Jilin Tigers: September 2007

Let's see...we're known as the Jilin Fighting Tigers, once proud team that competed for Championships one era, but through time and age, has fallen dramatically over the last 3 years...After our 3rd Preseason game, I now know why...After the 1st Qtr. we were down 30-16, missed 5 FTs, 2 layups and only gave up 4 points on transition layups...I was happy with the effort, not so happy with our Captain's defensive effort and consistency...Time and again he allowed 1st pass entry and would wave to me as though he "knew" he was suppose to be "up" and contact deny...The reason for his consistent mistakes here is simple: he has only practiced 4 hours total time out of 23 hours total team time, which is really difficult to learn how to trust your teammates "help" defense when you haven't been through the repetitions like them...This was his first game back...He's 6'7" goes about 230 and is strong, although when I took him out in the 1st Qtr. to give him a blow, he quickly reminded me that he is a "3" and not a "4" (the man I had him match up against was ONLY 6'9" and maybe 240lbs., playing the "3" for the Russians...), and I replied: "Cannon, YOU ARE PLAYING against the "3" on the Russian team..."...He then realized that he ol coach here was NOT going to allow him to get out of playing man to man vs. a bigger, stronger opponent at the same position, that he was going to have to ADJUST, as were his teammates doing right now also...I started our 2/3 player, DuJuan Tate at the Point, experimenting and seeing how he matched up vs. their pressure and his ability to get the team into any type of Early Offense or set plays...He didn't do too badly, as he ran several sets very well and for the most part I was surprised at how he handled playing against another American on the Russian team (J.R. Brewer, from Ohio), who was their Point guard...Steve Castleberry was once again a formidable presence inside, getting bumped, banged and mugged by the Rooskees both ends, but he never complained once, and just played...I really like this kid, my type of Post...We gotta figure out how to get him the ball better though in the early part of our offense as we break down too quickly and look him off once we see pressure...That's my job and we'll learn how to implement the "drop step" for Post Passing vs. pressure on the Wings when our Post players have established position for advantage...Between Qtrs. I reminded the players that we must "match" their physicality and stay strong, don't back down, they're hitting us with forearms and "crosschecks" like the Aussies did a week ago and we adjusted well, same thing tonight: make the adjustment...don't keep pushing down, step aside, pivot, use your footwork and balance to offset the physical disruption...Let's see, we went down 19 with 8 mins. to go and then we started playing defense the way we practiced...we forced a shot clock violation; we switched on all Side Pros (Pick/Rolls); we forced bad passes to the Post ups in lane, we were realizing that our Disruptive Pressure Defense in the Halfcourt WAS INDEED working...It was fun to watch, because it made us score in transition, set up our Offense quicker as the Rooskees were getting upset with one another and before you knew it, we were only down 4 with the ball, under 2 mins. left in the 2nd Qtr. and then we force a really bad 3 point shot from Tiger, that had about as much chance of going in as a Josh Brown field goal from 70 yds...That one shot was the shot that stood out more than any other the rest of the game, because to a man, each player looked at him like "why"...and it was that momentary "mental pause" that allowed the Rooskees to get the long rebound and transition for a layup and foul at the other end...down 7 under 1:20 left in Qtr...DuJuan Tate calls "5 Down" which is a double high 4/5 pick outside the 3 point area, spotting up a shooter in the corner and giving DT a chance to take his man 1 on1 coming off the 2nd High Post pick...He came off well, but had his head down on the dribble drive and didn't notice that X4 Defender was switching out on him and ready to trap or block his shot...Our screener, Wong Bo, slipped down the middle wide open and DT missed him and ended up going up for a contested layup that was blocked off him out of bounds...Lesson learned by DT on that play as he looked at me, motioned like he should have passed, and we both nodded in agreement...I love lessons learned by students of the game...saves timeouts during the game, no? Anyway, the first half ends and we're down 47-42, we missed 8 FTs, gave up 16 Offensive Rebounds, and turned the ball over 10 times...I am pleased with the effort as again we showed resiliency and courage on a foreign court, their Officials and fans and we competed to the end of the half...

My "reflections" at halftime: "I am really happy with our effort, fellas...we stayed together despite being down by 23 in the 2nd Qtr., and found a way to fight our way back into this game...We NEED to make immediate adjustments, however on our Defensive Rebounding...Our frontline is NOT anticipating the rebounds, expecting someone else to go get it, and Steve is not going to get every rebound...we talked about their size and strength inside and allowed them to get 2nd and 3rd shot opportunities after playing so well on the perimeter...WE MUST BLOCK OUT FIRST and THEN REBOUND...our sets are developing, so be more patient with your shot selection, please...we can get any shot we want, they are ball watching on the weakside..."...Then the Asst. Coach, YoYo spoke, and he repeated what he said before the game: "We must not allow them to push us around on the Offensive Boards...the stats say they have 16 rebounds on Offense...that means we are not doing a good job blocking out...they will continue to go to the Offensive Boards this half...we must be stronger...and rebound..."...I was happy to hear my assistant coach say these things, because up to this point I wasn't sure if he was ever going to say anything of substance to "awaken" this team's mistakes..."Lessons learned is knowledge gained..."...tnewellism... So, I draw up an option play out of our "5" play figuring the Rooskees would be ready to Jump out and try to Trap DT on it in the 2nd half, and I was going to counter that thinking quickly...I had Steve come out a little further and Wong Bo higher meaning all DT had to do was come off the first screen with a crossover dribble between legs, wraparound dribble and take off down the middle for a clean dunk/layup...It sounded good, looked good too on the whiteboard, and even when we saw it again before taking the floor the start of the 3rd Qtr...NOTICE TO ALL BASKETBALL PLAYERS READING MY BLOG: "If a Coach draws up an Option Play for you to FOLLOW...then PLEASE follow his/her directions to a "T", as HE/SHE KNOWS better what the defense is doing than you do at any given point in a game...Back to beginning of 3rd Qtr.: Rooskees ball, we "trap" their Pick Roll right out of the box and have the first possession in hand to start the Qtr...PERFECT setup...or so I thought...DT comes down, leftside with his opponent in a loose defensive position and not forcing DT one way or the other, which means a perfect setup for "centering" the screen with the crossover dribble and changing speeds going down middle for layup/dunk...DT does the opposite: because the defender is "loose" he thinks that he can shake and bake him on the leftside without using screen and spin to basket...WRONG decision...as soon as he overdribbled on one side of the court, the X5 Defender on Steve showed help/trap presence and collapsed on DT when he spun and blocked his shot, starting a fastbreak going the other way, layup AND foul and now we're down 8 with less than 40 seconds gone in Qtr...That hurt...DT looks at me, sees my disappointment in his "choice" and not following directions, and comes over and says "didn't I have him beat on the left side though...?"...I then asked him if he ever saw the X5 show help presence when he started his dribble drive and then spin? He said, nah, Coach, I didn't...was he there all the time? "Yep...ALWAYS run the play that the coach has confidence in you doing, otherwise he may never run a "special" for you again..."...I think this was a "lesson learned..." indeed for DT...and the other players as well...

As for the rest of the 3rd Qtr. and game itself...let's put it this way...by the end of the game, I "know" where the mothballed "Sputniks" were put after the clinic the Rooskees put on us following DT's back to back turnovers and their layup transition plays off a block shot and steal from a bad decision pass after DT left his feet and no where to go with ball...We were outscored 54-3 second half and "all" the "spots" on this "Tiger" showed up very well for me and the team to see and experienced...I now know why, Sun Jun, former National Team player, most respected Chinese National Player, even ahead of Yao Ming, hired me as his coach...I think he saw the movie "Helen Keller" with Anne Bancroft, as a kid, and thought maybe I could be Helen Keller to his team this season...Whew, when I put in "Pops" (29 year old player on team who is married and with a 2 year old son), the game was so fast around him it wasn't fair to him, so I moved him over to the 2G and brought in Hip Hop (he "chose" that name because he LOVES AND1 mixtapes...I have since renamed him "Hic Cup", cause that's the only 'hop' to his game that makes any sense to me as a Point Guard...Keep in mind, that we practice passing every day in the halfcourt...we establish all Triangle positions and make all the passes that would considered normal and fundamental when initiating an offense...Hic Cup comes in and the first pass he enters to the Wing is a behind the back direct pass to DT, who was so shocked to receive it and the Rooskee guarding him so shocked to see it, that for a nano-second, the game floor FROZE like, "why?", when you could have passed a two handed chest pass...More to come...I leave him in for 5 mins. in the 3rd Qtr., believing the aberrations I'm about to experience firsthand will erase immediately once the ball gets out of our end of the court...WRONG...He drove 4 times baseline with the ball, no where to go (we have NO PLAYS designed for this "move" at all), and steps on the line twice...gets his reverse layup blocked off his head by a 7'er AND leaves his feet to make a perfect pass to the opposing Center who steps in front of our Center for another turnover...Cyanide anyone? Now I know that the reason Rogaine is such a popular hair loss drug is because coaches all over the world use it more than any other subject...Don't let anybody ever tell you that the most "important" player on the team is the Center...It's the lead guard, the point guard, hands down...Magic, Dumars, Wade, Kerr, Paxson, Parker, Mo Cheeks...you go back in college and pros and the Point Guard has been the key element to any team's success and identity...and the hair "extensions" of most coaches and their careers...So, we give up 101 points...score 73...total forced turnovers vs. the Rooskees> 19...we had 18...probably 11 of which were unforced...They had over 26 O Bds. to our 16 total...We shot as a team 40%, they shot 49%...We missed 15 FTs...they went 24-28...we 15-30...Most disappointing reflection from game: "Calling for Spider Monkey (his actual chosen nickname) to go into game with 4 mins. left, mop up time (keep in mind, I told players that I am experimenting and looking for players who can "fill roles" in various positions, and to "be ready..."...Well, like most teams, you always have those players who believe they are better than the players playing ahead of them, and that they deserve to play based upon "previous" experience, not merit or work ethic...Back to Spider, he stands up slowly, taking his time to get his tearaway pants off, top (mind you, I am watching my watch...45 sec. and counting), then walks slowly to the scorer's table never once looking at me OR the Table for substitution...Keep in mind, his body language at the age of 25 is similar to a 14 yr. old with And1 individual thoughts of greatness and no quotient for the team game, pouting and reluctantly going into the game at this time...lessons learned and hopefully knowledge gained...not sure if the Spider Monkey is "game" for any lessons learned from me or his teammates...Once into the game, he immediately plays his opponent wrong, after being taught the proper mechanics of 3/4 deny, full front on deep post ups by taller opponent, and literally both arms "grabs" the opponent's arm to hold him IN FRONT OF THE OFFICIAL...I didn't have to say a word, as his teammates, Chinese let him know about it...progress: communication and peer pressure is slowly coming around...The next 2 mins. of his defense reminded me of someone in a big room with music playing, no lights, trying to find a young lady to dance with...yeah, that bad...Everything that we established as Team Defensive Rules, he chose the opposite, and in fact, played similar to the type of defense that led the team to an 11th Place finish last year...Larry Brown and "Pop" would need acupuncture on their grossly inflamed tongues if they had this type of "experienced" point guard to manage...Wow...So, I have a Pops, a Hic Cup and a Pastry Chef as my backcourt to work with over the next 4 weeks in preparation for the CBA season...I ordered candles for my room to "light" every night before I go to sleep...

