Jilin Tigers: December 2007

December 22, 2007...Saturday afternoon...day after another loss...when we shoulda, coulda and woulda won...but during this Holiday weekend, I'm not about to go into THAT...No, I've decided to give you a little Christmas Cheer from Coldchun City, China...

This is a "jingle" I came up with to describe life on the streets here in Changchun...

Jingle Honks

Jingle honks jingle honks jingle all the way...oh what fun it is to sprint through an open 4 wide lanes...hey...jingle honks jingle honks jingle all the way...oh what fun it is today to avoid another car...hey...Dashing through the lanes, on my way across the street...looking left and right, scared beyond all fright...All the cars and Taxis, angle for a lane, never minding walkers whose life is in their wheels, that makes you want to scream ....ohhhh jingle honks jingle honks jingle all the way...oh what fun it is to sprint in a stagger run of cars...hey...jingle honks jingle honks jingle all the way....

Here is my Christmas Wish to all of my basketball Family in North America, Belgium, West Indies, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Belgrade, Canada, Guatemala and China, I truly wish each of you and your Families the warmest and most caring time together this Holiday Season..one that allows reflection and thankfulness for all the many blessings of the previous year in your Family sports life and personal lives...I know that there are those who have suffered the loss of a Family member and/or relative, experienced hardships that are private and sensitive, but through all of your adversity, the most important reflection is that you have each other in your lives today, and that this moment of warm gathering togetherness, is not "wrapped" nor is it consumed, but rather is a "Spiritual" bond that hopefully allows the healing to continue and you may rejoice in the magic of life...God Bless all, safe travels and I sincerely wish each and everyone one of you a Happy New ALL Year...You all have given me so much of your time and kindness in supporting the vision of what FamilySportslifetoday.com wishes to share with you... Thank you...Sincerely, Coach tom...and my "wish" for a Stat sheet may be fulfilled...

Less I forget: we travel on Christmas as the looooooonnnnnnnng road beckons our "choir" for a visit to another Chinese city...I hope to blog to you all on Christmas Eve with words that will make you chuckle and shake your head, remembering that I may be in a strange land and going through an interesting basketball experience, but I still have my sense of humor intact, albeit a "lil different" than most...hah!!!

December 20, 2007...Thursday night...15 Degrees outside...can anyone besides Polar Bears, know the difference between 15-25 Degrees? I'm telling you it's so cold here icicles form on runny noses if you're outside more than 5 minutes...

The Game last night: The Grinch didn't make an appearance per se, nor did he steal anything, we just left the "front door" open again and got beat by a team we defeated a month ago...which means, either the other team got better...OR...we have regressed...the latter, I'm afraid...Once again our "troops" forgot to battle and while the opponent demonstrated skill and verve in our home...Let's put it this way, the game was actually worse than my cough and cold (the nasaliclles melted in the first 2 mins.)...We had plays where a player did a nice crossover from right to left, took a couple of dribbles and then picked the ball up for a moment, and proceeded to dribble again, only to be "given up" to the Officials for his infraction by our fans who gasped in disbelief and allowed the Official to inhale enough air to exhale this infraction...When that happened, I knew immediately we were in for a long night...actually it was looooonnnnnnger than any of us wished: 4 Qtrs...Now I know you think I'm being negative and "down" on our team, but actually what I'm learning here each day and every competition is that we are very unskilled in most positions, beginning with our Point positions, as we continually give up position in the halfcourt allowing the opponents' lead guard to enter the wings with a pass or dribble entry...Probably, for me, the most vulnerable of any offense is an opponent's lead guard going where he wants with the ball...That is when you see coaches on any sideline in organized basketball scratching their heads, when in fact, it's the beginning of a migraine headache...So the remedy most coaches seek is a "timeout" where they can vent their irritations with the Lead Guard and ask the simple question: "Do you think there's a possibility that you MIGHT get up on the ball sometime tonight before you catch a cold on the bench...?"...or something to that effect...I think I told y'all once before I don't look at the score upon leaving the court in a loss, old habits never die...basically taking the approach I'd rather "take a picture" of our players countenance to see whether or not they really were affected by the loss...Enough of our game...Tis YOUR Season to be jolly...fa la la la la la la la la la la...Still waiting for a Stat Sheet...

