Jilin Tigers: November 2007

December 1, 2007...1:15am Saturday morning...the title says it all, the score confirms it: 105-98 or something like that, still can't get a stat sheet...go figure...This loss was NOT because the players didn't play hard or want to win: we were outcoached tonight...I'm being honest as I possibly can be here...We didn't make the necessary adjustments in the 2nd Qtr. like we should have and the outcome was predictable by the end of the 3rd. Qtr...I ain't goin 'there' in regards to Coach Gao...I respect him and believe he wants the best in each player, BUT, his inexperience technically shows in games like these...it's too bad, 'cause we had a chance to make an adjustment...good thing I chew gum to keep my mouth shut after suggestions...

Okay, we're on the road again in 4 hours..play Sunday evening, home Monday night, then we have 3 straight home games...hopefully we can begin the 2nd half of the season on a positive...we have 9 games at home this go round...we'll see what happens...Folks, I am feelin this one deep down, only because as coaches we always want to put our players in a position to succeed and NOT fail...we did just the opposite, I'm afraid...hopefully we'll ALL learn from this...you know: "lessons learned is hopefully knowledge gained..."...I want to bring everyone up to speed on the cultural experiences to date, so this weekend will be a treat for all...good stuff atextin your way...Coach tom...
November 30th, Wednesday evening Post Game Thoughts and Whatevers...We lost a really tough one tonight, friends...How tough? 100-99!! On the road in Beijing, no less, and we played our hearts and left it ALL on the court...It was a really tough loss when you consider we went up 3 with the ball,less than 1:50 left in game, and a "phantom" call is made on a reception baseline in front of our bench, "stepped out of bounds before catching pass", was the call on Wong Bo, our best Chinese player and National Team member...Let me tell you this, I watched Wong Bo come from one side of the court to the other and no one was guarding him in their Zone defense on this particular play, and he spots up in the corner, gets a perfect pass from the guard, and squares up (front turns INSIDE the 3 point line), drawing the defense and all of 2 FULL seconds goes off clock on his jab step and then the "whistle blows...Now you gotta let me "vent" here a little bit: this was what is called a "bulldeposit" call if there was ever one to be made...I mean OUT OF NOWHERE was this call made...If they review Officials games here, and I'm not sure they do, this cat is going to lose the "pea" in his whistle 'cause he made that one up...Anyway, we had the ball with 6 seconds to go at halfcourt, and inbound to D Tate, who jab steps and crossover dribbles right by the perimeter defender and I'm thinkin "yeah, he's got a wide open mid range jumper for sure, BUT, instead he takes another dribble and goes for the hoop on a drive, facing 7' Michael Fey, former Washington state (Tacoma, I believe) high school phenom who went to UCLA and got lost in Westwood for 4 years as they went through 2 coaches...So, DT stops, up fakes and there's contact but not enough to draw the foul and his shot gets blocked to another teammate, Cash, who then with .08 on the clock shoots a short corner jumper only to have it hit the side of the basket and the game is over...Now I gotta tell you something, I don't need to run laps around a track, swim for an hour, or ride a stationary bike for 45 mins. to get my "cardio" in order and burn calories...This game tonight took off a comfortable 6,000 I'm sure...It was that exciting...We played defense aggressively and consistently well, made crucial stops when needed and we all were on the same page UNTIL...the new GM comes off the end of the bench early in the 4th qtr. to go off on an Official's call and gets whistled for a "T"...this mind you when we're only down 5...the guy hits 2 FTs then they get the ball out of bounds and proceed to score another field goal meaning that we have given up 4 pts. with NO time off the clock and now down 9 with the ball...THAT hurt obviously, as the outcome of the game indicates...The team to a man and the staff as well, we're disappointed and "knew" that "we wuz robbed..." but they shrugged their shoulders and tell me: "Coach, this is the CBA, these things happen like this..."...All I can say is that the Chinese are a lot better getting over disappointing losses than any high school, college and NBA coach and team I've ever been around...I told the fellas that I was so proud of their "Warrior spirit and best effort tonight, that we played team defense as well as we ever have and that IF we continue to work together and help one another on defense, we will not be disappointed at season's end..."...And I mean that! Okay, we just finished a team dinner...It was very good, nothing distasteful or bitter to complement the feelings we had after a very tough loss...We leave for Changchun City, where I'm living now, in about 5 hours...it's a two hour flight and hopefully we'll NOT have any practice as the fellas don't NEED to get on the court, rather they need REST and RECUPERATION...DT pulled his hammy again, YET PLAYED his "posterior" off like you wouldn't believe...This young man has a chance to perhaps play in the NBA someday, folks, as he continues to improve his overall game at both ends...After reflecting upon his last move in the game with the ball, he honestly felt that he should have "pulled up and taken the jumper, but it was a clear lane to the hoop and I thought I could get there, finish and draw a foul..."...I love his courage and willingness to go strong at the end...He's a cross between Raja Bell of the Suns, and Bruce Bowen of the Spurs...You might hear about him someday as a "unknown" who played overseas and came back to the League...I hope so, he's a wonderful person to work with and I really love his energy...he has NO FEAR whatsoever when he plays...100% full out...my kind of Team Player...

Okay, enuff of that...I'm tired, disappointed but happy with the effort of tonight's game...We played well enough to win...Lessons learned hopefully, is knowledge gained...Good night, blog to y'all soon enough...Thanks for caring and wondering how life is in China...Take care, safe travels to all...Coach tom

November 26, 2007...Monday afternoon...We're all smiling in Beijing...120-99...yes, ONE HUNDRED and 20 points in ONE GAME by the Jilin Northeast Tigers last night...We came out focused and made one huge adjustment on offense that set the tone for the game and eliminated all tentativeness on the part of guard play by having Wong Bo, Power Forward, play Point Forward for us this game...He had an outstanding floor game: 11 points...8 rebounds...8 assists...1 turnover...We had 6 players in double figures with D Tate leading the way with 40 points...and he ONLY had 3 at halftime...go figure...Our team defense was solid as were are decision-making with the ball in the half court...If only we could "bottle" this persona, make a couple of cases, and take the potion hope with us...I had a pregame conversation with our best overall athlete on the team, "Cash", who has been struggling the last two outings...He came to my rooms after our meeting in Coach Gao's room (a gameday ritual usually at 4pm when the contest begins at 7:30pm)...Pancake also was there to translate for the both of us, although Cash understands my "Chinglish" better than most...Anyway, I wanted to find out firsthand what was bothering Cash, and how he felt about his malperformances at home lately...Let me tell you how much I really respect and care for Cash: he is MORE important to this team than anyone else per se, because he can guard 4 positions (sans the opposing Center), and play 3 positions...He also brings an energy and spirit to the team that is lacking for the most part and to me a 'breath of fresh air' when all else seems to go awry when we struggle out there on the floor in close games...So anyway, he tells me thru Pancake that "I was trying to play so well for our fans that I couldn't do anything right..."...Hmmm, THAT sounds familiar doesn't it? How many of you have witnessed your own sons and daughters struggling at home in their sports activity, only to find out later that they were trying to play their hearts out for you...As Cash continued to "release" the burden of thoughts past and perhaps rekindled for tonight's game, I reminded him, that basketball is a team game, meaning that he has no control over his teammates missed shots, lack of rebounding, poor passing and less than perfect effort, that ONLY he has control over his own performance and that "control" is perfect because it is EFFORT...He looked at Pancake translating and then at me and you could see in his eyes and facial expressions that he understood exactly what ol coach tom was sharing with him now...And pffffht just like that he broke out in a smile and thanked me over and over again, saying that he now knows NOT to put the burden of playing perfect as opposed to giving one's best effort...Now, I gotta tell y'all something here, I am on another continent, coaching in China, having a wonderful historical experience and I STILL get goosebumps talking with students of the game...for that I am so appreciative to experience this still...Little steps lead up steep mountain, and I am gaining more and more confidence with my relationship with the players and coaches...

Beijing Observations: This place is awaiting the World, that's for sure...their "theme" mantra for the Olympics in '08 is "One Dream...One World..."...They are definitely preparing highways, buildings and the airport itself for this most epic event in Asia to date...Imagine the World descending upon Beijing and China in general, for the first time...10 out 10 people in the free world are wearing or using some item in their daily lives that has been made, manufactured, worn or used that was made in this country...I will have more on THAT subject soon...it is mind provoking phenomenon that, frankly, has me scratching my head and wondering "if" we're ready for China emerging as "the" country of the future...Trust me, when I lay out the similarities in their approach to Western Civilization, well, you'll get the picture real quick...Okay, I'm a stoppin this blogit, as I am back from a most wonderful team dinner where we had "hot pot" cooked lamb and vegetables...Let me say this: this food is so fresh and unbelievably healthy, it makes you wonder about the paranoia that's been generated to date about their toys ect...Will get back to you tomorrow...

