Jilin Tigers: October 2007

October 29, 2007...Monday morning, 5:30am...We lost our first game last night, but that was really NOT the surprise of the evening...The OWNER of the team was...we're in the locker room and he wanted to address the team, so the Head Coach spoke, then the other two assistants and it was my turn, but, the owner took precedence over me and I kept quiet until he finished...Mr. Qu comes in with two young female assistants, carrying a Red Velour cover over a tray...they put the tray on top of the table in the middle of the room and he begins to give us a "pep" talk, talking about being like a soldier in a war, not giving up, playing hard every play, etc...Now I'm looking at the "Dissident 7" (sans Abbie Hoffman) and they're not even looking at him at all...He then concludes the meeting with "You will get big bonuses, big rewards for your victory tonight, JUST LOOK...." And with that he uncovers over 10K of Chinese Yuan on this silver tray...Now, folks, I gotta tell you something here, I've been around the world in pro basketball, and this is the FIRST time I've ever had anyone bring in money to "try" to motivate a professional team to victory...The only players who marveled at the tray were the Americans, dumbfounded by the translator's words and also what they were seeing, as I was totally shocked as well, and then I looked at the last 3 players who held out until yesterday afternoon, and they didn't give it much notice whatsoever...The reason for the strike: the new GM tore up the just agreed upon contracts with the players by the old GM and basically told the Chinese players that they would "get their bonuses and many more when the team wins..."...Good People, I KNEW right then and there we would NOT win this game as the players body language told the 'true' story of not caring, only playing because of family and friends, etc...Well, I was right...we stunk up the place...it was awful...the "3" played horrible and without their points and experience we had no shot...The locker room afterwards was quiet until after the new coach and GM left the room and then the players loosened up, like they never lost the game...It was the most surreal experience I've ever seen in my basketball lifetime, believe me...Anyway, I am preparing now for our road trip that takes us all week to the road for the next two games...Muslim cities...will try to connect with you from there...the weather "switch" has been turned on to C-O-L-D now, and I sure am glad, Bo, my son, gave me his winter hat to wear now...it'll protect what few strands up top I have left...

Postscript on Game #1: we made 5 turnovers, unforced, in 1st qr. and still only down 1 point...We started all Chinese players in the beginning, same as the other team, as you're only allowed to play the Americans 3 out of 4 qtrs. total, and only one player can play one qtr. alone, meaning that we would play DaJuan Tate, 6'5 G/F in the 2nd and save Steve C-Berr for the 2nd half...It didn't matter, as we seem to go through periodic mental lapses that I've seen before with this group when I was the Head Coach, and now the new "Dragon", has his own firsthand experience...I tried to understand his substitution patterns with the Chinese players, and it was difficult in the first half...Stretch, our 6'6" SG/SF, lanky, scrappy (most improved player out of camp in my mind), didn't get a minute in the first half let alone the game it turned out...Coach Gao, chose to start a player, Tiger, who sprained his ankle a week ago and has been hobbling on it ever since, and that was a disaster as he couldn't guard lamp post let alone a gate WITH a good ankle...He alone gave up 4 3's in the game, and could not run a lane in transition, thus making our "attack" 4 vs. 5 whenever he was on the court...Cash, our "money" man, who really plays hard in practice and makes things happen, never got out of the dressing room, as he was MIA also...This I learned from the game: you have prime time players and those who are matinee attendees, and we got some matinee attendees...I really feel for Coach Gao, and expressed the same to him after the game, sharing with him that our team distractions so close to the season's start is not an easy issue to overcome and expect optimum performances by the team in general...I also told him that we need to keep the offense simple, and not change or go into so many plays, as our guards do not do a good job of getting into the offense anyway...I will find out today if my words were accepted, as Pancake called me to tell that the coach "he feel you, coach, he know what you say..."...Best way to surmise the experience: we were as sharp as a paring knife trying to "slice" a balloon...Yeah, that bad...Overall, our defense in the half court wasn't as bad as our closeouts in transition, meaning the same players who were delinquent in matching up during the exhibitions, manifested the same "spots" again...I was so upset within, I swore I was going to take away their chopsticks...really frustrating...Coach Woods KNOWS exactly what I'm venting here about right now...take care, good people, have a safe, happy week...

Reflections about the "return" of the "Dissident 7"...On Saturday morning, at the team's hotel, we watched a video tape of the team we were going to play on Sunday...Now mind you, I had asked for this tape and the rest of the games from last season when I first arrived...The Supreme Commander at the time, remember him? Well, he had the "key" to the cabinet for such and only gave me 8 of 32 games, and none of the first two opponents...I tried so hard and continually pleaded with Pancake to "get these now, please, we need them for preparation..."...To no avail, did my request ever get fulfilled...So enter the new "Dragon", who asked me if I had any tapes...told the new Coach, that "no", couldn't get anyone to help me there...Turns out the asst. GM who was fired took the key with him and there is a law in China that says you cannot access someone else's file cabinet without their permission, so in other words NO TAPES...fortunately, the day before, on Friday we were able to finally get a copy of one game of our first opponent, Zhe Jiang, and watched it, minus our 3 top players, Cannon, team captain, Wong Bo, best team player and leader on team, and Spider Monkey, solidarity "brother" to the team's leaders...So we're watching this tape, unedited, just a TV feed, and I'm trying to read the tendencies of the players who we'll face on Sunday, especially their 7'2" Post player, Samake, who has been on this team two years now and is long and longer...Anyway, the "mood" of the brood was indicative of whether or not we were going to "play" competitively or not, as it was a somber collection of what was suppose to be an exciting time: the beginning of a new season...Shucks, I was fired up, and have been for the season's start until the Dissident 7 held out...We finished watching the video after 3 qtrs. and then return to our hotel, (Americans stay in a different hotel than the players...??), and wait until later in the afternoon for our final practice before the game...The Dissident 7 minus 4 have now joined us, and it was a relief to have those 3 back on the floor, but there was "still" something lingering between them and the rest of the team...Unbelievable...We got through the session, went over matchups and crossed fingers and toes that we would really "play" a game the next day...This was the reflection of the day before...

I will try to blog once we're settled into the Muslim area of North central China, close to Mongolia...I hope and pray that the plane has no problems getting there...evidently, the "trip" is just that: a trip...Best to all, Coach tom

October 26, 2007, Friday morning, and the drama continues here in Changchun City with the Jilin Tigers team...Just got a call from Steve Castleberry, one of the two Americans on team, who received a call from Pancake (yeah, I know, I "use" to get the calls first as Head Coach, now I get a player calling me with the info...), saying that "practice may be cancelled as the GM is meeting with the players privately and that I will call you if there will be practice this morning..."...Now THAT is a classic story in itself, in that the Chinese players have more "private" meetings than any team I've ever heard, even more than the Bronx Bombers in the Reggie Jax days of old...I mean, c'mon, are we a "team" or 10 players, two Chinese coaches and THEN the Americans? Needless to say, I have no particular reaction to this, other than I think we better win the first game at home or some of these players may be on their way to somewhere colder than what's expected here this Winter...It's really interesting, my non-reaction to this scenario right now, considering I would have been very upset if still the Head Coach and these meetings were to take place without me (one of which DID happen and I expressed to Pancake that in the future I would like to be included in these "special" meetings with Chinese players, "to learn and observe" their reactions, body language to what is being said to them by a non team person...He said that this is the way the CBA is, foreigners are not included in "special" Chinese players meetings...I then informed Pancake that there is NOT ONE NBA foreigner today that would be excluded from a "team" meeting...EVER!! That "team" means just that: TEAM...He said to me at that time: "I feel you Coach...I feel you..."...Imagine my reaction to that expression from a Chinese translator...Guess he's watched a number of HBO movies over the years...