Okay, so I was very happy on Tuesday night to find out that my gifts home to family and friends have arrived safely and still waiting to hear if the others made it as well...It's not cheap to ship from China as they more than make up for NOT charging in some areas of transportation (Taxis, Buses and Trains) by imposing STRONG fees on International shipping of small to medium boxes...

Here's hoping all in the Northwest, Family, friends, coaches, players, parents, Officials and anyone who reads our blogits to have a wonderful Holiday Season, one filled with many blessings and safe travels throughout the Happy New ALL Year...I just confirmed my clinic in early February to Vladivostok, Russia, where I've been invited to lead a coaches clinic, representing our game to college and high school coaches in that Province of the Eastern seaboard of Russia...Our State Department sent me an Official invitation that was initiated by the Ministry of Education and Sports in Moscow, who in turn received the request from the Vladivostok Basketball Federation requesting my visit...This would NOT be possible if The Larson Legacy, lead by Mr. Lee Larson, himself, of Oregon, did not sponsor this endeavor from the roundtrip flight, and visa fees that Russia charges for any and all foreign visitors...My host, the VBF, will provide the hotel accomodations, hopefully NOT the first hotel we stayed in back in October when our team was playing in a tournament there, and I do remember blogitting about that experience as well...Anyway, kudos to Lee and his non-profit organization for making this happen...I received a very kind email from our State Department's Attache' in Vladivostok, thanking me and The Larson Legacy for our efforts to help this program happen...I've been working on the program syllabus and trying to simplify all of the drills for skills and presentation templates that we will introduce over the 5 days of the clinic...Lee is a former Clackamas Girls Basketball Association coach whom I met several years ago when I was coaching in the WNBA with the now defunct Portland Fire...His model of leadership and keeping drills fun for the kids has been an inspiration to me to this day...He is one of the very very FEW volunteer coaches that I've ever met in my basketball life that "gets it", meaning he KNOWS it's about the kids, not winning at all costs but making the sure the participants have fun in practice LEARNING new drills and also not worrying about the outcome of game as opposed to "did you have fun playing?", questions...His daughter improved from the level of her early experiences with her Dad coaching, to play Freshman basketball in High School one year and then lose interest because it wasn't fun anymore...I have accompanied Lee on a couple of humanitarian trips to Guatemala, making visits to Guatemala City and the Northern Highlands of San Marcos, which is located on a beautiful lake known as Lake Atitlan...Anyway, I have that to keep me positive at this time and of course basketball-busy as wellwith our remaining games...I also will be a guest coach at a camp in Beijing mid January...This came about from an invitation by one of China's most respected former players and fomer National Coach, Wang Fei...He is a GREAT teacher and one of the best coaches I've had the pleasure of meeting in China and the world of basketball in general...He understands the importance of player development, strength and conditioning programs and proper nutrition...his current team Guandong has only been in the CBA for two years, and this is his first season with them and he's done an incredible job to date...His team plays with confidence at both ends of the floor and their overall effort is 2nd to none..he's currently in the middle of the pack and has a chance to surprise everyone and make the playoffs...Good for him and his team...

