office hours and much more…14 day free trial.  Check it out today you will not be disappointed

FIBA Coaching Online: Excellent website with drills and plenty of “international” views of the game. Contains videos to drills and plays. We’ve used several of the defensive drills in our practices. I’m a huge fan of the basketball exercises page as well as their “Basketball for Younger Players” free downloadable book.

Coaches Clipboard: Website feels a little clunky, but the information available is almost overwhelming. I’ve used this a ton for different types of drills to give some variety to our workouts. We have our base drills, and we work on other drills as needed based on our team that year. This site is a great resource to find drills that you hadn’t thought of or ways to adapt drills you regularly use.

BreakThroughBasketball: This site is best for youth coaches as some of the information might seem basic to higher level guys. There are a lot of fundamental drills, tips, and posts to work your way through practices and to improve your players. At the same time, we’ve used several of their “Beat Pressure” drills with our high school team making slight adaptations or focusing on fundamental aspects of being full court pressure. Check this site out, see what might work and bookmark it for later use.

HoopsKing.  If you need anything basketball related this is the place to stop.  Customized coaching boards and MUCH MORE

FunctionalBasketball: This is a site with some pay material, but I’ve used it for the blog posts and maybe the most underrated portion “quotes”. We start every practice with a quote or a Bible verse (I coach at a Lutheran school). That quote is our focus for the day and in part a larger focus for the week or part of the season we’re at. The drills are great, but the quotes are my favorite part of the site.

HoopThoughts: I don’t know if I have ever used this site for drills; I’ve used it a ton for concepts and knowledge, however. The blog is run by A+M coach, Bob Starkey. Starkey blogs about concepts, motivation, and other odds and ends. Truly a great read for coaches and parents alike. Share this blog with your parents to start a season. I encourage you to check out the topics “culture” “leadership” “motivation” and “team building” some of my favorite blogs some from these sections.

Hoopscoop: I linked this to the basketball plays section because it’s my favorite portion of the site (last updated with March Madness plays). There are a lot of great one hitters in here that can be built into your offensive schemes. The site includes stories, drills (hasn’t been updated since 2014) and updated clinic notes.

Teachhoops.com: A full mentoring site that is valuable resource for coaches at any level. Yes I mentioned this earlier in the list but it is the ONE stop shop for every basketball coach

YouTube: Looking for something quick and don’t have time to search or want more than just a diagram? Check YouTube for tons of videos to individual instruction or offensive/defensive concepts with a video. We’ve used YouTube after games or practices to quickly see what we can find; it’s kind of like Wikipedia to me. Find a base of knowledge then explore it further using other websites. Be aware, however, of the flash individual instructional videos with all the and-1 moves that don’t do anything for you on the court. Steer clear!

If looking for Basketball “stuff” make sure to check out HoopsKing

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John Wooden’s First Lesson

John Wooden’s First Lesson

John Wooden was born in Martinsville, IN, one of four sons. He started playing basketball in elementary school. His coach was also his school principal, a man of stern but warm character. Each day before practice (their court was outside, beneath tall maple and oak trees) Wooden and the other players had to pick up sticks and rocks, to clear the court for play. The basketball they used was a large rubber bladder which barely fit inside a leather shell, such that after a few minutes of use the players had to take out the bladder, blow it back up with their own lungs, then squeeze it back inside the leather.

Ironically, this led to the team utilizing an uptempo practice, for the secret was to get the bladder in the ball and use it in as many repetitions as possible, before the ball would empty again. Whoever held it at the time had to blow it up–hence, the need to make quick passes to others.

When Wooden was later inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame (he was the first person to be inducted into the HOF 2-X, first as player, then as coach), Wooden said his remarkable ballhandling skills were in part due to the fact he had a learn how to dribble an oblong-shaped ball that lost air on rocks, sticks and in the holes of his outside court in elementary school.

The first lesson Wooden learned in basketball happened at this same elementary school. He never forgot it; in fact, it became a cornerstone of his own coaching years later, at UCLA, when his teams won an astonishing 10 National Championships.

Wooden was the star of his elementary school basketball team. One day he forgot to bring his uniform to school when he left his farmhouse in the morning. Then, after school, he decided he would not walk home to get it. Instead, he would play dumb when it came time to play that evening’s basketball game. As the game neared, Wooden fessed to his coach that he did not have his uniform. Expecting that the coach would feel some sort of sympathy for him as the star, or at least have a strong desire to win that night’s game with him at the helm, Wooden was pleased when his coach asked the worst kid on the team, “Do you have your uniform for tonight’s game?” When that kid answered yes, Wooden expected his coach to tell him to let Wooden wear his unform that night. Instead, Wooden received the shock of his young life, when the coach said, instead: “Good, because you will play for Johnny tonight.”

Wooden’s face fell. He took off sprinting to his house, and back, arriving in uniform just seconds before the game started. But his teachable moment was not over. His coach said to him, “I am sure you are tired, so sit down.” Wooden sat there, watching his team lose the game, knowing it was his fault.

The 2 lessons he learned that day, are these: 1) The player is not above the team. 2) As a coach, the bench is your friend.

Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball. Feel free to email him at terryboesch@gmail.com, or call/text at 317-643-6042

Spartan Tales ( Madison Memorial 2009 Basketball Season) Part 2



Chapter Nine
Moving forward after first road loss in 5 years.

Tuesday, Jan. 13 — 6 p.m.
We had a short practice today due to a wrestling meet at 5 p.m. The players are starting to prepare for finals and the end of the semester. As I walked through the door tonight at home, my son, Drew, was whistling up a storm. The entire team was able to hear his new instrument last weekend on the bus. He sounds like a boiling teapot as he puckers his lips together. A pretty funny sight and sound.
Wednesday, Jan. 14 — 10 p.m.
We were able to get practice in today after school. The district has closed down all activities starting at 6 p.m. due to the pending wind-chill warning. We were able to walk through our Janesville Parker scouting report and hopefully will be able to get the game in tomorrow. I stopped at the store and got the makings for a pancake breakfast just in case we have a cold day. What a job — you go to bed not knowing if you have work the next day!
Thursday, Jan. 15 — 5:30 a.m.
Cold day! I am going back to bed. Luckily, I told my players that if we did not have school there would be no game or practice. I am glad I planned ahead and look forward to a day home with my kids.
Thursday, Jan. 15 — 6:45 p.m.
It was a good day in the Collins house — I made a pancake breakfast, had a fire all day, corrected some tests and even got in a game of Monopoly with Drew. Looks like I have to change my focus from Parker to East tomorrow.
Friday, Jan. 16 — 5:30 a.m.
Another cold day! I can’t believe it. I am going back to bed thinking about whether we will play tonight.
Friday, Jan. 16 — 9:30 a.m.
We are going to play the game tonight versus East. I have to get a hold of all the guys and let them know what is going on concerning the game. I hope being out of school for two days does not affect our routine. We are meeting at school for a short shootaround and then heading off to the game. Time to get into game mode.
Friday, Jan. 16 — 11 p.m.
We lost tonight 53-44. I give credit to East (my alma mater) for playing a very spirited game and really executing down the stretch. Rich Cleveland has been a longtime friend — his mother babysat me as a young child. He looked like a very happy coach at the end of the game. The crowd from both schools was amazing and we have been blessed to play in front of packed houses for most of our season so far. It was quite a celebration after the game and it is hard for any team to see their opponents carried off the floor by fans. The locker room was very quiet and my postgame speech was very short. I have coached long enough to know that my team will not hear me tonight and that we can talk the next day.
The one good thing that happened was my wife came downstairs to the locker room after the game and gave me a big hug. She has been around this coach long enough to know just what I needed. I saw her sitting throughout the game with Paula Avelleyra, a very talented MMSD social worker whose son, Augustine, played for East last year and now attends UW-Whitewater.
I enjoyed meeting Superintendent Dan Nerad before the game. One of my favorite chants of the season came from our student section, who upon spotting him in the East gym chanted “Dr. Nerad.” He was a very impartial fan, wearing a Spartan sweatshirt with an East fleece over it. I want to thank Clint Robus, a reporter at the Wisconsin State Journal, for understanding that I was not very talkative after the game. He was nice enough to say he liked my blog and was following it.
I have to remember where this loss puts our program and get some perspective. This is our first conference road loss since February 2003, when we lost at La Follette. This loss also snaps our 18-game Big Eight winning streak dating to a 57-55 loss to Beloit at home last season. We currently hold a 40-game consecutive winning streak in the league. It is also the second loss for Memorial in the past 62 conference games and the third loss in the past 88 games. Those numbers say quite a lot about the talented teams, dedicated players and tradition that Memorial basketball has created.
Saturday, Jan. 17 — 7 a.m.
You have to love kids. My kids were up early this morning ready for the day and not caring that Daddy’s team lost last night. I am getting ready to go coach Drew’s YMCA basketball team so hopefully I can get this loss off of my mind.
Saturday, Jan. 17 — 3 p.m.
We had a great four-hour practice today. The players called a private team meeting before practice that lasted an hour. I heard it went well and was supportive of the guys having time alone to talk and plan as a team. We then watched the entire East game, and had a two-hour practice. It was the first time I left practice in almost a month feeling really good about where we are as a team.
Saturday, Jan. 17 — 10:30 p.m.
The entire Big Eight played tonight, but I sent scouts (including former player Ryan Beld) to the games and spent the night on a date with my wife, Mya, and our good friends Dave and Amy Knight. It also helped that I could talk basketball with Dave, who runs Power Squared — the sports performance clinic through UW Health.
Sunday, Jan. 18 — 8 a.m.
Today is Verona Day. We play them on Friday, so it’s time to put the loss behind us, move forward and get ready to play. The one thing about being in the Big Eight is you need to be ready to play every night or you will lose. That is why I have the privilege of coaching in one of the best conferences in the state.

Chapter Ten
The demise of the No. 3 Value Meal as a pregame ritual, and a celebration of other Memorial successes.

Monday, Jan. 19 — 7 p.m.
No school today. This is our fifth day of being out of our routine. It seems a bit odd having all of these school days off during the middle of high school basketball season. It feels like a mini-winter break. The blessing is that I have gotten to spend a lot of time at home and reconnect with my family, something that usually does not happen until mid-March. We had an early evening practice today. It was a good practice for the first hour, but we lost a little focus in the last 30 minutes. We have spent a lot of time emphasizing how hard we are working during each practice. I handed the players and assistant coaches their roles today at the end of practice. I am going to discuss them individually over the next week.
Tuesday, Jan. 20 — 7:45 a.m.
Back to school today. The first semester is coming to an end, just like the first half of our season. We started spending more time on Verona today and discussing their tendencies and what we can expect from them on Friday. It is always difficult the second time through conference when you have already played an opponent. Teams know what to expect and it becomes more difficult to execute the various offenses and defenses. People have scouted us and have a better idea of what we run, so my players have to execute that much better for us to be successful. You also have to factor in injuries this time in the season. The second round through conference really battle-tests us for the upcoming tournament trail, one of my favorite times of the year.
Tuesday, Jan. 20 — 9 p.m.
I just got back from watching the Verona/LaFollette game. Scouting is one of the aspects of my job that I really enjoy and work hard at. It is fun to get out and see teams that we will play; seeing a team in person or on tape allows me to sleep better at night. I don’t think there is anything better than going into a game knowing a little something about your opponent. Verona is going to be quite a battle for us — they push the ball up the court as well as any team I have seen in quite some time.
Wednesday, Jan. 21 — 11:35 a.m.
Today is the last day of final exam reviews and tomorrow students start taking their exams. I was just notified that one of several specials done on our team is going to be on FSN tonight. I can’t wait to sit down and watch it. From what I can gather, the episode is going to be on several times a week over the next weeks.
Wednesday, Jan. 21 — 10:35 p.m.
I worked the guys out hard at practice the last three days and they have responded very well. After practice yesterday, they went right to the locker room and walked by one of my freshman coaches, Percy Brown. Percy found me and asked if I had taken the guys to the swimming pool — he remarked he had never seen them so drenched after a practice. I watched our special on FSN tonight and thought that they and “When We Were Young Productions” did a wonderful job. I think it gave a small glimpse into the “behind the scenes” of a high school basketball program. My favorite part was the players dancing in the parking lot. I also watched the end of the Badgers game at Iowa. That is a tough one to lose. I thought when Jordan Taylor hit that shot at the end of regulation that the Badgers were going to pull it out. This has been a bittersweet day for my wife, Mya — it is the 24th anniversary of her dad’s death. Milt Bakken would have made an excellent father-in-law and many people have told me that he would have loved watching me coach. That does not surprise me considering his head coaching history at Milton as well as working with Jim Stevens at Madison West, along with being a Hall of Fame player in basketball and football at UW-Platteville. I hope Drew and Emma inherit those athletic genes!
Thursday, Jan. 22 — 9 p.m.
Today was the first day of final exams. I feel like all I have been doing today is grading. It was nice to get to practice and work on different things for tomorrow’s game. The players did a great job focusing in practice considering the lack of routine over the past week. It seems like it has been forever since the loss to Madison East. We need a game badly. When I look at our upcoming schedule, we have four games in eight days. That is the great thing about a basketball season — if your team stumbles, you get a quick chance to recover from the loss.
Friday, Jan. 23 — 2 p.m.
My players only have two exams today and the entire afternoon off, allowing for early practice. We just finished an hour-long practice and spent some time on specific drills to prepare for Verona. This is the hardest I have worked the guys out on a game day in a long time. I want to make sure that they leave their exams behind and focus on tonight’s game. Memorial administration is anticipating a sellout crowd and will televise the game in the cafeteria for those fans who can’t get a seat in the gym.
Friday, Jan. 23 — 5 p.m.
Having lost our last game, I am going to leave some of my superstitions in the past. I am no longer wearing the opponent’s school colors in my tie or my state championship ring on game days. Those who know me well will not be surprised to hear that I have had superstitions going back to my playing days (putting my basketball shoes on in a specific order and following the same pre-game routine). The year Memorial won the state championship, I ate a No. 3 Value Meal from McDonald’s before every game. I have also honked when passing a friend’s house on my way to games, driven specific routes to games, worn the same outfit for every game, and saw my kids before every game — too many routines to mention. Superstitions are important because they get you in a habit of thinking about the game — it’s all about routines. Can anyone guess my new superstitions? I’m not telling.
Friday, Jan. 23 — 10:30 p.m.
It was another hard-fought game against Verona and we won 57-34. I thought we had one of our better defensive performances of the year, holding a team that is averaging over 70 points per game to less than half that. We also held the leading scorer in the conference, Jason Ziemer, to 11 points (he previously averaged over 22 points a game). We still played sloppy at times and missed four dunks, which I have not seen happen in the Memorial gym. We did play a lot harder and with a sense of urgency that I have not seen since our first couple of games. I was happy and impressed with the effort the team showed for 32 minutes. I hope we can maintain that energy for the rest of the season. Before the game, I was able to sneak in and see my second swim meet of the year. Talk about a storied program! When you look at the walls in the pool and see the number of state championship and state runner-up trophies the boys and girls programs have established over the last 40 years, I am amazed. I was also able to see history in the making with junior Michael Drives, the defending 200 IM Division 1 state champion. He slashed the pool record in the 200 IM and broke the school and pool records for the 500 free (that record has not been broken since the mid-1970s). Way to go Michael! Swimmers are some of the most dedicated athletes in our school — they put in a lot of early morning practices, countless hours, and get very little media attention for all of their accomplishments. Our game tonight was live video streamed on Channel3000.com by Jay Wilson and John Boyle. I always love when they come and do our game — plus Jay said he reads the blog, so it’s good to know that I have at least one reader! I am not happy that Jay will not being doing the WIAA State Tournament this year, since he no longer works for Ch. 27. I have enjoyed listening to him broadcast state tournament games since I was a kid. Hope that doesn’t make you feel too old, Jay!
Saturday, Jan. 24 — noon
We had a pretty short practice today. With a long week ahead and three games in six days, I do not want to wear down the players’ bodies too much. We lifted, shot, and re-introduced the players to the Parker scout (which we had discussed earlier in the month, but then had to reschedule the game because of bad weather). I am excited to have a date with Mya tonight to celebrate the 40th birthday of a close friend, Kate Young. It’s a surprise party and Kate loves to dance and do karaoke — should be fun.

Chapter Eleven
Surviving the grind of an NBA schedule — and a ‘black eye’ for the program.

Monday, Jan. 26 — 3:05 p.m.
Today is the last day of exams. I can’t wait until we get back to our normal routine. It seems like a long time since we have had a full week of school without any interruptions.
At noon, the team got together to watch tape of the victory over Verona, eat lunch and practice. The one good thing about this time of year is that we have more time to watch film and lift. The players seem happy that final exams are over and even happier that there are three games this week.
This is a good time of year to be playing games. As a coach, I sometimes need to get out of the way and let the players play — I don’t always have as much control over the outcome as I may think. I have not hit a jump shot in a game that mattered in more than 20 years!
I am going to head off and grade some of my finals. Grading is the only part of my job I do not like. Grading feels like doing laundry and dishes — there is always some to do. We had lost a couple warm-up tops after our last home game but I found them in a closet in the gym today. Things are looking up.
Monday, Jan. 26 — 10:30 p.m.
I just finished watching Marquette, and former Memorial basketball player Wesley Matthews, beat Notre Dame — what a great game! Wesley is playing well and I really enjoy watching him.
I also watched the movie Jumper. Interesting movie, in which people have the ability to “beam themselves” up to other places. If I possessed the ability to jump anywhere, I would jump to Cameron Indoor Stadium during a Duke men’s basketball game.
I feel like I should be watching game tape or doing some team statistics, and decide that I’m going to work on my Basketball Academy. In the offseason, I run my own Basketball Academy for the top middle school prospects in the area who are self-motivated, competitive, and hard working.
I developed this academy in response to the realities of today’s competitive environment; times are different from when I played. As a kid in the offseason, I participated in a few pick-up games in the summer and practiced recreationally. I now believe you need a lot of individual instruction and skill development. That is why I limit each session to 12 athletes working with me and run it each spring, summer and fall. I really enjoy doing this and it keeps my coaching sharp in the offseason.
Tuesday, Jan. 27 — 7:40 a.m.
We are back to a “normal” school day. We had our shootaround this morning and are ready to play Parker. We have some illness going around the team but will be ready for tonight.
Tuesday, Jan. 27 — 4:50 p.m.
I just got off the treadmill. It has been a hard couple of days working out, with my fifth cold of the year. One of the hard things about teaching is the number of illnesses you are around on any given day! Having a 6- and 4-year-old at home does not seem to help either! I am going to grab a quick sandwich and run off to the gym.
Tuesday, Jan. 27 — 11 p.m.
We beat Parker 91-48. I am happy that everyone got a lot of playing time and I thought my bench did a wonderful job in the game.
The score may not show it, but I think Parker coach Ryan Masterson is doing a great job in a difficult situation. He has his players playing hard and once they get their first win, they will knock some people off. I told him before the game that it takes time to build a program and that when I took the Memorial job there was not a huge influx of applications; in fact, I was the only applicant for the job.
I got home from our game in time to watch the final five minutes of the Wisconsin-Purdue game. What an exciting game and I am so proud of the way Keaton played, especially his 3-point shooting; he made all five attempts, including one that he banked in! I personally think that Wisconsin is taking a bad rap right now in the media. You wait — the Badgers will be around at the end. Coach Bo Ryan’s teams are well coached and will fight until the end.
Wednesday, Jan. 28 — 10:30 p.m.
I worked out too hard yesterday and was feeling too good because I ended up in the training room with shin splints. Getting old is no fun; the saying that youth is wasted on the young is true.
We spent some time today working on several new presses and zone offenses for tomorrow’s game against Sun Prairie. Practice was pretty uneventful, which I guess is a good thing. As one of my coaching friends said, “You just have to fight through the dog days of January.”
I did get a good laugh at practice today when assistant coach Kevin Klagos came into practice with a black eye. As Kevin tells it, he received it from WISC-TV sports anchor Jay Wilson during a noon basketball game at the Shell on the UW campus. It has not been verified that is where the black eye came from, or that the two of them play basketball together, but rumor has it that it is the same game Governor Doyle plays in.
I have gathered some information about this “noon ball game” from several reliable sources (I am really sounding like a news reporter and not a math teacher). It appears “noon ball” is supposedly the toughest game in Madison to get invited to play in.
The game started 25 years ago in the UW Fieldhouse and has since moved to the Shell. The game commissioner and founder is UW athletic department academic advisor Alan Zussman. Play is by invite only and players are often suspended or reprimanded for anything from poor shot selection to being tardy.
Over the years, participants have included future college head coaches such as Tony Bennett (Washington State), Ray McCallum (Detroit Mercy) and Bo Ryan (Wisconsin). Others have included former UW and NFL star Al Toon, Shawn Hood (now an assistant coach at Cleveland State), Trent Jackson (a former UW Basketball player), Tom Oates from the Wisconsin State Journal and of course Jay Wilson.
One of the original participants is Governor Doyle, who is said to hold the all-time Shell scoring record. Doyle’s play has been limited since taking office. He has a standing invitation to return to the game, but only if he brings along President Obama. Maybe President Obama will show up?
I want to take this opportunity to invite the President to a pick-up game at Memorial. If he showed up, I would have to dust off my old basketball shoes. If that doesn’t happen, maybe I will get invited to noon ball sometime!
Thursday, Jan. 29 — 7:45 a.m.
Game day. It is a big day for me because I am coaching my 250th game as Memorial’s head coach. It seems like yesterday that I was head coaching my first game versus Sauk Prairie. I will never forget that game because Chad Nelson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the win. It was one of the few wins that year (7-14) but sure was a memorable way to start my head coaching career.
Thursday, Jan. 29 — 10:45 p.m.
We beat Sun Prairie 69-46. This was not an easy game because I am friends with co-coaches Jeff Boos and Jay Swanson. It feels as though we are getting better. We played more of a complete game and got some quality minutes from our bench (Russell Henderson, Erick Blue and Eric Fruhling).
At times we’re taking off plays, but our defensive intensity has really improved. I think tonight was both Vander’s and Tre’s best defensive effort of the year.
Due to budget cuts in the athletic programs, we have to drive to Sun Prairie instead of taking a bus; it has become tradition for coach Klagos to drive me to away games. I believe this started in 2004, when I tore my Achilles’ tendon and was not able to drive to school or practice.
We had some extra enjoyment tonight having Kevin’s daughter, Karly, and her friend, Gabi DuCharme, ride along with us to the game. They got to see Kevin and myself all wired before the game and me eat a kiddie meal at Culver’s before and after the game.
We also ran into Jordan Noskowiak after the game at Culver’s. Jordan is the starting forward for Sun Prairie and, along with Nimrod Hillard from Madison East, one of the top sophomores in the Big Eight conference. Off to bed I go…
Friday, Jan. 30 — noon
It feels like we are an NBA team, playing every other day. I saw some of the players in the hallway and they look tired. I am going to have to take it easy on them at practice. We have a lot to get done in an hour-long practice since the girls basketball team is at home tonight and they need the floor.
Friday, Jan. 30 — 10:45 p.m.
A good and short practice tonight. My wife, Mya, and I just got home from having dinner at Tex Tubbs with our neighbors, Erin Clune and Mike Anderson. It is always nice to have a non-basketball night. It helps recharge the battery and put everything in perspective. I had one of the team’s managers, Keara Sweeney, babysit tonight. Emma and Drew are already asking when she is coming back to babysit.
I continue to hear from people are reading the blog. I received an email from Mark Smidebush, a ’74 graduate of Memorial who lives in Tennessee, who says this blog has brought back some great memories. As Mark states, “When the school first opened, I was in grade school and would go watch Memorial and West play in a packed gym. In ’74 I had the great fortune to play for Bob “Boomer” Harris. We won a few games, not a lot, but you couldn’t measure the value of playing for such a great man. I used many of those learnings raising my own kids and in my daily work.” I only hope I am making that kind of impact on my players.
Mark also asked what keeps me from making the jump from high school coaching to the collegiate level. I’ll never say never, but I have a wonderful job that I love with a very supportive school and administration. Family is the center of my world and being a high school head coach gives me the freedom of time that you don’t have at the collegiate level. I am not sure I want to put my mortgage payment in the hands of a 19-year-old college player needing to hit a free throw in an important game.
Saturday, Jan. 31 — noon
We had an early practice today and then I headed off to Drew’s basketball game. I love Saturday games, but it sure makes the weekend go fast. I am hoping to find the Marquette-Georgetown game on TV — I need someone to invent the Big East Network!
We have a big game tonight at home versus Craig. I can’t believe that after tonight, there are only six games left in the regular season and just two home games! Coaching during the winter sure makes the winter months fly by. I can tell that spring is coming when I leave practice and it is still light out.
Saturday, Jan. 31 — 11:45 p.m.
I feel we are getting better after tonight’s performance. We jumped out on a 12-0 run and a 21-5 first quarter lead. This is probably one of the most complete games we have played all year. Except for a small spurt in the second quarter when Craig scored on four straight possessions, I thought our overall defensive effort was exceptional.
We are slowly learning that it is going to take 32 minutes of focused play for us to be successful.
Chapter Twelve
Cold season takes its toll, but not in the win-loss column.