So, as I sit here pondering today's delay, I only wonder about our "new" Head Coach, Gao...I really like this coach...He is a teacher, and a very good one...He is positive with the players, yet will speak with a voice inflection that needs no translation and my concurrence with his reaction to a not-so-smart play...He also suffers from Diabetes at the age of 43...He told me that he injects himself with insulin daily and has to be careful of what he eats and drinks...I gotta tell you, as coaches we do "suffer" some physical abnormalities that GMs have no clue about unless they too played the game and coached as well...What a non-player GM doesn't realize is that we really love our jobs, preparing practice plans daily, making notes on certain opponents tendencies when we're looking at film; thinking about words of wisdom and humor to inspire players, both individually and as a team, and of course the challenge of being technically prepared for the competitions...Once you have this adrenaline "flow" in your veins as a former player, you never lose it as a teacher and coach, trust me...I had to share the aforementioned because I worked for a GM back in the day who was so caught up in himself that he really never "got it" when it came to the people who worked with him, for him and the Club...especially when people busted their humps everyday for the "team"...he was more into making "money" for himself than what the people did to represent the team in the community for parents, kids and coaches...This "quirk" finally caught up to him, and he learned a hard lesson, but I guess he's happy because he's got "his" money in the bank after all these years...God Bless him...

Just got a call from Pancake...practice is "on"..gotta run...will complete later...

Post Practice Reflections: the "cuckoo's nest" is still intact, folks, as what I'm about to share with you now is hard to believe...I've never been one to seek vindication and/or understanding in my many years of coaching both domestically and internationally, but the issues that follow this team are quite extraordinary to say the least...When I got on the bus, I noticed that we had fewer players than the full contingent of 16 members plus Team Mgr., Asst. Coach YoYo (just returned from the U of Memphis visit with other CBA asst. coaches), Head Coach and Trainer, plus Pancake...I sit next to the Head Coach and he greets me well and I say "Ola" which is Chinese for "okay"...in Greek "okay" is pronounced "okala"...language is really intriguing to me as I make my way around the globe...back to the "Light Bus" story...so we now are not making our way to the Auditorium this morning, but going to our normal practice facility, and I don't ask why, I just go along for the "ride", as there is no need to know what is going on, they'll tell me if they choose to, otherwise they'll keep their "personal" issues to themselves...Once we arrived to the gym, Pancake catches up to me and says: "Coach, you must keep this to yourself, but we have 7 players who are on "strike"...I said they're what? "They are on strike...the substitute players, plus team captains are not happy with management about all the changes and especially their contracts and chose to "strike" this morning before we got on the bus...Do you understand this word "strike"?"...I replied of course, a strike occurs when employees are upset with management over their work conditions and wages...I then ask him if Coach knew anything about this, and he said "no", as everyone was to be on the bus at 8:30am to go to the Auditorium for practice...He was shocked and hurt by this situation at this time and "do you feel me, Coach" question at the end of his sentence...Wow, talk about the "nest" that's been built so far this early season, and now this...Now, I knew "why" I am here still, to help this young coach and young team, get through the muck that has evolved over the last couple of weeks...I ask Pancake to join me in conversation with Coach Gao, as I wish to let him know that I "feel" for him now in this current issue with the team, and if there is anything I can do to help him, please don't hesitate to ask me, as I shared that my experiences in the NBA also had players "hold out" over contract issues, only never two days before the first game...He tells Pancake that he appreciates my feelings and that there are no "secrets" with me, that together we understand what we must do to prepare the team and try to be successful, and thank you for staying with me and the team this season..."...Dang, I got one of those emotional "flushes" one experiences when you least expect your behavior to react to such words...As I said before: I like this young coach very much...he is wise and secure in who he is and what he represents professionally...I predict that someday he will become the Chinese National Coach...he's got that kind of pedigree in him...And I'll be rooting for him all the way too, when that opportunity arises for him...It'll probably be several years out, but when it inevitably happens, you "heard and read it" here first!! Okay, so now we have practice this afternoon (supposedly the "strike" is over) around 11:30pm your time on Thursday and 2:30pm our time...And we're headed to the Auditorium...I will describe the archaic "space" known as their arena...It was built by the Russians in 1951 and the asbestos ceiling tiles are STILL intact...Yesterday afternoon's practice was at this Auditorium, our first in this facility...Now, you gotta visualize this: we walk onto the floor, and at both ends of the court are suspended 60'x20' color banners of each player on the team!! And across the floor as you look up towards the last row (this place seats 4500 max) there is the most incredible "sheet" nylon poster of the team, unlike anything I have ever seen before: no seams, no overlays, an incredible 60'x200' suspended wall covering...on the opposite side wall is the another one, without pictures, just Chinese character writings, stating the following: "If we win we will love you...if we lose we will love you...but if you do not give your best effort we not love you"...Now that is what I call true "fan appreciation" for the love of the game, as it is indeed a game of "best effort" and always has been...And this theme compliments my basketball summer program: Best Effort Camps and Clinics, both programs "free" to kids and volunteer youth coaches...Back to the "relic" stage about to be opened again for business in two days...The floor is slick, no not slick, it's a smooth as my bald head, little traction...it's cold, as the only "heat"is radiated behind the benches for games, hah, who says Red Auerbach's tactics in the Old Garden didn't originate from this facility...I am going to get the "Stick It Pad" you see teams use today when they get ready to check into the game...That will really help us and our defensive positions also...I'm going to make sure that it's kept on our side of the court, and if the opponents choose to "step and wipe" on it during a FT attempt or side out play, that's fine...I gotta believe that the materials and item itself is made in China, no? Anyway, it's better than it was last season, according to Pancake and a couple of players...Chubby Checker would have had no problemos teaching the "Twist" on this floor, trust me...One end of the court has a basket that is probably 91/2 feet as the rim is bent down somewhat...I brought it to the attention of YoYo, and he said it will be corrected by game time...The seats on the bench are recycled cafeteria plastics seats (remember those in high school) and let me tell you this: they're dirty beyond grime...I took a tissue and got it wet and wiped one of the seats and the tissue was beyond dark brown, it was just plain dark...Well, glad I went through this exercise as I am bringing a washcloth to wipe down my seat on the bench EVERY GAME...I gotst me some new threads and definitely don't want to have to get it cleaned after ONE game, right? We ended up scrimmaging for two quarters and then did some conditioning drills after that...It was an eery experience to me, as the players were extremely "quiet" and almost starstruck by the nylon images suspended at both ends of the court...I watched as each of them looked at themselves and marveled in their own way to this feature and honor...Fortunately, the coaches are not included in this display...Good thing, I probably would have looked like a "poster child" for the Fuji Film Blimp, remember that dirigible? We got through the scrimmage and practice without injuries and that was a GREAT sign and sigh of relief for the coach...