On another note of personal interest: I am very saddened by the abrupt resignation of my close friend Todd Turner, Athletics Director at the University of Washington...Todd and our families go back over 28 years now, and first met in Charlottesville, Virginia when he was an Associate Athletic Director...His integrity, loyalty and vision for doing things the right way, helped the UW regain the respect and admiration from his colleagues and peers within the infrastructure of the NCAA...He truly loved the campus life environment of the UW complex, and even more so the Student "Dawg" spirit that followed most of the non-revenue sports of intercollegiate athletics at the University...His hardest decision was not renewing Coach June Daugherty's contract last Spring, but he felt that it was time to take the program "up" a notch, and made the decision to bring in Tia Jackson who will in time do very well as the Women's coach there...I wish Todd, Sara and their son, Drew, a fine student athlete himself at Seattle Prep, all the best in their lives, and know that the reunion he and Sara will have with their 3 daughters back East will "ease" the pain of leaving the Northwest...This much I know about today's state of affairs in college athletics: there are expectations that accompany most major universities today across the United States and with that come anticipated celebrations of Championships, but in reality, of the 320 or so Division I schools, not all can compete for a National Championship in Football, though many believe they can, or I should say Alumni organizations hold the belief that they should...I hope that the model of respectability and stability that Todd and his professional Staff put into place over the last 3 years will continue to evolve towards that elusive expectation on the gridiron...Thanks TTodd for a job well done...

We play again tomorrow night against another team we had success with on the road a month ago...Any predictions on my part? Let me put it this way: we're between a rock and hard place, the rock being our arena (the oldest in the CBA with Asbestos insulation) and the "hard place" being the opponent who is in 5th place out of 16 teams and wanting to improve their standing after leaving Changchun with a victory...When a team is eliminated from the playoffs, and you have several games left on your schedule, you try to keep the players positive and focused on being professional in their approach towards preparation and application (competitions), as they ALL are playing for the future: theirs to gain a new contract with the current team or impress another team to consider them for their rosters next season...My last blog I mentioned how important it was for the players to rededicate themselves and "play this season out and finish on a positive note..."...we'll see...The press has been less than kind towards the Head Coach Gao and Mr. Jiang, the General Manager who came in one week before the season started..along with Coach Gao...Happy last minute shopping to all those Fathers out there who dread the pressure of "finding" the right gift for their families...Take care, best wishes, will visit with you again...Coach tom
Oooops...and here I thought I sent this the night before...my bad...my friend, Bob Condotta, a true literary genius and advisor to me from the Seattle Times Sports, told me the most difficult aspect of writing a blog is keeping it "current and fresh..."...Just remember this Dear Friends, y'all like cold pizza and heatin up the Chili the next day right? Okay, so my current blogit is "day old"...Peace on Earth...Enjoy!

December 17, 2007...It's 8 days here before Christmas in China, and I gotta tell you, they are into the commercial "spirit" of Christmas very well...We have lights, trees (plastic, wire, steel, rubber, paper...you name it, they've got it...), Music of ALL the Christian songs BUT instrumental only...you know, you can only "go" so far with the English language...but it stops there, i'm afraid as the store owners and employees really don't understand the true "Spirit" Sante Nicholas and the Birth of Christ, yet if they did, they would celebrate it in a most caring and wonderful Spirit...The Olympics in Beijing this coming summer will either enhance or diminish the opportunity to, worship as a community...This past General Assembly of the People's Republic of China passed a measure (remember that political word: measure) allowing the their citizens the right to worship in a Church...BUT it must be approved by the respective authorities and government for times of service. observances and of course NO OPEN exhibition of faith in Public at anytime...By my "measurement" that's a tremendous step in the right direction as the country becomes more "wired" to the Free World..Think about it: we gave them Windows, they love it and also have pirated it on the streets of Beijing, but this small gift of mankind to his fellow species will have more to the ever-changing culture than I would have ever imagined BEFORE coming to China...Think about it: Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and Bill Gates are the pioneers in accessing one's modalities for learning...Wow...and China has carefully weighed in on this phenomena of Windows (great name, Bill) and VISTA and realize that as powerful as that software may be, WE can have better methods of control over our citizens than at any time before...Meaning, that every major city has at least ONE University that is specifically centered on Technological Research and Development...I happen to live in the largest demographic for such schools...One that has over 26.000 thousand students attending...plus a couple more with less enrollment...Wow, talk about "digressing" here, how'd I come up with Bell, Edison and Gates in the same sentence? I must be SICK!!! Back to hoops Hades...