Thanks as always for taking the time to read my blogits and perhaps share them with others...I gotta Big Shout Out for my main man, Larry Stone and Family...This cat's so cool they gotta put the "heat" on during the summer...Also, want to wish Jeff D'Ambrosio the best wishes in his debut as the varsity boys coach at Mt. Si...He will do well there, I believe, because he cares for the kids FIRST and NOT after they get in trouble...see you shortly...Coach tom

November 24, 2007...Saturday morning on a flight to Beijing to play two away games vs. another alphabet and linguists challenge...This I know, I was never an Asian in a previous life because there is an incredible mind discipline that is required to learn Chinese, Japanese and Korean, all languages that I have been fortunate enough to experience listening to, and picking up personal greetings in my coaching career...I say this out of respect for the various cultures that we as human beings occupy on this planet, and with great reverence towards each culture's way of life, from Family, business, holiday, birth, death and of course the celebrations of marriage and New Years, which seem to be their "Times Square" extravaganza that is more traditional than our imbibing "party atmosphere" socials...Get this: the Chinese literally celebrate their new year with family gatherings, friendly gatherings, office gatherings, community gatherings, organizational gatherings and any-kind-of gathering you wish to celebrate in the New Year...and it lasts a couple of WEEKS!!! Now, understanding this, there are two things to keep in mind and remember: they won't do business during this time with anyone, they won't start wars, they won't hurt anybody, and they will be very respectful of others (which they are already for the most part in my observations), meaning that we can rest assured that this fast accelerating culture is on the edge of influencing the standards of living, wealth, capitalism (under more of a socialist rather communist infrastructure>their last General Assembly in October passed resolutions allowing the "freedom of expression of religious beliefs...as long as it is NOT public and without the approval of the provincial government"<, class separation being more and more defined by the large number of educated citizens and the labor forces that are loyal to the country...This I predict: as long as they do nothing to educate children and adults on the hazards of smoking, given the terrible smog issues of these rapid developing business zones in every major city, they will have an epidemic health issue BEYOND anything that the modern world has EVER seen or heard in this century...I would venture to say that at least 8 out 10 men ages 21-60 SMOKE cigarettes!! They smoke on the job, they smoke in their cars, taxis, homes, in public places (even some of the arenas), restaurants, yet there are some venues where it is not allowed but they are in such a minority and isolated that the only benefit would be to the workers themselves who are not exposed to second hand smoking...Get this: there is actually a cigarette filter that is "Vitamin C Enriched" and comes in a pack of 10...It costs about $4 USD, and many OLDER men in their 40s on up, start using this method of smoke-aides...Now I don't know about you, but if they, the Chinese can develop this type of "filter" with Vitamin C blending with the smoke of a cigarette, they gotta be able to come up with a "Smog-free Filter Mask" that has Multiple Vitamins, right? When it hits the market, I'm headin to LA and New Joisey with suitcases full of same...put your orders in early!! Another interesting tidbit on their cigarettes: the peasants smoke cheap cigarettes...the affluent packs that cost between $6-$30 A PACK!! Yes, $30 a pack...The leaf is government owned and operated meaning that money is being made off every pack of cigarette sold in this country...I know that they use these funds for road improvement, social welfare and development of technology and education, but the real issue here is that the monies gained should go towards education and awareness and prevention of smoking, otherwise they will be faced with the catastrophic costs of dealing with major health issues, which I'm sure they are now BUT keeping under wraps...$6-$30 per pack!!! Wow...Okay, enuff of my observations and commentary on Chinese culture from my Irish perspective...on to my basketball trilogies...If I offended anyone with the aforementioned observations, I apologize and hope it helps you understand how important it is to teach our children NOW on the hazards of smoking while there is still time...If they are given the education of vitamins as a necessity for good health and THIINK that smoking with a Vitamin C filter is cool and won't give you cancer...Oh boy, somebody pass out the "smart pills" please...

November 20th, 'our' celebration of Thanksgiving Day in the RedBuds Hotel...Myself, Steve Castleberry, DaJuan Tate and his bride, RaRa, together with Babacar, sat down to our traditional T Day meal after practice...We only had an hour and a half to "enjoy" our dinner together, as we had to catch a cab and go across town to the Chinese players' hotel where we would review a video of our next game, which was last night...Forgive me if I don't expound on the misery of late, suffering through two consecutive home losses when I thought we had turned the corner as a Team on our last road trip...Back to the Chinese Thanksgiving Dinner...the day before I met with the Manager, Andy Zu about seeing whether or not we could have a "special" American traditional dinner prepared for us in the hotel...I asked him kindly if this were not an imposition upon his Chef and staff...He was so excited that we would even consider staying at the hotel to eat there and have the confidence in their Chef to prepare such a meal...He told me to come back after our morning practice and visit with him again, but he saw no problems with the affair...I returned to the hotel and together with C-Berr, we met with Andy and the Executive Chef, who was more than willing and excited to take on this request...I wrote out our menu: COOKED Turkey...Mashed Potatoes...Green Beans...Gravy...Cranberry Sauce (that one was never translated properly as we ended up getting "bolognaise sauce" as the apparent "red" sauce that I was talking about...go figure...), and of course Pumpkin Pie...Folks let me tell you this, the Chef tells me he "found" a Turkey in Changchun and will cook the whole bird for us, "no problem" was the answer always during this brief meeting...I came away and so did C-Berr with the idea that, really, here in China, we will have Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie...Now all we had to do was practice this afternoon and show up for dinner 6 hours later...6:30 pm in the RedBuds Western Restaurant, 2nd floor, table reserved for a party of 5...Here is how the dinner was served: we had salads with thousand island dressing that had a 'kick' to it, and let me tell you: the legumes had no chance to NOT be consumed by this table...Good start so far...Did I mention the fresh sesame' rolls we also asked for? Served...ummm and good...then came the Chef's Special concoction> "Pumpkin Puree Soup", so far so good...and then the main course: each plate had a Matterhorn-sized serving of mashed potatoes, healthy serving of green beans, slices of red Turkey that went halfway up the side of the potato mound, and hot dark gravy...About the "red" Turkey...I'm checking this featherless bird out like the USDA/FDA/ATF agencies as I have never seen a "red" Turkey sliced or slices for that matter in my life...I tell Babacar to "hold on a minute" (he's Muslim) until I find out that this really was a bird they prepared and not a young pig (seriously)...Now you gotta see me trying to speak Chinglish regarding the following questions: 1) "could you ask the Chef to come to the table, please..." Answer: "you want more soup?"...and here I thought I was really making progress after 3 months on this floor in the hotel...2) "No, I need to find out how long the Turkey was cooked for...can you get the Chef for me...? Answer: "Just a moment, please...and out comes the Chef with the Cranberry Sauce ala Bolognaise presentation...3) "Niaho Chef...the soup was delicious...thank you so much...I am curious, is this Turkey or Pork...?" Answer: "This is small special Turkey, found today in Changchun, we soak in special Chinese sauce and cook until meat fall off bones...no pork, special Chinese Turkey..."...Me: "Whew, smiling at Babacar, looking next at C-Berr who has already consumed 3/4 of his plate and also DTate who leveled his mountain of potatoes bypassing "whatever that is I'm not going to let my potatoes get cold..."...and the Chef and his 4 servants looking at me to see if I will NOW eat my "red" Turkey with hot dark gravy on top...Folks, it was "derlicious" as only Pancake can say in his melodic monotone English...I took each bite and looked at all of the attending supervisors, smiling and thumbs upping everyone who made eye contact with me...Fortunately during this brief exchange, there was a Chinese translator seated nearby who overheard my questions and their answers and came to the rescue to interpret the pained responses of the Chef at this time, only then was he beginning to relax when he was able to share this 'special' Chinese recipe with us...All of us finished our dinner well and next came the Pumpkin Pie, and it had lil bit of whipped cream (we each had two slices) and fresh boysenberry jam if we wanted more sweetness to it...Now that was tasty as well...Overall dinner experience, based on a 1-10 scale: ********* count' em, NINE STARS...Trust me, the Chefs in China take GREAT personal pride in their cuisine, from freshness to presentation,meaning that you can't find a 3 or 4 Star restaurant in Changchun that won't have some delicacy that appeals to your Epicurean desires...Before I move on to our Friday night loss by 7 points to a team that again we should have beat, let me say this, what happened at our afternoon practice preceding our "Thanksgiving Dinner" was an incredible scenario...Remember I told you that "expect the unexpected and that way there is no shock and despair...?"...Well, as I suspected, the unexpected happened which C-Berr and myself knew was expected to happen...Pancake tells Steve and myself to "report right away to the Manager's Office, he want to speak to you and Castleberry now, you must hurry...", this coming on the heels of my leading our warmup drill...So, Steve looks at me, I look at him and we both figure, well what the hell maybe we're both going home on the same ticket...Turns out the Manager had a sportswriter in this meeting, imagine Steve Kelley sitting in on a Sam Presti meeting with Sene and an Asst. Coach, and through Pancake's translation wants to know if (1)"do you mind if I smoke..." (of course not, my meter's still "good" for another 20+ years...)...(2) "would you like special Green Tea...Now he's talking, I breathe in the smoke from 2 cigarettes (Team Manager also in this meeting), and there's 4 of us "filtering" out the smoke (you don't open windows in Changchun when it's 26 degrees outside...it's too cold and you might catch a cold before you catch second and third hand smoke cancer), so I figure "cool, at least there are 6 other lungs workin with me here in this meeting that AREN'T smoking...Anyway, the tea table is set, the conversation for the benefit of the sports columnist, who by the way was mute the whole time BUT was watching me with great curiosity and me him as well (geez I'm glad I don't get "graded" for my colloquial liberties here, forgive me Sister Mary Margaret, rest her soul), and the Manager looks at me and says through Pancake: "it has been one month now that we have been together, you have had a chance to eat with me, drink with me and see how I operate, what is your opinion? Do you think I am doing a good job? Tell me..."...oh hell yes, y'all know I'm going to 'milk' that cow right now, and I reply in my most politically and ambassadorially correct way (new Chinglish word created in Changchun by Coach tom, similar in meaning to 'cordially', but a lil more pissazz to the meaning I think), that indeed we have worked well together, you have been positive with the players and supportive of their efforts even under the most trying circumstances and embarrassing losses, and for that it takes a strong leader to do this...I am enjoying the opportunity to help you and Coach Gao and the players with their development and ongoing skills improvement for the success of this season and future seasons...It is unfortunate that we have faltered in the 4th qtrs. of recent games, but I believe as long as we can learn from our errors and continue to play hard and together, we have a chance to turn things around..."...He smiled and thanked me and the Team Manager also acknowledged my comments...Understand this: when I address these people about these kids and Coach Gao, I truly mean every word about their character, spirit and willingness to learn and improve...my only issue is that our "learning curve" is somewhere between New Zealand and Antarctica...That is where I get really bamfuzzled by our losses: "what are we learning here, what can we do differently that will help each us to coach and play more consistently...?...The Manager now moves onto Steve, whose hot tea has become ice tea since he is nervous as you could imagine for the inevitable "we like you a lot...BUT..." comments, exchange, and lo and behold, the Manager fulfills Steve's vision: "we really appreciate everything you have brought to the team, Castleberry, you are a true professional (UNBELIEVABLY TRUE statement there!), the players respect you, the coaches appreciate your efforts and you played very well in the last 4 games, but now, the CBA and Chinese Government, wants many teams who are not playing so well to make changes, and we are going to change you with Babacar...We hope that you would stay and train with us and coach newell to improve your skills and help Babacar with his contributions to the team, and also that you accept our offer of your contract staying the same, and you can travel with team on road trips also..."...Well Steve looks at me and I smile, one because as "sad" as he felt coming in, the same sadness became joy because he earned the respect and right to "stay" with this team because of his spirit and work ethic, meaning that he will help "bang" the other centers in practice: Bear and Babacar...I was so happy with Steve's response because he truly understood right then and there, that it was over for him this season, his first in China, but that he earned the respect of the coaches, teammates and press to warrant an invitation to stay...I then chimed in and said that we would also like to help the Junior team if possible when not in conflict with the Men's team...that too, made a favorable impression upon all that were sitting there, that these two Americans are "unlike" any we have ever encountered professionally with the Jilin Northeast Tigers...I then ask if we may go back to practice as we have an important game tomorrow night and I need to work with Babacar's preparations...They excuse us, and on the way back, Steve and I have a wonderful conversation about how he "earned" this right to stay, when other Americans will not get the benefit of an invitation and return back to the States...Steve is such a GREAT Team Player, I can't begin to tell you...NOTE to Steve's Parents: you have raised a wonderful, honest-to-goodness Son, that you would be so proud of and I know each of you are, but let me tell you, he's special, and I am blessed for having the opportunity to have met him and now to continue developing his skills so he can continue to play professionally...(and by the way, the 'reason' I was invited to the meeting according to Pancake is because I recommended Steve in the first place and spoke so highly of his work ethic and professionalism, and they felt I was like a "father" to Steve while he was here and playing...Sheeet, now I really feel old...Told Steve don't even go there with the "Pops" crap, etc...we both laughed at Pancake's information...