My take on the "strike" issue with the "Unlucky Seven"? The level of importance to doing things the right way when it comes to administering a professional basketball team is way way low, definitely NOT a priority, as you can probably imagine by now...What will happen to the players who chose to do this? No idea, but I would think there must be some concessions by management if they are to enter the season with a team intact...Fingers crossed here, for sure...Will let you know what Wang Bo says to me about this whole thing...Guess who I ran into for the first time in two weeks? SunJun, the old GM, the Larry Bird of China basketball, at our hotel and going to a private dining room with a couple of his friends...He sees Steve C-Berr and myself and comes over and shakes our hands and I give him a hug and ask him how he is doing and all, knowing full well he doesn't speak a lick of English, so I do what I do best, "sign language" fishing pole and card playing and he gives me a "thumbs up" on both with laughter and a huge smile...Little did I realize this "wizard" knew well in advance what was about to go "down" the next day...the "strike"...Anyway, his "signing" to me was that he would call me soon...not sure if that'll happen, but wanted him to know that I am his friend and miss him...Nice moment in Changchun City...

I keep getting asked about my diet and eating habits...Let's put it this way, I munch on a breakfast bar in the morning, which I am going to need some more sent this way soon, and have my Green Tea, having "weaned" myself from coffee grounds...For lunch, please don't go "oh no, not YOU tom!!" when I tell you where I eat lunch 3-4X a week: McDonald's...Yep...Fish Sandwich...4 pieces of fried wings and thighs and Not-so-French Fries and a large sweetened Ice Tea...The fish sandwich is not bad, as it is the only mayonaised based additives I've found in China...But, I am going to stop this "visit" also, taking the first step today and not accompanying Steve C-Berr to MacDs...I have dinner on occasion in the Western style dining room, which is a terrific covered buffet...The names of some of the dishes are as entertaining as any Chaucer tale, believe me...I will have a list of the titles of some of these offerings and we will both have a chuckle together...Classic!! How are my sleeping habits now? Really good...Drs. Pepto and Pismo (Pizzmo, use your imagination on that one...) have taken a "leave of absence" from my daily, weekly, monthly life at this time, thank God, and I sleep undisturbed by the churning, burning machinations of my stomach...I really enjoy watching the old black and white movies produced by Chinese directors...these classics depict a story of oppression by the Japanese over many years and how this rule and order shaped the country into what they are today: farmers, working laborers, teachers and intellectuals, all independent of one another but ever so sensitive to their cultural ties towards communism...As I said before, their standards and operations, both civic and militarily don't scare me or bother me as much as our dependence globally upon their resources for manufacturing goods, at the expense of cheap labor...The need for equal rights when it comes to a salary structure is something that will be the greatest challenge and achievement this country could ever experience, in my opinion, and that doesn't mean much here...This city is well maintained and kept clean, for the most part...other parts of the city have structural and plumbing necessities, that I am not sure will ever get the attention it demands until their currency comes in line with the Euro and Dollar...Imagine this: One US dollar equals 7.50 Yuan...One US Dollar in Russia equals 25 Rubles...3 Chinese Yuans equals ONE Russian Ruble...and yet this country has over 9 Trillion Dollars in their coffers...No wonder we "mint" currency as often as we do, it would be too easy today to counterfeit our dollars...Right now, in China, they have a HUGE issue of counterfeit currency affecting the common folks...Everytime I use Chinese Yuan to pay for something they always inspect it first, to check for counterfeit...Street vendors evidently are the "preyed-upon" victims here in China, as their lives are one without a proper education nor the advantage of news information, thus relying on visits from Police and other civil servants who have to communicate and investigate their business transactions and get descriptions, etc...Okay, I'm tired now, and my fingertips feel like a pianist's after a couple of hours practicing "new" notes he's created for music...Less I forget, Papasan Pete Newell and my younger brother, Roger, live together in Rancho Sante Fe, California, where the firestorm raged for days this past week, and had to evacuate their townhome on Monday morning...For awhile there, we had no idea where they relocated to in SD, but finally got information yesterday that they were safe from harm's way...I spoke with Papasan this morning, afternoon his time, and he was quite talkative, sharing with me how upset that he couldn't have come back two days earlier as the fire didn't get "that close" to us...He was more worried about his personal effects in his home and some guys sneaking into the development and stealing items from him and his neighbors...Nothing to report there, all household effects in order and no imminent danger from the fire at this time...He did bemoan the fact that "can you imagine this, I had to pay $175 per night to sleep in a hotel!! I mean, for what? The water is the same, the soap hasn't changed, the bed wasn't that good, and they charge you $175..."...Told him he'd probably be able to get a writeoff since he was displaced and all...He liked hearing that part...by the way, he's 92 strong years old...haha...Shout outs again to C-Berr's Moms, Barbara, sorry my blogging hasn't been as steady as your desire to read what's happening in Changchun...hope this update helps you...You got a wonderful son in Steve...He's a GREAT young man, and you should be so proud...He works his tail off everyday, and tries to improve his game at both ends of the court...I realize now that he has never really been taught Post Play in his young basketball career...He's making remarkable strides, taking his game up a "notch"...Shout out to my family, especially Bo, who is prepping for the GMAT Test to enter grad school for business...Shout out to Big D, hope his trip to the fair ways of the Oregon coast was fun and relaxing, and the last shoutouts to Greg Witt his family, and Larry Stone, the "Stoneman" who built the platforms for our exposition game last June...remember that event? The 11' hoop game? Still think about that event often...I'm hoping my Eastside Catholic Crusaders will have a great post season in football this year, as they have an excellent teacher/coach/model in Bill Marsh and his staff...Blessings to all, thanks for sending me your emails and support thoughts...I love them all...Coach tom

Thursday evening, October 18, 2007...8:11pm...Just when you think life is a puzzle, you find out why there is a night and a day...a yen/yang...bad/evil...rich/poor...happy/sad...rain/sunshine...crazy/sane...to be or not to be...THAT is the question here...whew!!

This morning, I received a telephone call from, Pancake, my esteemed translator whom I have adopted already...I nicknamed him a long time ago, "Shortstack", because he is all of 4'8" tall, and the most incredible young person I've met, besides the players on the team...Talk about someone who "sees" no evil...speaks no evil...and hears no evil, Pancake is "da man"...no question about it...So, back to this morning...he calls about an hour before we normally leave for the gym and practice each morning...He tells me that: "My Coach tom, this is Pancake, the new General Manager wants you to lead the practice this morning and he will meet with you this afternoon, okay...thank you..."...I said to Pancake: "Whoa Nellie...slow down, he wants me to "WHAT?"..."please lead practice this morning as he would like to meet you this afternoon before afternoon practice..."...I started laughing and Pancake says, "Coach, why do you laugh?"...I tell him that he informed me last night that I am no longer the Head Coach and will be replaced by Coach Gao, former Head Coach of the Jilin Tigers in '03 when they finished in the Top 3, and haven't been back since to Playoffs...Pancake then said, "Coach, this is China, we do things differently here, I know, but this is what I was asked to translate and tell you his wishes..."...I said, no problem, Pancake, I am professional and will do what is asked of me until I am not asked anymore...