Last night's game...let's see, HOW do I or HOW can I put that loss in perspective...Hmmm, let me think a minute............................................................Okay, here's how bad it is on the road: there are 3 things I don't like when coaching basketball and sitting on the bench: 1) losing because the effort was lacking...2) unforced turnovers and 3) when the freakin PA puts on Engleburt Humperdinck Elevator music with 9 mins. to play and we're down 30...Geeze Louise, I thought I was on the Columbia Tower Elevator forever goin to heaven listening to that music and having to sit and watch our inept play...We've had 4 blowout losses whereby the PA's put on the most numbthinking music score to keep the people entertained!! Can you believe they ACTUALLY stayed to the END, swaying to and fro in their seats to the music, oblivious to the action before them...I gotta remember that one: when you're beating an opponent baaaad, and it's the 4 Qtr. mid to late, it's important to entertain the masses with soft music so the guests are comfortable as they "ride" this one through to the end...What do we do at home when we're getting slammed? We play WALTZ music or Mitch Miller Big Band Music (Tie a Yellow Ribbon...)...Anyway, maybe I'm being to over dramatic here, but all the same, it's a really painful loss to me when the game devolves into an Elevator music fest and the only thing missing is Robert Goulet as the emcee...Where's my Bombay Sapphire? Oh yeah, I'm drinking Green Tea these days to help with my cold and cough...but a lil Elixir "should" also help now and then, no?

Okay, here is my Christmas Wish to all the little munchkins and "lynchpins" (those who don't like the Sonics and present ownership...)Kids, please reflect upon this past year, your successes and some failures inbetween, know that your parent(s) love, support and careful reminders of making right choices is what makes them so important and special in your life today...please give them a long long hug and the words of "thank you Mom...thank you Dad...thank you Grandma...thank you Grandpa, for your love and support and prayers that I do the right thing always and NOT something not-so-smart that would hurt me, you and my teammates after the fact...This, young friends is the GREATEST gift you can give your parents today: the gift of communication, wrapped with your words, sealed with your lips, for I guarantee you this, your loved ones will be astonishingly amazed that you would take the time to reflect and share with each of them your feelings...THEN, I wish for you to consider the following: visualizing some "genuine act of kindness" towards someone you don't know in your daily life, meaning when you go to the store, hold the door open for the person behind you...when you go to the store and observe an elderly person needing help with their groceries, help them freely and gladly, make them feel wonderful about the youth of today's world: "my oh my, they DO care about us..."...and then of course doing something special for your family or a family member that they would least expect YOU of all people to do...Now THAT in itself is a genuine ACT of KINDNESS...Merry Christmas and many many blessings and safe travels to you all in the New ALL Year, on to the Lynchpins: I share with you your ill thoughts whenever the subject of the Sonics moving to OKCity comes up, but I want you to seriously,consider this "genuine" act of kindness the next time you go to a Sonics game> thank the Ushers for their assistance, the Sonics staff members who have been so faithful to stay the course of the franchise at this time, and continue to support this young team, at several have homes here and we definitely would want them to always remember the GREAT spirit of the Northwest when their careers are completed...and lastly, along the same lines of being 'kind' towards the Sonics, please express your love and support with a "Happy You're Here Seattle Storm" card, they are a wonderful model for young aspiring participants who play basketball in Washington State...