Monday, Feb. 2 — 6:00 p.m.
Today we have a varsity reserve game in Janesville. As a result, we had a short practice with the entire team before the varsity reserve players had to leave for Janesville. We look tired. I am not sure if it is last week’s tough three-game schedule or that we all have colds. It was nice to have the players work on some individual skill development. It is hard this time of season to get a lot of time for skill development when there are many games in a short period of time. I told my team as they were having a dunk contest at the end of practice that I have not lost a game of H-O-R-S-E to one of my players in eight years — I also haven’t played any of them in a game of H-O-R-S-E in eight years. You have to know when it’s time to hang up those gym shoes.
Tuesday, Feb. 3 — 11:45 a.m.
This morning has been very busy because I forgot to hand out my weekly Tuesday reports or academic progress sheets. I spent my prep period hunting down my players and giving them their reports to fill out. Maybe it was old age that caused me to forget or maybe that we were out of our normal routine. I am glad that we only have two games this week.
Tuesday, Feb. 3 — 5:30 p.m.
We had a good, crisp practice. Several youth teams were in to watch practice. Maybe they should come everyday! The interesting story today is that Channel 15 came to practice to ask me about us not taking a bus to Sun Prairie. Like I told the reporter, this is a non-story because we have been having parents and players drive to metro area games since I was in high school at Madison East (which was a long time ago 1985). I guess people do read this blog!
Tuesday, Feb. 3 — 10:00 p.m.
Just got home from scouting the Baraboo-Portage game. I do not think I have seen two teams go at it like that in a long time. I can’t believe how well both of the teams shot the ball. I have not looked at the box score, but I bet that there were at least two players with 30-plus points. I can see how Baraboo has not lost a game all year.
Wednesday, Feb. 4 — 9:30 p.m.
My entire team is sick right now with colds, but I do give them credit for fighting through practice. We play La Follette tormorrow and spent today working on how to defend the dribble-drive offense that they run. I was pleasantly surprised with how well we executed our defensive schemes. I threw a lot at the team this week by adding several new presses, zone offenses and delay offenses to pull opponents out of their zone defense. I am thinking we will get the opportunity in the next couple of weeks to use a lot of these new things. Tonight, I was approached by my good friend, Todd Young, to coach a sixth grade AAU team that he is starting. It looks like the negotiations went well. I am excited and think it will really sharpen my skills having to teach the game to such a younger age. I have not coached sixth graders, other than in camp, in almost twenty years. I guess I am always looking for a new challenge.
Thursday, Feb. 5 — 10:00 p.m.
We beat Madison La Follette 74-38. I was really impressed with how my entire team played. We got in some early foul trouble but were still up 18 points at half. I am sorry to say that I also got my first technical foul in several years. Just like coaches and players, I understand officials have a difficult job to do. What I look for in an official is someone that will communicate with me during the game and give a consistent whistle. As a coach, I try to teach my players to adjust to the type of game the officials are calling. It must be the math teacher in me, but I know there is some variability in the type of game each official calls. It is up to players and coaches to adjust to that varability. We did not do a very good job of that tonight.
Friday, Feb. 6 — 10:30 p.m.
We had a wonderful practice. It is never hard to get our team motivated to play Madison West. I am wishing we had more time to prepare. This time of season, I always feel like we need more time in the gym. With the end of the regular season just around the corner, I think everyone feels the same way. I know the players love the games, but we don’t have a lot of time right now to correct mistakes and work on fundamentals. I had a great evening — a special date with my four-year-old daughter, Emma. I got home from practice, changed into clothes that she had picked out (including a tie) and headed off to dinner. After dinner, Emma and I watched part of the Memorial sophomore girls game and ran into Emma’s teacher, Jane, from Meeting House Nursery School. I know I’m biased but I do believe it is the top preschool in the city! After a short stint in the gym, we headed off to see the “Sound of Music” in the Memorial auditorium. I have to compliment the entire production. I have seen shows in London and New York and walked out of the auditorium totally impressed — I only wish I could sing. Emma sat on my lap for the entire show — surprising since many four-years-olds don’t sit still! I think she was very engrossed in the musical. My only complaint would be that the Memorial auditorium needs new seats!
Saturday, Feb. 7 — 2:00 p.m.
We had a busy morning in the Collins’ household with Drew’s basketball and indoor soccer games. I am totally exhausted and haven’t done anything today — Mya told me to take a nap, which helped. I am going to watch a little West tape before heading off to school for our shootaround.
Saturday, Feb. 7 — 11:45 p.m.
We beat Madison West 98-56. I am really pleased with the way my team is coming around and the energy they are bringing to the court. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are getting better. There were a lot of dunks in the game so I bet it was entertaining to watch. In my pre-game talk, I talked about the three C’s (complacency, consistency and character) and how we have to work on all of these during the rest of the season — I can’t take credit for the speech since I borrowed it from Coach Weber at Illinois. We have a tough week ahead with going to Beloit on Tuesday and hosting Middleton on Thursday. I think my guys are up to the task. I asked Drew what he thought of the team tonight and he said, “They are doing good with their 3’s and making their dunks.” Drew, let’s hope we can keep that up!

Chapter Thirteen
A milestone victory, and a shadow of doubt.

Monday, Feb. 9 — 6 p.m.
I have not been sleeping well the last couple of nights. I’m not sure of the reason, but I’m guessing it involves worrying about the team and the direction we will take in the postseason. I always worry as a coach that I have not properly prepared my team. We had an average practice at best today and I’m concerned about whether we are getting better. The players headed off to a team dinner and I rushed home to see my kids and put a little perspective back in my life.
Everyone associated with the program is very excited about tomorrow’s game and from what I hear, half of Beloit is going to show up.
Tuesday, Feb. 10 — 11:45 a.m.
Is spring finally here? I went outside to get something out of my car and it has to be 50 degrees. I always love this time of year and joke with my coaches that you know spring is around the corner when you leave practice and it is still light out. You also know that with the state tournament approaching, there will be more snow since it usually snows during those three days — I guess spring will have to wait a bit.
Tuesday, Feb. 10 — 5 p.m.
We just arrived in Beloit and the crowd has already begun to show up. It is going to be an exciting atmosphere and I hope that my guys are up for the task. I told them this will be a challenging opponent in an intense atmosphere.
Tuesday, Feb. 10 — 10 p.m.
I am on the bus going home and can’t believe the game I just watched. We started the game down 21-4 and were able to fight back to a one-point lead at half. After the poor start, we went on a 62-37 run to finish the game and won 66-58.
I take my hat off to the Beloit team. I will have to look at a shot chart, but I don’t think they missed more than one or two shots in the first quarter. I have coached 21 years and can only remember one other team shooting the ball that well — Middleton at our place in 2005, when they shot over 70 percent the entire game.
Despite being down tonight, my team showed a lot of composure and fought back to a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter. We worked the clock for the last 5 minutes and pulled Beloit out of their zone.
The Beloit fans really pulled out all the stops; their student section was seated behind our basketball hoop and had some very interesting signs.
Wednesday, Feb. 11 — 9:30 p.m.
I really got after the team in practice. I reminded them what they are playing for and that there is a lot at stake in the next three games. It took about 10-15 minutes to get those slow, postgame legs going and then we had a really good practice.
I want to go on record saying that I do not like Tuesday games. It is hard for student-athletes to focus and get everything done when they are getting home at midnight on a Tuesday. I can’t believe that we have had so many Tuesday games this season.
A week from Sunday, I will attend the WIAA seed meeting and figure out who we will play in regional semis on March 3.
I just had a wonderful date night at home with my wife, Mya; it is really difficult during basketball season to stay connected, especially when I am at practice, coaching a game or off scouting.
Thursday, Feb. 12 — 11:30 a.m.
It is amazing to learn about the readers of my blog. I have had people contact me from China, Ohio, Colorado, Arizona and even my old stomping ground, Wausau. A fellow teacher was at the Subway on High Point Road and got stopped to talk about the blog. Writing the blog continues to be a wonderful experience for me.
Thursday, Feb. 12 — 11:30 p.m.
We beat Middleton 66-46. We did not start out very fast but had a pretty good second half. I am impressed with how my team continues to work down the clock at the end of quarters. We took several minutes off the clock at the end of the third quarter while Middleton sat in their zone.
It brought back memories of the 2005 season when at Middleton and up three, we stood at half court with the ball for five minutes while Middleton stayed in their zone. I remember shouting over to then-Cardinals coach John Boyle about how much fun this was — we both laughed. I also remember the fans being dissatisfied with our play; however, our goal was to win the game.
I never understand the crowd booing when a team pulls the ball out. I respect coaches Tom Diener (who won five WIAA state titles at Milwaukee Vincent, and now coaches at Milwaukee Hamilton) and Lance Randall (who guided Oshkosh West to back-to-back Division 1 titles in 2006-07 and now is an assistant at Loyola in Chicago) very much and they both did it to each other in the state finals.
Tonight’s game was personally a big one for me. I had my college roommates in attendance (Lawrence University alums Bob Olsen, Jeff Schang and Chris Wolske) and won my 200th game as a head coach. When I took the Memorial job I never thought I would reach this milestone.
I remember talking with Jeronne Maymon when he was a freshman — I told him about the previous season and reaching 100 wins and then winning the state championship. I told him I didn’t know if I would get to 200 wins. Jeronne responded as only a freshman could: “Don’t worry, Coach, I will help you get there.” Well, Jeronne, you did. Thanks to all my guys.
Friday, Feb. 13 — 4:30 p.m.
I did something today that I have never done … I called off practice. The team looked really tired and worn out walking around school today. I told them they could stay and shoot or go home. I was surprised that most of them stayed around. I hope it was the right decision. I am taking Mya out for dinner tonight to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but first I am heading off to my son Drew’s soccer game.
Friday, Feb. 13 — 9:30 p.m.
We just got home from eating at Paisan’s. I love their Italian food and Mya loves the Porta salad. While we were out for dinner, I got a call from High School Hysteria, the show on WTLX-FM/100.5. It is always fun talking about high school basketball and my team. I have the most understanding wife in the world who lets me do a radio interview during our dinner and also lets me drive to Milwaukee on Valentine’s Day to scout a high school basketball game.
Where did all of this snow come from? It is surprising how quickly people forget how to drive in the stuff.
Saturday, Feb. 14 — 6:30 a.m.
I have a busy day today with Drew’s YMCA basketball banquet (thanks, Joe Murphy, for your all of your help), practice, Max Knight’s birthday party and scouting Milwaukee Washington versus Waunakee. I am already tired.
Saturday, Feb. 14 — 11:30 p.m.
We had a great practice this morning. I can already sense the team becoming more focused as we approach tournament time. If only we all could wear masks and stay healthy for the next five weeks!
I just got home from watching the No. 1 ranked team, Milwaukee Washington, defeat Waunakee. I am proud that I only got lost twice trying to get out of Milwaukee.
It was a great high school game and Waunakee controlled most of it. I can’t begin to describe the last 40 seconds of the game, but I left the gym feeling as though Waunakee had won the game. It is that time of year when these funny things start to happen on the court — I love it. We only have one game this week — Janesville Parker on Tuesday — and then it’s time to get ready for East.
The WIAA tournament and March Madness is right around the corner!

Chapter Fourteen
A victory dance with the Parker band, goodbye to a legend, and planting seeds for a tournament run.

Monday, Feb. 16 — 7 p.m.
Today was a pretty uneventful day. These days are always good this time of season. It is nice to have a quiet night at home with my wife, Mya, and the kids. We had a great practice and I can really see the team becoming more focused as we work our way through February.
Tuesday, Feb. 17 — 7:45 a.m.
We just finished our morning shootaround for the Parker game. The players are really focused and I reiterated to them that we are playing for a share of the conference championship tonight.
I spent a couple of minutes pointing at the banners in the gymnasium and asking them if they wanted to be a part of that history. They all noticed that Memorial has five straight conference championships — that made an impact.
As I walked back to the office, I was thinking that Jeronne was in seventh grade when we won our first conference championship and freshman Junior (Lomomba) was in fourth grade!
We have been watching the highlight tapes of previous years and when I look back I can’t believe how young I looked and how much more hair I had! The players have really enjoyed looking back at those games and seeing some of the history of our program.
I just got a text message from Ace Davis and it looks like he is going to make it back for the game. He has been gone at his grandmother’s funeral in New Orleans.
Tuesday, Feb. 17 — 12:45 p.m.
I got another text from Ace and it sounds like he is not going to make it back for the game. He wished us well and said he would see at us practice tomorrow.
Tuesday, Feb. 17 — 9:45 a.m.
We beat Janesville Parker 85-33 and won a share of the conference title. I was impressed with how well my guys came out at the beginning of the game. We executed really well in the first half and jumped to a 51-10 lead. I was able to play everyone a lot in this game.
I think I made a few people in the Parker crowd upset. During the first half, people were yelling to stop running and pressing, which we did not do once we had a commanding lead. We then went to our delay game and took several minutes off the clock without a shot, leading people to yell for us to play basketball. I guess you can’t please everyone.
I did set one goal for the team before the game and that was for them to have fewer than eight turnovers for the game. I told them if they accomplished this goal, I would take them to Culver’s for custard on the way home. At the end of the game, they only had six turnovers, and $70 later they were a pretty happy group.
I can’t believe the wonderful addition to Parker High School — it looks like a different school as you approach it.
Can I also go on record and say how much I enjoyed the Parker band? They did a tremendous job the entire game and the best part was after the game. They played a “fifth quarter” and then played their way out of the gym.
Of course, my players felt like joining in — as I came out of the locker room, I saw my players dancing with the Parker band … quite a sight to see.
Wednesday, Feb. 18 — 6 p.m.
Today we had a very hard practice. The players walked out of the gym very slowly tonight. I have started having some of the younger players from the sophomore team come and practice with the varsity. This is always a good thing since they bring good energy and keep the varsity players sharp.
This time of season, people do not see me smiling much in the hallway. Not that I am not happy — this is a great time of year — but rather I am thinking of the 80 things I should have done and the 20 I still need to do.
Inevitably, Jeronne will see me in the hallway and ask if everything is OK. I usually say, “You tell me … are we going to win tonight?” To which he replies, “I got you coach.” That always makes a smile.
Thursday, Feb. 19 — 9 p.m.
We had a short and quick practice. We did a lot of things in a short amount of time — similar to how we play our games. The Memorial girls have their final home game tonight so we had to be out of the gym relatively early.
I have a feeling that next week is going to be a very long week. I went and saw the La Follette-East game tonight, which the Purgolders rallied to win 62-51. As an East alum, it brought back great memories. I remember that game meaning a lot to both schools, one that both really wanted to win. Both teams played extremely well.
I was able to talk with Will Ryan, an assistant coach at North Dakota State and the son of UW coach Bo Ryan, about a former Memorial player, Michael Nelson, now playing for the Bison. It sounds like he is doing an awesome job. No surprise there.
Friday, Feb. 20 — 11:30 p.m.
Tonight was a scout night. I had six people out watching games, from Bayport down to Racine over to Tomah.
I got the assignment of going to the Milwaukee area to watch Germantown, which improved to 17-2 with an 80-69 victory at Mequon Homestead.
The good news is I got to stop at Five Guys for a burger, Kopps for custard and literally did not get any snow until I pulled into my driveway at the end of the night.
The bad part was that I got lost again and barely made tipoff. I think I need a navigation system in my car.
Saturday, Feb. 21 — 9 p.m.
I can’t believe all the snow! I was a little worried that we were not going to get to practice this morning. Luckily, we were able to get in a good two-hour practice and the players were really focused.
I got home and the snow was still waiting for me to snow blow. I finished the driveway and took the kids to Four Corners Park. I love the park in the winter; snow makes the slide a lot faster. After the park, we walked home and watched the Marquette men’s basketball game. Mya came home from shopping and had a found a cell phone in the parking lot at Target. After a little time, I contacted the phone’s owner to return it.
My son Drew, assistant coach Jeremy Schlitz and I were able to sneak out tonight to watch the Sun Prairie-Craig game.
It was announced during the game that coach Bob Suter is retiring after this season. I knew this a while ago, but I still can’t believe he is not going to be roaming the Craig sidelines.
I consider Coach Suter one of the greatest high school basketball coaches to come through the state of Wisconsin — not only because of the number of wins he has accumulated, but also because he has been a great teacher and ambassador for the game over the years.
Many things done at Memorial are based on the Craig program and especially Coach Suter. He exemplifies a winning tradition and respect for the game.
I consider Coach Suter a friend and mentor and know he will be missed.
The seed meeting is tomorrow morning — not sure who we are going to play but it is always an interesting experience.
Sunday, Feb. 22 — 1 p.m.
I just got back from our seed meeting in Baraboo. Kevin and I got to the meeting a bit early, so I gave him a tour of Baraboo. I spent a lot of time as a child in Baraboo visiting my Grandma Collins. We drove by the Circus World Museum. I remember visiting my grandma and going to the circus with her at least once a year. We also drove by her former house; I remember it being a lot bigger.
The seed meeting brings together 16 coaches in the sectional. To start the meeting, each coach makes a short presentation and then all coaches vote the top eight teams (not including his own team). You are not ranking the teams but rather listing the top eight.
Once this vote is taken, there are usually several appeals and then the groups are separated, with the top eight teams heading to one room and the bottom eight placed in the other. Coaches then again speak on their team’s behalf and then all coaches rank the teams from 1 (top seed) to 7 (lowest seed). Coaches once again can’t vote for their team.
After the votes are counted, appeals can be made for a higher seed but not a lower seed. Once the seeds are decided, the two rooms come together and put the entire bracket together.
I think it is a pretty good process.
You would not believe how quiet the room gets when the votes go on the board; everyone is trying to figure out who and where their team is going to play. It is an interesting process because every coach loves his team and fights for his players, school and community.
Memorial was voted as the No. 1 seed and will play Monona Grove a week from Tuesday. I can’t believe that tournament is a week away.
Off I go to watch some East tape and get ready for the Badgers men’s basketball game.