Practice: so, I get to our van and there is Steve Castleberry and DaJuan sitting in the van to wait for me, along with the Asst. coach, the new one, Coach Chong...So, I get in and tell the two Americans what is going down this morning and that I am coaching the last practice today...They both were shaking their heads and wondering what in the world is going on...Keep in mind, that I chose to invite them both the night before to my visit with Pancake, as I wanted them to experience how to accept bad news and react to it, as opposed to panicking and going off...It was a great experience for them to learn from, one that will eventually happen in their own professional lives...So we arrive safely, "Dale" was in quiet, almost cautionary driving consciousness, which is scary in itself, BUT we never heard a "honk" from any opposing drivers...Once inside the gym, I prepare the practice plan, which I ended up changing anyway, only because of a surprised guest who showed up unexpectedly...I bring the team together before we start, as I always do, and tell them that this experience as their Head Coach over the last several weeks has been the most wonderful teaching/coaching experience I've ever had the pleasure to represent...I also compared this "sudden" change and displacement by the new GM as something that was inevitable since I had not met him personally and therefore did not know his intentions, but expected same...We had a tremendous practice session, Folks, let me tell you...As we were warming up, there was a gentleman sitting on our sideline bench, observing quietly, unsuspecting to say the least, and I ask Pancake who this person was...He replies and tells me quietly: "It's our new Head Coach..."...I immediately go over and introduce myself to this gentleman, and ask him if he would like to meet the team and take over practice...He quietly replied, "no thank you" and asked if I would please just go through my practice sessions so I can observe these players for the first time...I then said "if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask me, Coach..."...He thanked me and then I went to work...What happened over the next 2 hours was an incredible exhibition of effort and hard work like you wouldn't believe...the players busted their prime flanks like you wouldn't believe...wow...then towards the last 30 mins. of practice, I always work on our presses (2) so we continue to develop "read/react" tendencies that will happen once we implement the tactic in a game...So, here we are working hard, and I decide to go over and explain to the new Head Coach what we're doing now, and how I will use various combinations to help our alignment etc...Here is where I "flew" over the Cuckoo's Nest: he tells me, "Coach Newell, this is a very good press you have designed and I think we should cooperate together and work with the players this season..."...Now I am confused, on the one hand, I hear from Pancake that the GM is going to "make me happy back to the USA" and now from this new Head Coach, that he "likes" me and my defensive tactics...AND wants me to teach him about the game this season...Now, this is where it really goes freakee deakee on me: I've been asked by the new coach to stay and my translator, Pancake, is going nutzo as he is confused by the offer and what he knows in the front office...I tell him that he is not the one to worry and be distracted, nor am I...I told Pancake that this is the crazy world of amateur sports and don't forget it...

Post Practice Partum: after saying goodbye and thank you to the players, I hugged each one and told them how much respect I have for them because of their effort over the last several weeks...As I was leaving a couple of players got teary eyed and thanked me again, privately...One was Stretch, the most improved player on the team, according to Pancake...the other was DaSen, 19 yr. old who works so hard in practice at both ends of the court, and yet goes into a deep deep funk IF he misses more shots than he takes...They both thanked me for being their teacher...Now I am getting emotional, good thing I was wearing my sunglasses at the time...It was then that I had an epiphany about what I was really here to do: and that was to teach...teach the proper fundamentals and of course the disciplines necessary to succeed in life...Pancake informs me after practice that I will receive a phone call regarding the meeting time and place with GM and owner...It's established and now I am prepared from a quiet sleepless night, to meet with the "powers that be..."...So, everything is seemingly in order, and now I await my "fate" from the owner and GM this earlier afternoon...I get a call from Pancake: "Coach, this is Pancake, ( I know I know), and the owner tells me that he will meet with you and the new GM to discuss your future..."...Hmmm, I ponder to myself, intrigued by the comment and translation that we've just received, and figure my interest in this meeting is gaining Big Mo (momentum), and I better get "ready"...Believe me, my bags were packed and I was ready-teddy to leave Changchun City until I heard an unbelievable "plea" from the owner and request from the new GM: "Coach tom, you have been very professional and have worked very hard with this team, and I appreciate all you try to do for me and Jilin Tigers...I made decision last week to change position of SunJun, GM to become VP of my management group, and bring in the former GM of Jilin Tigers...SunJun did not accept this offer to stay and learn about the business side of this club, and chose to resign...I was sad for this to happen...he is a very great person...now, I am hoping that you remember in Hawaii when I first met you, that I asked you to be my Head Coach here in Changchun...Now, I ask you to please stay and help our new Head Coach and GM bring the Jilin Tigers to the Top Division again in the CBA...The new GM has something to say to you, now..."Coach tom, I heard many good things about you and your teachings from the players and people who watch team practice...you have much experience and this team has little, but we can build a strong team together...Coach Gao came to me after watching your practice this morning and wishes for you to be his top assistant and help to be successful with the Jilin Tigers team this season...we honor your contract, and ask you to consider how you may help Coach Gao and the team...would you consider this offer?"...I told them both that I was brought here by both the owner and SunJun, to help teach this young team proper fundamentals and rid them of bad habits as well as improve their defensive understanding...I am confident that the foundation has been established, that similar to an architect, I am happy to present the team to the new GM and Head Coach so they may add their finishing touches as they see fit...yes, I will be happy to help the Jilin Tigers as their top assistant coach...thank you..."...Well, folks you shoulda seen the smile on the owner's face and his excitement with this news...he says that I am the 4th person in the "boat" that can help pull an oar and make the boat go faster..."...I was getting ready to ask Pancake "where" the boat was going, but knew it wasn't the right time...We all shook hands, and I went back to my room and called Dajuan Tate, one of our two American players, and said: "yo, I ain't leavin which means I still get to teach you how to play 1 on 1 defense and helpside defense!!"...D was ecstatic, to say the least...So were the players an hour later who saw me and wondered why I was back after saying goodbye...They all were happy to hear that I accepted the offer to help with Coach Gao, and Wang Bo was more than happy, knowing that I was going to continue to help him develop his footwork and game...

My first practice as assistant coach: it went well, I think...I wasn't ranting and barking on defensive reminders, settling in on observing and listening to the new coach's Chinese voice inflections...He is very clear in his words and explanations, as myself too, only his "style" is less exhorting...I like to use humor a lot and poor Pancake has the hardest time knowing the difference between a joke and reality...I now am absolved from ever having to make him labor over my musings...and reflections...The practice was a hard working session and the players did not disappoint the coach at all...He had the players broken down into two courts, I had the "Bigs" and the other assistant had the guards...It was a good session for me, as I got to bang the doo doo out of the bigs with a Pad that is used for that purpose...I love hittin "C-Berr" (Steve Castleberry) with the Pad, one because he LOVES contact and really does a great job with his balance, pivot-to-the-basket move, and sets a perfect model for the other players to execute...I love this kid as he really sets the tone for work ethic on this team along with Cash and Wong Bo...We did a 3 on 2 fastbreak/defensive combo drill and fortunately, no one got hurt...That drill is one of the most overrated full court drills in basketball, trust me...I seldom have seen at ANY level two defenders waiting in the paint to challenge 3 lane players in transition and something good come out of it...in fact, I have seen and experienced first hand, 3 NBA team implement this drill and watch several players get hurt and then we would have to take a break and move on to something else...Seriously, next basketball game you watch, mark down on paper the number of transition plays where 2 players on defense are standing and then reacting once the ball gets inside the 3 pt. line...seldom if at all...I love combo drills, trust me, but only if they lead to conditioning and skill development that carries over into games...