Update on the Team upon return to Changchun last night...we had a team meeting following our return from the recent two game trip...We watched our first game vs. Shanghai Sharks, a memorable win in that we came from behind 14 points to win on the road, an improbable win...it was the first time we've WATCHED ourselves play AFTER the fact...I know, I know, hard to believe but it's his team and he wants to do his preparations from what he knows, obviously not from what he can learn...We'll see tomorrow night how this meeting and reflection turns out for us...fingers and toes crossed for this one...a little prayer too!! After the meeting was concluded at 8:30pm after one hour together...I then sat down alone with Coach Gao (Pancake, the translator also), and asked him if we could make an attainable end-of- season Team Goals list that would allow us to achieve some satisfaction for finishing on a positive...He was curious as to how that may be introduced, and I explained: "since we're basically eliminated from the playoffs we need to rededicate ourselves individually and as a team, meaning that we need to focus on each game by quarter, limiting the opponents to 25 points or less each quarter; reduce our "quarterly" turnovers to no more than 12 per game; that we as a TEAM will value possession of the ball when we have it in our hands and NOT try to create plays when the simple application calls for execution; that we will try to EACH get 3 rebounds or more when we have the opportunity to play; that we put aside our personal goals oriented towards "game bonuses" when we win, to know that winning as a Team is more important than a couple hundred dollars for "winning" individual statistics; and that as a Team everyone succeeds..."...He looked at me, then Pancake and nodded, not saying much but understanding clearly that this "thinking" was beyond anything he ever imagined or considered...Then there was a knock on his door, and Pancake opens it to allow the Owner, Mr. Qu, to enter...Unbeknownst to me at the time, there was this "summit" meeting and he arrived to speak with the Head Coach, and was surprised to see me, but happy also...He asked me to stay, and participate in this meeting if I wouldn't mind...I obliged and we had an hour and a half visit...I basically told him that we have players on this team who are only motivated by their minutes played and statistics that favor their contributions WHEN we win...Right now the team is in conflict (Chinese Team Members) because of their loyalty to the previous GM and former teammate of theirs, SunJun, the Larry Bird of Chinese basketball...Remember when 5 players chose to "strike" when the new GM replaced SunJun? Well, the first thing he did was change the contracts of the players and their bonus structure, setting off a negative reaction 3 days before our first game...So I explain that when a Team 'in season' has off court distractions, such as the media calling for the return of SunJun and the management group and Head Coach to be replaced, well their was a wound that never healed and when we win on occasion it is only a bandaide to the real deep wounds that began in October...I shared with him that this team has 4-5 players who can't play at this level now, and that IF changes aren't made in the offseason with some of them, then he (the Owner) will be having this discussion again with his coach and GM...He asked me what is the biggest problem? I said the chemistry is bad and was BEFORE he bought the rights to the team (an owner doesn't "own" the team, rather "owns" the rights to the team for X amount of years and then it returns to the local government administration)...He narrowed his eyes, and his face changed remarkably because he realized that this American coach that he brought in originally to coach the team was telling him what the Head Coach has been trying to explain to him all season: these players play for themselves NOT for the Team or the Fans...He asked me what could be done now to 'change' this problem, and I said that in America, an NBA Owner and GM would sit down with the team and address the issues face to face, telling what it is that he sees on the court and how bad the results have been at home...All the while Coach Gao is nodding to the translation by Pancake, and I'm thinking to myself, "wow, he understands the need for his presence and leadership at this time..."...He doesn't say anything to my suggestion, other than he was now going to "cancel" a team dinner that he was going to provide tonight for the team...In other words, I "connected" with him, and he was now going to address his "investment" Team at some point before tomorrow night's game...Coach Gao then followed up with the problems between a couple of players that's been ongoing ONCOURT and that talking to them both has not made any impact at all...The owner then pulls out his cellphone to share a text message that he had received from his wife on Sunday night WHILE watching our debacle on national television...Yikes!! Not only is he getting killed by the local Press but now HIS WIFE is giving him methane particles to hear and read!! Wow, now I know this is serious business...After that demonstration of "you think you've got it bad...", the meeting abruptly ends, Mr. Qu, hugs me goodbye and walks out the door...I look at Pancake, whose countenance is like a young man walking