Chapter Fifteen
Celebrating the ‘drive’ to another Big Eight title, and a special birthday.

Monday, Feb. 23 — 7 a.m.

When I was driving back from the Germantown scouting trip last weekend the “Check Gauge” light was going on and off in my car. So early this morning, I took my Jeep in to get looked at. Luckily, Russ Darrow is within walking distance of school. Once I got to school, I had some extra time to watch East tape and think about the upcoming week and what we needed to do to beat East.

Monday, Feb. 23 — 7 p.m.

Today was a hectic day. We had our team photo. I always like doing pictures the last week of the regular season. It causes a little stress, but it seems like the best time to do them. We got a good hour of practice in and then set up for our last home varsity reserve game. I need to adjust our practice plan for the next couple of days because we did not get everything done.

Tuesday, Feb. 24 — noon

The buzz around Thursday’s upcoming game against East has grown into a frenzy. The rumor from the East side is that we pre-sold tickets and have sold out already. I don’t think I have ever heard of a regular season game being pre-sold. I know that the Memorial community and my team is VERY excited about this game. It seems as though it has been an eternity since we played a game and it has only been one week. I’m off to do a radio interview for the big game with Jon Arias at WTSO-AM/1070.

Tuesday, Feb. 24 — 6 p.m.

We just got done with practice. It’s that time of the season when televison stations start coming to practice. Early in my coaching career it really bothered me, but I have learned that distractions are not the worst thing — in fact, they cause your players to re-focus on practice. Channel CW was here interviewing a couple players. I am glad they didn’t talk to me because I forgot to shave today. I am heading off to my do my taxes with Dave Greene and Hegg Accounting; it will be one less thing I will have to worry about in March.

Wednesday, Feb. 25 — 8:45 a.m.

The big talk in school today is the car painting contest between East art students and Memorial art students.

As summarized by Geof Herman, Memorial Art Department Chairperson:

“In preparation for the big game this Thursday a talented group of Memorial artists initiated the first skirmish, led by art teacher Monica Urbanik. Memorial student-artists Gina Kim, Catherine Ensch, Rachel Calgaro, Chris Richardson and Christine Larson marched into Smart Motors early this Saturday morning to take on a contingent of East student-artists in a car painting challenge.

“Each squad of artists was given their own Scion XB (which had been wrapped in a form-fitting vinyl ‘skin’) on which to paint a composition of their creating. Nine hours later, paintbrushes were laid down; the works of art completed. The vehicles were displayed during the Feb. 26 game, and there was an opportunity to win a Scion vehicle at the game! Smart Motors is also making a donation to each of the schools’ Art Departments. Both of the vehicles will be displayed on the Smart Motors Showroom floor (5901 Odana Rd.) for the next couple weeks. Customers will be able to vote for their favorite design.

“The Memorial visual theme involves the Battle of Thermopylae, which formed the basis of the movie ‘300.’ It is a bold, dark, atmospheric vision that is nicely balanced by a sharp-edged, modern Memorial logo on the front hood. The East design is interesting in its own right and is a worthy challenger! Community members are encouraged to visit Smart Motors and vote for their favorite design. Eventually a winner will be declared!!!”

The interesting buzz at school right now involves how to get the cars in the building. My understanding is that the doors will leave less than an inch of clearance. I am glad I am not pushing them into the cafeteria! I can’t wait to see the cars tomorrow — what a great way to bring two schools together.

Wednesday, Feb. 25 — 9:45 p.m.

I was asked by one of my good friends to coach his sixth grade son’s AAU basketball team, the Madison Basketball Club. At first I was a little hesitant about the time commitment and coming off of my season, but after coming home from our first night of tryouts, I am really excited about this adventure. Like I told the parents, when I do something I take it very seriously and if I am in a gym at a sixth grade tryout the night before a big game I must consider it very important.

We had another television station stop in at our Memorial practice tonight. I need to rush out and get my pre-game sushi dinner from Muramotos’s — I think the owners believe I have a sushi addiction. Those who know me would say it’s just another one of my crazy superstitions.

Thursday, Feb. 26 — 8 a.m.

We just finished our shootaround. The team is ready. The players are sick of going against each other in practice. It is going to be a fun night and a bit sentimental. It will be the last regular season home game for my seven seniors. It is always hard to say goodbye and considering it is such a big game, I know it will be an emotional time for everyone involved. I’m really proud of my guys.

I’m off to second hour and need to write a good statistics quiz. You have to love confidence intervals! I am not sure what type of confidence interval I would set for the game tonight with all the hype and distractions. It is Senior Night and the team is really excited about their last regular season home game. I see the two cars being brought into the cafeteria — what a sight!

Thursday, Feb. 26 — 4 p.m.

As I walk through school, I see that the ticket line has already begun to form. There are at least 300 to 400 people already lined up. I guess tonight’s game is living up to the hype. Off to see my own family before the game.

Thursday, Feb. 26 — 5:30 p.m.

I just returned from down by the gym. Tickets go on sale at 5:15 p.m. The line for tickets winds through the cafeteria and commons, by the classrooms and all the way outside. There must be 500 people in line two hours before tip off. It looks like a sold out crowd and reminds me of some of our early games against La Follette. My wife, Mya, is here already with my son, Drew, and good friends, Paula Avelleyra and Mike Behlke. She looks pretty stressed and I hope she makes it through the game.

Thursday, Feb. 26 — 11:30 p.m.

We beat East 56-45 and achieved our sixth consecutive Big Eight conference title, tying Beloit’s record from the early 1930’s. I was asked several times in postgame interviews if I have had time to reflect on our success in this conference; I don’t think I have because I am in the midst of it. I believe someday, I will be sitting in my fishing boat with Drew and we will reflect on this as father and son. Isn’t that what retirement is for?

What a fantastic game! I can’t believe the atmosphere in our gym for a regular season game — it truly felt like a sectional final. It was a well-played game by both teams and on a personal level, a great representation of boys basketball in Madison and the entire community. There were a bunch of dignitaries in attendance: several MMSD School Board members, Superintendent Dan Nerad, UW coach Bo Ryan, and Marquette coach Buzz Williams to name a few.

Just like the first Memorial-East matchup, I don’t think the score indicates how close the game truly was; it was a two-point game with less than 3 minutes to go. It will not surprise me if East makes it to the sectional finals, where we might meet up again.

After the game, the team and coaches cut the nets down and put closure on our regular season. It was a fun time for me as a father because Drew, who is a ball boy, got to cut the net with me. There are a lot of great athletes and coaches who never get to cut down a net.

I finished the evening at the west side Nitty Gritty planning next week’s scouting trips with my coaching staff. I really can’t say enough about what a dedicated coaching staff I work with; the hours spent scouting and preparing for each opponent are invaluable. The drive home was really treacherous; the roads were terrible with the freezing rain.

Friday, Feb. 27 — 7:45 a.m.

Adrenaline is an interesting drug. I couldn’t fall asleep last night because of it, but now I am really dragging today. It’s time to switch gears and focus on playing Monona Grove on Tuesday in our WIAA tournament opener. This is the first time in six years that we have played a regional semifinal game. Our sectional no longer has a bye and I believe we are the only sectional that does not have a bye. I’m not sure of the reasoning, other than a geographic cause for this disparity.

I see they have put highlights of the Memorial-East game at: http://www.madison.com/tct/sports/preps/440793. Gosh, I am getting bald!

I am driving to Holmen tonight to watch its game against La Crosse Logan. This could be our second-round game if we take care of business on Tuesday.

Saturday, Feb. 28 — noon

Today was an early practice. We started tweaking several things for the WIAA tournament and working on our shooting.

Today is a big day in the Collins’ household because Drew turns 7! There is an interesting story about his birth, although Mya might not agree. The last time Memorial lost in regionals was on February 26, 2002, to West. Mya was not at that game because she was on modified bed rest due to high blood pressure (no surprise considering my team was still playing). The following day, the Badgers won their first Big Ten title in 55 years and I did not even go to the game because I was too upset over our season ending.

The following day, Drew arrived 4 weeks early! I still think the stress of those past couple of days caused him to come early — he knew even then that his Dad needed a distraction.

Four of my players — Junior Lomomba, Tre Creamer, Vander Blue and Jeronne Maymon — all stayed after practice this morning to help Drew celebrate at his birthday party and play with the kids. They did a wonderful job and the kids loved playing basketball against them. It is moments like this when I am very proud of our program and the young men that represent it.

Chapter Sixteen
A week of challenges, but Memorial ‘Marches’ on.

Monday, March 2 — 8 a.m.

Today is game preparation day. I watched a lot of Monona Grove tape this past weekend. I think Monona Grove is one of the best 16 seeds I have seen in a long time. They shoot the ball extremely well and are very well coached. I hope my guys are ready to play. It is the first time we have played a regional semifinal game in six years; we had byes in previous years but with a full sectional, all teams in our group play the first night.

Tuesday, March 3 — noon

Game day! It seems like yesterday that we were starting the season. I love this time of year but it sure is stressful. Even though I have a knot the size of a small car in my stomach, it is a lot of fun. Many people remind me on a daily basis that expectations are really high; that can be a lot for kids to carry on their shoulders. I know my team is very excited about finally getting into the playoffs.

Tuesday, March 3 — 9:30 p.m.

We won 71-55. We played a little sluggish tonight, but Monona Grove shot the ball very well and hit nine 3-pointers. You could tell they were coming to our gym to beat us. We definitely need to improve on some things for the upcoming weekend. I found out that we are playing Sauk Prairie in the regional finals. I saw them play in late December and think they are a very good team.

Wednesday, March 4 — 8 a.m.

I woke up at 2:30 a.m. on the couch with static on the television and Sauk Prairie information all over the floor. I thought that Monona Grove could really shoot the ball — then I watched Sauk Prairie play. They have two guards that have a combined 70 3-pointers. This could be interesting.

Wednesday, March 4 — 10 p.m.

I told my team that there are only 64 teams left in Division 1 and after Saturday’s game, there will only be 32 left. I think they heard me and had a really good practice. Game time for Saturday has been set for 4 p.m. I reminded my guys how important it is to be ready for a Saturday afternoon game. Afternoon games always have a different feel to them.

Thursday, March 5 — 9:30 p.m.

We had a good practice. We were able to get in the Memorial field house and get a lot of shooting and station work done using all of the baskets. I just got back from my 6th grade AAU practice. I am impressed with how the kids are able to focus and learn the game of basketball, even at a younger age. I think I will start bringing my son Drew to practice and have him run with these guys.

Friday, March 6 — 3:45 p.m.

I just heard that Madison West forfeited its game to Baraboo due to use of an ineligible player. I have never heard of such a thing happening in 20 years of coaching. It will make for an interesting weekend in the communities of Watertown and Baraboo.

Friday, March 6 — 9 p.m.

I just finished a radio interview with High School Hysteria, the radio show on WTLX-FM/100.5. I love talking high school basketball and was glad to hear that there are other Steve Perry and Cub fans out there!

Friday, March 6 — 11:30 p.m.

I just woke up on the couch — it’s that time of year when I can’t help but fall asleep watching tape. I checked my phone messages and everyone called in for curfew. I am happy the players understand the importance of tomorrow’s game and how tough it is come tournament time. It was a good night for Jeronne, who turned 18 today. It seems like yesterday when he was the 14 year-old puppy who had his eyes wide open, taking it in.

Saturday, March 7 — 7 a.m.

I am getting ready to run out the door for Drew’s YMCA basketball game. It is hard to believe that first-graders play basketball this early in the morning!

Saturday, March 7 — 11 a.m.

As we get ready for our pre-game walk through, I was made aware that, unfortunately, one of my players will not be able to play in today’s game. I have to try to refocus my team on the task at hand, which is tough when you lose a member of a team. So, today we will work through the adversity and stay together as a team. The lessons that my players learn are not always basketball related but I know that I can only continue to teach the captive audience that is in front of me right now. Our focus at the shoot-around was good. I hope our execution carries over to the game.

Saturday, March 7 — 6:15 p.m.

We beat Sauk Prairie 47-38. I was really impressed with the way my bench came through in this game. The team was in foul trouble the entire game and I was able to have nine players contribute, which is a really good sign going into next weekend. It was good to get through today, although it is not over for me. I am heading off with my friend, Tony Ketterer, to watch Waunakee play Madison La Follette; we could meet one of them in the sectional finals with a state tournament berth on the line. I am going to take the next couple of hours to try not worrying about our next opponent.

Chapter Seventeen
Going for gold never gets old.

Tuesday, March 10 — 5:30 p.m.

We had a good practice. I am trying to simplify the things that we are doing. In the last couple of games, we got away from the things that make us successful. The team was really focused and got through everything in practice in less than an hour. I am heading off to the Big Eight coaches meeting at East High School — one of the few occasions that bring all of us coaches together.

Tuesday, March 10 — 11:30 p.m.

I just got home from the Big Eight coaches meeting, where we discussed our conference regulations and voted on end of the season awards (they will not be released until after the state tournament). What I love about our conference is that the coaches get along; we got together tonight after the meeting to celebrate the retirement of Janesville Craig coach Bob Suter. He will be greatly missed in our conference. I feel like I should watch some more Baraboo tape but I am going to head off to bed.

Wednesday, March 11 — 6 p.m.

The team just finished watching Baraboo tape. After reviewing Baraboo’s tendencies, my guys are aware that they have to be ready for Friday’s game. We need to defend their shooters if we are going to be successful. I heard that Memorial has sold almost all of the allotted tickets for Friday’s game. It should be a great atmosphere!

Thursday, March 12 — 6 p.m.

It is always difficult the day before a game to get everything into practice. I always feel like I am missing something or that I do not have the team properly prepared. Before practice, I played Jeronne in a game of P-I-G and am proud to say that I beat him! I may be old but have not lost my jump (set) shot. The players are headed off to a team dinner and I am off to celebrate the birthday of my wife Mya’s uncle, Mike O’Connor, at the Nitty Gritty. All he wants for his birthday is another Memorial victory. Both Mike and his mother — Mya’s grandma, Ella “GG” O’Connor — are devoted Spartan fans. They don’t miss a game and love following the team.

Thursday, March 12 — 9 p.m.

I picked up an Isthmus at the Gritty and read a great article written by Jason Joyce about our sectional games being played at Waunakee rather than a larger venue, such as the UW Fieldhouse. Looking at the teams in our sectional, it would seem that a bigger venue could hold the demand for tickets. I can’t think of a high school in the greater area that could hold all the people that want to come to these games.

Friday, March 13 — 8 a.m.

Game day! The guys are ready. No time to be nervous now. We have prepared and just need to play the game.

Friday, March 13 — 11 p.m.

We beat Baraboo 71-41. I am so proud of the way we came out of the gate and got a quick lead. Everyone was able to contribute and I was able to rest many of my starters; I hope this will pay off tomorrow night. We are playing Waunakee for the second straight year in the sectional final. They are a very good team and extremely well-coached. Playing on their home court is going to be a difficult task. I was pleasantly surprised to see Wesley Matthews come back to watch his high school alma mater play. It makes me so happy when former players come back — it shows their pride in the Memorial program, something they have helped create. I also saw Derek Nkemnji and Devonte Maymon in the stands supporting their brothers. I can’t believe we are playing in our seventh straight sectional final. The curfew calls are almost done, so I am going to bed.

Saturday, March 14 — 6:45 a.m.

I love having 7- and 4-year olds in the house — Drew and Emma are up at the crack of dawn and don’t really care that Daddy had a game last night. I told Drew that I cannot coach his first-grade basketball game this morning because I need to prepare for Waunakee, but promised him that I would do it next Saturday morning (thanks Joe Murphy for covering!).

Saturday, March 14 — 1 p.m.

As I was leaving for the gym this morning, I heard Neil Diamond on the radio. I love Neil Diamond and am taking this as a good sign. I am not sure where I heard this quote but “there are two types of people in the world: those who love Neil Diamond and those who don’t.” We had a great practice this morning. We spent about 30 minutes on Waunakee’s out of bounds plays — they run them very well. We also discussed how important rebounding is for tonight’s game; from watching the tape of last night’s game, Waunakee scored often on second-chance points and out of bounds plays. I am going to put Emma down for a nap and will try to catch 20 winks myself before heading off to the game.

Saturday, March 14 — 11 p.m.

We won 72-49 and are headed to state for the sixth straight year! People asked me all night if this ever gets old — it doesn’t. I am so proud of the way my guys played this weekend. We are executing very well right now. This win was an entire team effort and a great performance by the starters and the guys coming off the bench. The team and coaches cut down the nets once again and Drew was able to climb up the ladder with his Dad. I hope he will remember these moments. I hope to sleep a little tonight despite the adrenaline pumping through me; I know how busy, tiring and fun the next week will be.

Sunday, March 15 — 6:45 a.m.

Memorial will face Germantown in the quarterfinals on Thursday night. I am going to start working on our scout. At 11 o’clock, I am meeting Coach ‘X’ at Perkins to receive some tape and discuss teams in the field. Then I’m off to update our stats for the state tournament program and meet with my coaching staff to discuss logistics for the upcoming week. I am hoping to get home and spend some time with Emma and Drew — it is supposed to be a really nice weather day. Right now, the biggest non-basketball issue is people wanting to know how to get tickets to the game. Luckily, Brett Wheeler, one of my freshman coaches, orchestrates tickets with the players, parents and coaches.

Sunday, March 15 — 9:30 p.m.

I just returned from our team dinner and doing my statewide media phone call. I hope to be in bed early tonight, but have to watch some more Germantown tape; this is a week of very little sleep for my coaching staff and myself. But going for the gold never gets old. On a side note, I am happy and proud to have three former players heading into the NCAA tournament this week. All three of Memorial’s “Mr. Basketball” winners are playing: Michael Nelson, Wesley Matthews and Keaton Nankivil.

Chapter Eighteen
Great season capped with state title and a gold ball.

Monday, March 16 — 8 a.m.

Memorial is going back to state, and the fun begins! I’ve been up since 5 a.m. — too excited and nervous to sleep, because we’re so close to the gold ball. One of the advantages of having gone to state before is I know what this week entails — a bit of controlled chaos. I faxed off my tentative starting lineup to the WIAA and am heading off to eat some breakfast before school starts. I need to remember to tell the players to talk to their teachers about when they will be gone from school this week.

Monday, March 16 — noon

I made several phone calls to area newspapers and media outlets during lunch. School has an upbeat and exciting feel to it — everyone is congratulating the team on a great sectional weekend and looking forward to watching us at the state tournament. The student body is a bit disappointed that they are not getting out of school early on Thursday (on account of our 6:35 p.m. game).

I am feeling really good about the Germantown scouting report. I saw them play in person in late February and got a feel for the type of team we are facing. I am heading off to the athletic office and to get some state T-shirts for family and friends. My son, Drew, is really excited about the week ahead and wants Daddy to bring home a gold ball rather than a silver one. I am so happy to share this experience with him.

We gave the players an itinerary for the entire week, ending with the celebratory pep rally back at Memorial on Saturday night; I hope it holds true. Time to teach polars to my Algebra 3 class and hypothesis testing to my Statistics classes.

Monday, March 16 — 8 p.m.

We had a very intense practice — lots of running and conditioning. It’s time to refocus and get in shape for three games in three days. I spent the majority of our time focusing on our stuff and will start discussing Germantown players and plays tomorrow. After practice, I ran to Costco to buy Gatorade and water for the week, got my daughter, Mya, a special ice cream treat, and got home in time to take the kids to the park. I can’t believe how warm it is outside for the middle of March!