Postscript after "flyby" : I'm fine, nothing has changed per se, other than I am not the HC anymore, which I have/had no control over anyway...Now, I get to continue with my work, even more defined now, as I can connect individually with each player's skills, whereas as a Head Coach, you don't have that luxury as you wish you might have...So now I have to unpack my freakin bags, hang clothes in the closet and get excited again that I can wear my new "threads" this season...whoopeedoo!! I will be sure to send a pic of this nice suit I got last week...One day at a time now, I guess...I'll just do whatever I can to help this team back to respectability...been there done that, and it's an easy role for me to fulfill...Less I forget: here's to a BIG SHOUTOUT to C-Berr's Moms, Barb, who loves to read this "blogit' of mine or should I say she takes two advils and THEN reads it...hah...hi to all, thanks for your support and reactions of late...you guys are the best...also huge "props" to my family who have learned through the international years with me, to expect the unexpected, and that it truly "is what it is and you roll with it one way or another..."...Dang these callouses (sp) were just about "healed" from my Greek and Japan experiences...no, I am happy where I am, although I miss my family and grandson, Carter and his family as well as my friends in Seattle...Hey Larry Stoneman, thanx for your email, Brother...you too, Big D...and of course the Jorgs...much love and peace in your daily lives, Coach tom

October 17, 2007, 8:45pm, Wednesday...Well, what I suspected or intuitively "knew" from reading the outside behavior of this new owner, the new GM has sent Pancake with a "short stack" to inform me that he (new GM) is bringing in his own coach from 4 years ago, a Chinese coach, that finished 3rd out of 15 teams at the time...I have not heard a word from the owner since he introduced the "new" assistant coach last week, unbeknownst to me and the old GM, SunJun...I have a meeting tomorrow with the new GM and we're going to have a discussion regarding my contract and whether or not I will continue to be involved with the team on a consulting basis or other position...We'll see what they have contrived for this meeting and disposition...Folks, I be fine, no worries here, I have made tremendous strides with each player in their understanding of the game and improved their skills so that "someone" else can reap the harvest later...I can honestly say, "I was truly professional and brought "it" every day...the players will hear me without seeing me when they make a mistake on defense...now that is something to behold for services rendered in my book...Pancake was very upset and yet I let him down gently, saying that he must remember that he too will face some day where an owner or GM will say goodbye, thank you, and you have no control over that decision...So, it is important to remember those players, people in the office and others who helped you be successful and always remain loyal to them...that is professional...Poor fella, his GM and Asst. GM are gone, his Team Leader also, 3 people that taught him many lessons about the business of Chinese basketball, all gone...He was like a kite in the wind without string, I really felt for him...Upon reflection, I have no regrets and animosities towards anyone or anything here, just disappointment in the lack of organization, structure in scheduling, and of course in how they "don't" communicate between coach and management if you're a foreigner...Been there before, so nothing new from that end, just a small quizzical shake of the head and a smile to myself, muttering: "this is a 'new' one for sure, 10 days before the season begins...wow..."...Word is, this new GM has already brought in new sponsors...Evidently, I was in the newspapers here, pictures and all with the speculation that the old coach who was with the new GM was coming back and together they would bring back the pride and success of Jilin Northeast Tigers...Will follow up tomorrow on the outcome of meeting with GM...Have a great day...Coach tom...

October 17, 2007, Wednesday afternoon, 3:20pm Changchun City...12:20am, Seattle...We had light practice this morning for an hour and fifteen minutes, going through shooting drills on the baseline and implementing the drop step upon reception, then open up into a jumper...They did really well, some having never thought about doing footwork like that on overplays...I try to implement teaching in our shooting drills that will help them understand "read-react-attack" in their nominal offensive moves...The one player who really excelled with this was Wang Bo, Co-Captain and the leader of this team...He really listens well, and reminds me of Eduardo Najera, Denver Nuggets player, small forward who "brings it" everyday in practice and game...Such is the "style" of Wang Bo...He would not embarrass himself whatsoever in an NBA Rookie Free Agent Camp...Hope that happens for him in his career...Then we went through our scenarios when the opposing Point Guard breaks down our "Face" Press...the last couple of scrimmages we had some major non-communication issues and left shooters open as the Guard made his way into the paint...It appears that when the ball goes up, the players sometimes suffer from convenient amnesia...Kinda like back in the day, you learn how to dance to the Watusi and Slauson and then the Prom comes around and you go blank and get exposed really baaaaaad for your non-dance skills and more importantly: rhythm...

Our guys go through the "motions" really well and then suffer momentary "blankouts" when matching up on defense in the halfcourt...It's okay, though, because we have time to walk through this, talk about it and correct the miscues on rotations...After this practice we went to the indoor track for some minor interval running, which turned out to be a good "cardio" exercise, as the Training/Conditioning coach called in and said that something came up and he could not make the session...No problem, I told Pancake, the Captains and myself will come up with something to get our wheels moving and break a sweat and call it a day...This afternoon, we have no practice, as this has been the custom for the last 2 years...I don't want to "break" tradition, so I pull my "rubberwristband" and adjust to the custom...Good morning workout, for sure...Remember the "Bird flyover on a quiet tranquil beach?"...Stay tooned...

Wednesday afternoon, after returning to my room, I receive a phone call from Joe Guan, Chinese national, who helped me initially with my transition upon arrival from the US to Beijing and on to Changchun...Joe tells me that he has some news for me, but wanted to know if I had "heard" anything first...Now, I gotta tell you about Joe, he is a great person, and a good friend, but way way too negative and paranoid for me...Joe tells me that the papers in Beijing have announced that Jilin Tigers will name the former coach of Jilin from 2003 as the new Head Coach, and "what are you going to do..?"...I tell Joe, that #1, I don't worry about speculation from the Press, and if that is what the owner chooses to do, that is his prerogative and I have no control over that...He says, "but you must prepare...."...I tell him, "Joe, I was hired by the owner to coach the Jilin Tigers back in mid late August...I am the Head Coach until I am not...he owes me for 3 months guarantee and if he is crazy enough to let the "Larry Bird" of China basketball go, then he can do the same with me...it's that simple..."...Then Joe goes, why react like this, you must prepare to accept new position if new Head Coach chooses to keep you..."...I laughed and said, 'Joe, you're not listening to me: I am the Head Coach until I am not...I was hired to be the Head Coach and that is my position...if the new GM wishes to bring in his own Coach and the owner allows him to do this, then I have nothing to say, BUT will comment on it later..."...Well, Joe is beside himself now, he can't understand why I am so reluctant to accept this change...He doesn't know me very well, obviously...I told him that I don't listen to gossip from the press and speculation about what "ifs", and that is all we have to discuss here...then I asked him how his family was etc...I think Joe is a very nice person, and I really like him alot, but don't really think he understands "life" as a professional coach...he was once an assistant coach for a couple of years awhile back and hasn't coached since...He may be a little gunshy, plus he is not a teacher nor does he understand the game technically as I thought he did...But I really like him as a person...As of 3:45pm, I am still the Head Coach of the Jilin Tigers...I have asked for Pancake to call me and await his call...I hope to have the owner meet me at the Hotel so we can visit and discuss all that has gone on professionally the last 5 days...I really like this owner, and felt pretty good whenever I saw him, but then again, I'm an American and see positive in all people and things, or I try to...