Postgame Loss/Reflections from 2nd in week home loss: I can now relay this reflection as my Advil has kicked in and I don't have a headache anymore thinking about it...Here's our "stat" line the last two home losses: Defensively> we forced 18 turnovers...they shot under 45% on average...but shot above 38% from 3 pt. line...we were outrebounded on average by ONLY two boards...Offensively> we TURNED the ball over on average of 18 times for the two home losses, and then we shot under 40% from 2's and under 16% from 3's...Now my "logic" and less than statistical mindframe tells me that if we force 18 turnovers and are even on the boards that our defense is not doing so bad, right? Right! But then again when WE turn the ball over 18 times, half of which (or more) are unforced>ballhandling, 3 seconds, poor passing etc.), then we have to shoot better than 50% from the 2's area and 45% from the 3's as our FTAs and FTMs are on average 10-12 MORE than opponents...Simple logic I think...shared these thoughts with Coach Gao and he agreed, we need to spend more time in our practices working on execution and taking care of the ball...Technical note here to youth coaches: if your team is turning the ball over regularly, look at your previous week's practice regimen...Did you have any ballhandling drills included in your warmups? Did you practice halfcourt situations with live defense, so players would understand "timing" and execution? Did you emphasize "crisp" passes as a practice discipline so as to carry over to game proficiency? These are all elements that are needed consistencies to be an effective and successful halfcourt team...I refuse to go into anymore detail about Friday's loss...our record right now is 3-8, like a weak April-May-June pitcher's record...Babacar, our new replacement Senegal/American Post player, will help us eventually, but we missed Steve last night for sure...

Upcoming Sunday night game: November 25th...This team we're playing has a couple of pretty good Americans playing for them, Damon King, shooting guard/point guard around 6'2" and a 6'9" athletic PF/C Major Jones...Their record is 4-8 and they have their issues, having lost their last two home games as well...Okay, so I'll let you know how we do in that one...I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and weekend with your Families...I was able to connect with mine via phone today, Friday evening your time, and it was a pure joy to speak with Ashleigh, Brian, their son, Carter, our son Bo, and Elaine...Paigee, our youngest was in Arizona having TDay with her close friend Jackie Calabrese and her family...I was happy to have been able to connect with all of them over the last two days...To all who sent me wishes and updates, thanks so much as always, for taking the time out of your busy family lives to share with me what's happening in yours...God Bless, safe travels and I do miss all of the "weekenders" whose season gets underway next week, I believe...Coach tom