Team Meeting after Breakfast, Saturday morning: Much to my chagrin, and disappointment, the Asst. 'Team Manager took it upon himself to decide NOT to practice today, this morning after breakfast, which means we have no "walkthru" in preparation for the Korean team LG that we play at 5pm, Russian time...I pull my rubberband, and say we will then have a team meeting and "air" out the areas that we need to address with this team...It was a terrific team meeting...I spoke and shared about our Positives in the game overall and then the Negatives from a team standpoint, from not communicating on switches, to not trapping when we were in a trap situation, to not getting back on defense when we were down by 20+ in the 2nd half (no excuse EVER for not hustling in ANY GAME or TIME and SCORE left on clock)...After I spoke, I asked the Asst. Coach to say what was on his mind, and he was terrific...He reflected upon how similar behavior happened last season also, players were not happy having to come off the bench, sitting there complaining and then when given the chance, not ready to help the team...I was so proud of YoYo, the asst. coach, saying this, as he was really embarrassed to see two players act this way towards the end of the game, yet remembering my prediction at the start of the 3rd Qtr. that indeed we would have players put into the game who will NOT respond, nor be happy in that role...He asked me how I "knew"...Told him I learned from some great mentors, Bernie Bickerstaff, Bill Fitch, Ernie Woods and Tex Winter, as well as Pete Newell and Coach K...He probably never heard of most of them, but he knew now what a "mentor" is in basketball..."lessons taught lead to knowledge learned..."...After YoYo spoke, I asked DT and Steve to share with us their thoughts on what they've exerienced so far...Both were very honest and terrific with their candid reflections...DT said it best: "Hey, I was like Spider, I didn't want any coach telling me how to play basketball as a Team Player and how to play Team Defense, I didn't like coming off the bench, or being benched, but I finally "learned" that IF I wanted to play, start and contribute, I needed to listen to the coach and do what he says...or we wouldn't be successful...I learned late, after high school, and have been winning ever since...this is my job, this is all I am responsible for, showing up for work and doing the best job with my effort that I can..."...Steve also was "open" and said, "I was a late bloomer, didn't really have much success early with basketball and then because I was so tall, realized how hard I had to work and keep training to improve my skills and abilities to become better as a team player and that has been my key to have this job..."...I was hopeful that Pancake translated this well enough so that each player understood exactly what came from their teammates hearts and experiences in this game...I was so proud of Steve and DT...so proud...told them both also of same...Next, I asked one of the two team captains, Cannon, if he had anything to say and he shook his head no...then I asked Wong Bo if he had anything to say, hoping in my heart that someone with "kahonees" would step up here and speak freely...Lo and behold, GLORY, Wong Bo did have something to share: "I respect our two American teammates and how they say how they had to work hard to reach success and how they come to our team to help us get better and win in the CBA and how coach tom is teaching us to be better team players, we are lucky to have these Americans want to be a part of our team, and we should be willing to accept whatever the role the coach tells us to accept and work hard like he asks us to do everyday, it is our job...we have conflicts that happened last season between us, not with the foreign players or coaches, but between us, and that is why we were in 11th place and have not been well in 3 years...until we put aside our conflicts within, we will not be successful, we must accept our roles and play to the best of our abilities..." Wow, I said to myself...thanked him, and then went to "Pops" and asked him if he had anything to say...This WAS and IS one of my better moves since arriving to coach this team: "I am one of the older players, and I would like to know that in these last two years of my CBA career, I could be on a winning team here, as it would make me proud to remember my career at the end as being successful, so I please hope that we can work together and you help me to achieve my dream..."...Well, ol coach here waxed sentimental, and ended up getting goose bumps and almost had a "Vermielisque" type of emotion happen...It was THAT inspirational...So, that was the gist of our meeting...

Pregame vs. Korean LG Team: They are a good team, well disciplined, excellent guard play, and one of the best pure shooters I have ever seen and coached against in my career...He played on the National Team vs. Japan in the Jones Cup 2000 when I was the Men's National Coach of Japan...He remembered me, and of course I ALWAYS remember a shooter...They will come at us hard, trap full court (yea!!) and throw a Zone at us, which we haven't faced yet...So, again, we are ready to have "lessons taught/learned...knowledge gained (hopefully)..."...Will file a Post Game report...

Post Game Scouting Report on 19 yr. old 7'2" Russian Post player...He didn't play much against us but when he did, he went right at Steve and banged pretty well and scored on a great pick roll, finished and drew an and one on the play...Before the game, I met the Russian Post Coach, former asst. National Coach Mikhail who is 6'10" himself, still looks like he could get double double but is in his 40's now, and complimented him on his teaching skills with the Post players on his team...He was so appreciative of me taking the time to actually say something like that BEFORE they put a "Sputnik" where the sun don't shine on us...Told him to keep working with his upper body strength and balance...He says he's a hard worker, doesn't "yet know" how good he could be...Told him something that my Dad said many times over the years, "Post players take more time to develop solid Post Move skills because they do not get the same opportunities to "touch" the ball as Wings or Guards, so you must me patient with their development..."...He knew of Pete Newell and the Big Man's Camp...and thanked me for sharing that with him...Coach tom

Friday Morning..."Dreamescape I"...Did I mention that this room has 3 Stars...UNTIL, you sleep on the bed, and then you quickly realize that, "this must be owned by the same group, because the bed, although being double, would remind anyone of a sleepover on "Shag" carpet...yes, THAT hard again...My gluttonous maxim us, yes after all of these years, I have developed my anatomy with great respect to the many epicurean delights that have shaped my latter years now), it doesn't even provide the necessary cushion for a comfortable sleep...Friday nights in a beachfront hotel that has over 200 rooms...oh yeah, not a real quiet evening to say the least...what to do: TV in a hotel room in Russia, now that's a novel idea for sleep, no? So, I turn on the TV and my controller doesn't work so I operate it by hand, bringing back memories of yesteryear when I would do the same when my Mom or Dad were not around and I wanted to "switch channels", later to be replaced with "channel surfing", until they returned to watch their program...I decide on an interesting program that features incredible accident scenes from where else? You guessed it: the good old USA...They show not-so-very-smart adults showing kids how to do something when in fact someone gets hurt; also including footage of "supervised" children hurting themselves as well...It's not America's Funniest Videos by any means, it's America's Hurting Themselves Videos...ouch!!

Can't sleep as my "sinuses" are acting up in this room...Let me see, how do I describe the "aroma" of this clean (it is really) room: think back when the boys locker room smelled like socks and jocks hangin on hooks and the heat's been on over the weekend before PE Class on Monday morning...yep, so many wonderful memories of yesteryears I am experiencing...hope the "old" guys like me out there can relate...if not, take a whiff of your shoes sometimes, tennis, walking or most worn pair of dress shoes...you'll get the "whiff" my visualsh here...err, aromas...

Walkthru Practice this Morning: Wow, talk about a sleepy head group!! We got up for breakfast at 7:45am (players prefer to awakened from a dead sleep and go right to breakfast...that is their custom)...Did I ever get an eyeful from that breakfast...good thing this wasn't an AAU team getting ready for 4 games in one day or 3...we'd a miss the first game completely...We arrive 15 mins. early (I told you the Asst. Team Mgr. would come around...) and that gave us "extra" time to get loose, shoot at both ends of basket, and then go thru our defensive alignment (NOT MATCHUPS) and finish with our Offensive sets, simple, both ends of court, including Zone Attack, Blue Hi Stack attack, and then complete the session with FTs...We were exactly 1 hr. and 10 mins...Most efficient effort of time executed I have ever experienced with a team at any level...It was fun and even the Asst. Coach, YoYo goes "Coach, that was good practice..."...Now we prepare for the game tonight...I told the players before Walkthru not to "pack" a parachute by complaining about being tired, not loose, hungry, etc., ect., rather, PACK your parachute now, knowing that you'll probably make mistakes, shoot airballs, miss layups, get fouled, get knocked down, have terrible officiating, but it's okay, you still get to play and finish the game on your feet...don't quit, visualize yourself being on defense, rotating to help your teammate from the weakside...getting up in the passing lanes early with a STOP SIGN (Palm of hand extended in the Passer's line of vision)...I took the two capts. aside before practice and shared with them how important it was for them to be more vocal in practice WITH ME towards their younger teammates, that I should not always have to be the voice to correct everyone nor should the asst. coach...But to quietly take the player(s) aside and explain "why" coach keeps reminding him NOT to make the SAME mistake...So, I am looking forward to how we withstand a number of things going against us right now: being visitors...hostile crowd...their Officials...their physicality compared to ours...the non calls at both ends of floor...and me NOT taking a Timeout to correct on floor mistakes...This is how a team will learn to trust one another and communicate towards supporting each other through adversity...we'll see how the lessons are taught and learned tonight...early, I'm sure...I am not concerned at all with scores in preseason games as much as I am with our overall effort and working together at both ends...That to me is the key to our training and repetitions: can we build on our mistakes into corrections...can we understand our trust carries over into communicating positively with one another or not...Will file a Post Game Notes vs. Russia tomorrow...Ciao...Coach tom