Tuesday, March 17 — 4 a.m.

I woke up again on the couch. I think I’ve watched enough Germantown tape to last a lifetime. We are going to have our work cut out against them, but I think I have a game plan that will work to take their star center Ben Averkamp’s shot away and stop guard Michael Minsky from getting open looks. It looks good on paper so we’ll see if my team can implement it in the next couple of days. I’m off to bed to get a couple hours of sleep.

Tuesday, March 17 — noon

I am writing plans for the substitute teacher and our practice plan for the remainder of the week. It is amazing how fast this entire week is going! The late nights are catching up with me so I am going to get something to eat.

Tuesday, March 17 — 10 p.m.

We had a terrific practice; however, I cut it short because the guys were too intense. I decided to have a non-basketball night, which is always a hit in the Collins household. Since Memorial is the closest program to the Kohl Center, we have the first shoot-around time tomorrow at the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion. It’s an exciting moment for the team and the start of the state tournament experience.

Wednesday, March 18 — noon

The players and coaches met this morning at 7 a.m. to drive to the Kohl Center for our WIAA scheduled shoot-around. After the 25-minute shoot-around, we did the normal press interviews and headed off to a team breakfast. I love spending time with my team, and this is such a special week for them. The great part of living in the same town as the tournament is that my players keep their routine — they go to class, sleep in their own beds, eat home-cooked meals, etc. We got the guys back to class by mid-morning. The bad thing about living in town is the ticket issue. Over the past five years, we have worked out a pretty good ticket system for the coaches and players, but it still is a never-ending struggle. I bought 25 tickets for family and friends and think that might be on the low end for the coaching staff.

Wednesday, March 18 — 7 p.m.

I picked up the traditional sushi I have before every game and am looking forward to tomorrow’s state quarterfinal showdown with Germantown. We had our normal practice in the main gym after school; it was very short and precise. It is a luxury at this point in the tournament to shoot and practice in your own gym. We used to try to find a big court, but I think it is more important to have a consistent routine. I have learned over the years that these types of practices need to be no longer than 45 minutes — the players need to be sharp and rested for tomorrow and are too excited to have an intense practice. In fact, they couldn’t wait to go over to Coach Wheeler’s house for a team dinner.

Thursday, March 19 — 6:30 a.m.

I always have good intentions about getting a good night sleep before a big game but that never seems to happen — too much time is spent thinking about all the things I should have done. We are having our normal shoot-around this morning and then the players attend class for the first three periods. I bet we are one of the few schools having school the day of the state quarterfinals. Routine!

Thursday, March 19 — noon

The team ate lunch together and will leave shortly to watch part of the Division 1 quarterfinals this afternoon. It is always fun to get the guys down to the Kohl Center to watch some other teams play.

Thursday, March 19 — 4:30 p.m.

We just finished our shoot-around and video session and the team is eating dinner. We leave for the Kohl Center in about a half-hour. I love playing the first game of the Division 1 session because you get to walk into the Kohl Center when it is empty — it’s a very cool and surreal feeling.

Thursday, March 19 — 11 p.m.

We beat Germantown 86-73! After the game, I did a live television interview and then a 10- to 15-minute press conference with statewide media. Usually, a couple of players are present, and tonight it was Vander Blue and Tre Creamer. Tre had an unbelievable first half, and Vander had a highlight reel of dunks to go along with his 35 points. We came out of the gate a little slow and tight tonight, but Tre’s offensive punch really got us going.

The postgame procedure is a little unique because you don’t immediately see your team after the game. By the time I got back to the locker room, the team was showered, dressed and ready to go out and watch the Bay Port-Beloit game.

We got into a little foul trouble with Germantown, but I was really impressed with how our bench helped; Ed Kluender, Erick Blue, Russell Henderson and Eric Fruhling gave us some great minutes. In order for us to be able to make a run at the gold ball, we need the bench to contribute.

I am off to pick up tape and work on the Bay Port scout. There isn’t time to sleep or enjoy a victory for very long since there is another opponent in less than 24 hours.

Friday, March 20 — 4:45 a.m.

Again, I woke up on the couch. This Bay Port team is very good — they remind me of my first state tournament team that had three Mr. Basketballs on the roster: Michael Nelson, Wesley Matthews and Keaton Nankivil. They handle the ball well, shoot well, and are fundamental and well coached. This is going to be a tough game, but you should expect nothing less in the state semifinals. We are meeting the team this morning to discuss the scouting report and then go have lunch at the Nitty Gritty while watching Marquette and North Dakota State play. The quarterfinal game at the Kohl Center is always the hardest. After that game, the nerves tend to be gone and it is just two teams going at it — you don’t think about what is at stake as much. I think our next game will be quite entertaining; I hope people come. I know we are competing with the Badgers’ NCAA tournament game against Florida State, so my guess is many people will be at home flipping channels.

Friday, March 20 — 4:30 p.m.

We just finished watching tape and are heading into the gym for our shoot-around. The players seem relaxed and are enjoying the journey. We leave for the Kohl Center in about an hour and hopefully will come home with a victory.

The WIAA does a great job putting on the state tournament and it is something I have enjoyed since I was Drew’s age. There has been a lot of discussion about changing the number of divisions and teams participating. I may be a bit biased in saying this is the best state tournament in the country, so why change it? If you add another day of games will the excitement throughout the state stay the same?

I think the girls tournament last weekend was some of the most exciting basketball I have seen in a long time. Are the proposed changes driven by the boys tournament and not the girls?

Friday, March 20 — 11:30 p.m.

We beat Bay Port 64-60 in overtime! What a game! We had a couple of opportunities to win it in regulation but could not close the deal. I am really impressed with the way my guys fought back in overtime. It would have been very easy to fold up camp, but they showed a lot of determination and heart in those extra 4 minutes of overtime. From what I understand, we caused some issues with the 10 p.m. news being on time. I know that it is state tournament time because on the way home from the game, it was snowing. It always snows state tournament week.

Saturday, March 21 — 3:34 a.m.

It is Championship Saturday — a day every coach dreams of! I knew it was going to be a chore to get back to this game but I am really proud of how hard my guys have worked in the last year to get here. Time for a little sleep.

Saturday, March 21 — 11 a.m.

The team is coming in half an hour for practice, video session and lunch. We are then heading down to the Kohl Center as a team to see Jeronne receive the Mr. Basketball Award for 2009. I am so proud of his accomplishments on the court and in the classroom. He has worked really hard over the last year and is very deserving of this award. My brother, Mike, just showed up in the coaching office — he lives in New Hampshire and follows my team all year long. What a great surprise — Mike knows that I am superstitious because the last time he came to watch us we won a state title!

Saturday, March 21 — 4:40 p.m.

The team is in the gym shooting; the players seem loose but very focused. I always get very nervous but have a lot of confidence in this group and believe they can accomplish their goal of a state championship.

Sunday, March 22 — 1:30 a.m.

We beat Racine Horlick 56-41! I can’t believe it! Memorial is the 2009 Division 1 state champion! What a ride. We played an exceptional game and were in control from the start. I have coached in five state finals, probably watched another 30 and can’t remember a state final exactly like this. I could tell that my guys were on a mission and had something to prove.

Before the game, I talked to them about how this was the last time this team would ever play together. I referred to them as the “Redeem Team,” because of coming so close to winning the title last year before losing to Wauwatosa East in overtime, and told them that people do not often get second chances in life, so they had better take advantage of it.

I loved having Drew by my side through the trophy ceremony — I hope he remembers this.

After talking to the press and being thrown in the shower with a lot of cold water. We headed back to school for a pep rally. What an experience to walk into your gym at midnight in front of 1,000 people who are there to support you — I know that is something I will never forget.

I finished the evening celebrating with my entire coaching staff at the Gritty. There is no doubt that I have the greatest basketball staff in the country. We have been together from the beginning and all get along. Like any family, we have our days when we disagree, but in the end we love each other and have the same goal in mind.

Sunday, March 22 — 8 a.m.

I woke up early this morning to talk basketball with my brother and the type of offense he is running with his daughter’s AAU team. Coaching must be in the Collins blood. What a great weekend of basketball from all the Wisconsin schools that participated!

Sunday, March 22 — 6 p.m.

I think I was a little tired — I just woke up from a four-hour nap and have not had one of those in at least 10 years. Now, I need to shift gears and get ready for the banquet next Sunday.

Monday, March 22 — 5:45 a.m.

I got up early this morning. I am constantly thinking about all the things that I need to get done. I have my Basketball Academy this week at night and my daughter, Emma, is having surgery on Wednesday, so there isn’t as much time to think about the season being over.

Monday, March 22 — 5 p.m.

The players met today to turn in their gear and start discussing next year. It was a pretty happy locker room. The best part was having former state champs Wesley Matthews, Kori Vernon and Justin Dahmen come back. It was wonderful watching Wesley talk to Jeronne about next year and what he should expect. With a sad heart, I know it is time for Jeronne to move on.

For now, I am going to relish the feeling of victory and having another gold ball.

It has been an honor to write this book. It has allowed me to reflect on my team and coaching as well as appreciate what a wonderful program I represent. Thank you to the readers for the opportunity. It’s time to reconnect with my family and friends, do some fishing, boating and golfing and enjoy looking back on a very successful season.

 

Appendix

James Madison Memorial High School
Boys Basketball Roster
Roster
No. Name Pos. Gr. Hgt.
L/D
3/3 Russell Henderson G 12 6-0
4/4 Fred Ringhand G 12 6-1
5/5 Ace Davis F 12 6-3
10/10 Erick Blue G 12 5-10
13/13 Karl Klatt G 11 6-2
15/15 Xavier Jones G 12 5-10
20/20 Alvin Olson G 11 6-1
21/21 Tre Creamer G 11 6-4
22/22 Vander Blue G 11 6-4
24/24 Junior Lomomba F 9 6-4
30/30 Matthew Laubmeier G 12 6-3
33/33 Eric Fruhling G 11 6-1
40/40 Jeronne Maymon F 12 6-7
50/50 Ed Kluender C 11 6-7

2008-2009 Results

Overall Record: 26-1
Conference Record: 17-1
Conference Placing: 1st
Conference Champion: Madison Memorial

Opponent W/L Score
Madison West W 74-33
Verona W 68-55
Sun Prairie W 70-36
Craig W 71-44
Madison LaFollette W 73-59
Henry Sibley W 67-64
Beloit W 64-50
Middleton W 74-51
St. Louis Layfaette W 65-62
Madison East L 44-53
Verona W 57-34
Parker W 91-48
Sun Prairie W 69-46
Craig W 57-37
Madison LaFollette W 74-38
Madison West W 98-56
Beloit W 66-58
Middleton W 66-46
Parker W 85-33
Madison East W 56-45

Regionals
Monona Grove W 71-55
Sauk Prairie W 47-38

Sectionals
Baraboo W 71-41
Waunakee W 72-49

State
Germantown W 86-73
Bay Port W 64-60(ot)
Racine Horlick W 56-41

Memorial Quick Facts

District Administrator or Administrator: Daniel Nerad
Principal: Bruce Dahmen
Athletic Director: Tim Ritchie
Coach (with alma mater and year graduated): Steve Collins (Lawrence 89 BA, Dartmouth 99 MA)
Assistant Coach(es): Cory Moore, Kevin Klagos Jeremy Schlitz, Shawn Swenson
Drew Slempkes, Alvin Gaddis, Percy Brown, Brett Wheeler,
Pep Band Director: Paul Ulrich
School Colors: Forest Green & White
School Enrollment: 1910
Captain(s): Fred Ringhand, Jeronne Maymon, Xavier Jones
Manager(s): Keara Sweeney
Katie Pellino
Steve Ryan
Cheerleader Advisor: Lisa Odermann
Cheerleaders: Anisha Azimulla, Chalice Calabrese, Brianna Cooley
Jyneeva Hunt, Noelle Jackson, Samantha Jacobsen,
Kaitlyn Lawton, Astrid Lazo-Mazzini, Natassja Meza,
Monique Shields, Lindsay Summ, Stephanie Randel
Statistician: Shawn Swenson
Trainer: John McKinley
Nickname: Spartans

More Information can be found at

www.teachhoops.com

Spartan Tales ( Madison Memorial 2009 Basketball Season ) Part 1

. Spartan Tales ( Madison Memorial 2009 Basketball Season ) Part 1 Part 2 NEXT WEEK

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND of Coach Collins and Madison Memorial

Spartan Tales is a first person account from Head Coach Steve Collins
during James Madison Memorial 2009 State Championship Basketball Season
Going into the 2003-2004 season Memorial had not won a single
Conference championship. Before runner-up finishes in 2002 and
2003, Memorial had not finished higher than fourth in conference since the school opened 1966.

Memorial is now the only school in the 96 year history of
the Big Eight to win 14 consecutive Big Eight Conference
Championships

With nine consecutive state births Memorial is one of two schools to make that many consecutive state appearances in Wisconsin State History.

Memorial has won the state title in 2005, 2009 and 2011 and where state runner-up in 2004, 2006 and 2008 and 2010.

Coach Collins has been the head coach at Madison Memorial for the last 1 years with a record of 379-94

Re-live the excitement of a state championship run through the
eyes of the Head Coach.

Chapter One
Like tax day, roster cuts are painful
Sunday, Nov. 16, 2008 — 8:25 p.m.
What comes to mind as I sit here at my kitchen table, working on tomorrow’s practice plan, is the question people ask me as I prepare for another season: Are you excited?
The answer is of course yes, but possibly not for the reason one would think. As a high school basketball coach — and for any high school head coach, the season is not defined by the months in which the team participates. Rather, it is defined but the countless hours spent in the offseason.
An example of coaching duties that get taken care of in my “off” season:
** Organize summer participation in camps, leagues and tournaments
** Organize and repair all equipment
** Develop a calendar for scouting opponents
** Prepare playbook for upcoming season
** Scouting Reports/DVDs of all opponents
** Supervise lower level coaches/staff meetings
** Follow student academic status/college preparation
** Scheduling of gym time and non-conference opponents
** Arrange transportation for games
** Organize Madison Memorial summer camp
** Get workers for Booster Club events
** Follow players in spring and summer AAU circuit
** Prepare press conferences
** Set up Parent Night, Youth Night, Senior Night, Banquet
** Order equipment
** Talk at various camps and clinics
** Start my own basketball academy for area middle school students
** Plan road trips to Minneapolis and St. Louis (hotel/transportation/chaperones/district approval)
** Work on schedule for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons
** Try to make up for lost time to my family; be a good father to Emma and Drew and a better husband to my beautiful wife, Mya
The truth is that I would not trade any of this for a million dollars. There is nothing in the world like walking into the gym the first day of practice and seeing all of those players who are excited about the upcoming season and what it might hold.
A new season is like a new school year in my mathematics class, with a different group who has not heard my corny jokes or an interesting way to teach a full-court press. It makes teaching and coaching the best job in the world. As I head off to bed, with thoughts of what this season could possibly hold, I can’t imagine better roles than being a teacher and coach. I am as excited as my 4-year-old and 6-year-old waiting for Santa to come to their house.
Tuesday, Nov. 18 — 6:24 p.m.
The first two days of tryouts have gone well and the kids are working extremely hard. As we head forward I begin to worry about all of the work on our offense and defense we need to get in before our home opener versus Madison West on Dec. 5.
I just finished a staff meeting where we discussed next Monday’s Booster Club dinner, next Tuesday’s Parent Meeting, the practice schedule over Thanksgiving, our upcoming scouting trips, and whether or not the Cubs can win a World Series. Ever.
Wednesday, Nov. 19 — 7:30 a.m.
Today is the worst day of the year for me; it is the day I have to tell a 16-, 17- or 18-year-old that they cannot be on our team. For me, it’s worse than April 15, because at least that day only hurts for a little while. But both are inevitable; paying taxes and cutting players as a basketball coach. I don’t believe in posting the final roster, so I sit down with every player and discuss his tryout and whether he has made the team. This is the least a coach can do when players worked as hard as they could to try to make the team. As a coach, you have to feel comfortable and confident with the team and be willing to move forward with the team you have chosen.
Friday, Nov. 22 — 7:30 p.m.
We just finished our second day of practice with our complete roster, consisting of seven seniors (guards Russell Henderson, Fred Ringhand, Erick Blue and Matt Laubmeier, and forwards Ace Davis and Jeronne Maymon); six juniors (guards Alvin Olson, Tre Creamer, Vander Blue, Eric Fruehling and center Ed Kluender); one sophomore (forward Miles Chamberlain) and one freshman (forward Junior Lomomba). This is always a fun time of the year, when the players walk into our locker room, put on their practice gear and we start preparing for the season. It is also a time in which I start to panic and worry about all the things we must get done before the season starts. I also met with my Parent Committee Representative tonight to discuss team dinners, sack lunches for road trips, Parent Night, Youth Night, Senior Night, the season-ending banquet and other administrative issues. Off I go to watch Thursday’s episode of “The Office” and put basketball on the shelf for the evening; however, I do wish I was in the Virgin Islands watching the Badgers and Keaton Nankivil play Iona.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 3 p.m.
I started my day watching “Playhouse Disney” with my daughter, Emma, followed by coaching my son, Drew’s first grade YMCA basketball team. If anyone ever wants to see the game of basketball played on a different level, and for a true love of the game, they should watch first-graders play. My coaching abilities are really being put to the test, because I have no idea how to get them to stop running with the basketball. I think there were a minimum of 100 traveling violations for the game. The positive part is we can set a goal for next Saturday to have less than 50 traveling violations.
I am excited because we are about to drive to Milwaukee with my wife, Mya, and my assistant coaches to watch Marquette and former Memorial athlete Wesley Matthews play UW-Milwaukee. I love Saturdays because it is family time and it tends to be our most productive practice of the week. Today we were able to work extremely well at practice and put in several of our press defenses and our zone offenses. But as I was leaving practice with my 6-year-old, Drew, I asked him how he thought the team looked at practice and he stated, “They sure missed a lot of shots, dad.” Looks like we still have some work to do.

Chapter Two
Once again, Thanksgiving leaves me hungry for more.

