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 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: 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.



James Madison Memorial High School
Boys Basketball Roster
No. Name Pos. Gr. Hgt.
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

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

Baraboo W 71-41
Waunakee W 72-49

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

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