THURSDAY: Nihao...well here I am again, thinking of a "mindtrack" and what do I come up with for my friends in my generation: "Moody Blues" song, Thursday Afternoon...Now you might wonder "why would Tom choose this particular song to describe his Thursday afternoon...Let's put it this way, conventional thinking begets conventional wisdom, no? Well, it's a misnomer here in terms of basketball organization and practical application towards continuity...Simply put, the "order" of our day began with breakfast at 9:30am...then we were "told" to come back and pack our bags to leave hotel for "new" hotel above our favorite Russian restaurant, Peking Restaurant...We were to meet as a team at 11:20am for the bus departure and transport to the new hotel less than 3 mins. away...This is also taking into mind that our lunch will be at 12pm and we will depart for the gym at 12:50pm...Hmm, if memory serves me right, we were in traffic congestion ALL DAY yesterday after lunch...so now, we are waiting for the bus and guess what? Right, the bus is "stuck" in traffic and won't be there for at least another 45mins...So, conventional thinking would assess the time and realize there is no way that we will be able to check into the hotel, eat and get to the gym for "our" scheduled practice at 1pm...right? Wrong...we arrive at the "new" hotel and our rooms are not ready yet (it is 12:20pm) and won't be until AFTER we eat...So, we saunter down below to the floor marked "0" on the elevator and see what surprises are in store for us now, eating wise that is...After a "quick" bite (2 chews, green tea and "excuse me" departure), we return to the reception to hopefully retrieve a key to the rooms available so we can change (yours truly and the 2 Americans were already thinking ahead as was several other players) and get on the bus leaving for our practice venue 25mins. away...Now, keep in mind, I am told that we only have a two hour window, 1-3pm and that cannot be changed...so, wearing my rubberband as I do, I pull it hard and let go to "remind" me to be flexible as "it is what it is...and there ain't a whole lot you can do with it now..." reaction, so I adjusted my schedule by simply telling the players once we took the court, that "we have a short practice today and much to accomplish, so I ask you to please pay attention, if you don't understand something, then ask questions through your teammates and assistant coach, because I cannot "stop" to repeat myself over something that we have covered in the past...We had a GREAT practice, the players worked hard, we went into our half court sets, early offense and set plays after Timeouts and made baskets, and broke into two courts, with the Assistant coach, YoYo taking one group and I the other...I was really pleased and thankful the players understood the seriousness of my voice inflections regarding our being very serious in practices...You see, we now have Hip Hop back and he is a 19 yr. old Point Guard who's favorite teammate is you-know-who: Spider...Little did I realize that we had "pastry" class being taught by Spider to our younger players...I love Hip Hop's quickness and his ability to pick up the ball early, BUT his "bowling ball" push passes one hand are closer to a Wild Pitch by Ramirez of the M's than a normal guard to wing connection...I told Spider today that I am going to "enroll" him in a class that will teach him how to "make dough" not
"waste" it as much as he does...Went over his head and Pancake's too...I gotta start workin on my Mandarin soon...Anyway, have I intimated to y'all about my concerns with our Point Guard play? Well, it's real and I'm thinking about using a Point Forward concept to initiate our offense...I know that Wang Bo will at least make the right pass entry in the half court as opposed to not...

Fast forward to a "friendly" game between Korea and the Russian Team II...This game started at 4pm...The team returned to the hotel to "clean up" and then come back to watch as we were invited to do so by the tournament hosts...So, I decided to stay, because "conventional thinking begets conventional wisdom" right? Right...I am going to "scout" the Russian team, not knowing that it isn't their Men's team but a collection of Men's level players (19-21yrs.) with other younger players, 16-20...As I am watching the Russian players warm up, the Korean Assistant coach, Rick Ross, comes up to me and says, Coach, our GM wants me to tell you that you are not allowed to be watching this game and scouting at all...I said: "Rick, what did you just say?" He goes: "our Coach is concerned about you scouting us and seeing what we do and preparing for our competition on Saturday..." ...Folks, kids, I started to laugh and ask Rick this simple question: "Rick, are there any secrets in organized basketball once the ball goes up?" ...He smiled and said "Coach, you're right, I know it, but they are afraid you will have an advantage versus them..."...So then I ask him this: "so, they don't want to take notes, right, even though I am NOT scouting the Koreans, but scouting the Russkies?"...He goes, "Coach, they don't want you in the gym watching ANY OF THE GAME!!!"... I then asked the question for him to ask his GM and Coach: "Will you not be watching our game tomorrow vs. the Russians...?"...And he said "of course...", to which I replied, "what is the difference?"...He smiled and shook my hand and said "I got the message, Coach and I agree with you..."...Holy Batdroppings, Kemosabe, I am in total disbelief now, trust me...We've got our team bus coming back with our delegation to this "friendly" match at the invitation of the Host Director here in Russia, and the Koreans are dictating to me, TO LEAVE...Now, I know the world isn't "round"...I ask Rick, to please tell the GM that I am NOT scouting "them" that there are no secrets in basketball and that all I would like to do is watch the Russians...He goes back and I almost started a revolution of sorts, the Korean Coach, whom I've met over the years, a former National coach at that, deposed because of the embarrassing finish (they didn't win a game in the Asian games last time out), threatened NOT to play IF I was allowed to stay and watch...Now get this, the Russian Men's team, to a player were ALL watching as well, as well as their coaching staff, and now the organizer from Russia is upset with the Korean coach because he doesn't WANT THE RUSSIAN TEAM watching either...whew, and I thought it WAS ME!!! I am watching all of this, no one is saying anything to me, as I am just watching the players warm up (Russian) and minding my own business...So the game is held up while the GM, his Russian translator and the GM of the Russian team, Spartak, are conferring, hands are up in the air, heads shaking, and the game finally gets underway 15mins. late, which was fine as our team bus didn't arrive until 4:30pm anyway...traffic jams...I now see why the Korean coach didn't want to have any of us there, as they used changing defenses from man to man to 2-1-2 zone or 1-2-2 depending on the ineptness of the Jr. Russian team's attack or lack of...Then, they employed a 2-1-2 Full Court Press after FTs that was pretty effective and I really liked their aggressiveness with it...this defense allowed them to force several turnovers that resulted in layups as the Russkies tried to beat it with a dribble and NOT a pass ahead...I LOVED seeing this type of aggressive defense as it reaffirms what I've been preaching and teaching the last two weeks: pass first, dribble second...IF you need a separation dribble...The Koreans won by 40...I left with 3mins. to go, didn't think the Russkies would be able to overcome the deficit at the end...Trust me on this one: The Rooskees are going to put a
"Sputnik" on the Koreans beehind come Sunday, trust me...Looking across the way, at the GM of the Russian team and the overall organizer's hands in traditional Slavic nature/reaction, I can only imagine what they both said to one another when the Koreans walked away...For once, I laughed at myself, for awhile here in Vladvistok, Russia, I was beginning to think I was "losing it", and that for sure I was coaching in the wrong activity...Whew, thank God for humor...

I am learning slowly mind you, about the Asian "way" and thinking...I'm learning very slowly obviously, but will keep pulling on my rubberband and be ready for "it is what it is and that's the way it is..." syndrome...but DAILY??? Until we meet again, Happy Trails...Coach tom...

*Post Game Observations: The Rooskees have a 7'2 19 yr. old player that is going to be in the League someday, IF he continues to develop as he has thus far...He is a Freshman in the University of Vladvistok, and is playing on the Spartak Men's Team and also developing with the 2nd Team, the Jr. Team each Russian Men's League team has...This young man is quite a talent...he can run the floor, has GREAT footwork inside and takes up a whole lot of real estate with his Post Flashes...at that is in the Trapezoid lane of FIBA rules...I predict this young fella will be in the Draft someday in the next 2-3 years...yep, THAT good...

It's interesting, the Euro League teams favor the older, veteran type players over the younger, in that the young developing players don't get time to learn how to play "up" because the coach wants to "win" now and not wait for the future...It will be interesting to see which NBA team grabs him when he becomes available...Did you notice I didn't mention his name? Won't either...he might have some serious eligibility left and don't want to get him in trouble or me...tn