November 19, 2007...Monday morning, not so good to me...when I woke up this morning, the game was still on my mind...and it was still on my minnnnnnd...(Now for those of you who remember the Mamas and Papas along with the We Five, you'll hum along to those lyrics I've put in the blogit here)...Last night's game was as disappointing a loss as I have ever experienced on a bench as a coach all these years...We lost 99-93...this, after leading AFTER 3 qtrs. by 16 points...There were some interesting consecutive calls at one end of the court that put the home team in the penalty with 10:50 to go (a record no less) and that kind of paved the "Follow the Yellow Brick Road...", 'cause we did everything opposite defensively that we were successful with when we built the lead after 3 qtrs...Which means, as coaches we have to do a better job of helping our players succeed in these situations better, and hopefully we'll learn that it's okay to come out of the game when you're tired...My role on the bench is to help the coach with substitutions and matchups on defense as well as the alignment on "D"...The last 3 games our disruptive pressure defense has been so good it would have made Coach Ernie Woods, proud...until... the 4th qtr. of last night's game...For the life of me, I have never understood why players "relax" when working so hard on defense and moving their feet, switching on contact screens, closing out with a hand up and forcing baseline, this to me is coach-life long puzzle to me...We played defense so poorly which affected our offense since we didn't force any turnovers NOR any stops, as we gave up 41 points in the 4th to our 20...you do the math: we had shut them down well in 3 qtrs., forcing turnovers, outrebounding them, playing with a purpose and finishing plays like I've seen us do the two previous games on this road trip...So, with the other team in the penalty, and their ability to stop the clock by driving right by us like a Nascar Pit Stop, we were being prepared like a Turkey gettin ready for Thursday...the ONLY thing that was missing was the STUFFING and that came later when we STILL had a chance to gain the last possession but blew it when Steve C-Berr appeared to have been fouled on the rebound and they picked the ball out of his hands and put it back in...Now I'm not saying that Tim Donaghy, late of the American Professional Basketball League (better known as the "Movers League"), was part of this crew, but I gotta say it once, I have never seen Phantom of the Opera in my life, but I think I saw something similar without music titled: "The 3 Phantoms of the Court...", 'cause folks these cats were a piece of work...I was told that the officiating on the road was expected to be bad, but up until the 4th qtr. there were maybe only 4 calls that were suspect, and I'm pretty objective here as I write this...Anyway, I got a first hand experience of the forecast closeup and will remember this one, with a large double digit lead for a long time...Here's the scenarios in our timeouts: we're goin over offense when we need to be goin over DEFENSE...we had 2 timeouts in 6 mins. after which we came out of the timeouts and turned the ball over as well as give up 2 uncontested layups off steals...oh yeah, we turned the ball over 5 times in the 4th qtr...our offense was non existent down the stretch as we became very predictable: 2 passes then a shot...that hurts...I really like and respect Coach Gao, the Head Coach, because he's so positive with the players and everyone around him...he is such a sincere person, you can't but not like and respect him...But last night we needed to get into some people's derrieres or where the sun don't shine during the timeout to WAKE THEM UP, but he chose to focus on the Offense and I have to respect him and his decision to focus on what he knows best: Offense (remember, tom, you're a Geezer now, and in a mentoring role with this team)...I am not a good person to be around when we lose because of a lack of court intelligence, and let me tell you something, there were NO Larry Bird Scholars on the court from our side of the bench in the 4th qtr....When players take shortcuts on the defensive end to "save" themselves for offense, well this ol boy here goes into a bonafide FUNK...which I am still in to some degree mainly because I am seriously tired, both mentally and physically...I visited with Coach Gao in his room along with Pancake, and I really wished I didn't have to use him as a translator here, mainly because he is NOT a basketball person, per se (never played the game, got the job because he led his class in English at Jilin University), and also because I don't want to say things that may "get lost" in translation and Coach Gao may misinterpret my "coachspeak", which could happen at anytime during or after a game...So I preface my reflections on what happened tonight by saying that we have to put a "value" on defense with this team, otherwise we will lose games like this again...we also must consider the fact that there are players out on the court who need to come out and rest for a minute or two and then go back in, because right now, they are hurting us terribly...(follow along here, please, as Pancake wishes for me to say everything at once so then he can interpret back to the coach...now that REALLY scares me)...I explained that Spider Monkey was in need of a rest as he had difficulty getting anything organized in our half court sets and then let the opposing point guard go wherever he wanted to with his hands at his side which meant that our wings were going to be at risk on closeouts as the receivers would get the ball in their comfort zone for sure...and they did...So I wait for the 5 minute translation of my two minute reflection and Coach Gao tells me that we need to forget about tonight's game and be positive about the fact that we won two out of three on the road and be happy with that...that he "feels" me and how upset I am about our lack of discipline and commitment to defense AFTER we gain a large lead, but the game is over and now we must get ready for the next game on Wednesday...Any other coach that I've worked with or under that would have made that comment to me and I definitely would react opposite and speak my peace, but then again, this is Coach Gao, and I really like him and respect him and I am his mentor now at this time and place (notice my mantra here)...I am positive...I am kind and definitely sensitive as a coach...but... when basketball intelligence is willfully dismissed by 3 or 4 players when the game is on the line, well, those "kind" words don't make my "tea" any sweeter here...if you catch my drift...I really do like and respect Coach Gao, and have to remind myself that he is "foreign" to the game of basketball and that I am in a mentoring role with him...but dadgummit, we coulda, shoulda and woulda WON last night IF only we had focused in our timeouts ON DEFENSIVE reminders and matchups that result in S-T-O-P-S...Enuff of this negative stuff, he's right, I gotta let it go...The Long and Winding Road....another 60's favorite...

My cough is between a goose honk and a fog horn...try that one Coach E!! I feel better but still can't shake it...we get home from JINJIANG ciity around 5pm today, check that, we're delayed 2 hours PLUS we make a stop along the way...reason for the delay? SNOW in Changchun City...at last I get to go "home" where I know there aren't any mosquitos alive in THAT city now...we have a 2 hour bus ride and then a 5 hour flight...not much sleep last night, in fact ZEEROW...will try to get some on the bus and plane...

Observations and Reflections on JINJIANG: I have NEVER seen so many motorcycles in one city as I have in this one...they ride 3 to a cycle, and these two wheelers serve as the "taxi" service in this town...incredible sight...the "Easy Riders" were pink helmets (it's the law for both driver and passenger), blue, yellow, camouflage, black, red, blue, lunch bucket, you name it, they're wearing it famously...it's a trip to watch young women in skirts sit astride one of these motos that go no faster than a 3 legged Bassett Hound at top speed...there are very few Taxis, still not sure why? Anyway, about my walkaround town to have lunch with the other 3 Americans...this story will both make you laugh and cry at the same time, it's THAT funny...we're on the street walking several blocks to this other hotel nearby to eat in a nice steak restaurant, recommended by Babacar, who is here to replace Steve, I guess, but such a GREAT young man in his own right, here we are together, proud Americans (he's Sengalese, married to an American from his college days), and we are being stared down from ahead by a 3'2" less-than-tall male person who was "sizing" up 7'0" C-Berr, 6'11" Babacar, 6'5" D Tate and me...so we head towards him on the same path, knowing that he will probably "get" a donation from one of us, and he immediately latches onto Babacar first, he's in the lead here, looks up at him and I think he got dizzy cause he let him go very quickly...then he went to C-Berr and tried the same Kung Fu/Wheel Lock (you know the kind they put on your car when you illegally park), and Steve had on these baggy raggedy asz warmups on and the lil feller got lost in them so he let go of Steve but not before latching onto D Tate who knew right away that he was the "mark" UNTIL he saw this old guy with mosquito bite on top of his forehead, looking weak as a wet noodle and in one swift move had me in a TWO ARM calf lock/hold that honestly, I wasn't going anywhere and "he" knew it UNLESS I made a donation to his tin cup...D, Steve and Babarcar kept walking away from me and the "lock", all the while I'm telling D "I don't have any RMBs...get me 5 or 10 so he'll let me go...c'mon D...", so what's he do? Starts laughing like the other two knuckleheads, and says, "Coach, I don't have RMBs less than a 100...we can't give him that...", laughing while taking his camera and setting up a couple of pictures for posterity and hilarity...All the while the lil feller is beginning to cut the circulation off below my knee, right on the mid section of my right calf...I yellin at Steve and Babarca now to help me out of this, and check to see if they have any 5's or 10's, and the lil feller is getting impatient based upon his increased "lock" on my calf...D tells us he's got some great shots and delays my release by telling Steve and Babacar to come look "it's hilarious..."...The lil feller is muttering something and now other pedestrians come by to marvel at his "lock" on the American and are so entertained by this 'show', they too contribute and now he thinks, "as long as I hold on to this guy...I can get donations..."...To my rescue comes Babacar, as Steve didn't have any lower denominations either and he gives me 10 Yuan (RMB dollars equal to $1.40 USD) to drop in his cup which I immediately do and plead for him to finally let me go...he looks up, gives me a smile and a wink , and I had the most incredible pins and needles rush going through my leg that you wouldn't believe, kinda like when you cross your legs and sit in that position for a long time and you're not used to it, and then you move to get up and walk and all of a sudden that "rush" hits...Anyway, I limp away, all the while we're laughing so hard from the scene that I experienced and D captured on his digital camera...I will send this event to you soon, as well as cameos of the principles involved in this journey of mine...Update on our flight home...we have been rerouted to Dalian, the port city we had to bus out of 12 days ago because the fog was so bad on the road back to Changchun...Anyway, the snow is coming down hard in Changchun City as I write here, meaning that we may have to spend the night in a hotel OR leave at 11pm (it's 7pm now), and get into Changchun 45 mins. later and in our own beds by 12:30 am...but then again, I ain't "feeling it" for our reboarding tonight, meaning another hotel in another city, but fortunately I won't have to worry about any 'sqeeters comin my way...We finally arrived in Changchun City, "home" at 2am Tuesday...We were only 9 hours over our ETA!! whew...take care, have a great week everyone, thanks for taking the time to read these stories and share them perhaps with others, hope they enlighten your understanding of "Coach tom's basketball life in China..."...Hey, Big Shout Out to the Huskies and Coach Willingham and his Staff for a HUGE win over Cal, the former #2 team and would have been #1 if their backup quarterback didn't try to make a selfish play at the end of the OSU game several weeks ago with less than 10 secs. to go...he was stopped on a "sneak" at the 2 yd. line...Cal loses and proceeds to lose 5-6 next games...Wow...Also wish the Huskies the best in NYC this week...Coach Lo has them playing at a confidence level in November which is HUGE considering the loss of Hawes to the team this year...Coach tom

