"Oh the thrill to play in April..."

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April 6, 2008...Sunday afternoon...

I LOVE the Final Four...no, I LOVE college basketball in March and April as it truly defines teams' characters, courage, resiliency, hope, and the ability to push through adversity, no matter what the score is...

Watching UNC's demise last night on TV, was a painful exhibition and had to take Coach Williams breakfast and lunch and make it feel like a Maytag Washer on the Bering Sea...As a Coach, you always hope and pray that your players are mentally "ready" to compete, NOT JUST PLAY, and I got the impression that Carolina was ONLY ready to play, not compete until it woke up after halftime...I mean, imagine: 40-12 during Kansas' first half run, and in between the TV's and Carolina's timeouts during this tsunami-like offensive wave by the Jayhawks, Carolina had no answer...they were just flat outplayed...WOW...WOW!!

So, what do you do as a coach or parent directly affected by such a blowout and wonderment of confusion being associated with a team that's getting blow out (and TRUST me, as a Coach, parent or friend, you WILL experience this as a spectator or bench member)? Find the Arena's engineer and ask him to "pull the plug" for 5 mins. on the scoreboard and clock...The other suggestion, would be, to a more-than-usual exhorting to the players on the court with some heavy lovin encouragement...Seriously, think about this: if I'm playing and as a team I "overhear" someone in the stands callin for the " HazMat team to come in quick 'cause there's something definitely "unknown" goin on down on the court and someone NEEDS to check it out...", and I look at the scoreboard and then to the sideline, and all I see are coaches who are noticeably "balder" than before the game started (heads down) and then my head's up observing family and friends in the stands, and they've all got that expression of "Children of the Corn" look, well, trust me, if I hear screaming and yelling of positive encouragement NO MATTER WHAT, that's enough to get me through the "storm" and pick the energy up for myself and teammates...That is what happened to Carolina towards the end of the 1st half, they got some positive "love songs" from their fans and bench and closed with confidence... That run and the 2nd half run was reminiscent of Coach Dean Smith's great Carolina teams of the past...I wasn't surprised, and would not have been in shock IF the Tar Heels pulled off the greatest comeback in Final Four history...Why? Carolina has great, no GRRRRREEEEAAAAAAT basketball tradition and legacy paving its way in all competitions related to ACC lore and NCAA Big Dance games...Anyway, it was really fun to watch the energy and competitive matchups from both teams...

UcLA...hmmmm, that game did not surprise me in the least...I am not a big "fan" of Darrin Collison and he proved me "why"...As a "lead guard", one must take the responsibility of getting your team into the offense and directing the spacing on the floor as an "extension" of the Head Coach...That is what a "lead guard's" responsibility is and always will be...Somewhere along the way, during the 2As, he missed that chapter, paragraph, discussion or email, unfortunately, because he did not rise to occasion as his teammates did...The biggest GRIPE I have today at all levels of basketball is when a Big Post has position inside with a Defender playing behind him, THEN PASS THE FREAKN BALL to him and let him go to work: QUIT DRIBBLING and dominating the ball for 15 seconds, going from one side of the court to the other...I'm sorry, I don't get that at all...The one thing that I will always remember about Magic Johnson and John Stockton is that they truly kept the offense in the "flow" and kept the game simple in the half court with their decision-making and execution...UcLA did not have a clue on spacing, angles and proper execution to get the ball into the best passer on the team, young blood Kevin Love...He is truly a remarkably gifted young student/athlete for UcLA...I love his verve, his basketball quotient is "Bird-like", his love for the game is "Magic-like" and more importantly he HAS FUN playing the game...Wow...I did however feel that his back was bothering him early on in the 1st half (mid) as he did not run the floor nor move like he normally does, and his "pained" expressions during dead ball situations were obvious signs to me that it would be a long night for Kevin and his kidneys matching up with Dorsey and company...Let me say this: I certainly hope that Kevin stays at UcLa for another season, as he is one of the most wonderful models for ANY and ALL level basketball players today UNIVERSALLY speaking, and even though he is a bona fide Pro, there is no guarantee that he would end up with a veteran-laden team that would take the pressure off of him and he would develop accordingly...Having this young man on college TV hoops next season would encourage Dads to sit and watch with their sons and daughters how simple this player makes the game with his footwork skills, passing touch, and shooting the ball facing and back to the basket....plus he's not too shabby on defense either: block shots and rebounding both ends...

Memphis is the real deal...Coach John Calipari is one of the true teachers of the game today...he learned under Larry Brown back in the day at KU, and has been a student of the game ever since...He had the short lived experience of coaching in the NBA a couple of seasons after his first Final Four appearance with Marcus Camby and UMass years ago, and I think that experience alone (NBA Nets), helped him see what a coach can do with exceptionally gifted athletes...I'm tellin you now: that team could run with a lot of current NBA teams today...yeah, that good...Their point Guard Rose? WOW!! His feel and demeanor for the game is off the charts and he will soon be spoken in the same breath with Wade, Nash, Kidd and Chris Paul, who is a remarkable lead guard today in the League...Seriously, I haven't seen a better guard (Point) in college the last two years than this young man (19 years old)...He has a chance to be one of the "future" Stars of the NBA whose illuminations and success stories have yet to be written...

I have really enjoyed being home again in our beautiful country...I am so proud to be an American and have the opportunities to represent my country through basketball, you have no idea...The China experience was a terrific stay as was the Vladivostok, Russia clinics and visit...Know this, basketball is a peaceful medium, means, and an olive branch that melds all the differences, both political and religious to a level of respect and friendships that we can all appreciate and cherish forever...And I do...

Take care, more to come this week...BIG ANNOUNCEMENT coming in two days...A "must" for Parents and their student athletes to attend...There's NOTHING LIKE THIS provided here in the NW...FREE...FREE...Coach tom

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