WEDNESDAY: Niaho...or should I day "DobraeUtruk" (good morning)...We are in Vladivostok, Russia, it's Wednesday morning, just finished having breakfast...errr, if you want to call it that...The host team Spartak-Primoyore "found" a Mandarin-style Chinese Restaurant for the team to have their meals...We ate there last night after arriving around 5pm to our hotel...About the hotel...hmm, should wait a little longer for that description...Back to this morning...I received a call from Pancake my translator, at 9:00am informing me that we are leaving at 9:15 for breakfast, and we will eat on the first floor...This will have made 4, count'em folks, 4X we changed the schedule for todays breakfast and practice...So, I took it upon myself to find out "why" the schedule changed so much in the last 12 hours...Get ready for this one: "Coach, the Asst. Team Manager (a person who is traveling with the team for this trip), he makes all arrangements for schedule, when we eat and what we do...", so says Pancake...I ask to meet with him and the assistant coach and Pancake before we sit down to breakfast...I inquire through the translator as to why so many changes and if I may have the schedule in hand so we can prepare our players properly for the practices and games...Pancake tells me that the Asst. Team Manager (keep in mind, the person who hired me was Sun Jun, former star National Team player and the owner, another really good person), are NOT with the team, but this person is...Now, we must keep in mind that this asst. team manager is in his mid-50's, and was a military officer in the Red Army, which means that HE on this trip MAKES all decisions for everything...I then ask if it would be possible for him to give me a schedule for the practice times that I WAS ASKED to submit to Pancake on Sunday night in Changchun City, which was then FAXed to the Russian hosts for tournament...When we arrived yesterday, our host "Illya", nice young college student, who speaks English, Russian and Mandarin Chinese, tells me on the 45 min. bus ride from the airport to downtown Vladivostok, that "Coach, we received your schedule and we have made arrangements for your practice times and when you leave hotel..."...I was a "happy" camper up to this point, that meant, no surprises until this morning's "summit" meeting with the ex-Red Army Officer...Now, good people, I am an American "species" meaning: I have "RED" blood, a "WHITE" tongue, and "BLUE" veins, meaning that when someone who I have met only once at the airport to pick me up and my translator, Joe Guan, a week ago, and have never seen him at a practice or meeting with Sun Jun, myself, Pancake and YoYo, asst. coach, TELL ME, that "you listen, I make schedule for team the way I want schedule...all changes go through me, you only coach team in gym when I say you coach...this isn't USA this is Red China..." Hmmm, I thought to my "politically correct" self, he is sooooooo right, I AM A PROUD AMERICAN who will always be vigilant as a former Navy Veteran who loves his country dearly and will defend its democracy until I can't move a limb, I will smile at this man, nod, keep him close to me, and win him over with respect and my court demeanor when I do my job daily, and let my model speak for itself...Little did I know that he scheduled "sightseeing" on this trip as well, meaning that we had practice this morning and then went on a tour of the city, meaning 25mins. in the bus stuck in traffic, then walk another 200 steps to the military museum which was interesting from a historical part until you realize that the weapons decommissioned now were outpost weapons protecting the port city from enemy attack...Inside this high elaborate bunker was the museum itself of Vladivostok's history...Wow, is all I can say...the weapons from over 200 years ago were in this museum...no pictures allowed...I saw an 8' flintlock from over 200 years ago...really...remarkable...I guess if this weapon took out the lead horse or leader first, then their enemy would retreat...I mean it had to take all of 5mins. to reload this thing...Back to the Asst. Team Manager...I have made the decision to be polite but he has definitely established the "lines" of where authority is with me, folks...The difference between him and Sun Jun is the North Pole and a Waikiki Beach, respectively...I will be respectful but cautious until I return to our city...I love our freedom as an American citizen, and I love our structure and organization when it comes to communication and basketball applications...A coach "knows" his players, and knows them well, and in this case, my "read" on the players is that the last thing they want to do is "sightsee", being on their legs, walking up steps and visiting places while waiting in traffic on average 20 mins. before we go to next venue...

Our "Bussey" in Vladivostok, today...Let's say this, the lines on his face and the wrinkled expression upon his countenance tells a story in itself...He is quiet and as "ripe" as a Walla Walla Onion during harvest time...yes, THAT RIPE...The tour bus we are on has an interpreter by the name of Kevin...he is probably 25-26 years old...speaks 3 languages like Illya did the day before...we also have on this bus, at least a dozen flys, out of type of formation, looking for anything to land upon and rest, otherwise they circle like Seattle's flys the day of garbage pickup and have become somewhat annoying unless you're into seeing how quick your hand is in capturing one...We just finished our 2nd "visit" to a tour site...The Asst. Team Manager is now very tired and I think embarrassed as he is leaning over, with eyes closed NAPPING...me, I am deep down LOVIN every minute of his actions right now...he blew it, and his schedule too...Fingers are crossed about our game day schedule...yes, he has tentatively PLANNED for us to go on another tour away from the hotel on our GAME DAY...I asked why? And was told again, "that's not a question for you to ask...the team manager makes the decisions what we do, you only coach on the court..."...Beatles Soundtrack is goin on in my mind right now: "Mother Mary speak to me, there will be an answer...Let it be..."...To my good friend Dave Burroughs, he KNOWS where I'm comin from on THAT verse...as does Hawaiian "eye"...Mike M...Okay, I'm cool now, feelin good, ready to write some "other" feel good experiences right now...

Hotel Vladivostok...I don't think Harrison Ford stayed here when they shot Hunt for Red October a few years back...On a scale of 5 Stars, I don't have any ink for "fill" to mark this star down...and if I could? Imagine the furthest star away from the naked eye, a "spec" would be appropriate...The bed reminded me of my "bunk bed" mattress when I was at my first camp as a kid many summers ago...and the pillows? Not sure that any feathers ever made into this casing...I am in room 739, next to Pancake and Doc, the team trainer, great person by the way...always smiling...players love him, respect him and so do the American players...Anyway, I look out my room window across the street and see a 22 story high rise building under what seems to appear as construction...again...as the top 8 floors were torched last month in a fire and wiped out the railings, windows etc...I was told no one died because it was not yet completed...funny, I thought I the residue of smoke on our floor when we first got off the elevator...and I was right...outside our hotel entrance, as I was waiting for the rest of the team, I looked up at our building and lo and behold, there was a room that had caught fire LAST WEEK and burned the room completely, plus wiped out the room ABOVE this floor (6th FLOOR)...keep in mind the floors are wood...1/4" carpet or Miniature Golf thickness and as green, and now I'm thinking 2 buildings, fire history, very interesting...indeed...THEN when we went to our sightseeing after lunch today, I asked Kevin, the translator, what happened to the modern building next to ours, that is closed down..."It had a fire...last year maybe..."...3 buildings, 3 fires...I'm thinking where is the Fire Exit on my floor? Will let you know my 'exit' strategy next...My posterior needs an adjustment right now...the shocks are wiped out on this bus and the cushion I have developed over the last 25 years is "wearing" thin...and here I thought I it was more of a "Rhino's" derriere...I have to keep reminding myself that this is a GA "blogit"...

Okay, wait'll you hear this one...Pancake, my wonderful "new" friend translator, whom I really love dearly, takes me aside and tells me that the Team Manager feels so bad that this "Asst. Manager" talks so much...He doesn't know why he is acting the way he is and apologizes...Well, let me tell you something, I immediately had a "summit" with the Team Manager NOT the Asst. and told him how much I respected the fact that he came to every practice, asked me questions and I felt HE was the extension of Sun Jun, the GM who hired me...He agreed and said how much he liked me as a coach and person...This was refreshing and reaffirming to me, as I "knew" that the Asst. Team Manager had his own agenda, up to this point...Let's say this: I am learning slowly, that there is a hierarchy, and I must "adjust" to it, which I am slowly understanding daily and applying great patience as a virtue also...

Dinner tonight: Duran and Steve approached me and concurred that we "didn't" need to eat Russian Chinese again at the same restaurant...So we stayed in the lobby together, as I did not want to disrespect the Players and others by sitting at the table and NOT eat dinner with them...Guess what? Yep, the ASS. Team Mgr. decided to sit down with me and discuss "why" I chose not to go to dinner...Frankly speaking, I really wasn't interested in walking a half mile back to the hotel up a couple of steep hills on loose rock...I was polite, and told him that out of respect for the players and others we did not want to disrespect anyone by sitting at the table and not eat anything...He said that "they" will prepare Western Style food for us tomorrow...I said thank you...looked away at Pancake, who now "knows" Coach tom and his disdain for this particular person, and said: "it is okay, Coach, our Chinese players do NOT like this food either..."...Oh great, I say to myself, the players themselves KNOW the difference between "their" homeland food as well as we do with our American Takeout Chinese food...

So, ol tommyboy here, puts on his thinking cap, and decides, hmmm, we need to find some good food...And to much surprise and delight, several CPOs from our beloved USN, walk into the hotel and see the three Americans sitting in the lobby and immediately say hello to us...We in turn were also happy to speak to other Americans besides ourselves and I was proud to even have the pleasure of meeting our Patriots at sea...It turns out that there are two ships in Port here and they will be leaving on Friday morning, heading off the wild blue yonder...Anyway, I asked them if they had found any good restaurants, and guess what? They had...a 100 year old establishment, less than 300 yds. from our hotel, no less, and they said the magic words to all of us: "Oh yeah, we had RIBS and mashed potatoes...", I said: "No, can't be...here? Are you sure it was ribs and taters?" The Chief Petty Officer said: "Oh yeah, we ate well..."...Of course I HAD to get that address and location, which I did as they had a guide who was with them give me the name and I took it from there...or so I thought, until the Ass. Team Mgr. did not want the two American players to leave with me...(to the Asst. Team Manager's credit, he was only looking out for me, as it is his responsibility representing the People's Republic AND the team, that nothing happens to me, such as abduction, assault, etc., as this was the first time any of the players or people from Changchun City had visited this Russian city)...So, I stood up, asked Kevin to "lead" me and took Pancake with me, told Steve and Dujuan I'd be back with some good food to make you happy...And I did return 20 mins. later...Didn't get ribs as the 6 CPOs took BOTH sides of the steer and all that was left were steaks...which I ordered along with Mashed potatoes and Steve and I had curly fries that were really good...not much salt, fresh and tasty...We definitely had a GREAT DINNER upon my return...Kevin, the Russian-Chinese-English translator was so helpful, I can't begin to tell you...We became newest best friends...His fiance' who gave us a ride back to hotel, was very impressive as well, as it turns out, she is a Russian lawyer...She went to law school for 5 years...Kevin is working on getting me some real nice "Moscow-this" pair of custom made shoes while I'm here...Let me tell you something: this style is something else...he and a friend came up with it, and it is da bomb!! I will take a couple of pictures for you and send them along...The leather is smooth and the style is unique, and anyone that knows how I "dress" for me to say anything fashionable is a shock in itself...

Tomorrow, Thursday, we will have practice in the afternoon and move from this "smokey" top restaurant into a closer-to-the-water establishment...can't wait to see if it makes "1 Star" at least...I will say this: many buildings in this city have been started, but like Greece, never completed...not sure why, but it is noticeable...Less I forget, on the way in from the airport yesterday, I actually saw more birds, different variety (even some black crows like we have) flying around...really interesting...I guess that Asian flu epidemic was in fact REAL...

You'll love this one: I went into the hotel bar and asked the bartender if he spoke English...he replied "no"...I ask him if he has a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, to which he says he drives a "Honda"...it was then I knew I may not get my enjoyable G and T...I ask him again if he has G and T, and he pulls up Gordon's...let me say this about Gordon's: if you have a lead-base paint brush that won't clean with thinner...TRY Gordon's as it will definitely "clean" anything that needs cleaning...so I tried the "Tonic" and imagined it was Bombay Sapphire along for the ride...and he told me he "drives" a Honda...I need to work on my Russian...no doubt...If I had Larry Stone with me now, Alyson Stone's father, I am sure he would have "found" Bombay Sapphire for me...