Special Announcement: My Co-Director, Jay Arnold, lost his dear Mother two days ago, this after having surgery to remove a tumor, and being released by the hospital to her home less than a week later...she awoke the day after her return home and told her husband she didn't feel well and collapsed shortly thereafter, with her husband calling 911 fire emergency care...it was too late, she passed away...Jay just contacted me this morning via email with the sad news, and I know his heart his heavy and he is terribly sad at this time, to be expected, so I ask you kind people out there, say a little prayer, light a candle and give your loved ones a call this Thanksgiving and tell them all how much you love them and miss them if you can't be with them on Thursday...Jay, your Moms is in the Angels Choir now, so you can tell your 3 young daughters that she is singin wonderful songs of joy everyday for many souls in Heaven...God Bless you and MB and your girls...I would like everyone who has had the opportunity to go online and read our articles and listen to the podcasts, to know that our success with this program is due in LARGE by Jay Arnold and his brilliant vision of "connecting" families, children and coaches with a platform that is non-rivaled today on the internet...Coach Guy Perry, our other Co-Director with FSLT and close colleague, appreciate the professional direction and structure that Jay has presented to our endeavor to help families and their youth sports coaches today... Coach tom

November 17, 2007...Saturday afternoon...on the road again, in the deep south east of China for the next two hours...Where are we headed? Hmmm, good question...I know it has X's-I's-Gs in the name of the airport we arrived, but couldn't for the life of me pronounce literately the name...sorry, hope you understand the perils of traveling in a foreign country and the language has characters not letters for the most part and this makes translation difficult...Now to the exciting part of this trip again...We won...we won..we won again...This time out it was versus the #1 team in the League: Bayi Red Star Army Team (kind of like the Military Academy Stateside), and the reigning Champions...They're considered the Celtics of the CBA, and have the most players on the National Team, 6, which I thought was 4 until I heard differently this morning...Where to begin: we were as focused as I've ever seen us before a game, really, and that "sign" to any basketball coach is a positive read on his/her team...Our pregame meeting at the hotel 2 hours prior to our departure for the gym was really good...Coach Gao had Coach YoYo read a story a true story about a young girl who needed eye surgery and the family could not afford the operation, so the little girl started collecting bottles, plastics and other recyclables on her own and began to help "save" for the operation along with her parents...Little did the girl realize that her mother was terribly ill and passed away a couple of years later, never complaining and still working up to the end to help pay for her daughter's medical attention...Well, it ended up that the Mother took her money to the hospital with her and asked the doctor to please apply it to her daughter's needs and not her own if he would be so kind...The doctor was so moved by this he gathered other colleagues and shared this incredible story of love and sacrifice with them, and soon there was a "fund" for this girl's operation after her mother passed away and soon her surgery was successfully completed...So Coach Gao goes on to tell the team that "I know this has nothing to do with you and basketball at this time, but I want you to know how important it is to never take anything for granted, to understand and accept adversity as a life lesson and to know that there are people out there who care for others when it seems there isn't..."...Well, I gotta tell you something, he was so passionate with his explanation of "why" he had the story read, that I really thought I knew what the essence of the whole story was..."caring for one another even when you are in pain yourself..."...The players were non-responsive like most basketball players when a coach speaks to them, yet their body language spoke otherwise as they looked at one another and nodded, passive in verbiage, but "knowing" that this game was going to be special...I sensed that also and when it was my turn to speak at the end, I kept it simple and stated: "Don't be surprised by winning this game tonight...anticipate it, visualize the feeling that you came in ready to meet the challenge, both physically and fundamentally and left victorious...."...The other two coaches also spoke of the tradition of the Red Army team and how teams allowed them to intimidate them and that had more to do with their mystique than anything...

Game Time: The Bayi arena is small in comparison to NBA arenas and conveniences, trust me...in fact, there are very few basketball arenas in China that could match the venues in both D-1 and NBA markets...It'll be interesting to "see" how the NBA plans to "capitalize" on this market someday...and they will, trust me...This is the first road venue where I actually saw a lot of kids with parents...it's noticeable because it caught me by surprise too...The ages of the kids with parents and other peers was between 4 and 15, boys and girls...Of course this is the reigning Champion and perhaps the other teams are not a "model" of success that parents want their children to watch elsewhere...I don't know but it is somewhat of a phenomena...

Game Recap> Jilin NE Tigers 86 and Bayi 77: Steve C-Berr came out in the first qtr. and established right away that he was going to go right at Wong Zhi Zhi, former NBA 1st round player with the Clippers and then Dallas...He's about 6'10", left handed, shoots the 3 as well as anyone skilled that's left open and is about as aggressive as porcupine with no quills...Steve got into this guy's comfort zone early and set the tone for us, no question...He plays with great spirit and heart, and under a lot of pressure for this game and the next two, as the new GM brought in the former Post player here from a year ago, to "try out" in practice vs. Steve, as the deadline for making changes comes up at the end of the month...Think about this: EVERY WEEK we've had some type of distraction going on, and now this to start our road trip (I found out the day of our second game vs. Shanghai and was told to tell Steve "not to worry...it's only a tryout..."), and Steve who is one of the hardest working players I've ever had the pleasure of teaching and working with, has this "anchor" upon his shoulders going into that game and the next 4...so what does he do: goes out and gets 30 points and 14 boards and LEADS us over Shanghai...then last night, the "try out" player arrives in the morning goes through shootaround with us and then sits behind our bench as Steve is given the "nod" to start...I had no idea that Coach Gao was going to start him as this was the first time Steve would have started for the team under this coach...So as Steve is getting ready to go on the court, he gets a pep talk from his newest close friend and fellow American teammate D Tate and then I catch him on the way to Center Jump...Hey Steve! Yeah Coach..."go out there and have fun..."...That's all I said to him...And did he ever...he outplayed their "superstar" and we won...hmmm, that means that with Steve in the lineup playing 30 mins. or more we're 2-0 and he's averaging 23pts. and 11 boards...Now I'm wonderin "how" are they going to justify changing players IF Steve continues to have success in the Post and the team keeps winning? Good question, Tom, I'm sure they don't want you to ask that...Okay, I'll speak up when asked, and I know I'll be asked...We led after one qtr. 26-24...down 4 at half 47-43, then up by 8 at the end of 3, I believe (I'm still waiting for the stat sheet after ANY freakin game...), and then the basketball angels from Jilin traveling with us, guided our perimeter 3's like you wouldn't believe, thus eliminating any discrepancy of calls and issues with the Officials because how can you call something that isn't there when the ball goes in the basket...we were up at one point by 17 with 6 mins. to go, and then got lazy in our halfcourt closeouts, allowing back to back 3's and giving them life with 4 something to play...Coach Gao took a timeout and we regrouped and I was ready to strangle Wong Bo, our team leader and minutes per game leader, over 45 or 48 mins. average...I know, I feel the same as you do: "Why?"...it's a Chinese 'thing' here for coaches to play National Team players as many minutes as possible, thinking that they will get the benefit of calls etc...Dr. Naismith I am sorry to inform you, the translation of "your" game was misquoted in 10,000 different characters in this country, thus the reason for "strange" things that represent basketball now in China...I am hoping to convince Coach Gao, to rest Wong Bo in the last 1:30 of each of the first 3 qtrs. and then he gets another two minutes at the break and is refreshed...right now, he's a liability on defense in the 2nd half as far as I'm concerned when we need stops...He knows this and apologizes, now I have to convince Coach Gao...I think he'll listen to my logic...hope so for our team's sake...

Lockeroom Aftermath: Wow, talk about happy "campers"...this group was so elated and excited for the outcome, I was caught up into as well, coughing all the while as we all hugged and bumped chests and NODDED, similar to that aforementioned "nod" in our pregame meeting...eerie, yet real, I know there are coaches out there who at one time or another have had a similar experience, winning a game that you weren't suppose to...Isn't it a sense of satisfaction to and your staff to know that your preparations and focus on team prepared them for that moment in the lockeroom after the contest? I really think so...