Monday, Nov. 24 — 7:30 p.m.
I just got home and got my sick house settled for the night. It is a guarantee that when snow is upon us and basketball season starts the entire Collins household gets sick (at last count we had four colds, strep throat and a sinus infection). I am getting very frustrated flipping between the UW men’s basketball game against Connecticut and Monday Night Football. We had practice after school today, followed by our all-school winter potluck. It is a great time for all Memorial winter athletes and families to get together and support one another. I love these types of activities because they allow our kids to spend time together off the court and become a more cohesive group. These get-togethers are also extremely entertaining. Have any of you seen a 17-year-old eat half a pizza, a bucket of chicken and half a dozen brownies and still not be full? After watching my team eat, I think first prize goes to Jeronne Maymon, followed closely by our freshman, Junior Lomomba. I don’t know where they put it all, but I do remember being a teenage boy and never feeling full. Oh, how I long for those days …
Tuesday, Nov. 25 — 8 p.m.
Today we had late practice, starting at 5:45 p.m. and ending at 7:45. Whenever we have late practice, the players have study table in my classroom. It is a good time for the guys to go get some extra help on the classes that are giving them some difficulty. Tuesdays at Memorial are “Tuesday Report” days for all students involved in extracurricular activities. Athletes obtain a weekly progress report from all academic classes and submit it to their coaches for review. This is a wonderful way to start the discussion of academics with my players. Tuesday Reports are a priority for myself and my players throughout the school year; I review them in the offseason as well. Tonight, we had our parent meeting, in which our season functions are planned and parents are invited to watch practice. This is something I started a couple of years ago, and the athletes and parents really enjoy it. Practice was very busy today because we have some former Memorial athletes coming in to scrimmage tomorrow. We were able to implement several of our presses, our man-to-man offense and many out of bounds plays. I had hoped to get in a couple of our zone defenses and our special plays but we ran out of time. Both of my assistant coaches, Cory Moore and Kevin Klagos, were laughing at me because they said I had enough drills in my practice plan to last a week! One lesson I have learned in 20 years of coaching and teaching is not to be bound by your lesson plan. You have to monitor and adjust according to your class or team.
Wednesday, Nov. 26 — 9 a.m.
I just met with a few of my players about doing a television interview on the Ch. 27 morning show with some of the Harlem Globetrotters next Tuesday morning (Dec. 2) at 6 a.m. It should be an exciting opportunity for the players and our program. They just made an announcement at school that Captains Club — our athlete-driven volunteer program — donated 24 Thanksgiving baskets to the Allied Community Center and the Student Government/Backyards organization donated 42 baskets to the Wexford Neighborhood Center. It makes me proud to be a Spartan when our students and athletes step up to help people in the community.
Wednesday, Nov. 26 — noon
I just got a text message from former Memorial Spartan and Mr. Basketball Michael Nelson. He is in his senior year playing at North Dakota State and they recently beat Northern Arizona. It is exciting to keep in touch with former players through texting and looking up their Facebook pages. I texted him back and told him to beat Minnesota on Saturday (Nov. 29).
Wednesday, Nov. 26 — 10:45 p.m.
The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously the worst practice of the year. I tell myself every year that I am not going to practice on that day and every year I try to figure out a way to make it work. You would think I would learn. As soon as the school bell rings, the players seem to be off on vacation and very distracted. So, this year we had some former Madison basketball players come in and practice against our team. The one good thing about going against players other than ourselves is that we could see that we have a lot of work to do. I think the biggest obstacle for any team this time of year is running things smoothly.
Thursday, Nov. 27 — 8 a.m.
Happy Thanksgiving!
I am thankful for:
A loving and healthy family
A job in these tough financial times
Sushi
A team that is coming together
A good nap
A daughter, 4-year-old Emma, who thinks I am her prince
An understanding wife who understands my passion for this game
Great friends
A son, 6-year-old Drew, who is starting to love the game and can now keep a scorebook when we scout
A working snow blower
A power forward (Jeronne) who is one of the best players in the state
I remember one Thanksgiving when I was in middle school. My brother Mike, who played Division I college basketball at Dartmouth, was the starting point guard at Madison East High School. East ironically played at Memorial the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Those years were referred to as the lean years at Memorial. If I remember the game correctly, East was up at least 18 points at half and eventually lost the game with some missed free throws down the stretch. I would estimate that there were a total of 10 words spoken that entire Thanksgiving in my house. Must be why Memorial basketball never plays over Thanksgiving — bad childhood memories.
Friday, Nov. 28 — 1 p.m.
We got better today. Today was a cerebral practice. We are already a little banged up and have had some ankle injuries. So we had to take it relatively easy today and work on some individual and team skills. Our goal is have 80 to 90 percent of our defenses and offenses learned by the first game. I would describe what we try to do on the defensive end as controlled chaos. We are going to throw anywhere from 10 to 15 different defenses at an opponent in any particular game. This time of year, it is difficult to get all the things in that we will need for our first game; however, the players are being really good students of the game.
Friday, Nov. 28 — 9 p.m.
I just saw Jeronne at the movie “Four Christmases.” It is nice to see my players outside of school and good to have a night away from basketball.
Saturday, Nov. 29 — 4 p.m.
We just got done with practice and I am worried about whether we will be ready for our first game. Are we sharp enough or ready for competition? Without having played a game, I am uncertain about where we stand. To ease my anxiety, I am heading off with Drew to watch our first opponent, Madison West play at Lake Geneva Badger. The one thing about scouting this time of year is that you are at the mercy of the weather.
Saturday, Nov. 29 — 11 p.m.
I just got home with Drew. I forgot how far Lake Geneva is from Madison. The first scouting venture is always exciting and really gets my basketball juices flowing. It must be the smell of those hot dogs cooking, the pre-game music and the energy of a high school gym that gets me so excited. Once the game is over, my work begins and I start breaking down tape and figure out how we are going to prepare for our first opponent (West).
Sunday, Nov. 30 — 11 a.m.
I love days like today when I can open the newspaper and follow my former athletes. I know a few of them will not be happy with the results of their games, but it looks from the box score they all played well. All three of our former Mr. Basketballs played yesterday. Michael Nelson, who plays for North Dakota State, played Minnesota and had 22 points in their loss. Wesley Matthews, a senior at Marquette, had a career-high 28 points in their loss to Dayton. Keaton Nankivil had three points in the UW win versus UW-Milwaukee. Kori Vernon, a forward on our state championship team and senior at UW-Whitewater, had 17 points against another former Spartan and current Edgewood player, Derek Nkemnji, who had 14 points. I have spent most of today working on my scouting DVD for Madison West, and paper scout for the players. Each player receives a DVD with scout clips of our next opponent and also a paper scouting report describing the other team’s key components. I think the scout helps my practice preparation and gives the players an idea of what is coming with our next opponent. As I was leaving practice yesterday, I asked Drew what he thought of the team this week. He immediately replied, “They are making a few more shots, but not many, and I love when they went 2 on 1” — which, after five minutes of questioning, I figured out was our double team or traps. Looks like we still have some work ahead of us, but Dec. 5 is quickly approaching and I can’t wait.

Chapter Three
Players, coaches anxious for action.

Monday, Dec. 1 — noon

Today has been busy. It must be that we are coming off Thanksgiving vacation and need to do a little bit of catch-up. Monday is always the day for checking in with teachers about my players and seeing what they have to do for the week. Also, I’m trying to get the final preparation and district approval for our trips to Minnesota and southern Illinois, and looking for an interesting way to teach my Statistics classes the binomial distribution and Algebra 3 classes the law of exponents. One of the good things about teaching high school is that your students keep you grounded. We often start class with a discussion about current events, my family and/or our basketball team, which allows me to connect with the students and put real life mathematics into the classroom. In today’s sixth-hour Algebra 3 class, the discussion turned to this blog — where one student, Mallory Woods asked, “Why did they pick you?” Not sure I can answer that, Mallory …

Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008 — 5:35 a.m.

This morning we got up early to do a spot with a Harlem Globetrotter on Wake-up Wisconsin on WKOW Channel 27. Five players — Fred Ringhand, Junior Lomomba, Jeronne Maymon, Ace Davis and Vander Blue — were all gracious enough to come into school at such an early hour. For anyone that is around teenagers, you know that most of them have never seen the 5 o’clock hour. As they walked into the gym this morning, they looked like the walking dead. Once I rolled out the basketballs, they started to wake up; it was amazing to see the transformation. It showed me how much they love the game and reinforced why I do this. There is probably no place in the world that they feel more comfortable than on the basketball court playing with their friends. I just hope that by noon they have not hit the wall and are tired the rest of the day.

Tuesday, Dec. 2 — 6 p.m.

We just finished practice and I can see in the players’ eyes that they are tired. The monotony of practice is starting to wear on everyone. We are starting our third week of practice without a game and everyone is ready to play. Just like in a classroom where you need a test to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, our team needs a test.

I just read the article by Rob Hernandez in today’s Wisconsin State Journal about how there has been an over-saturation of postseason awards and how those awards might go the way of the letter jacket. I agree with most of the article because choosing postseason awards is a difficult task and not everyone can be recognized or excel in athletics. Interscholastic sports are a talented and gifted program for athletes. Memorial has an awesome Drama, Debate and Forensics program run by Tom Hardin and just like everyone cannot be the star of the play, not everyone can achieve all-area athletic awards.

Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008 — 9 p.m.

The house is quiet — my wife, Mya, is off at her book club and both children are asleep. I am watching basketball on television and starting to break down tape on Verona, our opponent for Tuesday, Dec. 9. Life is good. Verona has just joined the Big Eight this year, so I do not have much information on their team. The Big Eight Conference, which originated in the early 1920s with teams from as far as Kenosha and Racine, now has a total of 10 teams. I am going to have to rely on some past game tape and the scout I am going to get at the Wildcats’ game on Saturday, Dec. 5, against La Follette.

Today, we had a very short practice and spent the rest of the time in our locker room discussing team goals and what takes to be a “team.” Before the first game, I always discuss with my team the “Disease of Me,” which I have read about in books by NBA coach Pat Riley. The Cliffs Notes version is that when one person considers themselves more important than the entire team, it can tear a team apart. This will not be a problem with this team, but it is a good life lesson to discuss with them.

Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008 — 7:45 p.m.

Just got the kids off to bed, and we’re hanging out with friends Kate and Todd Young and getting ready to watch “The Office.” During today’s practice, we walked through everything we would want to do in preparation for tomorrow’s game against West. We then discussed our pregame rituals for all the new players — what they should wear to school, the morning shootaround, when and where they have to sit during the sophomore game, how warm-up and the game introductions will occur, etc. It is an exciting time and it looks like from the buzz around school it should be a full house.

Friday, Dec. 5, 2008 — 8:10 a.m.

Gameday! We finished our morning shoot around and I got the players headed off to class. This is the hardest day for a coach because you no longer have any control. You can not spend any more time preparing your team for competition.

Friday, Dec. 5, 2008 — 11:45 a.m.

Just got done finishing lunch and grading some Statistics quizzes. I am heading off to the coaching office to watch some West tape and worry whether I have prepared my team for its first challenge.

Friday, Dec. 5, 2008 — 4 p.m.

I walked by the gym on the way to my office and students are already lining up to get in for the 7:30 p.m. game! The school has been abuzz about the first game and I know that our entire program appreciates all the support we get from our fans at home and on the road. It looks as though we are going to have a full house. It is also Ace Davis’ birthday so I know that he is really excited!

Friday, Dec. 5, 2008 — 11 p.m.

We won 74-33. The first game is interesting because even though some of the faces are the same, it is not the same team that lost in the state finals last year. Tonight we did a lot of things well and of course as the coach, I see all of the areas in which we need to improve. If you watch a high school team in early December and then again in late February, they do not look like the same team.

I thought at times we looked sharp and were able to execute our game plan very well. We shot the ball extremely well from the outside. As a team, we hit 10 3-pointers and I believe that Vander Blue hit three or four in about a two-minute span. I am proud of the work the players have put into their shooting in the offseason. It is something they knew they needed to work on for our team to be better. Other times during the game I don’t think we looked very sharp at all. The good thing is that we have a couple of days to correct our mistakes and try to improve for Verona.

I was told that the game was sold out 10 minutes before the end of the sophomore game. What an exciting atmosphere for the first game of the season! I can remember my first season at Memorial when we were 7-14 and we were lucky to have 300 people at the game. When I walked into the gym tonight, it felt like we were playing in a sectional game with the amount of people that were in the gym. I am just like my players in that I get nervous before the game, but what I tell fans is that it is a wonderful thing because I am being an active participant in the game. That’s one of the best part of coaching — being part of the game.

After the game, I helped one of my assistant coaches, Kevin Klagos, call in the scores to various news organizations. In high school athletics, it is the responsibility of the home school to do this task and it is much easier after a win than it is after a loss to make these calls. I just drove home in a small snowstorm, stopping at the grocery store so that we would have milk for tomorrow morning. The funny thing about coaching is even though I did not play, I have a lot of adrenaline running through my body. Guess it is time to start watching some tape on Verona.

Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008 — 6:45 a.m.

Our house is already stirring and I am getting ready to coach a first-grade game at the YMCA and then head off to our varsity practice. There is no time to dwell on last night’s victory; we need to get ready for Verona.

Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008 — 2:30 p.m.

We just finished our varsity practice. We got better today. It is hard mentally and physically to practice 12 hours after a game since the players’ bodies are tired. I am headed off to Milwaukee to watch two of my former players, Keaton Nankivil and Wesley Matthews, go head-to-head in their final collegiate matchup, as Wesley is in his final year at Marquette.

Sunday, Dec. 7, 2008 — 10 a.m.

Marquette 61, Wisconsin 58. What a great battle between two in-state rivals and what a difficult night to watch a game. I care so much about both of these players that it was hard to see them match up against each other. I was probably one of the few people in the stands not wearing Marquette or Wisconsin colors. I am so proud of the way they both played and what classy, young men they are. Both Wisconsin and Marquette should feel as proud as I do to have Keaton and Wesley as part of their programs.

Chapter Four
Snow Day and Birthday.

Monday Dec 8th  12:25 p.m.

I just finished doing mid-quarter grades and cannot believe that we are only 5 weeks from the end of first semester.  I have spent the morning communicating with my Athletic Director, Tim Ritchie, about the possibility of our game against Verona being called off. Tim does a great job of communicating the behind the scenes work that is going on during the day. It is wonderful that the school district has gone back to a full-time athletic director in each building.  It is days like this that you can see how valuable a resource a full-time athletic director is in the building. I am able to focus more on my team and less on the administrative issues. My guess is that the we will not play tomorrow – will have to wait and see.   

Tuesday Dec 9th  6:30 a.m.

Snow day!  I have already received several text messages from my players wondering if we are going to practice or if our game is canceled.  I got a text message from Tim Ritchie at 6:09 a.m. saying that our game has been re-scheduled for Thursday night.  I can’t believe how terrible it is outside. I should have put on my thankful list during the Thanksgiving week that I have a functioning snow blower.

Tuesday Dec 9th – afternoon

I spent the afternoon re-connecting with my children on a sledding hill and hoping that I do not break an important limb.   My attention soon turned to watching Verona tape and having smores with kids.  It is amazing how much work you can get done on a Tuesday afternoon with no distractions and how good a marshmallow and a piece of chocolate will make you feel. When you do not have practice or a game the next day it can be very relaxing for a coach.

Wednesday Dec 10th   7:40 a.m.

Today is my birthday but I have already begun to think and worry about getting ready for Verona. The funny thing about birthdays is as you get older you want the time between them to last longer. I have a theory about time:  when you are young the days seem so long, but as you get older time seems to pick up pace. I know this is not the case, but I tell my players on a regular basis that they should enjoy the moment.  It is those memories of running out to a full gym with your friends or the funny joke in the locker room that you will remember the rest of your life.  I am running around school reminding my players to do their academic progress reports and that practice is after school. Hope we look sharp today.

Wednesday Dec 10th 9:45 p.m.

I just returned home from having a birthday dinner at the Nitty Gritty with my family and watching the Janesville Parker vs Madison East game.  Does life get any better? I was able to sit next to Sun Prairie head coach Jeff Boos and head coach Reggie Williams from LaFollette at the game.  I have great respect for each of them and what they have done with their respective programs.  It is nice to have friendship outside of the competition field and it makes coaching that much more enjoyable.  I was able to spend a week with Jeff coaching the state All Stars. What a great experience.   As Coach Boos and I were sitting there, one of our former players from that All Star game, Kris Saiberlich came up and said hello; he is now a graduate assistant at Lakeland College and is working on his MBA. What a small world and I always thought that Kris would make a wonderful coach.  Through that All Star game, the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association has raised over a million dollars to fight childhood cancer – a noble cause which makes me proud to be a member of the WBCA. As I sat there watching the game I began to wonder whatever happened to having high school games on Friday and Saturday nights?  I love taking my young children to games but it is not possible to do that when the majority our games are played on school nights.

Thursday Dec 11th  6:35 a.m.

It must be birthday week, because my assistant coach, Cory Moore has a birthday today.  I hope we can get him a nice birthday gift – a win.  When we showed up for our shoot around this morning we found that a couple of the baskets in the main gym were broken, so during our shoot around we have men working on the baskets. I guess this is a good distraction just like a loud crowd.   It is looking like we are getting healthy again and all of those ankle twists and nagging injuries are starting to dissipate (knock on wood).

Thursday Dec 11th 11:55 a.m.

I have spent today working on getting the appropriate roster and picture information to the Timberwolves Shootout and the Highland Shootout.  It always seems as though this material is needed on the same day.  

Thursday Dec 11th 4:45 p.m.

I just got back to school after running home and seeing the family. They are going to stay home tonight and watch the game on the web at Channel 3000. I am going to run back to school and get a few more minutes of watching Verona tape in before we meet as a team. The managers and my sophomore coach, Jeremy Schlitz does a wonderful job of packing the players bags and picking the things we need for a road trip. It is great because all I have to worry about is preparing for the upcoming opponent. I feel extremely lucky to be part of this basketball program.

Thursday Dec 11th 10:55 p.m.

We won. What another great environment to play a high school game! It was nearly a packed house and I know how much our players enjoy playing in front of a full gymnasium. We arrived at the Verona gym at about 5:20 p.m. and walked in as a coaching staff – myself, and my two assistant coaches Kevin Klagos and Cory Moore. As we walked by the ticket taker, she says “You guys must be the officials”. We all laughed and explained that we are the coaches for Memorial. Several minutes later, I ran into our Athletic Director, Tim Ritchie and asked him where our locker room is located (first time we have played a Big Eight game at Verona). He pointed me toward the Verona athletic director. I politely walked toward him, tapped him on his shoulder and asked “Could you please tell me where the locker room is?” He responded “Sure”. He then walked me toward the Verona and official’s locker rooms, making small talk as we approached the door. I had a feeling that we were not in the right place and again explained that I was not an official, even though at times I act like one. He then walked us to our locker room. Maybe this is an omen that I missed my calling as an official? It is looking like a lot of former players are starting to come home from college. To name just a few I ran into before the game: Jordan Flint, Kyle Nelson (Illinois State Pitcher) Aaron Olson, Derek Nkemnji (Edgewood College Forward), Riley Karrigan (Former Madison Memorial Comedian), Tyler and Justin Dahmen. I was also able to speak with my former high school coach, John Boyle. He is doing the color commentary with Jay Wilson for the web cast of the game. I learned a lot from John as a player. He was great high school coach and I am glad I do not have to go toe to toe with him anymore. The Verona game was very exciting and a big test for our players. I take my hat off to Verona and Coach Buss. We got down eight points early due to Verona’s great execution and our poor ball handling and shot selection. I give my players a lot of credit for not panicking. We were down 14-10 at the end of the first quarter, but were able to take the lead by 2 going into halftime. At halftime we made some adjustments and in the second half executed our game plan more effectively.

Friday Dec 12th 7:15 a.m.

Today is going to be spent figuring out what we did well and what things we need to work on. It is always hard in high school athletics to have such a quick turnaround in games. We have to change gears tonight at practice, prepare for Sun Prairie and go through an entirely new scout with the players. I am off to teach the normal distribution to my statistics classes.

Saturday Dec 13th 3:30 p.m.

I think I am 0-1 in coaching today. My first grade basketball team ran into a red-headed LeBron James from Waunakee this morning in our YMCA game. I am not sure that my game adjustment helped and that my team understands what a rebound is when I am yelling it from the sideline. I will have to put that player from Waunakee on my scout list for the class of 2019. We had our shoot around this afternoon, watched and discussed Sun Prairie’s tendencies and spent about a half an hour watching the Verona game. I think the guys are slowly figuring out what we expect of them on the court. Our team is having When We Were Young Productions follow us throughout the season and is doing a behind the scenes documentary that will be telecast on Fox network sometime next year. That should be exciting.

Sunday Dec 14th 11:00 a.m.

We won and are now 3-0 in the Big Eight. We are slowly coming together as a team as the players figure out their roles. We continue to work on this aspect of team building and we are getting there. Last night two players, Ed Kluender and Eric Fruhling gave us wonderful minutes off the bench. We got in some early foul trouble and they were able to give us quality minutes. I am most impressed that we have held our first three opponents to an average of 41 points per game. With the number of possessions our team plays, that is quite an accomplishment. I am off to prepare for Janesville Craig and the Dean of the Big Eight, Bob Suter (and his 600 high school wins). Playing at Craig is always a fun adventure and will be another great road test. A lot of the things we do in our program are based on the Craig system and things Coach Suter has done. When I first took the Memorial job one of my first goals was to beat a Craig team. It took us a couple of years to accomplish that goal, but that is when I knew our program had arrived.