The Korean team in the tournament is staying here also...just found out the Japanese pulled out at the last minute, meaning that it is only vs. 2 teams instead of 3...Whatever, I am looking forward to experimenting again with our lineup and defensive attack...Back to the Koreans...met the two Americans that play for them, one from Iowa and the other from Jacksonville, Fla...nice fellows...it turns out that the Asst. Coach of team, Rick Ross, is from Carolina and pledges allegiance to both Duke and Wolfpack AND the Blue...never met chameleon in college basketball before...really nice fella, and I hope to visit with him again during the tournament...I have many friends in Korean basketball now, so it was fun to meet some of them again who remember me...

Man oh man, did I tell you how GOOOOOOOOD that steak was...I only ate one of two pieces and split the second one between Dujuan and Steve...they need it more than I do...One thing I have learned from coaching overseas: if you can keep your American players happy and aggressive, you will have happy times ahead...if not..."the party's over"...simple philosophy, but so true...The kids I teach in Bellevue at Eastside Catholic, know me well, and that is a given when it comes to making them happy to train and take their games up a notch...

I'm tired, bushed, fatigued and ready to hit the pillow-with-no-feathers prop with my head...The fellas across the road, building an endless building, start early, around 6ish...I gotta get up same time, blow dry my hair, and go down to the lil restaurant and get a double espresso...YES, I found my first machine in Asia...I am so excited...I love Green Tea, but when my toes started looking green, I decided a lil coffee bean wouldn't hurt me right now...

Hope you enjoy my "blogits" as much as I enjoy reflecting upon my days and time here...If you don't, that's okay too, just leave the page, it's that simple, you won't hurt my feelings one way or another...For those who "do" enjoy my ramblings and what nots, thanks for allowing me to share what's happening over here...It really helps me "get" through the doldrums...And I really enjoy sharing with you about my team and their uniquely different personalities...Coach tom

*Post Script on Asst. Team Manager: everything's cool...We have a mutual respect admiration society developing after he tried to "help" with our passing drills and couldn't keep up with the speed of the players running to run out for a fast break layup...I think it was then that he "knew" that my job indeed was one of teaching things the right way and structure...we have been smiling since...I have no animosity towards him at all...He greets me and I to him...I will win him over by the end of the trip...Shoot, I'm even thinkin of buyin him a "shot" of something, out of respect...

Post Game Notes from the night before...We lost this exhibition 98-86...arena full (4,000)...Floor: one could hear "brakes" all night as players were changing directions left to right, very easily...

Not a Happy Camper was I during this game as the Aussies decided to demonstrate continuous "cross check blocks" in this "friendly" game and our players, with the exception of the Americans and a couple of the People's players, wilted...sank...resigned...use your imagination here...What exactly is a "cross check block" you ask? It's between a Hockey check (with pads on across the mid section/shoulders) and Football Block, the kind that Mr. Jones from the Hawks applies on Sundays so well...I LOVED it, I have to tell you, mainly because I wanted to see how we would react to the Officials on the road NOT calling fouls; stopping in their tracks and looking at the Refs as though something SHOULD have been called here; backing down; not blocking out on weakside and going to the boards strong for missed shots and so on...I mean as a new coach this is what you live for: exhibition games, new teams, unforeseen attitudes towards adversity and most of all their "hearts" for competition or not, when "down" and failing miserably...I never worry about the score in a game, I am only concerned about how hard the players are playing, effort-wise, and of course if they're playing together...We are young, inexperienced in the backcourt and last night was the epitome' of what my job is cut out to entail: teaching the guards how to lead a team into their offense and putting pressure on the ball at all times...Before I get into the gist of my Post Game notes here, let me qualify one thing for those of you who are gleaning technical information from this "blogit": I don't call Timeouts...I learned from my father and of course John Wooden and Tex Winter and Marv Harshman, that WHEN you call the first timeout, it gives the players an excuse to complain to one another IF things are going south in a hurry and really, when you think about it, it gives the other team the "sense" that you're in trouble when you take the timeout...Now I know there are two lines being drawn here and this is open to debate, which I welcome, but I think you need to understand "what" I'm trying to teach this "new" team of mine, with 2 new Americans on the roster and a foreign coach...You see, I told them on the first day of practice that we would NOT call timeouts in a game UNLESS it was at the end of the game and we needed to get the right players in and set up a special play...It was explained daily that our "work in the laboratory" aka, gym, was where we "take" all of our timeouts to "correct" a problem on the court, as we will "know" to a man where we need to make adjustments and do so...Last night we were down early in the game, like 12 to 1, giving up 6 points off turnovers and transition plays on missed shots...I stood up and said nothing, thus reminding them that we will not panic on the road, we will not take a timeout to correct a team problem and that we will communicate together as to what we need to do to get on track again...It was a great lesson as we realized that the ball needed to go inside to our "footer" (7' Steve Castleberry) and let him make plays for us, passing and post moves...He did just that and we got fouled a couple of times moving without the ball and receiving a pass and going strong to the basket...Now we're only down 12-6, no panic timeout, I'm calm, reminding the defense to "get up contact deny in the lanes halfcourt"...you should hear my Chinese...then the wheels come off again, our Pastry Chef, Spider, took it upon himself to go one on one, miss the layup, then take a 3 ball, then get his posterior embarrassingly beat bad by Sedale Threatt Jr. on an And1 move, and forgetting quickly what his responsibilities were in leading the team at the point...I mercifully substituted him with our 29 yr. old "Pops" (my nickname for him because he is the only player married on team with a child, and the second oldest), and right away we had stability in the backcourt on offense...The only problem was Pops tried to Pushpoint Threatt to the sideline with the ball and that didn't happen as Threatt made the ball appear as though it was made by Samsonite, 'cause he had a handle on it that went right to left very well and very quick to the Officials eyes, but not to mine...So we had to "help" contain Threatt and many great lessons were experienced in the applications of rotations and helpside defense...Again, no timeout, and they had to work it out on the court...Now you might say that's a copout or "how could you leave them like that...?"...well, when you've learned how to swim and you accidentally fall into the deep end, your instincts should kick in at that moment, anxiety aside, and you begin to swim...It's the same in basketball, you must learn how to communicate through repetition of team drills and exercise, and when you do it will be easy to recognize when the situation arises in a game...So, when our players faced this scenario (by the way, we practiced this very situation for an hour and half last practice before the games commenced), we looked but didn't read and react or rotate properly...Fouls occurred and players looked at me, and I motioned to my lips, and they ALL to a man, nodded...it was a "lesson" learned without worrying about whose mistake it was and the running score...which at the time was up to an Aussie 16 point lead...and then by 23 at the end of 2 qtrs...What disappointed me the most in the first half? Our Pastry Chef, Spider...He just doesn't "get it", and yet he was making progress in practice to the point where I really began to think (there's that dangerous word for me again), that he was...This I know about players and habits: they're like spots on a leopard: they don't change...For him to "crossover" to a more defined position, that will improve his skills and his teams', it will be a work in progress...let's put it this way: the Bakery was open in the first half and our Chef did a great job presenting his "works"...Overall my displeasure was more from a reactionary point of view than negative vibes...We watched teammates shoot from the perimeter, and then NOT anticipate the offensive board nor rotate quickly enough back on defense...Of the 60 points we gave up in the first half, we had 16 turnovers, shot around 32% from the field and acted like ushers at a Harry Potter Premiere showing: "Come right in and go wherever you wish..."...

Halftime Address...or Exhortation 101 Verse 1 Game II...

I told them there were no excuses for NOT making transition on defense and picking up the ball early and ready to defend the penetration in the half court...I explained that when I make substitutions, it is for the purpose to develop a "core" unit of players who WE can depend upon when the season officially starts, and that this physical game is a "cupcake" compared to the NBA and Euro games overseas...I told them that when a team gets physical like that early, it is a sign that they are tired and don't want to move their feet and SEE if the Officials will or not make the personal foul calls...The Officials didn't (again I was so happy they didn't) and we gave up, quit, stopped competing, always expecting the Official to stop play and make things right, as the Aussies went the other way for a layup...I also explained that when you sit on the bench and you're given an opportunity to help your team out of their misery, you must begin by playing defense and following the rules of weakside help and rotations...Then at the end I had one of my better attention getters: I got passionate for them and explained how important it was to "fight back" and knock a few of those opponents on their derrieres now and then, to block out better by bending your knees and keeping your hands up for anticipating the rebounds, but most of all talk on defense to help one another not to complain about something after the fact...this rolled over into me addressing our oldest veteran player of 32yrs. of age, and in his second year with the Club...His nickname is Chuck, and he plays the role of the "Mummy" better than Boris Karloff ever did (ahh, kids, he was an old time scary movie actor...good one too)...Anyways, ol Chuck got two opportunities to get into the game in the first half and it was not pretty...Here he is a veteran, not a starter ever in the CBA before, and he is not executing anything at either end of the court with any effort whatsoever...Fortunately, we made a little run and the Aussies took a timeout and I spoke directly to him about "needing" his leadership...his response: "the Officials are not calling anything..."...I made an indelible imprint on my bball MB (memory bank) to be sure to address that comment at halftime...I did...here is how it went: "Chuck, I am not going to play you one minute in the second half...you have been given two opportunities to help your team off the bench and in both cases your effort was lacking in comparison to your teammates...In fact, Chuck, I need you to go see Doc (our trainer) and ask him to take your pulse, because IF you have one, you need to get to the hospital and get an IV going so you can stay alive, 'cause right now you are playing like you have NO PULSE...Do you understand me, Chuck?" He just nodded, and looked at me...I then proceeded to raise my voice to the team and challenge each of their manhood with this simple reminder: "You are a Jilin Tiger..play like a Tiger...play with heart and passion...play with the spirit that has made this team famous for competition in the CBA, don't quit, compete...." And with that we went out and believe it or not did just that: we kicked back and began competing with the Aussies physical play...it was a work in progress watching this metamorphosis take place and realizing all too well that we would probably not sustain it, but it didn't matter, I "learned" that they do in fact listen, they do in fact have pride and that they do care about competing and representing the name Jilin Tigers...the 'only' player who failed in his redux: you guessed it: The Chef...