We are in Xingtai, Fujian area of South China...going to play vs. a really quick and fast uptempo team as I stated before...their name is SBS or Fujian team...As I said before well coached by J Prada, former assistant coach with Paul Westhead at Loyola University, los Angeles...Paul by the way, is the former WNBA Head Coach of the Phoenix Mercury, 2007 Champions of the WNBA...he is currently on the staff as PJ Carlesimo's assistant...I mention this because Paul will introduce a progressive style of uptempo offense that will have teams wondering who to guard, switch and help out by the time the mid season rolls around...the Sonics might be losing now, but trust me, between PJ and Paul, you've got a couple of really sound basketball minds with a young team that will be exciting to watch develop...My personal thoughts on losing the Sonics: it's a terrible shame that a storied franchise such as this one, with all the wonderful stories over the years and characters who wore the Green and Gold when their careers began or ended here will be lost stories of old, I'm afraid, because there is a generation of young people who will miss out on the historical influence of the Sonics to the communities at large...I think of all the people, current and past who represented the Sonics on the floor, off the court, over the phones, in public relations, on playground events supporting youth sports and education, and more importantly the "model" they gave to young aspirants, captivated by the aura of gifted athletes who once were a part of this special community known as the Northwest...I still find it hard to read and believe that Mr. Bennett will indeed abandon this locale in the end...

Okay, I'm coughing again, so I gotta get some needed rest and take some medicine, a concoction of honey and bear liver extract and something else that they won't tell me, but it seems to be working better than NyQuil at this point...How's it taste? Hmmm, let me try it again here and I'll tell you...Imagine honey mixed with silly puddy, you know the kind that your kids use to play with and eat too, and we all thought that they would die or get sick doing so...and they didn't...so we tasted a little bit ourselves and could NOT figure out for the life of us WHY would they eat THIS!?!..yeah, that baaaaaaaad...arghhh!! Take care, have a great weekend, and those kids out there that I've been fortunate to train over the last 4-5 years who are now "licensed" to drive and are reading my blogs: DRIVE safely, drive with care and more importantly drive with a purpose (visualize where you're going, how your getting there in traffic and KNOWING that there might be jam somewhere along the way, so relax, the Pizza won't go cold and your friends will still be there...)...God Bless...Coach tom

November 15, 2007...airborne on way to play the #1 team, Bayi Red Star Army...We played as well as I have ever seen us play as a T-E-A-M...and on the long road no less...What was the "spark" for this happy occasion? For sure the Team meeting the night before where Coach Gao and his Staff, plus the GM, shared their soulful thoughts with the Team, and it must have had a positive effect, 'cause we got busy in this game...The score was 112-105, I believe...still waiting to get a copy of the stats...Player of the Game: Steve "C-Berr" Castleberry, our "Footer" who played the game of his life: 30 pts., 14 rebounds, 4 blocks and a smile from here to Hawaii...for the first time we were finally able to get Steve the ball on the post where he dominated with his Post moves to the basket...He only shot 1 FT in 36 mins., missing that attempt on the back end of a 3 pt. play...Man was he "money" last night...What was the key? Spider Monkey, former "Advanced Turnover Extraordinaire" graduate, who entered the game last night when we were down 16-4...Our offense in motion is like watching paint dry...yeah, really boring and interesting at the same time...guess that's what's called an oxymoron...needless to say, we struggle when our perimeter shots chip paint off the rim, and we don't run lanes for transition baskets...I made a suggestion to Coach Gao that we needed to get Pops (28 yr. old vet, only one married with child) out of there as he is too tentative and trying to protect the ball as opposed to getting us into the offense...Enter Spider...right away he picks up the tempo and makes a couple of assists and we're right back in the game...Enter Steve and he gets a lob pass for a dunk off a beautiful play by Spider Monkey...and then another no look pass in the paint to Steve and folks, it's a beauty to watch unfold here: Steve has finally found a "soulmate" on the floor on his team that actually PASSES the ball to him when he's open...This 3 mins. in the 1st qtr. when Steve and Spider are hooking up is giving us (coaches) a whole new insight to our problems of previous games: we don't use our Post player well at all...until NOW...anyway, the rest of the game was fun to watch evolve as the "team" came together well and played to their levels well...to the end...We got the "stops" on defense when needed down the stretch and rebounded the shots that we needed possessions on and the end result gave us the victory...still waitin on the stats...

Next game preparations: this is a solid Chinese team in that they have Wang Zhe Zhe, formerly of the Mavericks and Nuggets, I believe and one of the best perimeter shooters in the league...He goes about 6'9", left handed and appears on film that he's never taken the ball out bounds, meaning he's a shooter FIRST and FOREMOST and we'll have to respect that matchup early and LONG...I am going to suggest to Coach Gao that we play a Box (push sideline/baseline) and Diamond, which is a 1-2-1 with pressure ball matchup up top vs. Point and "see" how they adjust...I don't like zones , never have, mainly because it is the WORSE defensive rebounding position in basketball...too easy for players NOT to block someone out and anticipate the rebound instead of "assuming" teammate will get it...know what I mean...But in this application/proposal from me to Coach Gao and other coaches, I would like to see how we could disrupt their "normal" expectations of having Zhe Zhe touch the ball early in the qtr. and letting him get goin from downtown...We'll see if my translator Pancake can convey my thoughts and suggestions here...If not, we'll just have to be more alert on picking the ball up early, covering the lanes on pass entries and of course blocking out and rebounding on missed perimeter shots...

Reflections on being sick in China: I came down with a sniffaloffagus cold yesterday, and felt it coming on after the game on Sunday night...I think it was a carryover of being on a bus with 16 people for 8 straight hours and no FRESH air and a lot of sneezing and coughing going on behind me, which means the "airborne" particles will surely make its way towards my "jet intakes" (nostrils) and provide me with an opportunity to be sick later...True to form, that's what happened and now I feel like old Chevy (I had a '55 Bel Air back in the day) trying to "turn over" early in the cold mornings, you remember those days, right? Arrrrohn....arrrrrohn....arrrrohn...and finally there was enough "juice" left over to get it going, but it was really hard to get it cranking like it should...That's the way my morning started with the hackin and coughin and seemingly endless backfires before I finally felt human again and could stand upright and walk around in my hotel room stepping East and West...Man, every country I've been too that has blessed me with their "dormant" bugs, are all uniquely different in their manifestations and my body's acceptance of these foreign ills...As an example, when I played professionally for two years in Belgium they had a "resident" bug called "Le Grippe"...now let me tell you something about THAT bug...it's stealth, has no antidotes to speak of, just the reminder from the Belgies that "Le Grippe very bad and YOU will get it too...then it will pass..."...I scoffed at these testimonials at first until I got "The GRIP"...Aptly named, I might add, as it literally takes a hold on your body's nervous system and you really feel like you can't move...at all...anytime...wait'll you hear my 'prescription' from the then team's President's wife, Paula...she made me WAIT two days while I was laid up, and then brought over a bottle of Cabernet, cheap one I might add, poured the whole bottle into a soup pan, added some sugar, warmed it up, short of boil, and proceeded to have me DRINK the whole freakin pan!!! I was dehydrated as it was, so any liquid would quench the thirst and it did, let me tell you...She then told me to put on heavy sweat pants, sweat shirt with a tee under that, wool thick socks, add another blanket and go lay down on the bed and go to sleep until tomorrow..."and you will feel so much better...promise..." were her embedded words to my memory bank as reflect now...to this day, I do not recall anything that happened during that sleep sequence, but I DO remember the next morning when I awakened...I was soaking wet, beads of perspiration still dripping down my face, I had broken the fever, and now it was time to get up and take a shower and see how I felt after that...Folks, I was as good as a newborn puppy...all happy and giddy, no hangover, no fever, no cough, no stuffiness, I wuz healed by a "wives remedies"...remember those? I haven't forgotten that "prescription" and on occasion have seriously thought about implementing it again...But now NyQuil has replaced Caberet Sauvignon, and that stuff really KNOCKS you out prior, during and after one's sleep sequence...Good thing I brought 3 bottles of NyQuil to China...just in case...and the "case" happened...guess you can tell I might be still out of it by how quickly I digressed from the original thought behind this story on "getting sick in China..."...What do they do here? Well, let's see, we've had 8 players get sick so far and they go to hospital and get IVs for and hour and half or so, and then go to bed...not sure what's in the IV but it must work 'cause the fellas be back on the floor the next morning...

Okay, hope everyone understands that we're on a 3 game road trip, the second one coming up on Friday vs. the #1 team in League...we're fortunately going to have 3 practices before we play them, which is terrific, although the players to a man would disagree, but it gives us a chance to prepare a "game plan/strategy" towards their strengths, which is perimeter shooting and transition fast break opportunities...Will "blogit" tomorrow for you guys as your encouraging comments and pursuit of "more newell, more..." has inspired me to be diligent in bringing into my life here in China...Big Shout Outs to all the kids who put in timeless hours on improving their skills and game this past summer...Know this: you will be happy to experience a tryout with your team KNOWING that you worked your tail off JUST FOR THIS MOMENT...don't worry about your missed shots, turnovers and any other negative imagination that you visualize prior to the experience, just go out and demonstrate you BEST EFFORT and everything else will take care of itself...God Bless, take care good people and thanks so much for caring...Coach tom

November 12, 2007...10am...on a connecting flight to Shanghai...we play tomorrow night...guess I'll learn what "Shanghaid" means after hearing it for so many years growing up and watching John Wayne movies back in the black and white TV daze...