 

Chapter Five
A snow day, Sweater Night and ‘Downtown Charlie Brown.
Monday, Dec. 15 — noon
Today we are starting to get ready for a busy week. Not only do we have two games, but winter break is right around the corner. It gets busy for both the players and myself because a lot schoolwork is done this time of year, especially with only two weeks when we return from break until final exams and the end of the semester. I just got a text message from one of my former players, Devonte Maymon, stating that he got a 3.5 grade-point average during his first semester at college. I am so proud of him and I love hearing from my former players.
Monday, Dec. 15 — 9 p.m.
We had a very short practice today. We worked out some of the cobwebs from the weekend and then sent about half our varsity roster to Sun Prairie to play a varsity reserve game. In the Big Eight conference there are four levels of basketball played at each high school: freshman, sophomore and varsity/varsity reserve level. The varsity reserve level consists of players who do not get a lot of playing time at the varsity level. It is a great place for players who are trying to earn more playing time and/or coming off injuries to work on their games. We had a reporter at practice tonight who is doing a newspaper article on Junior sometime in the next couple of weeks.
Tuesday, Dec. 16 — 10 p.m.
Today we started to work on our scouting report for Craig. The Craig program is one of the most storied programs in the state. Their boys basketball history and winning tradition over the last 30 years is one of the most respected in the state. The snow is coming down pretty hard tonight, but I was able to brave the storm and take my daughter Emma to the Memorial girls basketball game. Emma had recently told me that only boys play basketball, so I am obviously not spending enough time with her. Must be father guilt. After getting home and putting her to bed, I am now watching the Marquette vs. Tennessee game. Wesley is playing so well right now; he finished with 30 points but the Golden Eagles lost 80-68.
Wednesday, Dec. 17 — 7 p.m.
We spent a lot of time today at practice working on our core principles. This is always a difficult week for the players to focus in practice. Whether it’s the extra schoolwork that is given out the week before break or the players’ distraction of knowing they are not going to have school for two weeks, our coaching staff works hard to keep practices running smoothly. We also had a guest from Channel 15 come to practice. Those types of distractions used to bother me, but I have found that it makes us focus more on the task at hand. Our sole purpose today was to get the team to focus on basketball for two hours.
Thursday, Dec. 18 — noon
The administration has decided that the game can go forward. It looks like the storm is going to be hitting later in the night and we should be able to make it to Janesville and back before the storm hits. I have just spent the past half an hour trying to get our bus here early because the game has been moved up an hour. I have had to let the players know that they will be leaving school early (they are so disappointed) and e-mailed parents about the game change. My guess is that there will not be a lot of Memorial fans at this game.
Thursday, Dec. 18 — 9:45 p.m.
I just got home from Janesville and luckily, we did not hit any snow on the way down or the way back. It looks like it is about to snow anytime now. We again got off to a slow start in the game. Craig was able to hit some big shots and we were too eager to take the first easy shot that was available. We went into the locker room at halftime up two points. In the second half I thought we did a much better job of getting the ball up the court and executing our half-court trap. I think our team is slowly learning that every team we play is going to be bringing their best game to the court. It is a burden and benefit of having been successful in the past and being currently ranked No. 1 in the state. The burden is that if you are not ready to play every time you take the court someone is going to be ready to knock you off. The benefit is that I think it makes you battle tested in the sense that you are given everyone’s ‘A’ game every night. Another television reporter was waiting for us when we got off the bus today. I thought Zavier Jones and Fred Ringhand did a great job with their interviews. As the players got off the bus tonight we discussed tomorrow, what would happen if school was cancelled, curfew on Friday night (each player must call my home phone from their home phone number — caller ID is a wonderful thing) and what time we would practice on Saturday. I figure if I discuss all of this with them then we will not have a snow day.
Friday, Dec. 19 — 7:15 a.m.
Snow day No. 2! I grew up in Madison and went to Madison schools. Both of my parents were teachers in the district, and I don’t think there have ever been two snow days in December. It did bring back memories of the ice storm that hit Madison in the mid-’70s. I was in elementary school and remembered not having electricity for several days. My brother, Mike, who lives in New Hampshire, has not had electricity in his house for over four days. He said his family has all been sleeping in one room and has been cutting firewood from their backwoods. I guess I will have to start calling him Grizzly Adams.
Saturday, Dec. 20 — 3 p.m.
I spent the second night this month sleeping on the couch, not because of marital problems, but because my poor wife, Mya, has the stomach flu. The flu in our house happens every basketball season. I am in full Daddy mode: I asked my mother to take Emma to the Nutcracker and Drew is going to be his Dad’s shadow today. Our first stop this morning is Drew’s first-grade basketball game. Our team is really improving and I would have to give this week’s MVP to Joe Clark. Joe hit a couple big shots in the paint. We had team pictures after the game and you can imagine how noisy a hallway is with 10 first graders waiting for their turn! We played the “quiet game” while we waited and that was my best coaching move of the day. Maybe I can implement that with my varsity team? On the way to practice, Drew and I were discussing his game and he made one of the comments of the week: He referred to himself after hitting a couple of long shots as “Downtown Charlie Brown” (Drew has heard me talk about Downtown Freddie Brown — a 13-year NBA player from Milwaukee who could shoot the lights out). Maybe Drew is watching “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” too much. We worked out hard today at our walk-through for the La Follette game. I am hoping that this will help us have a better first half than we have in the last couple of games. The bonus for the day is that I got some Christmas cookies from a friend of the program, Sally Schnarr (I don’t think I will be taking those home).
Saturday, Dec. 20 — 11 p.m.
Tonight we came out like the team I have seen in practice. We played solid throughout the game and got a 30-point lead on the Lancers going into the fourth quarter. It was probably our best first half of the year. Our student section, which I would put up against any student section in the area, has theme nights for each of our home games. I always love the last home game before winter break because it is Christmas sweater night. All of the students wore “funny” Christmas sweaters. From what I hear, there was an impromptu Christmas sweater contest at halftime. I was able to see two of my former point guards, Rory and Zach McCallum, after the game and talk about what is going on with them and our team. It is exciting, interesting and at times depressing when you see your former players all grown up.

Chapter Six
Scouting for a great hot dog, and a late-night Christmas present.

Monday, Dec. 22 — 1 p.m.
Today is the first day of winter break and I always try to use this break as a time to condition, teach and implement some new defensive and offensive sets. It was a good practice and I think we got better. I spent the rest of the day finishing up some last minute Christmas shopping. At night, I scouted Waunakee at Sauk Prairie with my son, Drew, and was able to get game tape on two teams in our sectional. It was a great game and an unbelievable atmosphere between two Badger Conference teams. It felt like one of our 2006 sectional games in which we beat a very good Middleton team. It was a long game and felt like there were close to 50 fouls called, but worth the ride to Sauk City. My only complaint would be the hot dogs. I am guy who grew up on good old-fashioned Oscar Mayer hot dogs — they are the best.
Tuesday, Dec. 23 — noon
Practice today was short but hard. I ran them a lot and we retaught some of our offensive sets. It was nice because we had a several alumni (Kori Vernon, Derek Nkemnji and Jerard Ajami) come in and play with our players. It is both good competition and a small carrot for our players to see alumni who are playing collegiate basketball. Tonight, I am heading to the Wisconsin game with my brother-in-law, Craig, to watch Keaton and the Badgers play Texas.
Wednesday, Dec. 24 — noon
My, how plans can change. Rather than cheer on UW, I have spent the last 16 hours in bed. I came down with a terrible cold and my daughter, Emma, came down with the stomach flu yesterday evening. I would say that this is typical of basketball season. The entire Collins clan passes around illnesses. Half of our family is eating Christmas Eve dinner elsewhere tonight to avoid getting sick.
Wednesday, Dec. 24 — 4 p.m.
How do you spend Christmas Eve in the Collins’ household? Watching tape on Henry Sibley High. As both Emma and Drew were circling the Christmas tree figuring out what present from their grandparents they wanted to open, my wife Mya and I were trying to figure out how Henry Sibley, a high school team, could be so tall. They have a starting lineup consisting of a 7-footer, two 6-8 forwards, a 6-4 shooting guard, along with a point guard that is 5-8. They of course bring a 6-8 player off the bench. I think they might start a taller lineup than the Badgers. One of their players is also a UW recruit (Mike Bruesewitz). They are currently ranked No. 2 in Minnesota and have four Division I college recruits on their roster. We are going to have to work on this scouting report.
Wednesday, Dec. 24 — 11 p.m.
Have any of you ever bought a present, went to wrap it on Christmas Eve and then were unable to find it? That is what happened at our house, so at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Mya and I are at the 24-hour Walgreens buying the missing Pokemon cards. I can thank my brother-in-law, Craig, who is an executive at Walgreens, for pushing us that way. There are not many stores open late on Christmas Eve.
Thursday, Dec. 25 — (written on the 26th)
This is a non-Blackberry and non-basketball day. It is hard in the Collins household to give up basketball, but today is about giving thanks for my family:
** Two healthy and loving children
** My 4-year-old daughter, who changes her outfit about 20 times per day
** My son’s excitement at making snow with his new chemistry kit (Does he not understand there is a foot of snow outside?)
** Two loving parents (Peg and Larry Collins) and their unconditional support
** A wife who puts up with my love and passion for the game
Friday, Dec. 26 — 7 p.m.
I gave my players the day off today. In my experience, this day is a tough day to play or practice because the players are still on Christmas time and it can be hard to focus. Without a game for over a week, this seemed like the logical time to allow them to have three days off. I enjoyed the article on Junior Lomomba this morning in the State Journal. He is a great basketball player and an even better person. I am so glad that things have worked out for him and that he is making a better life for himself. I just found out that he is stuck in Baltimore from visiting his mother and will not be home for at least another day.
We spent the day at home cleaning off our roof and building huge snow tunnels in grandma’s front yard. A funny story involving one of my first snow memories is climbing through snow tunnels at the house of Rich Cleveland, now the Madison East head coach. Rich’s father and my father have been friends for as long as I can remember. What a small world …
Saturday, Dec. 27 — noon
I think the players were still on break this morning at our 8 a.m. practice. My estimate would be that they probably ran to Wausau and back during the two-hour practice. The combination of early morning and having three days off did not seem to work.
Saturday, Dec. 27 — 9:30 p.m.
I just got back from scouting Middleton and Waupun. I did not get a chance to try out the hot dogs at Middleton but have heard they are exceptional. The fun thing about getting out and scouting is seeing different players from around the state. Tonight, I saw an exceptional one from Waupun in junior Austin Armga. I have not yet seen statistics from the game but my guess would be that he had at least 30 points (actually 34) and put on quite a first half shooting clinic.

Chapter Seven
Minneapolis trip provides a glimpse of the big time.

Monday, Dec. 29 — 4 p.m.
I am getting over the stomach flu like a handful of my players; yet, today was a very focused practice. I think the team has an idea of how big the next couple of games are in our schedule and the stiff competition that awaits them. The WBCA (Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association) holds a holiday tournament at the UW Field House over Christmas break and several teams came to Memorial to hold shootarounds. I am always happy to help out fellow coaches with gym space; plus, it is fun to talk basketball and hear how basketball around the state is going. I talked with Todd Fergot, the head coach at LaCrosse Central; he does a tremendous job and had his team off to an impressive 6-0 start. Pat Hammond and his Eau Claire North varsity team also came to practice at our school. I was disappointed to see Evan Anderson (a UW recruit) in a walking boot and unable to play. Our sophomore team also got to play against Eau Claire North’s sophomore squad (we won). Evan and fellow UW recruit Vander Blue got to talk to each other during the game.
Tuesday, Dec. 30 — 3:30 p.m.
We got better today. I am not sure that we are 100 percent healthy; however, we continue to improve as a basketball team. As a coach, all you can ever ask for your team is to get better. We did a lot of teaching and adding of new things in the last two days and the players have all responded. We spent a good hour after practice today going over Henry Sibley scout tapes and highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. After seeing them on tape, my guys respect Henry Sibley’s athleticism and height and are ready for the challenge. As we left practice, my 6-year-old son Drew turned to me and said “Dad, they did good today.” They sure did, Drew.
Tuesday, Dec. 30 — 11 p.m.
I just got back from watching Beloit play at Waterford. My companion was Jeremy Schlitz, my sophomore team coach, whom I would rank as the best sophomore coach in the state. Not only has he been with me since the beginning of my head coaching career at Memorial, he also was a player on my varsity reserve team at Wausau East High School. I don’t think anyone spends more time preparing his team and helping with varsity on a daily basis than Jeremy. He is a great friend and an unbelievable basketball coach. The weather was terrible but the hot dogs were a solid 8 on a 1-10 scale. This was a good scout and we are going to have our work cut out for us next Tuesday (Jan. 6) at home versus Beloit. The two remaining undefeated teams in the Big Eight will be going head to head! This is the most balanced, biggest and talented Beloit team I have seen in four years.
Wednesday, Dec. 31 — 11:30 p.m.
At practice, we tweaked a few things for the weekend in Minneapolis and went over the itinerary with the team. We have the players’ time scripted for the entire weekend. After practice, I collected the practice gear to take home and wash it. I have learned that if I don’t personally wash them a handful of times during the year the jerseys really begin to smell. We just got home from celebrating New Year’s Eve with some great families, the Youngs, Genskows, Cranleys and Goldenbergs. We spent the evening playing Wii, eating fondue and having exceptional conversations. One topic involved answering specific dinner table questions. The question I received under my plate was applicable to my team — “What is the best advice you have ever received?” — and I am going to pass on some of the advice to them.
** Eat dessert first so you will have enough room for it
** Do what you do best and delegate the rest
** It’s not what you know, it’s what you do when you don’t know
** Live in the moment
** Do a job you love
** Don’t be stupid
** Work smarter, not harder
Thursday, Jan. 1 — noon
No practice today, but here are my New Year’s resolutions:
** Be a better father, husband, teacher and coach
** Have our team play better man-to-man defense and commit fewer turnovers
** Have our team play hard for 32 minutes
** Get in shape (My good friend, Jeff Thompson has completed three Ironmans and my brother-in-law, Craig Lower, is going to compete in Ironman Wisconsin this September in Madison. They inspire an old man like me).
** Register and run the Madison Half Marathon
** Learn a new skill
** Save more money for retirement
Friday, Jan. 2 — 6 a.m.
We are leaving later this morning for Minnesota to play at the Target Center tomorrow afternoon versus Henry Sibley as part of the Timberwolves Shootout. I am up early packing and making sure that we have everything situated for the weekend. We are going to practice first and then get on the bus. I am excited because I just got a new iPhone from my wife, Mya, for my birthday and will keep track of notes during the entire trip.
Friday, Jan. 2 — 11:30 a.m.
We just pulled out of the Memorial parking lot with 14 players (one is home sick), six coaches, three managers, Tyler Dahmen (former Memorial player who films for When We Were Young Productions), principal Bruce Dahmen, my beautiful wife who is going to visit college friends, and Jon Wilson, our bus driver. The players just noticed my Wauwatosa East state champions T-shirt, a present from Jeremy Schlitz. The shirt got the trip off to a nice and noisy start! When you have a five-hour trip to the Twin Cities, you have time for a lot of different conversations. One of the most interesting involved Cory Moore, Kevin Klagos and myself and our most interesting scouting and team trips. Here are some of the most interesting scouting trips we came up with:
1. A scouting trip to La Crosse two or three years ago with Kevin and Cory was quite an experience. We got within 10 miles of La Crosse and had to turn around. The roads were so bad that you could barely see through the car windshield; the two-hour trip took us close to five hours and we didn’t even get the scout. The ice was forming so fast that you had to scrape the windshield every five or 10 minutes. As we were driving down the highway, we passed a car that had a female passenger hanging out of the window scraping the windshield as they were driving. Of course, none of us were willing to stick our backside out the window to scrape the windshield!
2. This scouting trip was early in my coaching career with Cory Moore.
We were in the Milwaukee scouting either South Milwaukee or Burlington and were close to the airport, Mitchell Field. We were stopped at a stoplight as a small commuter plane was coming in for a landing. I slowly pulled into the intersection and as I was doing that, a piece of ice the size of small car fell from the plane’s landing gear and landed seven feet in front of the car. I guess that life is all about timing.
3. This scouting trip was also with Cory Moore, five or six years ago. We were coming back late from scouting a team in La Crosse and decided to stop at McDonald’s in Tomah. We went through the drive-thru and ordered a couple of Big Mac value meals. As we got on the interstate heading toward Madison and took a bite into the sandwiches, we discovered there was no meat. We realized the next exit was 10 miles down the road, so we laughed out loud, said a couple of choice words, knowing that someone at McDonald’s was having a good laugh on us, and finished our hamburger buns.
Friday, Jan. 2 — 1:45 p.m.
We just had our first exciting incident of the trip. I had finished eating a lunch that the parents had provided for the team and had fallen asleep on the bus. When I woke up, everyone asked if I had heard the noise. I did not understand what they were talking about. It appeared that while I was sleeping, the bus drove under an overpass and a huge piece of ice fell off and cracked the windshield. Everyone described it as loud as a gunshot. What is it with me and falling ice? At least I slept through it.
Friday, Jan. 2 — 2:50 p.m.
I just walked through the bus and saw a couple of people reading UW coach Bo Ryan’s book. Looks like sales are going well, Coach!
Friday, Jan. 2 — 4:30 p.m.
We just got off the bus and got everyone checked into the hotel, the Marriott. As we were getting off the bus, we saw another bus pull up behind us with some very big basketball players. I was hoping that it was not Henry Sibley. As it turned out, it was Ohio State and they were in town to play Minnesota the next day. Buckeyes coach Thad Matta got on the elevator and was very nice and wished us luck the next day.
Friday, Jan. 2 — 6:45 p.m.
We just finished eating dinner at the hotel and are getting ready to walk over to the Timberwolves’ game (compliments of the Timberwolves Shootout). What is nice about the hotel we are staying at is that we can walk to the Target Center tonight and tomorrow without going outside. Most of the entire Minneapolis downtown is connected by skyways.
Friday, Jan. 2 — 8 p.m.
We just watched half of the Timberwolves’ game against Golden State. My team thinks many of these NBA players don’t play hard at times. I told them it is an 82-game season and that the second half will be more intense (which it was).
Friday, Jan. 2 — 10:45 p.m.
The Timberwolves game was a lot of fun, and we were able to see them win, 115-108. Our coaching staff just did the first bed check of the night for our players and gave them a snack before bed. What did people do for entertainment before PlayStation or Xbox? It is amazing to see how messy a hotel room can get in just 5 hours. I was just in the lobby and saw the NBA officials from the Timberwolves game checking into the hotel. This must be the place to stay.
Saturday, Jan. 3 — 12:45 a.m.
I did the final bed check and everyone is fast asleep. Hopefully they are all dreaming of beating Henry Sibley.
Saturday, Jan. 3 — 10 a.m.
The team just finished breakfast and we are heading over to the Target Center for a quick walk-through before the game. We will then come back to the hotel, check out, and walk over to the game.
Saturday, Jan. 3 — noon
We are sitting in the lobby of the hotel waiting to walk over to the Target Center and I just saw the Philadelphia Eagles’ advance man getting rooms for the team for Sunday’s NFL playoff game versus the Vikings. They have the entire 10th and 11th floors booked for the team and I overheard him asking for a master key for all the players’ rooms. Good to know that the NFL worries about bed checks as much as high school coaches.
Saturday, Jan. 3 — 4:30 p.m.
We won 67-64 in a very close game! The game consisted of two 18-minute halves — as opposed to the 8-minute quarters we usually play — on a larger NBA court. I always worry about how the larger court will affect the flow of the game and our conditioning. I was able to rest some people because we had some early foul trouble and I think that helped us down the stretch. Our bench did a great job of giving us some quality minutes. I was happy with how we handled the close game and made some clutch moves down the stretch. We were down three points with about 4 minutes to go and were still able to pull out the win. We obviously still have a lot of work to do, but this is a quality win against one of the top teams in Minnesota. We are letting the guys get showered and will watch a little of the Hopkins game before jumping on the bus to go home.
Sunday, Jan. 4 — 12:45 a.m.
It took us about an extra two hours to get home because of the freezing rain and ice. It is nice to be home but now I am worrying about Beloit on Tuesday night. It should be quite an event

Chapter Eight
A Return to Fundamentals.