We lost by 12, gained some admirable respect amongst ourselves as teammates and coaches and held our heads high...I was positive with them after the game and told them that "if" this is the way we can compete on the road when we face adversity and NOT forget the rules on defense, then we'll be happy to man when the Championship season is completed...

One note on the Aussies...They really did come out and literally "kick" our behinds like we stole their Foster's Lager...I was taken aback somewhat, but "knew" this was their way of covering their fatigue and I welcomed the opportunity to "see and learn" from our players reactions or non...

We're off tomorrow morning and then hit it again in the afternoon from 3-5pm...I have to leave immediately afterwards with DuJuan and Steve and Joe Guan our translator for a drive to Beijing to get a Visa for the trip to Russia on Tuesday for the tournament coming up there...Evidently, the Russians don't care that we are working in China with a certification, they want to meet us personally...I am not real "keen" on driving again at night in China, folks, so I might bite the bullet on this one and go by air...The reason for leaving tomorrow night, is so that we will be at the Embassy to meet the Consular and get the Visa and return immediately following the visit there...Sometimes, planning goes a long way in preparation...

Will "blogit" when we get to Russia...

Special Note to Doug Strauss and Family: I am so sorry to read, where Gloria, your gift from God, passed peacefully yesterday...Please know my prayers and hope for you and your Family's comfort at this time are in my thoughts...

Coach tom

Niaho...okay, I'm on the road again, early Saturday morning, 7ish and working on this "blogit"...It's a quiet, less traveled road on this day than it was on Friday morning, meaning not many people are working this early OR just getting a late start...Afterall, they ALL work and have jobs to do, somewhere, sometime, anywhere, anytime...That's the People's way of life here, I'm learning daily...

Bussey's "concerto avec horns" has been a rude "awakening" to some animals and their passengers this morning, trust me: I never knew donkeys could turn their heads around that quickly when hearing the blast from afar or nearby...still no birds in sight...we've crossed two main rivers now and it has dawned on me why the fish they call "delicacies" are pure as the River is brown...Guess I won't be trying "that" delicacy while I'm here...Back to the road again...Bussey is beginning to "warm up" again, as he has matched beeps to my last 60 letters...Why? We're passing through small hamlets right now and it's busy with kids, bikes and cycles...small tractors too...I cannot imagine what this road must have looked like 20 years ago: dirt, mudholes, stuck trucks, no bikes, cars, but the mule drawn carts were able to make their way...did I ever metion to you about the "springs" on this bus? Let's see, try to imagine an old spring mattress and the rhythmic sound it would make as the wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round...Parents would understand my metaphor there, I'm sure...The traffic is really building up fast now, it's 9:30 am and tour buses are the rage opposite Bussey's lane...he is NOT a happy Driver right now, as he is very limited in his ability to pass anyone except walkers...Hope there isn't 6 degrees of Irish in his DNA right now...we're due for a "Rest Area" stop soon...as players behind me are awake again and that means they're restless...let's see how long it takes before he stops...We passed through a larger "hamlet" and this town was a bustling, let me tell you...we crawled through the center as this is where the highway runs, and to the right and left were merchants selling their wares and vegetables and animals and anything else that is edible and can be consumed, worn or shared...It was an unbelievable sight, and pictures will follow...And yet, it "flowed", people not once afraid nor intimidated by the traffic moving snakelike around the them...I didn't hear one horn tone for the two minutes it took to break on through to the other side (oh yeah, Jim Morrison is ringin in my mindtrack right now!!)...I see this, I marvel at it and yet for the life of me, as I asked my assistant coach, YoYo, "this is amazing, people go about their business and so does the traffic, respectfully, YET we can't even run a fast break right let alone play defense...why is that? He started to laugh as did so many others when it was translated...It is kind of funny when you think about it...It's 9:25 and the players are getting antsy...my guess is that we'll be stopping in 20 mins...just a guess...Late notice: Steve and DuJuan (my two Americans) say that we are at 496 beeps and counting....WE STOPPED...it's 9:28am...I was wrong...we still have 2 and a half hours to go based upon the "slow" moving traffic...Bussey got off the bus again to smoke 3 cigarettes...EVERY male (except the players) seems to smoke...it's an amazing scene...talk about addictive behavior...it's in living color here for sure...

We made it back safely, it's around 11:45am...all's good...I was very tired and happy to get back to my room and relax a bit...Watched Jerry McGuire on Star Movies in English on my TV...also have HBO too, as well as ESPN, but they don't show my favorite Fall Sports: College Football on Saturday and NFL on Sunday...Talk about "withdrawals"...if anybody out there knows how I can get online live video stream of the Dawgs, Hawks, Sonics, Seattle U, SPU hoops, PLEEZE let me know, then I can enjoy my Green Tea, watch and listen to my favorite NW teams...

Sunday morning, 6:30am...up and at'em...we have practice this afternoon, so I am working off the notes from previous two games that we will have to address in practice...No big deal, just little technical on court reviews, whereby I put the players in a game "freeze frame" and ask each on offense what they "see", then do the same on "defense"...I learned this a long time ago from Bernie Bickerstaff when we coached in Seattle together and along with Bob Kloppenburg, who was the defensive coach, we, as a team understood where the mistake(s) we're made...Then we warmed up and stretched...I like it because it gives me a chance to help them recall exactly the play(s) we failed to execute properly, and in this case, on our disruptive pressure defense that I employ with our team...This defensive philosophy was learned by me through my mentor on defense, Coach Ernie Woods, Hall of Fame Washington State Community College Basketball order...He has been the most positive and influential colleague I have ever had the pleasure of sharing ideas and strategies with to date...He has a website called Hooptactics.com or you can go online to cybersportsusa.com and link to his site that he has with Coach Bob Kloppenburg...It is the BEST basketball resource "channel" any coach at any level could ever imagine available at this time on the internet...Coaches: go to it...you won't believe how easy it is to read and learn about yourself and your team...

Hope everyone has a great weekend...it's clear and sunny today...glory...Oh, less I forget...last night at the hotel restaurant where I ate dinner, the music in the background was "Joy to the World..." NOT by Three Dog Night Either...it was an instrumental strings only rendition...then "Winter Wonderland" was next...I cracked up...guess they're reminding me early to get my presents now for home to send in October? They 'know' me well...I am the worse letter writer, Xmas present organizer and doer than one could imagine...I usually wait until the last two days of Christmas...BUT...I knew in my mind what I want to get for the family, just don't want to deal with the crowds...been that way all my life...Stay "tooned", I'll share with you again the "latest" music to eat "Burnt to Egg Plant" by...Coach tom

Well, where to begin...I spent the better part of two hours trying to retrieve the previous reflections and had to rewrite the first part of it, as my Word skills and saving wires got crossed and there was no Jay Arnold (my wonderful Co-Director along with Coach Guy Perry of FSLT) around to "save" me, let alone my document...That really bummed me out, to say the least, but I stayed with it and finished a pretty good "blogit"...haven't heard that word, so I guess I'll use it for now...

Bus Ride: my guy, the Bussey is one dynamic creature of God...He is so brave, I couldn't believe the cars, people, carts, dump trucks, buses and whatever else that was in front of him this morning, that he passed...I had sit in my "this is where Head Coach sit..." seat, which I now call "Headache Coach" seat...anyway, back to Bussey, he's about 40 years old, short, great smile and I mean no fear...I hadn't noticed how tall he was until this morning when he got off the bus first at another "rest stop" and noticed that he had "bowed legs"...which meant that indeed he does "have" Brass ones, for adults who understand me here...

Our trip was not going to allow me to close my eyes for a minute as he played something in "B-minor" (remember the 5,000 beeps he used the day before?) the entire 4 and a half hours to this North Eastern city...we're not far from the North Korean border, and yes, it's safe, I did not see one mushroom cloud from afar on this clear and beautiful day in Baishan...The redevelopment that is going on in cities like this one is a sight to behold, new high rises for people wanting to move into the city with their lives...interesting contrast: beautiful countryside, acres and acres of grapes, corn, rice fields and sunflowers at season's end, yet the tranquility and peace of mind removed from urban life beckons their children today and NOT their parents...which means that in 25 years, China will be faced with a crisis related to where do we find the workers for the fields? Mark it down...it's coming sooner than you think...I counted 14 cranes in this 200.000 city, and I'm not talking of the Whooping variety at all here...The infrastructure of apartment buildings mostly is outlined by these icons as reminders of progress where having electricity 50 years ago was difficult to predict...Baishan, check it out...

Along the way: I saw one bird fly across the street so fast, not high, but figured it had a better chance to 'live' flying low than high, I guess...As we approached Baishan, I could not believe the large and I mean large NUMBER of Lady Bugs that became an abstract work of art on our Bussey's windshield...Seriously, I've never seen so many Lady Bugs in my life...coupled with some large moths also, you know, yellow in pastel hues they were across the glass...then after about 10 mins. of making our way through their maze, they were gone, none to be seen and in 5 mins. we were in the city limits...Now, good people, we've all driven I-5 and dotted our windshields with some interesting bugs, I'm sure, but let me tell you something here, imagine having a 60"x12foot window absorbing impact objects at 60mph in the mountains...I shoulda taken picture...tomorrow for sure...

Arrival and Lunch: well, my stomach was calm and Dr. Pepto's advice carried over well this morning before I left on this trip as I had nothing to eat or drink...so I felt I could "try" the boiled broccoli and French fries, not a lot, but enough to give me something to down...There was however one problem that occurred that I am sure WON'T happen again as long as I am coach...We, meaning myself, DuJuan and Steve, two Americans on team with me, were put into private room with our translator, Joe Guan, actually my personal assistant that has been great and so helpful to me this past week...That really bothered me completely, as I did not like us being separated from the team, and Joe says that usually that's the custom here, the Chinese players eat in one room and the Americans eat in the other...I told him never again...we're a team, we practice together, play together, travel together, win together, lose together and we will EAT together...He totally agreed with me and passed this on to the Asst. Coach, YoYo for me, and Pancake, the other translator...I think it was also a 'way' for them to get out of a short "meeting" after eating to listen to my thoughts on what we need to focus upon tonight in the game...So, I get them all at 5:00, when they sit down again and "snack" on something before the game...I'll take 10 mins. and go over some adjustments that we'll make based upon the replay of the game I finished watching on our trip up here...I only had to watch 2 qtrs., otherwise, my "plyos" would be kickin in again and I didn't want Bussey to stop along the road at a "Rest Area" for MY needs...Post game will follow tomorrow...