How to describe my current mental state and feelings for the game of basketball right now....hmmm, if Dr. Naismith and his current North American disciples could watch our "team" defense right now, and be asked how to describe it, here's what I'm sure the collective observations would be: "They remind me of 5 men visually impaired, hearing impaired, mute, and playing with no limbs..."...Translated: 5 guys with no vision, can't hear or talk and have no arms...Considering the maneless condition of my scalp, I believe that some pharmaceutical company, rivaling Rogaine, should retain my services as a spokesperson to see if in fact a coach of my pedigree CAN indeed grow back hair that has recently been pulled out...the way I'm headed (no pun intended), there's a good chance that the healthy "crop" on my chest is next for pulling out...I have never in my basketball life been so challenged as a coach to convey the simplistic fundamental values of team defense before and during a season...if my brain cells are being replaced, rejuvenated or invigorated by this experience then Dr. Timothy Leary missed the "boat" when he chose to seek outside means of wanting to hallucinate...I can make copies of our now 1-5 team that would be just as effective...Abe Lemmons, former U of Texas men's basketball coach, now deceased, was one of the most gifted humorists to ever represent professional coaches, and about right now, his humor would be a antidote for the poison that ails me at this time...Those who know me well, know that I'm a pretty positive person, one who sees the positive in ALL things related to players learning and playing this game, and humor is always one of my "finer" elements when enhancing one's level of concentration and/or learning abilities...

Game summaries to date...we have lost 2 straight after winning our 2nd game at home by 6pts...in overtime...uglee, but victorious...the next game was on the road in Dalian and we got run out of the gym early and late...We weren't ready to play mentally, and this team, Jilin Tigers are very "soft" when it comes to being aggressive...I don't like to talk about our weaknesses per se, but all the "spots" I had mentioned in previous early pre season practices and exhibition games is still "current" and doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon...which means we're in trouble...Why do the players continually falter? I believe it comes from their lack of education beyond high school and being in a system 11 and half months out of the year, training, lifting weights BUT NOT developing good habits and eliminating the bad ones...Our team has 13 active players right now...11 of the 13 are single child in a mom and dad environment growing up, meaning "spoiled" to this day...You have to remember, China has in place a "rule" that you may not have more than 2 children, and if the first born is a boy, they STOP procreating for the most part...Why? Because they have MORE females than males...they've allowed families who have 2 boys to have 3 children in the next generation or something like that...Anyway, back to the gist of my observations here regarding our players and their predictable tendencies and bad habits...They can do NO WRONG in the eyes of their parents, meaning any criticism, positive or negative will get the same reaction: "So what...?"...This is and will continue to be the downfall of progress here in China basketball: the lack of accountability for individual mistakes and bad habits that carry over onto the court in competitions...There are over 300 million playing basketball in China right now, all ages, all various skill levels, yet very little "teaching" really as opposed to the repetitions of fundamentals and the explanation of "why" we do this drill and for what purpose...I guess that's what boggles my mind the most with the players, not only on our team but watching film of opponents: they play with no purpose...more on this subject as the season progresses...

So, we lose and travel back in the Fog from Outer Limits, and then again on Sunday...After being down by 15 points at halftime, we storm back to take a lead only to go BLANK from the field and mentally on defense...It was the same ol script from Grounhog Day: same time in game, 4th qtr., same scenario, leaving a shooter to help out a teammate WHO DOESN'T NEED HELP, and watching the open shooter knock down a 3 time and again...Deliberate mistakes? Yeah, good question, as I thought the same to myself...I think Coach Gao is realizing also, that we have certain players who give great Karoke lip service but their actions speak louder...He's finally accepting my recommendations to emphasize accountability on defense and NOT be enamored with a player who shoots and makes 1-5 from the 3 pt. area on our team...Simply amazing logic and wonderment to me, folks...

Team Meeting last night: we have more team meetings than any Senate Subcommittee, trust me...I think I really understand Chinese better now, because Coach Gao keeps repeating the same message over and over again...so the words are becoming familiar "tones" to me...Coach Gao is such a great person and teacher, it's a shame these players don't buy into him...He really wants them each to succeed, yet we still have dissident elements who are making their choice to be selfish and it is hurting the team...hence, the reason for meetings...I was asked to speak up and I chose to ask the players if any of them have actually "asked" their coaches what they could do to help the team play better...and if they had asked a teammate what they could do to help them also...Y'all shoulda seen the heads drop and eyes down, head still, while the words from Pancake's (translator) mouth reverberated in their ears...I had 3 players approach me when I was coaching the team earlier in the preseason: 2 Americans and Wong Bo...team leader...Evidently my words went right to the heart of the other coaches and the GM that was there as they all repeated what I shared as something that was very true and so important for our future successes: How can we help one another to succeed as a team...? Guess I'm good for another week here...still have two bags packed and a couple of boxes full to send home via DHL when the "time" comes...I am a realist folks, and even though my presence here is a positive, the economics will soon "kick in" and this owner will "cut" his losses...been there and experienced that already...not a lot of fun...When they start gettin funny with the money, that's when it's time to check flight schedules and have a really nice "last supper" before morning departure the next day...So far, they've been "late" 15 days last month and 10 days this month...but then again we won on "day 5" of due date...I'm enjoying the teaching and helping the coaches with a model that I've learned from my mentors of past years, and it's fun to watch the growth and concurrence of things I suggest or teach on the floor...I'm still waiting for a copy of the stats though...Strange, have yet to "get one" even though I've asked for one...Coach Woods would go cyberballistic if he didn't have stats to evaluate effort and overall performance of the team after each game...It's like I'm a passenger in a car and I sense that one of the "tires" is flat, and mention that we should check the "pressure" to make sure it doesn't go flat...Still awaitin that "rest stop check..."...Okay, gotta run, we play in two hours in Shanghai against a younger team than ours whose record is 2-5...we have a "shot" at this team as they are predictable "passers", meaning they could work for Western Union delivering telegrams...The other tendency they have is "waiting" around watching the Americans do their thing one on one, meaning their spacing is poor which allows one person to guard two on defense and means we can actually HELP a teammate in our rotations IF we remember to do such...I'm looking for some Green Tea that will enhance the "recall" cells of our players' brains...Later, thanks for your patience during a difficult 3 weeks here, trying to blog and adjust to new role...Hope the tryouts go well for the kids I've trained this past summer and hope that everyone is going to experience a successful season...Best to all and I will have an update again tomorrow...Coach tom

Post Game Reflections: October 31, 2007...We gave up 105 points and scored 93, I think...one thing I have learned over the years, and perhaps a weakness, is I never remember the final score of a game we lose, just the "plays" that were horrific and lead to our demise...Such was the case this evening...Holee Bat Droppings!! We came out fired up, went ahead early by 5 in first quarter, take out the "proverbial" gun and shoot ourselves not once but twice in the quarter to go down 8 because we didn't close out on the wings with our hands up...Note to Coach Woods: for the life of the me, I have reminded starters, and pleaded with reserves to "Closeout with TRACE HAND UP on BALL push base..."...They PUSH base really well but the "hand up" sequence is missing in translation somewhere, trust me...I am going to make them ALL take the gum out of their mouths to see if that helps any...2nd Qtr. we have completely gone from Dr. Jekyll now into a metamorphosis that is eerily familiar to a personality that I've experienced before with this team, and "new" to Coach Gao...We are in deep "doo-doo", as we go down by double digits at the end of two...Hyde has made his way into our locker room now and the "look" upon each player's face tells the story: "oh oh, we're going to get beat again BAADDDDLY!! Coach Gao shares his thoughts first, which is really good, because I was about to speak in "tongues" that Pancake would have a difficult time translating...Keep in mind, I am a very positive teacher/coach, but if you EVER play for me and quit on the court because of the following: "I was fouled...I was more open than his shot taken...I got pushed...I shot an air ball...I shouldn't come out the game...I don't like playing with him...etc.", guess what? Don't even bother participating in any training programs or tryout programs that I might be associated with because you will receive the "wrath" and "rebuke" of a teacher/coach that will be worse than any "curfew" you may have ever missed for your parent(s)...Catch my drift here?...Back to Coach Gao's thoughts at halftime...He praised their efforts and said we must do a better job on our closeouts and not worry about the Officials when there is no call...He then defers to me...Here's my best recollection of "Patton-Newell" halftime reflection: "you want to play, you want to score, you want the bonuses and you want the glory YET there is NOT ONE PLAYER here who is thinking about the team and WHAT the TEAM needs when you play...You come off the bench, you want an opportunity to play and show the coach you can contribute, yet you do nothing for the team, your defense is awful, you don't talk, you forget everything about our pre game reminders and you give up on plays on defense...This team we're playing is NOT BETTER THAN US, wake up, be a man, be pissed off to the point that you do something better for the team this half, don't believe that you can't beat this team, YOU CAN..."...Then I went to the Men's Room where it was cooler and the beads of perspiration on a wrinkled forehead dried quickly and I relieved myself, literally,of my feelings at the moment...and the 3rd qtr. was about to begin...We came out physically and that's all I can say about the 2nd half...it was not a "treat" to have to sit there and watch, believe me...I have to confess here, I am sending this blogit belatedly (November 8th) as I now am just getting "back" to normal on a schedule and available broadband hookup in my own city and hotel...I've missed "you" and this...forgive me, I'm still adjusting to cultural differences and technology availability or not...More to follow...in fact we actually "won" our first game on Sunday, Nov. 2...From Jeers to Cheers...Whoopee...Coach tom