What's my next move, you wonder? Well, I've packed my bags about 95% of the way, and if need be, can be on my way back IF that is what happens or goes down here...What a shame...we haven't even played our first game and already they've changed the "Larry Bird" of China basketball, SunJun, and his Asst. GM, the Supreme Commander, ( I gotta tell you, I felt vindicated somewhat when I heard he tried to pull a power trip on the new owner, and the owner didn't back down...)...10 days before our first game...Shucks, I just went out last week and bought my first suit since high school and a beautiful black blazer (first since '02) and a pair of black dress shoes, also a "first" since '96, and was really looking forward to opening night...Guess I'll "save" it for a Xmas social or something that requires black tie...wait, I don't own a black tie...I just have WWF (World Wildlife Foundation) ties that I love to wear when coaching...they're oldie but awfully goodies...Now I know that there are parents out there who are excited about this "latest" development, and I can understand why: tryouts are around the corner and they would love for me to get back into the gym on the Eastside and commence once again the training we had this past Spring and Summer...So, I will meditate heavily tonight, and have a couple of GandTs, and figure out the scenarios that may occur and how I will react to them...First off, I will make sure that whoever informs me of the 'change' understands that I have a contract with the owner and team and it will be honored professionally...If they decide that they wish for me to continue as an Assistant, then we will do a "new" contract for more money and I will consider that option AFTER I sit down with the new Head Coach and hear his words through Pancake...IF that is one of the scenarios...Another scenario could be this: they want me to coach the team BUT also want this coach as my Co Head Coach...Would I do that? I would consider that as an option, we still would be 4 coaches less than Coach Ed Pepple's staff!! Hah! Now you may wonder if I have "already" had a GandT session downstairs, and I can honestly tell you, no, I have great peace of mind and a quiet heart with the speculative news from Joe Guan and his newspaper readings...My "meter" is working well, it's strong and a lot of great "teaching" years ahead, trust me, so this would not be a setback at all, just another "entry" in my basketball journals...

By the way, I received an Official Invitation to direct the first ever Education and Sport Symposium/Workshop in Vladivostok, Russia, after the season here concludes...I made friendships with the President of the Club and his assistant, Victor Egupov, on the last evening of our stay in their city three weeks ago...It was then that I shared with them about the Best Effort Camps and Clinics module that we have introduced in Seattle and Oregon over the last several years, as well as other countries that I have been fortunate enough to visit...The Russian Government in Education and Sports Development in conjunction with the U S Consulate in Vladivostok, Russia, have invited yours truly to be the headliner for this inaugural event, sometime in mid February when the season concludes...I am ecstatic to have this invitation for introducing a training, teaching model to the volunteer youth coaches and other coaches in basketball there...This is what has inspired me all these years, from my first experience as a Player/Coach in Belgium, just out of college in '71 for two years, and never forgetting working in small Belgie villages, no heat, poor lighting and kids so excited to have an American teach them the game...This is my way of being an Ambassador to the game worldwide, and I am blessed beyond words for each experience, trust me...Well, I'll "blogit" tomorrow sometime, unless I hear otherwise earlier...Take care, buckle up, stay warm and give your kids a hug before they leave for school...Coach tom

Saturday morning, 8:45am, we're getting ready for our 9am practice...all players are accounted for and this will be the 2nd Saturday in a row that we scrimmage 4 quarters, 10 minutes apiece, 2 Officials on hand, 24 second clock, we got it goin on this AM...We warm up for a half hour, I have two teams, one Red Jersey, the other Black Jersey, and the Black Jersey team is comprised of the players who will contribute the most time and productivity along with 3 other players from the Red team, which includes Steve Castleberry, our 7'er out of Rider University...Our offense is behind our defense in my opinion but closing in fast as we scrimmage at least two quarters a practice during this past week...Our conditioning is probably around 90% right now, with two weeks away from Official Tipoff to the CBA season...The Black Team scored 106 points, four less than what I asked them to come up at halftime when they had 54...We have finally "bought in" to the early offense known as "Denver"...I've used this for many years now, having learned it from breaking down former Nuggets Coach Doug Moe's offense when they led the league in scoring for several years...In my opinion, I have NEVER seen a more simple, uptempo transition attack offense after made or miss baskets in basketball, with the exception of Paul Westhead's Early Offense...Doug Moe may never get into the Hall of Fame, folks, but let me tell you something, he "knows" offensive basketball better than any coach I've ever seen or learned from to date...Our defense had some outstanding "stops" and transition layups off our disruptive pressure system (thanks to Coach Ernie Woods philosophy) and I actually got "goosebumps" several times just watching them prey upon the wing drives by the Red team only to be thwarted by the Black Team's "weakside" rotation and trap or recovery once the dribble was picked up...Did I mention that our new assistant coach was not present at this practice this morning...? Neither was SunJun...which REALLY concerned me AND Pancake, as it meant something "was wrong...but what...?" as Pancake would ask me...Scrimmage was over, teams praised for their effort and reminded to always finish the game the "right way" and not disrespect it by not playing hard to the end no matter what the score is...We had a couple of minutes at the end when several players chose to go half speed and that "caught" my attention in a hurry, but I waited until we finished play...They "got" the message clearly...

Afternoon Session: Weight lifting and light running on indoor track...2:30pm to 4:00pm...We gathered as a team, including the novel appearance of our new assistant coach, and received word from the Team Leader, Happy, that SunJun was "fired" this morning by the new owner and that he wishes the team great success and he will speak to the team on Monday..."..."Splaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat"...

The players immediately went into a catatonic stare, not looking at anyone, anything or anywhere, minds transfixed away from their immediate surroundings, impacted by a language I don't understand yet, their expressions told me that Pancake was about to tell myself, Dajuan and Steve, that SunJun was fired and gone from the team...Poor Pancake, he understood only one leader in his young life as a worker "bee" in the Jilin Tigers team, and that was SunJun, his idol as a young boy growing up and watching him on television...It was SunJun who gave him his opportunity to become a translator last season...For Pancake, today was the most "sad day I ever know in my life, Coachtom...I cannot reach my leader, and I want to go home and be with my family now..."...He asked me what he should do, and I told him that he needed to take time for himself tomorrow and write a letter to SunJun thanking him for his trust and confidence and the opportunity to learn and work under him these last three years..."...Pancake said what will the team do now, and I told him we do our jobs to the best of our abilities until we don't have a job anymore...All one can do is be himself/herself and know that their work was honest, and they gave their best effort...I'm not sure if Pancake believes in "Tomfucious Says"...Oh, less I forget, the owner of this team has not paid the two Americans nor myself when it was due on the 1st of Oct...Pancake says he spoke to the owner and he said he "thought his accountant had made arrangements already..."...Monday is suppose to be the "magic" day...Why do I keep thinking that this assistant coach is being put in "place" by the owner before the season starts...Hmmm, it is what it is, and will be what it will be and that will be that...redundancy in this particular case is acceptable Mrs. Ellsworth (6th Grade English teacher back in the day...)...

Assistant Coach exchange at this afternoon's practice: I am here to assist you, Coach, only to assist you, I was approached by the owner, and he likes you...This according to Pancake...We'll find out if I'm his "American Idol" this Monday...Why Monday? Because he will "owe" both Americans and myself two payments...You see, folks, I have been in this situation a couple of times before on two different continents and nothing surprises me anymore at this time on my "meter"...We'll see, my "gut" feeling is that the owner will honor his contract with me until he doesn't...

Does missing two payments qualify as "until he doesn't?"...not sure, we haven't even played a game yet that counts...Oh, by the way, he also fired the Asst. GM, the Supreme Commander, the night before...evidently the Supreme Commander tried to "pull" rank on him about something and the owner wouldn't have it and basically told him "adios"...or something to that effect...this, according to Pancake...