Monday, Jan. 5 — Noon
The day after winter break is always an interesting day. It is difficult to get everyone, including myself back into a routine. We have a big game against Beloit on Tuesday, so I hope we can re-focus. I hear that Beloit will be bringing several fan buses to the game. It should be a great atmosphere for a high school basketball game.
Monday, Jan. 5 — 8 p.m.
We had a short but intense practice. I think the guys know what is at stake tomorrow night with two undefeated Big 8 teams coming together. It has been a long time since there has been this much anticipation about a Memorial/Beloit matchup. I remember back when Kyle Weaver was playing for Beloit (he is now playing for Oklahoma City in the NBA) and we had some great battles with those Coach Bautch teams — let’s not forget the 2004 State quarterfinal matchup, which came down to one or two possessions! I have a feeling we are going to have one of those games tomorrow night.
Tuesday, Jan. 6 — 7:45 a.m.
We just had our shootaround. I am worried that we are not going to be ready for this big game. One of the hardest things about being a coach is that come game day, there is nothing I can do because it is out of my hands. I can’t run that special drill or out-of-bounds play that will help with the game tonight — it is up to them.
Tuesday, Jan. 6 — 9:45 p.m.
We beat Beloit 64-50. We were down going into the fourth quarter 35-34 but luckily we had a 30-point fourth quarter. I know that we won, but I’m a little disappointed with our effort for 32 minutes. We failed to finish our shots, rebound well and execute defensively. We must realize that there is a huge target on our back and we need to execute our game plan for an entire game. I take my hat off to Beloit. They did a tremendous job in the game and I have no doubt that it will be a battle when we go down there and play in February.
Wednesday, Jan. 7 — 6 a.m.
I was not able to sleep last night. We need to take our team and go back to the fundamentals (being strong with the ball, passing, dribbling, rebounding, shooting free throws). I know that we can shoot the ball and get up and down the court. What we have to do now is get better at the little things that make a good basketball team great.
Wednesday, Jan. 7 — 6 p.m.
I am sitting in the Shorewood Elementary School gym watching my six-year-old son, Drew, run around and play soccer on a tile floor. I could compare it to playing soccer on an ice rink, but it looks like all the kids are having a great time. We got better today in practice; however, sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back. It was one of our better practices of the year and the guys were really focused on the basketball skills we are working on. It always makes a coach or teacher feel proud when he realizes his students are getting the material being taught. I am off with Drew, his best buddy, Joe Clark, and his dad, Randy, to watch the Badger game. Since Mya is at a preschool board meeting, we have the best babysitter in the world looking after Emma tonight (thanks L.M.). Finding good babysitters is like having a good free throw shooter — you are extremely happy but don’t want anyone to know. From a basketball standpoint, you want to keep that a secret so your opponent will foul them. From a babysitter standpoint, you don’t want anyone to steal her for the same night you want to go out. That is why I am protecting her identity — L.M., tell your dad I am willing to help him with his jump shot anytime!
Thursday, Jan. 8 — 6:25 p.m.
I am trying to finish up my team’s individual goals. I want to sit down with each kid and let him know where he stands on the team. We are one game away from the halfway mark of the season and this is the time that I always try to communicate with my team about their roles. Every player is important and has a role on the team; when players don’t know what is expected of them, they can tear apart a team by not working well together as a cohesive group. The team is off to eat a pasta dinner at the Fruhling house and get ready to play our next door neighbor — Middleton. It is always an interesting week of preparation when we play Middleton and their dribble drive offense.
Friday, Jan. 9 — 11:30 p.m.
We beat Middleton 74-51 and I was pleased with the effort. We brought the players back to school after the game, fed them, and went through the St. Louis Lafayette scout. I then sent them home and gave them an 11 p.m. curfew. Everyone called in and I am now packing for the trip to St. Louis tomorrow morning. We are leaving school at 7:00 a.m. and have a game at 6:15 p.m. in Highland, Illinois. I am excited because this is the first road trip that Drew will be making with the team — he can’t wait.
Saturday, Jan. 10 — 9 a.m.
We have been driving for a couple of hours and the roads have some blowing snow and ice, but it looks as though they have begun to clear. We are in the great hands of bus driver, Teddy Lubick, so I have no worries. We just realized that Jeremy Schlitz (sophomore coach) forgot all of his clothes at Memorial in his car. Being the logistical manager of our road trips, I am sure he has some sort of contingency plan built into the schedule! The players have been eating and watching movies on the bus. I think Drew is in heaven spending all of this time with the players — they are really wonderful with him.
Saturday, Jan. 10 — 1:30 p.m.
We arrived in Highland and checked into the hotel. In about an hour, we are going to have a shootaround at the middle school. Hopefully, I can work the guys out enough to make sure they are ready for the game — that was a long bus trip and their bodies need to be sharp for the game.
Saturday, Jan. 10 — 4:30 p.m.
The shootaround at the middle school was great. I can’t believe the wonderful facilities they have in their middle school. That gym seemed bigger than Memorial’s gym. The Highland Tournament is a wonderful experience and the host, the Optimist Club, runs a first-class event. Kevin Hemann, head of the Optimist Club, and Bill Kealey, our team host, take such good care of us and make sure that we have everything we need. Drew has a life-threatening peanut/tree nut allergy and we as a family have to deal with it everyday. Everyone at the tournament was more that accommodating to him and our entire team. Today at lunch Drew not only got to eat dinner with us, but also got to sit at the same table with Jeronne and Vander. What more could a 6-year-old boy ask for?
Word on the street is that Jeremy found a dollar store and has been able to outfit himself for the game tonight. I can’t wait to see this
Saturday, Jan.  10 — 9:30 p.m.
We won in another close battle — 65-62. Lafayette has two big players who are both about 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds. One player, Tyler Griffey, has signed with Illinois and the other big has several offers on the table. I thought we did a nice job pressuring their guards and attacking the rim. For the most part we played hard, but the fatigue of the bus ride sure showed in the second half. I take responsibility for one big mistake — having six players on the court at the end of the first half, which earned me a technical foul. As Drew stated, “Geez dad, I thought you were a math teacher.” You would think one of my 18 coaches along on the trip would have caught that error! The Optimists are sending over 15 pizzas for the guys to eat. If they finish all of those I will be really impressed.
Sunday, Jan. 11 — 9:30 a.m.
It has been a pretty successful trip so far; we finished off the pizzas, beat a really good team, and Drew got to stay up until 10:30 p.m. We are now headed off to the St. Louis Arch, where we will watch a movie about its construction and take a ride to the top. This is always a fun part of the trip because the players will get a little history lesson and spend some time together off the basketball court, creating friendships and team chemistry.
Sunday, Jan. 11 — 9:30 p.m.
We just got home and put Drew to bed. I am surprised he is able to fall asleep after all of this excitement. I hope that I can fall asleep — too many naps on the bus. I am really proud of how my guys represented Memorial this weekend. The great thing about coaching is that there is always another game to prepare for — time to prepare for Parker.

Next week Part 2

Failing has never been so fun

Failing has never been so fun.

I pen these words while sitting in 92-degree weather, watching the worst soccer I have seen in my life. Players stand flat-footed, in packs, unmoving, with no position play, passing, cutting, or moving of any planned sort. Instead, kids smash the ball with their feet as hard and wild as they can kick, then run there to do the same thing. “Defense” is piling the team’s worst kids together en masse to stand in front of the goalie box. My wife made a brilliant comment to me (shared below). But, first, to basketball…

Is today’s cry for ‘fun’ in youth sports a cover for weak coaching, and low parental expectations? Is fun today’s Loser’s Limp? where we pretend we COULD have done better, but for the fact that winning doesnt matter? By “fun” do we really mean that we want no pressure placed upon us as parents and coaches, and a guarantee that, above all else, our kid will never lose?

It may come as a shock to some, but EVERY game ever invented has had as it’s very basic, core objective to win. Every board game, every table game, every card game, every video game, and yes, every sports game, is designed to be won. But, it seems, in today’s youth basketball.

AAU is going the way of Rec League. It used to be that “fun” was spoken of in Rec League, where kids do little and are praised for it. “Everyone is a winner,” the banner said. But in the past 5 years travel basketball has gone the way of Rec League, with its same emphasis on casualness, not keeping score, occasional practices, everybody playing, and so on. AAU is now following suit, such that only the so-called “Elite teams” is where the real sport of basketball is found. Many AAU clubs now hold so-called tournaments for their own teams. As a sport, it appears to me we are pushing “competitive” ball upward to only the highest, smallest top-most part the large pyramid of youth basketball.

But, why?

Back to my wife. As we both watched the horrific soccer together, we heard the coach keep yelling out banal cheerleader-esque cliches like, “Good Hustle!” “Keep Trying!” and “Go Hard!” It was silly, even to his own standing, untrained players (who got killed in the game). My wife looked at me, and said, “From now on our daughters will play competitive sports, or nothing. This is teaching them nothing. I dont want to watch this anymore.”

Of the 100s of things required of youth coaches today, let me be among the few to say, publicly, that “making the game fun” is not one of your requirements. It is not the judge’s job to make obeying the law fun; it is not the surgeon’s job to make triple bypass surgery fun, and; it is not my job to somehow make this sport fun for your child. To be sure, none of us want Hitler as our kids’ coach. So let us quit painting this false extreme as a rallying cry for demanding “fun” above all else.

Fun is subjective; one person cannot make something fun for someone else. Consider our teenagers, for example, who define “fun” as sitting in a room with friends, texting friends who are NOT in the room. I dont get it; that is definitely not fun for me. Fun is also fleeting, fickle and impossible to define. The purpose of life is not for others to somehow guarantee your level of fun. This is true of teachers, coaches, principals, officials, and of employers. Instead of seeking fun an end of sport, I believe as coaches we should teach that fun is IN the sport. For example, working hard is fun, mastering a skill of play is fun, trying is fun, learning is fun, being part of a team is fun, practicing is fun, sweating is fun, and, yes, being pushed, made, broken down–then rebuilt better–to WIN–this is really, really fun!

Bob Knight cared nothing about fun. Neither did John Wooden. Both won 13 national championships, and raised up incredibly mature, responsible men. Instead each push incredibly hard, in very different coaching styles, to get at player perfection, high standards, personal responsibility, and above all else, team. Today, what are we about as coaches in terms of our standards of expectations and excellence in youth ball?

I am tired of watching crappy play, allowed in the name of our kids supposedly having fun.

Coaches (parents!), we are fun-ning our sport to death.

Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball. Feel free to email him at terryboesch@gmail.com, or call/text at 317-643-6042

Things I Don’t Coach Anymore (Stop the Slide)

Things I Don’t Coach Anymore (Stop the Slide)

Let me ask you a question as fellow-coach: How do we think our defense player is going to move as fast sliding sideways, as his approaching dribbling offense player is going to move sprinting toward him?

I have watched 100+ coaches teach players to shuffle side-to-side on defense. That this is somehow going to “close the door” to the basket for a penetrating offense player on the dribble. I confess, for 25-years I repeated this same mantra to my players. But why? Because I assumed every coach had to say it this way. Not a good reason.

This is now the second thing I no longer teach on Defense–to shuffle-step left and right to stop an offense player from penetrating the ball. To be sure, we should teach our defense player to position his legs wide, and square, in front of the offense player, on the hope this deters him from going around us. But after that, then what? Our human bodies are MADE to sprint forward, not to slide to the side.

Two seasons ago I began to de-emphasize shuffling, and to teach instead an inside-full leg step around method to get in front of an offense player who has gotten around us. It is difficult to explain in words, but easier to see demonstrated on the court. After a couple tries, most players get it, though still some want to revert to their old coaching, and slide.

I call it the Step-Around move.

The player on defense, if beaten to the outside, takes a full step with his inside leg in the direction of the offense player. At the same time he swings his hip and upper body around, planting that foot straight behind him in the direction where the offense player is moving, i.e., toward the basket. Then when he takes his next step, and lands it too on the floor behind him, he immediately pivots on that foot toward the offense player. This results in his body being in a solid defense position between the offense player and the basket. It also happens so quick that I have seen a number of offense players take a charge running into our defensive player.

If the offense player goes to our right, we step around with our left leg; if he goes to our left, we step around with our inside leg. Give it a try, see what you think.

P.S. In this photograph I include, you can tell the green defense player is beaten. She tried to slide her right foot over to get in front of the offense player; it did not work. So now the green player is totally beaten, with no ability to recover.

Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball. Feel free to email him at terryboesch@gmail.com, or call/text at 317-643-6042

Fixing My Error on Defense (What I Dont Teach anymore as Coach)

Coaching is a learning profession. The coach who humbles himself to learn, will grow. The one who fossilizes himself around fixed points, especially of his own imagination, will not.

Here is 1 thing I no longer teach on basketball defense. First, let me say, growing up in Indiana I thought this rule was inviolable, like the 11th Commandment in the Bible. I share this with you, to ask you to think about it yourself (if you still teach this?). Also, to ask you to share something on defense that you no longer teach as a basketball coach. I almost feel like I need to apologize to Coach Bob Knight for saying this,..

Here it is. I no longer teach “Denial” of the pass to the player one-pass away from the player with the ball. I think it fair to say that every coach in America has told his players on defense, I know I have, many times, when coaching the Defense Shell Drill, “WE must do 3 things: We must Stop Penetration, We must Deny the Pass to the player one-pass away, and We must play Helpside Defense.” To paraphrase Meatloaf, “2 outta 3 aint bad,” for the first and last points are true. But the second? I dont think so. Here is why.

As a matter of logic we should never as coaches expect our players to do that which is impossible for them to do. Watch any basketball game, at any level, and you will see it is impossible to deny the pass from the player at top of key to either wing player of his choice, or vice versa. If they want to make the pass, they will make it, even if the player without the ball has to circle high above the 3-pt line to get it, or go way out on the wing for the catch. Truth is, that pass WILL be made 95% of the time. Thus it cannot be “denied.” We are creating frustration and unreasonable expectations in our players’ minds when we scream out to them, “Deny the pass!” when it simply cant be done. To deny means to prevent, stop and render impossible. It is impossible to stop the pass from being made.

More importantly, there are at least TEN (10) times where we WANT the other team to make the pass! In these instances, we should never deny it, but instead, ENCOURAGE it.

For example, we never want to deny passes that move the ball away from the basket; passes to players standing outside their shooting range; passes when the other team is inside the final 5 seconds of a shot clock; passes to the corner, where we can trap the player; passes East & West that accomplish nothing, and which dont hurt us; passes into the post where we can quickly double-team the post player from high and low (stripping the ball); passes from their best ballhandler to a lesser dribbler; passes from their best shooter to a weaker shooter; passes to a player with a low Free throw shooting % near the end of a half or game; passes to any player on the other team who is their #7-8-9-10 on the bench.

We should never Deny these passes–we should ENCOURAGE them. Why?

This is why now I teach “Stop, Steal and Sag” on Defense. The Stop means to stop penetration, while the Sag means to play helpside defense (just like we were always taught). The Steal however means that I place my best, quickest defenders (with best judgment), out on the points of our defense at the high-elbow/3-pt line area on the court (where their best players are positioned). There I teach my players to lay back far enough away from their player to entice a pass (which also helps block penetration lanes), but close enough to steal the ball once it is in the air. I teach players to read the eyes, and body language, of passers. They never lie. I also reinforce to players that as coach I will never blame them if they go for the steal, but come up short. But I will hold them accountable if they go for the ball with less than full intentionality and speed. In other words, the worst thing a player can do is kinda, sorta go for a steal, while still trying to play it “safe.” It is all-in, or nothing. We spend time in practice on how to steal a ball, and how to deflect it. But I also teach, “If you are going for the steal, I better see you flying to get it, at all costs!. For there are no half-steals in basketball.”

Again, my apologies to Coach Knight. But I think “Deny the ball” is impossible to do, is unwise to do in at least 10 instances, and in approximately 4-6 times per game we can steal it–if we read the body language well and truly throw ourselves into it.

So, what do you no longer teach on Defense that you once did as coach?

“Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball. Feel free to email him at terryboesch@gmail.com, or call/text at 317.643-6042

Role of Faith in Basketball Coaching

Role of Faith in Coaching

ALL great basketball themes are religious themes. And, they are shared in common by nearly all Creeds of the world.

I once attended a leadership program at Harvard, called “Faith & Leadership,” where 40 people from different religions and countries gathered, to share experiences as leaders. Two things struck me: 90% of us were all saying the same thing. We believe in something higher than us, who gives meaning and holds us accountable. Even communists in China believe this. And, all of us believe we are in some sort of transition in life, from one state or place to another, and we believe there is purpose in our effort, and value in our life.

So, take comfort coaches. We have a built-in common language of Faith with our players, and with their parents, and those on our coaching staff. There does not need to be a tension between who we are as a person, and what we do as a coach. We dont have to deny our beliefs, to teach X’s & O’s to others. Instead, there is great common ground between us and our players (not to mention with fans, opposing teams, and referees).

I understand nothing makes us more nervous as coaches than discussions about religion. But I call us to be honest. Polls repeatedly show that 90% of Americans believe in Faith. I bet you do, too. So, do we have to somehow try to act like our faith, and that of our player’s, does not matter-or exist at all? This is ridiculous, and impossible. Instead, I call each of us to coach powerfully THROUGH our faith. Let us speak of the values that mean so much to us, and mean so much to our team, such as playing with purpose, demonstrating integrity, doing hard work, showing common effort, and playing fair in all things. Let us coach on destiny, calling, caring and passion. Service to others higher than ourself is key to our uniqueness of individual contribution. Both faith and basketball call us to great things.

Take comfort, feel comfortable in your skin. The 1st Amendment does not mean we have to shut up about who we are, and what we hold to be true. We dont have to censor-out all the important stuff. The law only provides that we cannot force others to believe the details as we do, and it protects us, and others, for having our religious details in the first place.

I challenge you to to think of any basketball theme that does sound inherently religious. As a coach, you created your team on purpose, with players having different gifts and weaknesses, to play together, according to rules, relying on talent, training and trust in others to win. Together we will collectively celebrate in a humble, thankful spirit, achieving meaningful victory. Nothing worth having comes apart from hard work. Character matters more than point-count. Lest we abuse our power, we need whistles and officials to keep us within the confines of rules. Finally, at the end of this game (be it in AAU, travel, rec-league, school play, or Elite), a whistle is going to blow. We are going to run out of time. Then a victor will be crowned who works best with others.

Basketball does not discriminate. Nor does good religion. If we play this game with heart, soul, mind and strength–we win. We all stand before the game of basketball (and God) even.

So, take heart coaches, ALL GREAT BASKETBALL THEMES are religious themes shared in common by all great Creeds of the world. Can I get an Amen?

Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball. Feel free to email him at terryboesch@gmail.com, or call/text at 317.643-6042

 

 

Improve your basketball coaching and playing game on YOUTUBE

Improve Your Game-YouTube


If you’re anything like me, you’ve logged into YouTube before to search for drills for your team or an individual player. I happen to also search drills for my oldest son (even though he’s only 4). There are a ton of videos out there, how do you know which ones to use or who to follow? Don’t get caught in the flashy videos, the ones that look really cool and allow you to do outstanding things with the basketball, but don’t get you anywhere during the game. Or maybe you can get somewhere.. But you take two extra steps or carry the ball to do it.

One of my favorite drills comes from Coach Collins, and I love it for a variety of reasons. It’s “Balloon Dribbling”. I’m a fan of a tennis ball dribbling set, and we have used them in our program before. Balloon dribbling takes that to another level. It allows a higher number of reps between each “toss”. With a tennis ball, you toss it up and it comes down quickly, potentially eliminating some reps from your sets. The balloon hangs in the air longer and allows you more potential reps. In addition, when hitting the balloon you might knock it to one side or another; this forces you to relocate and square your body or “play” on the move. These are all important factors of ball-handling and the game overall.

The video also lists multiple variations to the drill (balloon size, using a fan to blow the balloon, as well as different dribbles). These variations all add to the drill as well. They put the focus on the balloon to build confidence in that dribble. I think tennis balls are a great drill, but I think balloons are a great starter drill to the tennis ball drills. I believe it’s also a scientific fact that kids LOVE balloons so this set is a great idea to build confidence, to increase ball-handling skill, and to set your players up for more complex skills down the road.

You can see more of Coach Collins’ YouTube videos by click here

The Cost of Competition: Why It Is Important to Think Hard Before Getting Involved with An Ultra-Competitive AAU/ Grassroot Basketball Tournament Team

The Cost of Competition:
Why It Is Important to Think Hard Before Getting Involved with
An Ultra-Competitive AAU Tournament Team


Chances are, if you’ve been a basketball fan in the past decade you’ve heard of Tyson Chandler, but not everyone knows the unique circumstances behind his unlikely rise to basketball stardom. As detailed in the critically acclaimed book Play Their Hearts Out, Chandler was first spotted by an ambitious AAU coach by the name of Joe Keller. Keller took Chandler under his wing, sometimes even giving him a place to stay on weekends so he could travel and compete in some of the major AAU tournaments across the country. It’s an engaging read, and perhaps the most comprehensive investigation into the world of high-stakes national level AAU basketball out there.
Those who have not seen it firsthand will be shocked to read the accounts of countless coaches who make a living off of young athletes. Oftentimes these coaches will find one or two players who display exceptional talent, then spend years attempting to mold them into potential NBA prospects. Once these players “make it,” the AAU coach is often paid a hefty sum for all of his work. Keller is rumored to have received such a payment, and hey, why not? And this is not to say that Keller is a bad guy. After all, he took a young man from nowhere and helped him rise to NBA stardom. Who knows if scouts would have ever seen Chandler had Keller not organized his team?
On the other hand, the reality is that finding a player like Tyson Chandler is about as easy as winning the lottery. The overwhelming majority of AAU coaches will never coach NBA talent. When my own nephew played AAU ball his father used to pay anywhere from $5000-$8000 each year to cover tournament and travel expenses. Luckily, my brother worked hard and had a career where he could afford these costs, but many of the greatest NBA players have come from low-income backgrounds, and AAU coaches often sacrifice significant time away from their families in order to keep their teams afloat. Most of these coaches are great people with the well-being of their players among their top priorities, but there have been reported cases of AAU coaches who recruit players, make a million promises, then leave the player out to dry if he ends up being unable to perform at the level his coach expected him to.
In my personal opinion, I think the AAU is a great organization, and I would encourage anyone who wants their son or daughter to play competitive basketball to consider playing AAU, but I would also say you should proceed with caution and never forget to keep the larger picture in mind. Basketball, like any sport, is a game that can teach life lessons. It’s fun, it can bring people together, and it can ultimately lead to a college scholarship, or even a career. Just make sure you are in it for the right reasons.

How to Save High School Basketball (HSB)

How to Save High School Basketball (HSB)

All organizational failure begins, and ends, with leadership failure.

Some predict the death of high school basketball in 10-years; I believe this is definitely true in girls BB especially, and most likely true in boys hoops. To save HSB, the most important place to begin is at the top, the Athletic Director (AD). The AD must create and staff a new position, to report direct to AD, called a Development Program Director (DPD). The DPD is also matrixed to the respective girls and boys high school basketball head coaches.

