. 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

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
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

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