October 31, 2007, Wednesday morning, 5:30am...Hmmm, where to begin...First off, upon our safe arrival on China Southern airlines, which by the way, I have to completely endorse as an incredible service airlines, extremely professional and safety first conscious from takeoff to landing...Plus, flying Boeing makes ANY and ALL travels here worth commenting on, I think...Back to the "blogit" story of the day...We arrive to our hotel: XinJiang Overseas Chinese Hotel around 9pm on Monday night...as we enter the lobby, I thought it was a convention of "Been Ladens" as you would not have believed the large number of Middle Eastern gentlemen converged on this hotel as we walked into the lobby...The looks "we", meaning Steve C-Berre, DT, and myself got as waited patiently for our room keys, well let's it put it this way: imagine Pit Bulls in a yard that can't bark, yet they look at you like they would love to "bite" your head off if they could...and maybe they're "thinking" about it later...all the while, we say nothing to one another (me, Steve and DT, but WE know what they're thinking as they look upon us), and wait for the key and trip to our "team" floor and rooms...Folks, I gotta tell you something, I have pretty good instincts, and my Irish intuition here, sensed some real "bad" characters at this hotel and even in this city, and I'll tell why later...The room is supposedly a "3 Star" accommodation...Obviously, the person who rates "Stars" in this city, only ever received ONE STAR as a young student in school, 'cause that's ALL this place could muster in my opinion...It smelled of cigarettes, the bathroom was an interesting "addon" development, that gave you the impression of a "to be continued..." at some point...this century...

Dinner at a terrific restaurant next to the hotel...Remember I mentioned how it was expessed to us to "take food with us", because there are no good restaurants and the hotel food is not so good, also?" Well, that is FAR from the truth...I joined Head Coach Gao and Asst. Coach Chiang to this Muslim Restaurant (20 yards from our hotel), and let me tell you something: FANTABULOUS!! Coach Gao ordered a dish called "Chiao Mian Pian", a pasta enriched with some spices and vegetables with lamb pieces that was delicious...plus, I had ordered 3 lamb kabobs that were excellent also...So, I went to Pancake afterwards and told him: "Pancake, you were wrong: there is excellent food in this city as the coaches and myself had a wonderful meal together..."...He was shocked to hear this, and then heard from the other players that they too had enjoyed a really good dinner...I am learning to NOT trust the "opinions" of the people who leave their own confines and travel to another locale...They're not always correct in their assessments...Good lesson to learn...Anyway, this Muslim city is a "stopover" for many Middle Easterners, Lord knows where they are going, but I will tell you this: DO NOT TRAVEL TO THIS PART OF CHINA at this time or anytime, as the "spirit" one would sense here is very dangerous...I believe that there ARE certain undesirable characters residing here under the 'guise' of their religion and beliefs, until...yes, UNTIL??? This notion/sense I had was confirmed when Coach Gao addressed the team before practice yesterday, and told the team to be very careful, NOT to leave the hotel alone, and never leave without asking the coaches first...THEN he addressed us, the Americans..."there are terrorists living here, and they are dangerous people, so please be careful...do not go somewhere without us being around...these visitors are not nice people..."...Well, you can imagine the "look" C-Berre and DT gave me and the goose bumps my scalp expressed when I heard this translation...Now, I understood "why" we had an armed security guard on our floor and the other 11 floors did not...and this "security" guard was military and his relief dressed in sport coat and tie...I decided that my "room with a view" was probably not a good location, and changed with Coach Gao, mainly because on our floor there were several Middle Easterners staying next to me the next before and were loud and louder until about 3:30am...I decided that there was no way I would stay in that room another night...Coach Gao, what a guy, offered his room in exchange...I gladly accepted...slept like a puppy last night...

We play tonight versus Xin Jiang, who won their first game at home `105-102...they have a former NBA Chinese player on their team, Bateer, who is 33 and still playing, slowly, but effectively at his size 7'2" 290lbs. in this league...They also have two Americans, one from the U of Oregon, David Jackson, whom I've known over the last several years and enjoyed working with him one summer when he transferred from U of Utah to the Ducks back in the summer of '99...He's an outstanding shooter and scorer as a 2 Guard...He should do well in this league...The other American, Brandon Cole, is 6'9", and works hard as well...should be a good matchup...Last night, I forgot to mention, we watched the replay of our first game and then had a team meeting afterwards...it was a great revelation and meeting trust me...Coach Gao is such a good person and teacher...He mentioned to the players about my concerns before the game with the distractions and then the money on the table before we went out, and said it was also 'his' first time ever to see something like that by an owner...but didn't realize how it may have affected our concentration like I suggested...I was asked to say something after we watched the film and he spoke about the statistics and his thoughts on the game, and I deferred to the other coaches...then when the coaches finished, Coach Gao opened up the floor and wanted input from the players, which in my opinion is ALWAYS recommended when players are distracted and/or not playing with a clear mind....Several players spoke and spoke well, including the two American players, both of whom saw on film that they indeed could have played much better than they did...This was a GREAT meeting...then all of a sudden, Coach Gao WANTS ME to conclude the meeting with my "final" thoughts...He asked me TWICE to please share what I think...So, here's what I said: "Basketball is a game of mistakes and the key to success is not making the same mistake twice, whether on offense of defense...The "next" thing I shared is that when you play professional basketball there two measures of reflection that help players and teams understand what they must continue to improve upon: one is video, it tells no lies, it shows all the mistakes, all the great plays and some of the not-so-great plays of a game...the other is the post game statistics, as they record minutes played, efficiency or not, and more importantly "what" you each can do to improve upon in the next game.." Then I finished my two cents worth with this: you are only recognized by your best effort game in game out...the great thing about basketball is that YOU CAN play better the next time out BECAUSE you have control over this very important aspect of your game and the team's performance overall...With that coached smiled, thanked me and we were gone...Quite an experience I am having now, folks, this is a GREAT collection of young basketball players and experienced coaches that I am truly grateful for the opportunity to learn from and hopefully contribute towards the season's success...Will let you know how we did later vs. Xin Jiang...

Shootaround this morning...11am-12pm...ran into DJax and Brandon...DJax said that it's been difficult in transition here, as he stays close to his room (hotel), and doesn't go out at night in this city...I cannot imagine two American citizens, athletes as that, staying very long in this city, knowing that there are people who despise our country and its democracy...I ain't one to discuss politics, mind you, and those of you who know me well, never venture into that area of conversation with me, which I respect and appreciate very much...BUT...I will say this, hearing a fellow Patriot share with us (DT and myself) his genuine concern for his safety and what he's heard about the "visitors" here in this city, it makes you wonder every time you step out into the public spectrum, either socially or professionally...Told David to be "strong, be vigilant and make them respect you by your play and the respect you have for the game...you are an ambassador now, accept the challenge..."...He smiled and said "I hear you coach, I hear you...I'll be alright..."...Both players said that the team is not "together" at all...they have a lot of internal issues between coach and players, and it's like something new everyday...DT looked at me and I to him, and we just smiled to ourselves, because he HAS NO IDEA what we've experienced over the last two weeks...Good shootaround, players were alert and active and shot well...we'll see if that carries over tonight...By the way, the owner and GM made the trip, arriving late last night, staying at a different hotel...one that HAS several "Stars"...hah...Stay tooned...Less I forget, a 'huge' shout out to my friend "Big D" and the Hawaiian Eye, Mike M, as they did a marvelous job preparing me for the "unexpected" cultural awakenings and to be carefully aware...I have done both...