in on summit meeting between his Leader and mine...He said later he's never been in this type of translation/situation before...Told him he "done good", go to sleep! Coach Gao says goodnight to me also, and I take a Taxi back to my hotel (the Team stays in a different hotel than the Americans)...Fast forward to Tuesday night's practice: we arrive at our facility and instead of going to the weight room, we head for the dormitories that the players live in for 4-5 months at a time, and there we go into a meeting room...Hmmmm, I say to myself, maybe the GM is meeting with us, as Pancake has NO clue what is going on (he hears very little on the inside), and then a couple of minutes later, here walks in Mr. Qu and Mr. Jiang, GM...Let me tell you this: this Owner "gets it", really, he took the information from the coach and myself and of course the GM and slept on it and now wanted to address his Team...He was magnificent...he spoke from his heart and it was very positive-constructive towards putting the issues behind us and also the indifferences we may have towards one another and all the bad, negative publicity that has been written of late...All he pleaded for was an HONEST effort by all, for their self pride, their family's, the City of Changchun and of course the Fans...What an experience, mostly positive, believe me, please, to witness adversity firsthand in a foreign culture, being on a basketball Staff as an assistant, having a translator speak twice in all things related to everyday basketball life between Americans and the Chinese coaches and players, well it's been intriguing and exciting at the same time...The 'only' downers are two: missing my Family at Christmas time and our inability to play intelligent basketball this season...I'll blog tomorrow's outcome for you...take care...God Bless...Coach tom
December 16, 2007 on the road again for our 2nd of two road games...We play one of the top two teams this afternoon on TV, which means we may get a fair and regulated game decided by skill and execution...Right now, the morale of the team is at its lowest after a disappointing loss to Guandong on Friday night...That followed our loss to the Urumqui team at home on Wednesday...Our team is in total disarray as the "system" of bonuses for minutes played, points scored, rebounds, assists, blocks is all predicated upon our ability to win...We had a 6 point lead vs. Guandong on Friday night, early on in the 2nd quarter, only to succumb to our selfish, individual play on defense...My whole point of defense here with this team in the role that I currently represent is that we communicate and matchup with whomever is nearest the ball, forget about where YOUR MAN is, just matchup...Well we made a couple of substitutions and a couple of players decided when the opportunity arose to "score" on their own, our lead evaporated into a 16-2 run that has us reeling to halftime, down by 11 when it was over...We gave up in a matter of 6 mins. 5...yes 5 3 point shots because we didn't matchup and follow the pre game instructions on our TEAM responsibilities...It was so disappointing to have to sit there with a headache already, from a bad cold I picked up from one of our assistant coaches (and I'll tell you how THAT happen later), and to witness the selfish play of a couple of players whose roles are to execute the offense, NOT create 1 on 1 plays for themselves...The GM, whom I have grown to like alot, was so upset after the game, I even UNDERSTOOD his voice inflections and found myself nodding to every word he spoke to the team in our locker room...He was so discouraged by our selfishness and lack of overall effort when we faced adversity...Let me say this, when grown young men live together in a dormitory environment, coupled with contracts that are laced with individual achievements as well as team when we win, it makes for a less-than-trust team environment that soon erodes any principle elements of respect and trust for one another on and off the court...The subplots that exist on this team are real, folks, and yet when we do rarely pull off a win every other week, it seems that everything is honkeedoree, but in reality, it's just a bandaide to the wound that never heals...Parents, listen to me, please, don't get caught up into productivity with your sons and daughters experience with their teams, as it will become a burden if you ask the following questions: "Why don't you shoot more...? Why doesn't the coach run plays for you...? Why don't you play more...? Why aren't you playing such and such position...?"...All these questions are answers that MOST young aspiring Team Players can't answer because they don't know why, meaning that it will create more doubt in the young person's mind as he/she practices daily and suits up for the competitions...Is it easy for me to say this? Yes, indeed it is, because I'm older than most of the Fathers out there with kids playing middle school and high school basketball today...Your greatest reward and gift to your child in their activity is to always praise their efforts and discipline towards trying to be the best Team Player they can with the skills they are developing at this time...Sorry for the "preaching" here, but I am relearning lessons here, in a faraway land that evokes reflections and observations that must be shared with friends, coaches, players and families...