Stay tooned...I am fine...worried? No...surprised...?...for sure...am I packing my bags? No...will I? No...Why? Because "if" this owner were to change coaches now, he would have done it already and he knows that he would really be bringing "bad" karma upon himself BEFORE the season even begins...And yes, my disappointment in all of this is knowing that I won't be able to work with SunJun...He is a wonderful person, people, and the team he has put together is a GREAT talent base of young players with a couple of veterans that could make us the surprise of the league...Keep me in your meditative thoughts, and if any of the parents out there of kids who I train are "hoping" I come back early, thanks, but I would really like to finish what I started...God Bless America...and each of you...Coach tom

October 12, 2007...Friday morning...Practice has begun, it's about 9:30am, we've been at it for 30 mins. now...So, let me digress, transgress or regress, your choice here friends...Hmmm, how do I set up the visual here...?

An idyllic Caribbean Beach in the West Indies, no one around you, everything is quiet,except for the intermittent sound "waves" rolling ashore... blue skies above, no clouds on the horizon, just the sails of passing yachts...and you're thinking to yourself: "this is great, quiet, no phone calls, no interruptions, tranquility has no ending at this point laying on the sand...eyes closed, it's too good to be true...and then all of a sudden: splaaaat (similar to an egg yolk being turned over by a 8 year old on a frying pan)...I raise up, eyes open only to see the tailfeathers of the only freakin BIRD in the sky...AND "it" FOUND ME...

Back to practice and the pending mental pause that interrupted our practice plan...I was "summoned" to the sideline during a Wing Release/Denial/Backcut Defensive Drill (and we were really doing well with this sequence, mind you), and here was the owner, with an older gentleman alongside of him, no SunJun, GM of team, the fella who is the "Larry Bird" of China basketball, absent from this summons, and my translator Pancake, who has this look upon his face, similar to my look when my first "meal" in Russia two weeks ago was Russian Chinese Food...Anyway, the owner me wants to "meet" the new Assistant Coach that he has hired to help me, since the young assistant coach is currently in Memphis with 15 other CBA (Chinese Basketball Coaches) observing the U of Memphis Men's Basketball program at the invitation of Coach John Calipari, Men's coach there...So, for the last week I have been working well with the team, making unbelievable headway with all the players and excited about our progress, and just like the scenario on the aforementioned beach, I am introduced without any prior knowledge from the GM that we were adding a "coach" to the staff...Our owner then asks to address the team and now introduces same to the players and they too had that same "Splaaat" look upon their faces when the owner was through explaining who this person was...Now, keep in mind, I wear a rubber band on my left wrist to "remind" me always that in basketball one has to be flexible and make adjustments at any time...this was an "any time" episode that called for me to stay focused and get through our practice to the end...I figured the new assistant would be sitting on the sideline watching and taking notes, and after we broke from a short water break, he was gone...I mean, I was looking for him: he was wearing Army Fatigue pants with dress shoes, a vest covering a long sleeve shirt and a smile that indicated he needed to change the filter cigarettes he smokes because it was having a negative effect on the enamel of his teeth...and he was gone...I asked Pancake where he was, and he said he didn't know...Our two American players asked me if the new assistant coach was going to watch the rest of practice, and I said your guess is as good as mine...The beach scene "wipe" after the "splaaat" obviously ruined the rest of the practice...We struggled for the next hour and a half, and my hopes and wishes for a "safe" practice was met with just that: no one got hurt...Before practice, I always meet with the team and review what we're going to focus on in practice and tell them how hard we must work and help one another improve, and this morning's pre-practice meeting was concluded with a 'surprise' from me: "how many of you would like to go swimming this afternoon?"...you should have seen the smiles and heard the laughter when it was translated...I "knew" then, that my "beach" day was about to be perfect, especially after the first four weeks of transition and new skills learning these players have experienced to date...After practice, I asked Pancake to call SunJun, so I could find out what was going on and why he didn't fill me in on this visit and addition...Pancake said that SunJun "he apologize, he sorry but did not know himself that new assistant was put in place and he will see you tomorrow morning at practice (Saturday)..."...Hmmm, I said to myself, "that is NOT a good sign, the GM, the most popular basketball person in China "knows nothing about this owner's move...", where I come from (NBA-wise), that sends me a non verbal message that all is not right in Shangra La...and I was to be right about that "feeling" later...

Swimming Pool Practice: we had a BLAST!! The players were so excited and had so much fun in the pool with one another, I wish I had a camera to record the smiles and fun that was had by all...First off, this indoor pool had two pools, one Olympic size pool and the other a half-size Olympic 6' deep surround pool that we used...We "warmed" up with some leg stretching, then some 4 step sprints with interval 4 step walks, then we did a 4 man "weave" with a bathing cap and believe me when I tell you how much fun they had with that set...I ended up having a contest with 4 teams, having them go down and back with the winning time getting four Gatorades...Gosh, you should have seen how each team was being cheered on by the other...It WAS a Kodak moment and for an hour and a half no one remembered what had transpired earlier in the morning...oh yeah, didn't see the assistant coach in a swim suit either...he was AWOL...not sure where he was...no one asked either...less I forget, I was not in the pool in my Speedo as the other players were, including Pancake...Man oh man, did we have a blast...My "next" surprise will be a bowling party with Pizza Hut pizzas next Friday night...we'll also have teams then...I'll fill you in on that "if" there are no "other" changes in order...by the way, our season starts officially October 28th, at home...I'll include the schedule to our website...it is a shortened season this year in the CBA because of the Olympics coming to China in '08 and the CBA wants their National Team Players training in preparation for this event...So that means it will be over in late Feb. if the Playoffs go our way...My next blog will cover Saturday and the "rest of the story..." Part II...Coach tom

Wednesday, October 4...Team Picture Day...and the day that Spider "graduated" from Pastry School to Technical School...

As a coach of any team, any sport, any time, you always hope and wish that talented players on your roster play the game with a sense of maturity and discipline that complements their athleticism, all the time not knowing "if" the light will ever take effect...Ladies and Gentlemen, my former students/players, fellow colleagues, I wish to tell you that a miracle has indeed happened!! Spider Monkey (his chosen nickname from many years ago) has "arrived"...He approached me today and through the wonderful translation of Pancake, my Chinese national translator, Spider sat down next to me, very closely, and with his hands and eyes (making direct contact with me) apologized 3 times about his lack of respect for what we were trying to do as a Team, and again for not taking the game seriously as he should and would I please accept his apology and help him be a better basketball TEAM player...Wow!! Now, those of you who 'know' me, know that I probably got goose bumps, felt like a tear or two well up, and just thanked God for the prayers being answered regarding this young man's plight on our team...My discipline, encouragement and constant reminders to eliminate the bad, lazy habits on defense (reaching in on the ballhandler, getting beat over the top because of a lack of push point discipline that should have carried over from practice to games), was now established in this young man's mind and he completed this confession by explaining that "I believe we will be in the Top 3 in the CBA and I want to be part of that, coach..."...I told him that I really like him as a person and that he is fun to be around UNTIL he steps on the court or in the locker room and then he continues to act "like you're 15 years old and NOT 25, soon-to-be 26...that for us to contend for any success, we need you as a capable Point/Guard/Leader and I want to help you become the best Team Player you've ever been this season..."...He said "thank you" and I reciprocated the same, and then shook his hand and hugged him before his peers...It was that act alone that I will reflect and say later "the defining moment" of acceptance as coach of this team...It was a wonderful, contrite gesture, that, honestly, I have had the experience before coaching in the NBA and working with high school and college players who at one time or another made the game "personal" and chose not to accept discipline as element to personal and team success...