Hope y'all enjoy my adventures, I'm having a great experience and want to share it with friends and family when I can...Coach tom

Niaho...as in Kneehow as in "hello, how are you, good day"...Everyone greets one another this way all the time...It's the same everywhere except NYC, where "if" you say hello to someone or greet someone you don't know, it's like "Whadya want, Buddy...?"...So, I'll take the universal languages of international greetings, from Guatemala to Venezuela to St. Kitts and the Grenadines to Korea to Japan to Belgium and France to "Howzit, Brah" in Hawaii, to "what up" in Hip Hop to here, Niaho...

The Bus Ride north...Okay, first off, please forgive me for losing the name of the city we were just in last night...I wrote it down and of course it's somewhere but nowhere to be found, just yet...We traveled Northwest though for about 2 and a half hours, leaving the worse smog conditions I've ever experienced in Changchun city...We ended up seeing the outline of the sun faintly about an hour outside Changchun...Along the scenic route to this NE city, which is close to the Mongolian region and noticeably more Third World in the rural areas than what I had seen in the city proper...

The accident along the way...Let's say this, our driver is one smart fella, as he allowed an ambulance to pass him as we made our way North on the well paved highway...You see, he doesn't like anyone to pass him, cross the street in front of his bus OR sneak onto the main street from a side road...This I know, after 5,000 beep beeps and one BIG BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP, he knows how to get people's attention in a hurry...This bus drives like a Taxi to him and he demonstrates it very well...Of course, my favorite seat on any team bus has always been the second one behind the first on the passenger side, at least if there is a problem I have the cushion of two seats in front of me to protect me, right? So, my seat on this trip was occupied by two press people and now I am sitting behind the driver who is hoping that I think he drives as well as any player I have on the basketball court...He's got a point, he drives a 40' bus, and I have guys that drive 40' with their heads down, at least he has the "good habit" of keeping his head up when driving...ooops, the accident story...brace yourself for this one...Imagine going between Ft. Lewis and Vancouver, Wa., and sharing the road, two lanes (they make 4 lanes out of two here...amazing phenomena) only, with the following traffic: motorcycles (prevalent in the rural areas, in fact #1 mode of transportation), slow moving 3 wheel cars with 4 people or agriculture in the bed of the truck, tractors, donkey-drawn carts, two wheel long bed variety, bicycles and of course the "lucky" pedestrian who dares to cross the highway at anytime, day or night...So, keeping this all in mind, and the ambulance passing us in a hurry, we come across a highway North accident about 2 miles up, slowing traffic and allowing our driver to "think" of a way to get around this traffic...He does!! He slows down and begins to cross inbetween the median opening and travel North on the southbound lanes...Little did I realize that we would all meet Buddha, Ghandi, Jesus and Elvis together FROM China, that's the "hot" flash of the day I experienced at that moment...BUT, about 200 yds. down the road, other vehicles were beginning to do the same thing, taking HIS lead and before you knew it, without any Police around, we're taking up two lanes on very fast highway with all sorts of characters and equipment with wheels and feet and hooves, making our way North...We came across a terrible scene that had us slowing down to a nail's pace, as we observed 3 people on the highway, laying unconscious and people gathered around them but not touching them...One of the victims was put on a stretcher, only 1 ambulance was there as well as one State Police car and two policemen, who were NOT ABOUT TO ADDRESS any traffic issues at this time...The vehicles involved as it appeared when we drove by: Late model Toyota Sedan, obviously the fastest of the other crash party, a Taxi, a motorcycle and a pedestrian...Both sides of the street were occupied by locals wondering who was their friend that was hit and who was on the motorcycle as well...Needless to say, the traffic "flowed" right on by and no one came to a complete stop while this was all taking place on the highway, blocking both NW lanes...Now you know that would NEVER happen in Tacoma along the auto row area of I-5, right? You know, let the masses figure out a way to keep the traffic flowing, slowing both N/S lanes in the south lane direction...anyway, it was something to behold...The excursion and noticeable things along the way:

a) didn't see one bird until about an hour and a half away from Changchun...didn't see any animals either, but did see chickens coming in and out of houses along the way...

b) noticed an incredible agricultural spread of cornfields...and I mean incredible...Imagine Nebraska doubled times over...

c) Rest Area: that's misnomer for sure...The Bus stopped at a gas station along the highway, not choosing to go on the property of the gas station, so several players in our party could use their services, or so I thought...Instead of walking towards the gas station and their facilities, they wandered off to an open out house, about 20' long, no doors, no windows, just an overhang (in case it rains) to do their business...I'm looking at this and thinking to myself, "Tom, can you imagine Xavier McDaniel and Tom Chambers getting off the team bus on a road trip and "this" is what they have to use to relieve themselves...?" ...Now you know how I'm thinking "I've seen it all..."...UNTIL, a few minutes later, another bus pulls in behind us and lets off about 30 people to use the same facilities, except this time there are 3 women who are also in the mix...now I'm really confused...they walk around to the other side of the "troth" and there was a wall divider so separate the two sides, thank GOD, and proceed to do their "thing"...well, there are still about 20 men who decide the young trees behind the troth "looks good to me..." would be the easiest way to relieve themselves so they each took a tree...now imagine this...these "young" trees were much taller than the other trees 50 yds. beyond the troth area, meaning that the "organics" that was conveniently fertilizing them was indeed enhancing their natural growth...

We arrived at our "day" hotel, checked in and then had lunch...

Lunch with the Team: I have been very careful of late to partake in the fine cuisine of China's fine dining since my "blender" has been acting up lately...

The setup for our meals is something to behold...Traditional asian sitdown lunch and dinners, has you occupying a table that seats 12 or more people and has a glass tabletop on turntable that features all the food we'll be able to enjoy...Well, I knew better, and yet I had been really careful to date, and thought to myself (which in my case is dangerous: thinking to myself...), "hmmm, I haven't tried that before", and it "looked" good, but Dr. Pismo, yes he lives here in China with his close friend Pepto, told me to "just look...don't taste...yet"...I relented to the wise "instructions" prescribed and had to try a couple of vegetable dishes that were cooked, and trust me tasted very very good...until about 8 hrs. later and then I heard Dr. Pepto telling me the same thing...I gotta listen to that tandem and their instructions while I'm here, otherwise the plyometrics I am exercising right now for the last 3 days getting up and running, sitting down and getting up, well it's really a new way to get into "shape" if you're not into the South Beach Diet...?

Pregame Notes and Postgame Musings:

Pregame was a reunion of sorts, as I ran into a former Sonic Veterans Camp player from 20 years ago, Andrew Gaze, the Head Coach of the Australian Team we're playing these two days. He has a group of augmented players from Down Under, all having the appearance of Aussie Football players, rugged, cut and obviously they don't eat a lot of vegetables and noodles. Andrew has been coaching Down Under since his retirement from the NBL (Aussie League) several years ago, and is the second Aussie to have an NBA Championship ring as a former NBA player. The trivia question is: who was the first? Anyways, we had a great visit, and he is really excited for his former coach P J Carlesimo becoming the new Sonics coach. PJ was Andrew's coach at Seton Hall, AND was an all Big East performer back in the day. Coach Gaze has another Seattle Sonics connection on his touring team also, Sedale Threatt, Jr. He looks like Sedale and has the same quick step and shot release like his father, who by the way, is a Regional Representative for And1 gear in Australia. Andrew says Sedale also has been coaching a little bit with an National Basketball League team Down Under as well. It was great to visit with Andrew as the last time I saw him was 20 years ago, saying goodbye at Western Washington University as we wrapped up our exhibition season there versus the Kings when I was assisting the Sonics back in the day.

The Great Floor: hmmm, how do I describe this floor? Let's see, Dancing Stars would love it...Fred Astaire would have lived another 20 years moving left to right on it, and Gene Kelley would have made a sequel to "Dancing in the Rain..."...That being said, I think you have a "picture" of what we were going to try to do RUNNING and moving our feet left to right on defense as I had asked ALL of our players to do in this game BEFORE we stepped on the floor...The play of all plays: one of our two American players was filling a lane downcourt, just like I asked and got a fast break pass from the guard behind him, he catches the ball, turns drives to the basket and as he does so his feet slide out from under him, landing bottomsides up with the ball and he SHOOTS it, almost making the shot, but unfortunately was called for sliding...err...traveling...Everyone in attendance and on both benches realized how ridiculous it was to even try to play this game, yet I never heard one player from our team or the other complain ONCE...No excuses, Andrew and myself were the only ones who complained before and after the "floor exercise"...

Game Notes: we lost 97-83...Great effort considering circumstances, lotsa unforced turnovers, Spider is forcing me to help him write a letter of recommendation to the Culinary People's School for Exceptional Pastry Dishes Specializing in Turnovers...I told him I'm going to "wait" a little bit before drafting THAT letter for him...He made a pass on a play to open the 3rd qtr. that was "money", and I mean "M-O-N-E-Y", as we have this pick-the-picker play (screener gets a screen next) which was wide open for the first picker and I draw it up for Spider and his teammates...Well, just like it was drawn up with lines and dashes, the only thing I FORGOT to remind Spider to do TODAY was "pass the ball with TWO HANDS not off the dribble with one...", he has short memory syndrome from day to day operations, which in his culinary field will work well, as Turnovers spoil after one day "freshness"...The play evolves and Wang Bo, our BF, is wide open, and Spider's eyes become as large as Marty Feldman's and he passes off the dribble...the pass "hit" a wide open Policeman under the basket who was smiling fondly at a "dance and cheer at a timeout only" young lady next to him...The policeman recovered, fans "cheered" for him and if you saw the look on my face at that moment TOWARDS Spider, you know I was wishing I had a Blackberry that would take dictation and convert to Windows Word for his Resume'...He did however come back to redeem himself mightily as he ran the same play again and passed this time with both hands and we scored and his teammates "smiled" at me...they KNEW as I did, Spider finally "got it", and that's my Spider story for this game...Less I forget, the "music man" for this game was wonderful...he entertained us with John Denver's "Country Road" and Elton John's "Welcome back Yellow Brick Road..." to some Hawaiian string music that was quite relaxing...The crowd: about 4,000...They had a good time, laughed a lot at our sliding when coming to a "jump stop"...Coaches Wooden and Newell would both be at their wits end during a game like this, as nothing prepares a coach for how to help his players to NOT SLIDE when coming to a stop with or without the ball...