How I caught the "cold" Round II: Let me put it this way...If I didn't blowdry my hair, yes I do have hair on the "backside" of my scalp, Coach Chiang in the last game filled the "role" perfectly...He's had a bad bad two weeks of coughing, sneezing ect., and I have been trying to avoid him at all costs, except that he sits on the bench next to me and that makes me vulnerable as you can imagine...Anyway, at our last home game, he coughed incessantly, on the back of my head, so much so with velocity, that my hair was actually "blowin in the wind"!! He NEVER covered up once, just turned his head, leaned back and glory, I WAS THE CATCHER!! Needless to say, he's a team player as he passed it on to me and for the last 4 days my voice is many decibels removed from authority on helping the players to get up on the wings and push the ball to the sideline/baseline on dribble drives...I've been drinking so much green tea, I think I will be able to understand every Chinese word spoken to me at the end of this campaign...

Okay, now some good ol "Tomfucious" observations on how our players might get better for next season...First off, I think that if the Chinese players took 5 weeks of TAXI driving school in Changchun City, they would all improve their vision, anticipation and READ situations better than they do now...Meaning, that if you ever want to learn how to drive with the "flow" and then some in traffic everyday, watch how Taxi drivers maneuver and wind thru the most difficult traffic jams known to modern traffic in a large city...I mean it's a wonder of the driving world to sit and TRUST that this driver in a small compact car can NOT get hit, or hit another vehicle on his destination...Our players vision is poor in traffic on the court (one of the main reasons for our turnovers) and their anticipation of switches and THEN reading how they can now pass the ball inside to the Post Player who now has a small man guarding him is another example of poor READing while playing...Just a newell thought here on "how" these players may improve their vision...Visualize this: there are 3 lanes both ways on most of the busy streets, yet because of the thousands of TAXIS on the road, they stretch this number into 5 lanes!! Really...no ONE drives inbetween the dotted lines of a lane...This is the norm in most major cities in China...Now, couple that with bicycles, motorcycles, pedestrians jaywalking and STANDING STILL on these lines means that everyone driving a vehicle MUST shift their direction left to right or vice versa...I've yet to see a pedestrian hit crossing the street illegally here...Note to any Policeman from the US visiting China: You will have nightmares thinking about the number of tickets you could write to anyone at anytime for EVERY DOT (Dept.ofTrans.) violation you observe...When I cross the street "illegally", it's usually because the oncoming cars are 20 secs. from impact upon my crosswalk, and I have a pretty good "first, second, third and sprint step" across the street...So much for off court player development...

I will be blogging my Christmas wishes to everyone tomorrow, so I hope you'll come back and read some more...I gotta go now, my hack is reminding me I NEED some green tea...Best wishes and safe travels to all...Coach tom
December 11, 2007...Yunnan City, southern China...this is a remote area of China that is known as the "Carolina Tobacco Country of China..."...and let me tell you something this city is literally surrounded by farms, every kind of farm you can think of...It's beautiful, but you feel like you're encroaching upon this fertile valley when you look out of the tallest building in the city from the 10th floor of our hotel...Weather is in the 60's...no skeeters got me this time...I came prepared...I finally got "wise" and asked, Pancake, my translator: "is this a warm climate or cold climate we're headed towards...?"...he prepared me well...