Will follow this up with today's practices...This morning's, Thursday, was a wonderful session, and I am just a gigglebug right now, because the "light" is on in our gym now and for a coach in a dark tunnel a week ago, it's mighty fine and fun to see the path before us...clearer that is...Coach tom

Ouch!! Korea 72-China 66...2 pt. shooting percentage 64%...3 pt. shooting percentage 24% (8-34)...We were 8-16...they were 18-27...We had a 14 point lead at one point in the 1st Qtr. and played Team Defense the best we've attempted so far...it was fun to watch the players react, they were active, their hands were in the ready position for deflections, we "pounced" on their overdribbles...UNTIL, we fell apart at the offensive end...My philosophy with this team to date is "value" possession, take any OPEN shot you have, but IF it continues to fall short, then we must move closer to the hoop, either by a foot or two or DRIVE...we did neither, but I am not worried nor upset with the outcome...Remember: lessons taught/learned is knowledge gained (hopefully)...So far, I have "baptized" each player into the "fire" of playing solid Team defense and verbally reminding them of such at all times...It is becoming so apparent to me and THEM, they are beginning to realize where they forgot to rotate and where they ended up not being in a help rotation position because they were ball watching...That mistake and acknowledgement by the offenders...err, defenders is accountability in its infancy and man oh man is it fun to watch them look at me after the mistake, nod and THEN make the correct defensive stop on the next possession...Now those are the "small" steps were making to my delight, and theirs of course, because they don't hear me shouting out reminders: "Hand in the lane...Push Up, contact deny...switch out with a hand in the lane...keep him on the sideline, no overtop penetration...The Koreans to their experiential credit and coaching staff, remained steady in their attack offensively, finally going inside on our perimeter switches and our inability to keep pressure on the ball with our active hands, plus NOT slip fronting the Post ups by their bigs, thus allowing a mismatch 1 on 1 advantage that favored them in the end...We haven't had enough practice time to learn how to implement a "GO" situation on Double Downs vs. playing behind the Post on isolations, BUT we will...Overall, I was EXTREMELY happy with the application and effort...Even Hic Cup overcame his "burpees" and played under control and learned from his mistakes at both ends...He didn't pass once behind his back for an entry pass to the Wing...nor did he overdribble and drive baseline to nowhere...Told him so, also...The one person that was finally "baptized" into our new philosophy tonight was one of our Team Captains: Cannon...He "chose" to not fulfill his responsibility on defense when his shot wasn't dropping from the 3 area, didn't make the effort on a turnover when he got trapped and threw it away, not once, but twice, and THEN chose to "demand" the ball in the last 2 mins. when we were down 6 pts. and the point guard called out a "team" play...Now, this was a "Kodak" moment because DT who was the "point" with the ball and was trying to run the correct play at the time told him to "go" and Cannon begged for the ball, forgetting the last time he posted up they sent 2 players down to triple team him and he still forced the misguided shot...To make matters "perfect" for me and his teammates what he didn't "do" next was provide me a wonderful opportunity to show him the bench, probably the first time in his CBA career anyone has EVER done that to him before...it was...Glory!! So he comes out, Cash (backup Big Forward) in, and "our" Captain goes over to the bench, pouting, upset and proceeds to kick one of the chairs over, I watch this not saying a word, and so happy to see this emotion come out, a reaction that his teammates "see" and realize that "Coach newell" really doesn't play favorites, he benched our Captain because he didn't play Team basketball..."...Now, I learned this move from Coach Phil Jackson, early in his Bulls career when he chose to go to "someone" else for the last second shot out of a timeout, that being Toni Kukoc over Scottie Pippen...It was an ugly well publicized "act" of demarcation and "team" defining moment...The play worked for Toni, Scottie sulked, pouted BUT overcame his personal reaction and momentary mental lapse on the bench when he spoke out to Phil and then to the Press, only to be humbled soon after and the rest of the story is that he went on to win another Championship with Michael and will undoubtedly be enshrined into the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts...I remembered well "that" lesson taught/learned for future knowledge gained...and now, several thousand miles and many years later, I have the opportunity to apply it early in our relationship as the Coach and he as the incumbent "captain"...After the game, I had few comments other than "we're getting closer, and Cannon, you will learn that we operate as a team and that is #1 in all that we do at both ends...We will learn together, practice together, play together, and be successful or not together...our goals are simple, attainable but difficult to achieve if we don;t have all the players on the same page...When I accepted this position, I had heard all the stories abot how difficult it was to "get" the Chinese players to "change" their ways, habits and way they play the game...well, I disagree, I am slowly affecting how they understand what hasn't been taught, something Pete Newell has always espoused: "teach the 'why' to you players and that will lead them to a new awareness and respect for the game..."...He is so right, especially with this team right now...We have players who are "buying" in and speaking up, not just sitting back, waiting for someone else to say something...Believe me, this has nothing to with power or authority here, it has everything to do with how can we be better in a very short time than we were last year (11th Place out of 16)...Any "power" to be recognized, will be the team's resolve to collectively play the game as "one"...therein "lies" the power...I can hardly wat for our next full practice, so we can get into Traps: full court and half...I am really blessed to have had the experiences of learning under Bob Kloppenburg and my present day confidante and "DoJo", Ernie Woods...Together, they have provided me with the foundation and applications that have inspired my present day confidence in teaching Disruptive Pressure Defense...go online at Hooptactics and learn the simple templates for introducing DPD at any level...I'm tired, encouraged and looking forward to or next "Lab" session...thanks for taking the time to read my "blogits", hope you enjoy what I am experiencing to date...Coach tom

**Sorry for the delay on the Korean game and being offline the last 2 days...it was difficult to get to the hotel where they have WI-FI setup, and with our team's practice schedule and "other" venue visits, it was not to be...We are now back in China, arriving early this afternoon on Tuesday...I am really excited for our team's progress...We had an outstanding practice yesterday, Monday, Oct. 1st in Russia...We were able to really get into some excellent part method teachings, where I like to use combination Offense/Defense scenarios and skills that will help improve our "reads" on both ends of the floor...We have several players who dribble the ball like they lost a contact lens...slowly we're breaking those habits...Last night the Russian delegation for the tournament invited me to join them and the Supreme Commander, Asst. Team Manager, at their table in the Chinese Restaurant where we had our meals...The Team President/Owner and his Assistant, Victor were very gracious hosts...This tournament was well organized and the people were extremely helpful and kind...After we exchanged stories about basketball life in America and where I've been in this world, they both were extremely intrigued by my Grass Roots training program for youth coaches...So much so, that I have an "open" invitation to return to conduct one week's clinics for their coaches in Vladivostok...I am excited for the opportunity to share the "game" with a foreign country, all in the name of global peace and awareness...I AM blessed!! Okay, I'm tired, need some rest, as we have our "team" pictures tomorrow morning at 8:15am...Was told to "bring" everything that was given to me in a box that had the Jilin Tigers gear...Guess they're going to "shoot" several different shots with sponsor gear, etc...And let me tell you something: this gear is dynomite!!! I'll get a shot of this "parka" that they gave me and the players on the team...It took up half the box...Now I know why I was told 'not' to bring any winter clothes: they won't help!! But this parka, I think, was designed for the Sherpas, so I'm in good feathers as they say...have a great week...Coach t