Post Game Musings: I spoke to the players and expressed how pleased I was with their effort, each player, considering the adverse playing floor...I told them that do have to do a much better job communicating on defense and helping weakside like we have practiced to this point...That the reason for exhibition games prior to the regular season is to make sure we learn from our mistakes and make the necessary adjustments during these type of games so we can be better prepared when it counts...My translators were wonderful again...I love Pancake (Shortstack) and Joe Guan, both excellent people in their assigned tasks of helping me with my words in English presented in context to the People's players...We gathered our things and went back to the hotel to eat again, I didn't, choosing to stay on the bus and rehash in my mind points of the game that needed to be addressed today before we hit the floor again...An hour later, we're on the road again, and I put away my book of the week, "Coach" edited by Andrew Blauner...what a GREAT compilation of stories by writers who reflect upon their sports mentors who influenced their lives at an early age...forever...this book was a gift to me before I left Seattle, by Coach Lee Larson, my close friend from Happy Valley, Oregon, just outside Clackamas, Oregon, east of Portland...Coach Lee is one of those rare birds in life you meet along your life journeys, who really cares about kids, parents and the world, and has used basketball as one of his many mediums for helping others universally...This book has been a wonderful read...Parents: get it!! Read it and share with your sons and daughters, I guarantee you will enjoy each page turn to the end...

 

Today is Friday, 5:00am China, five hours sleep, we leave in two hours for a six hour bus ride (by the way, our driver is really good, Kasey Kahne has nothing over him...)...Dr. Pepto gave me some more "additives" and I reread his and Dr. Pismo's directions...They don't want to "see" me tomorrow, so I guess I will be reading my book and drinking lotsa of green tea ( I LOVE green tea)...We should be a little better prepared for what we experienced from the Aussies and their two Americans (Threatt and a young fella from a small Iowa school playing down there)...I plan to "add" a high post release for our point guards to help them get into the offense quicker and allow our "footer" Steve Castleberry to be the passer from the top of the key, that's to start the game with...We play 4 Qtrs., 12 mins. each, 6 personals, 24 second clock (if they have one, otherwise they count down in Chinese and ring a bell courtside...we got 3 shot clock "favors" during the game, as the Aussies don't know Chinese very well...) BUT only 2 Officials...

Take care all...a special "shoutout" to my family and friends and kids whom I have been blessed to learn from over the years when teaching them new skills about this wonderful game as I have experienced it in my life to date...

Coach tom...
September 17...5:30am...Niaho...well ol Coach tom here in Changchun City, China, been here close to a week now, IF you consider that I left on Sunday night last week on a redeye from SeaTac to Dulles (yes, I DID take geography in high school) to Beijing and then on to Changchun City, five hours after arriving in Beijing on Tuesday afternoon...Total Flight Time: 18 hours!!  I think NASA should give me some Wings or some commendation for being in "space" so long...The reason I ended up going East to go to China was simple: I was rescheduled because ol coach here FORGOT his debit cards/license but NOT his Passport...Word to the wise: when one wakes up at 5am to prepare for travel at 9:30, plus, IF you make that mistake and someone from your family returns to the airport, don't forget the Security Check and how long that takes when there is problem ahead of you in line...first thing one should do is PACK POCKETS FIRST with essential items, NOT two packs of GUM, tom, thinking that you have your money, cards and ID...

Anyway, I am staying in a beautiful hotel, The RedBuds, in Changchun City, China...It is a two hour flight from Beijing...It is in the NE part of China, in the Jilin province and there are two million people that live and work in this city...The smog has NOT been an issue since arriving...I've seen stars and 80 degree weather a couple of days, and it is humid from day to day...

Traffic: this is one of the "9 Wonders of the World"...it is for sure a phenomena for me to experience daily how so many cars continually move AND pedestrians cross the streets anywhere on a block as the traffic somehow, someway weaves, winds and turns itself away from contact and keeps flowing...AMAZING...simply AMAZING...They find a way to make it work...and it does...There aren't very many motorcycles on the streets as they are "fair" game and as each day passes on my way to practice, I realize why...Evidently, the story on motorcycles goes like this: when they issued licenses for motorcycles 15 years ago, there was a rush to get them...those people are now DEAD!! Bicycles? A few on campuses but not on streets per se...The have tri-cycle vendors who work the streets as well and that is something to behold, A Kodak moment for sure...There's no way this "flow" would happen in Seattle as the "force" of traffic cops would retire due to carpal tunnel syndrome from writing so many tickets for moving violations, infractions, jay walking, wrong way, and driving without your lights on at night...The reason: "why drive with lights on..the streetlights show you the way..."  Makes perfect sense to me until the jaywalker gets hit by a black automobile going 60 in a 30mph area...

Food:  Wow...where to start...let's see, breakfast...This hotel serves the best hot dish trays (covered) that one could ever imagine...It's like a Sunday brunch setup every morning here...My favorite: "Burn to Egg Plant", aka EggPlant...It is to die for, folks, you would not believe how GOOD it really is...I eat it like someone who eats Wheaties and Corn Pops each morning...along with fresh Mango and Grape juice...The noodles are fresh made...I've been eating so much celery, cauliflower, green beans etc., I think I was a rabbit in another life!!!  Dinner experience: the owner of this team took myself and the other two Americans (players on my team, we're allowed 2 per team) to dinner...I was asked by the waitress how I liked my "steak" cooked, figuring she was asking everyone else also what and how they liked theirs (owner, GM and translators)...I said "medium well, please"...Let's see that was last Thursday...I am still politely "chewing" on my first bite...

The Team: hmmm, where to start...Let's see, I have last year's starting point guard, whose nickname is "Spyder", and that's scary in itself, as I have never in all my years of playing and coaching, not once did I ever have a Spyder as a "lead guard" on my teams...He is a cross between Brent Barry (arms and legs only) and a future Bakery Chef, specializing in Turnovers...He speaks a little English and I think he understands a whole lot more now since I've arrived, as he is beginning to slow down and "see" the floor better...I hope so for his team's sake...I have a Beatle ("I love John Lennon, Coach"), that's his English nickname, and a HipHop (his nickname) as my backup guards, but rapidly moving ahead of Spyder as I type...The size of the latter two are 6'2" Beatle, and 5'8" Hip Hop...They both really are quick and LISTEN to what I am saying and teaching about Guard Play...Between those 3 players, I feel real confident about our Pressure Defenses in the backcourt...My frontline has a Cannon (his nickname) , a Handsome Tiger (true, but I just call him Tiger), Cash Money ('cause he's money with his shot), a Wang Bo (wong bow, his natural name), YoYo, my 6'7" assistant coach and of course Pancake, my bench translator, all of 5'5" height...I already nicknamed him "Shortstack"...The other players, 6, have nicknames but not English because they don't play much acording to the players...yet...I am excited about our roster, coupled with DuJuan Tate, 6'4" American, and 7' Steve Castleberry, former Sixers veterans camp '06 player...We will run so much, Immodium will be taken on game days...The training regimen they undergo now by the strength and conditioning coach is really professional and efficient in application...I'm really impressed with the structure and discipline...The players ALL work very hard and WANT to learn...The most challenging part of my job will be breaking bad habits: dribbling with their heads down...not passing the ball ahead (I have a ball that I took some air out of...solved that quickly)...and patience with their decision making...They LOOK and then react, they will learn the difference between LOOKING and READING...right now their "reactions" are leading into turnovers on offense...Our Defensive lessons each day so far begin with learning HOW to SPELL Defense in English, so they understand how important that aspect of my philosophy is for our team's success this season...

Transition: I am really blessed to have a friend of the United States Basketball Academy, Joe Kwan, helping me at this time...He is a resident of Beijing, and helps out at the USBA in Oregon each year for several weeks during the winter months...He has been my principle translator and without him, I'd be like swan with no feathers on a cold lake...The jet lag never really hit me, as I was so excited to get on the floor and get to work...Those of you who "know" me, know that that is where I am the most happiest: on the floor teaching and watching skills develop...The challenge here for me will NOT be the games, rather the basketball culture of how THEY do things, in preparation for contests, habits, both on court and off, and more importantly the understanding of having a teacher of the game in their midst...So far so good...but...it is THIER league, their country, their way, their beliefs, their understandings or not, and of course their trust of me OR not...hopefully we're building on that...I believe so, as the players come up to me individually and greet me...The first two days, not so...so I guess I am making progress slowly...My humor is still intact on the floor...Instead of saying :"That pass was like a duck on opening day...I say that "Pass is like a Peking Duck that fell to floor from oven..."  My translators look at me, shake their head and start laughing out loud before they translate...I seem to stop practice for a half minute so the translators can gather themselves over my sayings...

Upcoming Games and Travel: September 20th and 21st we have "friendly" exhibition games outside the city a couple of hours each way...so we'll see how we travel on back to back games...Then, we go to Russia for 8 days...yes, 8 days, for a tournament, an international one at that, with several teams from other Euro countries, etc...That should be interesting...we're small by Euro and Russian standards, which I don't understand since they have a couple of hundred Post players in China training between the ages of 16-25...Told my GM to see if we can "borrow" a couple for this season...Our tallest player is the 7' American, then we drop down to 6'8"...yikes...

Postscript: I apologize for being so late with this initial blog after arriving, so hopefully I can begin sharing with all who care to hear about ol coach tom in China...Take care, drive safely and the next time you do Chinese, ask for "Burn to Egg Plant", I guarantee you'll love it!!!   Coach tom