The DPD is a heavy part-time job, set forth on the ECA schedule as is the case with most sports positions within a school corporation. The role of DPD is to be fully funded by the school board. The work of the DPD is 4-fold: First, to bring new kids into the sport, beginning in 3rd grade. Second, to recruit and train volunteer parent-coaches. Third, to create an area league of teams in which student-athletes play competitive, organized team ball. And, fourth, to align the sports teams generally to the style of play of the sitting head coaches. I note “generally” because the key is player development, not running systems or memorized plays. Kids need to be trained as athletes, not programmed as robots.

The greatest weakness of AAU basketball can become the greatest strength of school-based basketball—the development of player skills, which are essential to improvement and advancement in higher levels of competition in this sport. This AAU does not do, or at least, does not do well. Sadly, many school systems are failing also in this crucial piece of basketball. Yet with simple adjustments, schools can reclaim this high ground.

The challenge is to bring players into the sport, then to train them in creative ways to get them to know how to play each position on the court, in defense, in offense, in transition, in full court press situations, and on the free throw line. This starts with the philosophy to build each kid from the court-up, on how to stand, how to pivot, how to dribble, how to screen, how to play helpside defense, etc.

Schools must reclaim the mantle of being basketball development experts. If we in schools do this, we will save our school teams (and jobs). If not, we will soon lose this entire sport to private clubs, and private trainers.

The basketball DPD must continually cast his/her net broad to find, then develop, volunteer parent-coaches. I suggest USA Basketball youth coaching licensure program as a place to start, though the customer service of USAB is among the very worst. Joining Positive Coaching Alliance and National Association of Youth Sports are good ideas, as is joining solid basketball coaching websites like teachhoops.com.

The state of Indiana boasts the largest girls travel basketball program in the country. Called Indy Girls Hoops League, it may serve as an excellent model for forming a similar league in your area of the country. Teams run from 3rd-8th grades, with three levels of competition (A (best), B, C(weakest)) in each grade. All girls on an IGHL team must be from the same school corporation (to keep from recruiting players to your team from outside your school district). Games are officiated by real referees. Teams play every other Sunday, and there is a Fall League, Winter League, and Spring League (a team can play in 1, 2 or all 3 of these if they wish). Almost all teams are coached by parents.

With IGHL there are generally 2 models followed by school systems. Either the school system “owns” its IGHL teams and appoints subordinate coaches, while dishing out gym times at area schools. Or, parents do their own thing, while wearing the name of that school corporation on the kids’ jerseys. Each model has its strengths and weaknesses.

The second major requirement to save HSB is to professionalize and broaden the skill sets of subordinate middle school coaches, many of whom have been coaching the same school grade teams for many, many years. Schools must eliminate family members of coaches from becoming assistant coaches, as this is leading to a death spiral of poor quality in middle school basketball. The DPD can create a basketball curriculum across grades, based on LTAD in Canada or the work of USA Basketball. Practice plans can then be organized from the curriculum. Also, player development and mastery of skills can be recorded each year in a simple, digital format. Statistics can be kept, and videos taken of practice and/or games.

The DPD must also use all means permitted within your state’s high school athletic association, to make basketball fun again, particularly outside traditional “basketball season.” This includes 3-v-3 tournaments, particularized clinics taught inside area elementary schools, basketball sleepovers with high school players inside a high school gym, field trips to area places of basketball interest, and special guest speaker events hosted with other school systems of current players at the collegiate and professional levels. I also advocate aggressive use of college tours, and behind the scenes player meetings with college players in your area.

Other local efforts of the DPD include branding and merchandising your school program, hosting special tournaments for other teams to come to your facilities, and creating buzz for your school system’s combined basketball programs through social media. I suggest the DPD not be a coach, but instead someone whose skills sets range from project manager on one side, to marketing and sales guru on the other. Coaches, I find, are too limited by ancient thought forms, and narrow, crabbed definitions of team, player and program.

The point is to make HSB (and MSB and ESB—i.e., middle school & elementary schools) the greatest developer of basketball players in the world. If we do this, we will save high school ball. I frankly do not care if our players wish to play AAU after us; I just want them to be able to, should they so decide.

Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball. Feel free to email him at terryboesch@gmail.com, or call/text at 317.643-6042

Coaching Faith, with Faith

The Coach’s Mind

Giving coaches something new to think about each Tuesday

Coaching Faith, w Faith

Nothing makes a public school teacher more nervous than discussions of religion. The same for a basketball coach, by extension.

This article is designed to help you as coach feel comfortable coaching players who hold religious faith. You also should feel comfortable in your own skin of belief. For the First Amendment does not require that we censor-out who we are, or what we believe. It only prohibits those in public positions from requiring others adopt their belief as true. It likewise creates a protective canopy around all of us for our religious faiths, and prevents others from discriminating against us on that basis.

Some years ago I attended a leadership program at Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, called “Faith & Leadership.” Gathered together were 40+ people from every continent and religion of the world. Two things stood out to me: 90% of the world’s 3+ Billion people believe in some sort of faith. Even communists in China believe in something higher than themselves. This means that 90% of your basketball team players possess some sort of religious faith. The same for their parents, and your coaching staff. The second point is that most religions have very much in common that can help us as a basketball coach.

For example, that we are created, according to purpose, and with different gifts, talents & abilities (plus weaknesses). This makes teamwork necessary to achieve our goals. Further, we are to enjoy the world around us, and act justly toward others. Our actions must back our words, and hard work is important toward reaching any endeavor worth obtaining. We all need rules to govern basic actions of life, while higher level principles should pull us all forward, and upward. Finally, some sort of final whistle will blow for each of us someday, at which time we will win, or lose, based on how we have lived.

I ask you: Is this really any different from a player being part of a larger team, playing hoops according to rules, and working hard with teammates to reach a higher objective than any could realize on their own? Is not this game both enjoyable as entertainment, and yet meaningful for what it does inside ourselves as we play it fully with mind, body, (and yes, soul)? Does not the final whistle blow in the end, at which time one is awarded a victor based on their committed effort and practiced skill? The game of basketball does not discriminate; we all stand before it, evenly.

Take comfort coaches, there should be no tension between who you are as a person, and what you do as a coach. There need not be a rift between what you believe and how you coach. Instead, you will find there is great commonality between you and your players, plus their parents, and your entire coaching staff (not to mention with fans, opposing teams, plus referees. Let us not try to deny, or hide, what 90% believe to be true. Instead, let us coach powerfully through it. Let us speak to our players of meaning, purpose, integrity, hard work, common effort, and fairness of play. Speak of destiny, calling, caring and passion. Speak to them of service as a team, and individual uniqueness of each person’s contribution.

ALL GREAT BASKETBALL THEMES are shared by virtually all Creeds of the World. Can I get an Amen?
Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball. Feel free to email him at terryboesch@gmail.com, or call/text at 317.643-6042

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly- The Shot Clock in Wisconsin Basketball

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly- The Shot Clock in Wisconsin
Brett Pickarts
Twitter: @Coach_Pickarts

Also Check out our Recent Podcast on the Shot Clock in High School

In a surprising move, the WIAA Board of Control voted 6-4 to approve a 35-second shot clock for varsity games for the 2019-2020 season. Across the state there has been a general mixed reaction in how this will affect coaches, players, and school districts from Milwaukee to Stanley-Boyd. To put this in perspective, a yearly survey that was sent out to the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches’ Association 81 percent of coaches that responded to the survey said that they would support a shot clock in Wisconsin (WBCA). A poll conducted on Wissports.net has a mixed bag, with 52 percent of people approving of it, and 48 percent disapproving. Local radio stations, the coaches from my coaching tree, and myself have differing opinions about the shot clock coming to Wisconsin. This article will have my perspective with the good, the bad, and the ugly of the future of the shot clock in Wisconsin.
The Good
Bye, Bye, Bye (Stalling)
In my short coaching career, I can recall at least three or four times that a situation has come up in a game where a lesser team, or the team with the lead holds the ball for an extended period of time. In my first year as a JV coach, I did it myself and won a ball game holding the ball and playing keep away for the last minute to secure a victory. Most coaches in the state are aware of a playoff game played in a lower division that had a combined score of about 40 points and I witnessed some “stalling” in the state basketball tournament in the Cedarburg/ Central game. When you look to higher levels of basketball and you see guys being more skilled more so than ever, so it is frustrating as a coach to see a team “less skilled” dribble across half court and put the ball on their hip. The shot clock could potentially force players to become more skilled or find ways to create their own shot to beat the 35 second timer. We will all hear a lot less of “shoot the ball” or the famous boring chants that used to be chanted at my teammates and I in my playing days at Janesville Craig.
Better Coaching
The 35-second shot clock is another bump in the road for coaches to prepare for every night. One of the positives I see and support, as a coach who is defensive-minded, is that the fact that defenses will be rewarded for tough defending. This past season as a varsity assistant at Cudahy, I found that it was hard to get my guys to buy into playing defense for extended periods of time (over a minute) which did happen in various points of the season when we played more methodical and “system” teams in our conference. With this shot clock, coaches might find it easier to sell playing defense harder with more intensity for a shorter amount of time. You will also now see more full-court pressure in the backcourts and you will see coaches using more creative defenses and trapping that will benefit teams offensively and could potentially bring more excitement to fans attending games.

The Bad
We Already Half it (Pace of Play)
After my first year of coaching, the WIAA approved the implantation of halves adding more minutes to the game, and taking away the quarter break stalls that every coach and their brother saw. Being a coach on the lower level, I would lose at least four minutes of the game to teams pulling up and putting it on their hip and wasting away the clock, or holding for one. More times than not in those stalling situations a turnover would ensue, a bad shot, or nothing would happen. The half rule change in my opinion, eliminated teams holding it for extended periods of time more than two times a game. Did teams still hold the ball against us? Absolutely, but it was not to the extent previously with the old rule with quarters. Very few teams hold the ball in today’s game. In the state tournament the last two years, teams have averaged 2.3 points more per game since the half rule was adopted in the 2015-2016 season compared to the last season that quarters were utilized. The pace of play passes the eye test for most fans since the half rule has been in effect with the exception a few bad games with stalling.
The End of Systems/ Bad Shots/ Boring?
Coaches that support the shot clock, say that good coaches adapt to rule changes and “good coaches” will teach their kids what a good shot is. Why does a good shot have to become before 35 seconds? We played teams like New Berlin Eisenhower and Pius that were patient on offense and got the best shot available after several ball reversals, good hard fundamental screens, and post touch looks. How will teams with systems like Swing, Flex, and some motions adjust to the 35 second shot clock? I am afraid that more sets with only screening will become more the norm (a la Golden State Warrior sets), and a lot of the basketball teams will run similar stuff making the game more vanilla and boring. By putting this in, we now will have every team playing up-tempo instead of having teams with different tempos making the game more interesting, and rewarding good coaches who prepare for different styles of different teams. Remember when every team in the state wanted to run Bo Ryan’s swing? High School Basketball should focus on developing fundamentals, playing team basketball, and learning how to move without the ball. The harsh reality is that 3.4 percent of our players play at the next level (D1, D2, or D3) according to the NCAA. To argue that we should get our players ready for the next level or playing in college is inaccurate, because on good or great teams two maybe three players are skilled enough to play at the next level.
The Ugly
Bad Teams
Games will be less competitive. Some teams that used to play slow down, and methodical offense will have to adjust or simply lose more games. In my experience last year especially, I was thankful for rules with running clock, and when times worked the ball lessening the effect of getting blown out. If you think 91-50 game is bad, just wait till a game ends up 100-21. I don’t think this is what teams and fans want when they say, “we want more scoring.” No coach is going to take a turnover for a shot clock violation so teams will stop holding the ball with big leads. Coaches rebuilding programs will have more challenges to getting players to participate and trust the process if they are getting blown out on a nightly basis.
The Cost/ Official Shortage/ Malfunctions
Refer to Travis Wilson’s article regarding the costs of the shot clock, as it is a good one. As a teacher, I know it is going to be hard to sell spending this much money on a shot clock and the cost to operate when economy isn’t perfect and schools have less resources at their disposal. Sponsorship in low-income or rural areas isn’t always an option and finding someone consistently becomes a challenge for smaller schools and schools where the program isn’t the most successful. Can you imagine if a game was decided on a shot clock error at the state tournament on TV?

Conclusion: I am fairly opposed to the new shot clock rule, but I am going to take a wait and see approach with the new rule. I believe that programs that are rebuilding are going to struggle with this, up-tempo teams will flourish, and school districts will have a tough time with getting this off the ground. Let’s see what the 2019-2020 season brings.

LOTS of Rules the Person at the Table will have to LEARN

Also check out our Recent Podcast on the shot clock in High School

Brett Pickarts
Twitter: @Coach_Pickarts

NBA-ing High School Basketball, Hurrying-up the Game via Mandatory Shot-Clock

NBA-ing High School Hoops,
Hurrying-up the Game via Mandatory Shot-Clock

Since the inception of ESPN, much of basketball has become gimmick & hype. In part this is because ESPN now must fill 5 television channels, different-language magazines, and global radio talk shows with “content.” Daily a cache of cliches are offered up by recent-retired players and fired coaches, who serve as “analysts” and “commentators.” As a result, it is painful to watch/listen to ESPN, which is why the network is steadily losing money.

ESPN-speak now includes “one and done,” and novel approaches like “positionless ball,” and new names for old positions, like “stretch-4,” and (my favorite), being an “over and under guard, who can do it all” (whatever that means).

Not only has ESPN changed how we as basketball coaches speak, it has, rightly or wrongly, tied its success to the worldwide promotion of professional sports. The strategy is simple: as ESPN promotes them, they in turn carry ESPN. This is why ESPN is on a warpath to drive-down NBA-style basketball into every USA college and university, and now rural and urban high school. This “NBA-ing” of basketball has resulted in Elite & AAU tournaments replacing nearly all recruiting of players from high school games. Every guard in every US college and high school now wants to “play between the arches” (to quote ESPN), like Steph Curry. No player now wants to turn his back to the basket and play post. Zero players believe they can build their basketball careers by excelling at defense. Who wants to pass when I can dribble on my own?

The latest move to NBA-change high school basketball is (no surprise) supported by the majority of talking heads on ESPN. It is to make teenage boys run faster and shoot quicker from farther away, so that those in the stands do not get bored. The way to make 15 year olds run faster is to impose on them an NBA-like shot clock.

Let us be clear. Imposing a shot clock in high school has nothing to do with helping young players learn or execute the complex game of basketball. It has nothing to do with helping kids. In fact, kids be damned. This is about us! It is about excitement, offense, shooting, 3s! In the process, our making kids sprint faster, pass less, do less post work, and launching even more 3s, will result in nothing more than a rocket launch fest.

This is the worst way to improve the quality of high school play, and worse, coaching. If high school basketball is really, really all about helping kids, and developing young players (isnt that what we all say?), this stupid, short sighted move shows now our hypocrisy as nothing before.

While making kids run faster may titilate the analyst in all of us, it will decrease good shots taken, eliminate offensive rebounds, and lead in the end to a very boring style of play. It will also mean, also in line with NBA-ing of hoops, less defense, less team play, less traveling calls, more dribble drives via isolation plays, and more players standing around between the arches watching fellow teammates build up point totals.

To show the insanity that now surrounds this phantom issue of a shot clock, consider the fervor generated by a non-high school basketball coach in Australia, who hosts the facebook page “Basketball for Coaches.” Trevor McLean (a/k/a Coach Mac), admits he is a youth basketball coach with less than 10-years experience. He has never coached any team in USA, and never coached a high school team, even in his beloved country down under. And yet, on his facebook page with 79,000 followers he posts sensationalistic articles like, “Why High Schools Must Adopt Shooting Clocks.” He does so every 2 months or so, I think because each time it generates 300-700 replies. But ask yourself: WHY does a person 9429 miles away from America, who has never coached here, or in ANY high school, care what high school players, coaches and fans do in, say, Altoona, WI, or Murfreesboro, TN? It would be no different than if Russians tried to tell kids in Tasmania, Australia how they should play Cricket. And yet, Mac waxes eloquent.

This, really, is the key to this whole non-issue. The truth is this: a high school shot clock solves no real problem in high school basketball. If high school games take too long, then more-easy fixes are to reduce the number of time-out teams can call, or create stiffer penalties on intentional garbage fouls in the last, say, 2 minutes of a game. Or, better yet, eliminate any and all media-related timeouts.

There are no actual evils in HS ball than a shot clock will cure. There is no damsel it will rescue. Secretly, I believe it is coming about because analysts want higher point scores in games. So while coaches talk defense, analysts cry “3s!” Such crying will not quiet till games end 140-135.

Do you remember Rade from the movie “Hoosiers?” His basketball-ignorant dad & cadre of analyst-buds yelled to him “Shoot!” while his coach tried desperately (on way to state championship) to build a team. With the shot clock in place, now ALL the arena will shout “Shoot!” while the coach can do nothing but watch.

The RULES The person running the clock will need to know…

Become a Better Coach.  Check out Teachhoops.com
Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball. Feel free to email him at terryboesch@gmail.com, or call/text at 317.643-6042

2 Great Coaches: John Wooden and Ernest Blood

Basketball’s First Wizard
By
Chic Hess

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John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood, is the coach by whom modern-day coaches are measured. Winning ten of twelve NCAA Championships has immortalized his place in basketball history. History, on the other hand, has not been as kind to another basketball wizard. Ernest Blood, who dominated his peers to an even greater degree a few generations earlier in New Jersey, was called the Grey Thatched Wizard.
Few basketball purists in California are aware of this first wizard of the hardwood. “Prof” was a shortened version of Professor, and it was the name his players and students called him, but they spoke it reverently. Passaic High School’s Grey Thatched Wizard was known for his all-around coaching acumen. His teams enjoyed six undefeated seasons, and during another season, his team lost one game. His truncated stay at Passaic High School was a nonpareil 188-1, and his teams would have undoubtedly won many more if jealous administrators and school board members hadn’t interfered.
A recently published book investigates the life of Prof Blood from his precocious athletic youth to the development of his avant-garde system of coaching. In Prof Blood and the Wonder Teams: The True Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach, California coaches can learn how and why this man was a generation ahead of his peers. Unfortunately his methods and philosophies, which are not always followed today, are still very much worth learning and implementing.
Winning streaks followed these two coaching wizards. Wooden’s UCLA teams once compiled 88 consecutive victories, while a couple of generations earlier, Blood’s boys went five seasons in-a-row in-route to 159 straight, topping the latter-day wizard’s mark by 71 games. Besides the length of their winning steaks, these two coaching wizards had much in common.
For starters, Blood and Wooden were astrological Libras. Their birth dates were October 5, 1872, and October 14, 1910, respectively. If self-confidence is an essential ingredient to be a successful coach, then that explains the reason for their success, and their confidence was reflected in their teams’ demeanor. Other similarities of these two Naismith Memorial Hall of Famers include:
Excellent, accomplished athletes—one of Wooden’s two inductions into the hall of fame was for his accomplishments as a player.
Great free throw shooters–Wooden once made 134 straight in professional game competition with the Kautsky Athletic Club, while Blood at age seventy-four, calmly sank 484 out of 500 after a practice session.
Physical conditioning enthusiasts. With Wooden, it was an obsession.
Adherence to clean living was a must.
Adamantly stressed the importance of teamwork.
Recognized the importance of speed and quickness as essentials.
Strange eating habits.
Proponents of a controlled offense, fastbreak, and full court pressing defense. Blood pioneered these innovations and referred to his full court defense as “offensive defense.”
Shy in social situations.
Honest to a fault.
Far ahead of their time as basketball tacticians.
The only enemies they had were people who were jealous of their success.
Neither believed in charging a team up before a game. They wanted a calm assurance in the dressing room and in the pre-game warm-ups.

Prof Blood was often quoted saying that “I train boys for the game of life—not to win basketball games. If I succeed in that, I have accomplished something worthwhile.” In Prof’s way of thinking, winning was incidental.
Before little John Wooden was a twinkle in Joshua Hugh Wooden’s eye, Prof was equating basketball to the more important game of life. While reading John Wooden’s book They Call Me Coach, you could insert Blood’s name for Wooden’s, and you would be accurately describing Blood’s philosophy as well.
The major differences between the two behemoths of the game were their eras of dominance (20s and 60s) and their arenas (high school and college). They had their priorities straight; they were teachers of the game of life. The differences between the two lay in society’s memory. Wooden has become a household name synonymous with basketball coaching excellence while Blood’s story has never accurately been told until now. His accomplishments, contributions to the game and tribulations that have been lost in the annals of basketball have been resurrected in Prof Blood and the Wonder Teams: The Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach.
There isn’t a basketball coach who knows an X from an O who wouldn’t benefit from becoming more familiar with basketball’s first great coach. Prof’s biography should be required reading for all high school coaches and fans.

Some Good Reads.   Coach Wooden Pyramid of Success 

Prof Blood and Wonder Teams

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Chic Hess, Ed. D. is the author of Prof Blood and the Wonder Teams: The True Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach, available at www.profblood.com . Hess is a former NAIA College District and NABC-Kodak National Junior College Coach of the Year.


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