On to the game...WOW...that's all I've got to say...WOW...DTate, 6'5" 2G/SF put on an offensive show last night that I've only seen one other time, and that was the 58 points Dale Ellis got vs. Milwuakee at Milwaukee back in the day ('88-'89 I think) in overtime...DTate's performance was beyond spectacular, he sensed early on that they could not match up on his quick first step and acceleration to basket on one dribble...he had 25 at halftime, and that was after he only played 18 of 24 mins. DTate drove and drove and twisted and turned and drew fouls and missed his 5 3's in game, meaning he ONLY missed one shot inside the 3pt. arc...now I don't know about you, but if I'm an NBA scout, GM or Player Personnel Director, I'm all over this kid, as he is demonstrating all too well that he's ready for his "one" shot at the next level...He's a nondescript small college player whose passion for the game supercedes his character and respect of others off the court...He is genuinely one of the best offensive players that I've ever worked with...His defense when he first showed up was an "ad" in the Lost and Found section of a newspaper...He has gotten better every week, and now KNOWS when he is out of position and makes poor judgment fouls: reaching in, off balance jabs at ball on dribbles and forgetting to block out first...BUT...he now looks at me and nods, knowing all too well that I was about to remind him where the "sun don't shine..."...He is by far the best American player in the CBA this season...he is a cross athletically between Wilkins of Seattle, Bowen of San Antone and Raja Bell of Phoenix...yeah, all those athletic combos, but none of the aforementioned have his offensive prowess and know-how to get to the basket and SCORE like DTate...WOW...You want to talk about class, here it is...He's at 68 points with 1:40 to go in game and I mention to our coach that it would be good to take him out of game now, out of respect to SunJun, the former GM who brought me and DTate over here 3 months ago, before he was deposed...You see, SunJun is the only player in the history of the CBA to score 70 points in a game and I really didn't think it was right for DaJuan to break that record when we were up 11 with little time left...The coach actually listened to me, glory, and subbed him out to the sidelines to the smiles and backslaps of his Chinese teammates and next to me on the bench..."D, I told Coach to take you out...out of respect to SunJun, because it's only right that he remains the legend of his country's league...you're only going to be here one season and then a distant memory, SunJun lives here and breathes Chinese basketball..."...DaJuan looked at me, nodded and said "coach, SunJun told me to break his record...I was going to, but then again thought about it and said to myself, nah, I don't need to do that...he gave me my first chance at Pro Ball here and I'm happy for the experience..."...Whew, I said to myself, I'd hate to think that he wanted to score 71 and didn't because I waxed sentimental over a National icon...Get this, our coach PUTS DTate BACK INTO GAME with 45 secs. to play because the other team cut the lead to 8 with that much time left...Tate winks at me and says, "Coach, don't worry, I ain't even goin to be near the ball..." And he wasn't...He now holds the All Time Single Game record for a Foreign Player in the CBA...When he was told that by the GM and Assistant Coach YoYo, DTate was ecstatic...Folks, I gotta tell you something, he's the kind of person, player and teammate you wish you could have your family around, teach and coach and be on his team, respectively...THAT GOOD...Okay, gotta get on 3 hour bus ride to the airport for another 6 hours on a plane, two connections, making it a 12 hours day again...But when you win again on the road, it's pure joy to travel...We now have 4 wins on the road, more than any team in the league presently, or so I'm told...we're two games out of the win column for the last playoff spot with 16 games to go...light a candle...We play at home on Wednesday and again on Friday...if we bring our road mindset to these home games, we'll do just fine...Stay tooned...Hello to Larry Stone, the gentleman who constructed our platforms back in June of this year for the 11' Exposition Game at Hec Ed...Also, best wishes to Dorothy Harshman, who has had a rough go of late, being hospitalized over the last several weeks...she is the wife of Coach Marv...wonderful basketball woman she is...Her son, David, was a coach over last season and did a GREAT job working with Post players, both Junior and Men's level players...Also Shout Outs to Eastside Catholic, Newport High, Mount Si, and Inglemoor HIgh school Varsity and JV teams, AND of course Kentwood, home of Lindsey Moore and Teddi McGuire, two outstanding student athletes on the Girls team there, as well Josh Smith, the 6'9" Post player whose developing skills and careful mentoring from his wonderful parents will make people marvel at this young man's brilliant future...God Bless all...Coach tom

10:30pm, RedBuds Hotel, Changchun City...we made it safely and hungry...you just can't depend on Airport food to be the best meal of the day...so I'm warming up the water to have some good old "Top Ramen"like, but better noodles...Good day...
I know I know, "where the heck have you been, Tom?..."...Let me say this: I don't like to write repetitive accounts on this blog that reflect the myriad ways on how to LOSE a freakin basketball game...I gotta have some "Good Humor Juice" flowin in order to provide y'all with some fun stuff to read and be amused by my ongoing experiences...So, guess what? WE WON!! 109-88 at home vs. a team that beat us by 17 at their place...We had been on a 4 game losing skein and that wasn't a lot of fun, let me tell you...For one, our coach has this incessant behavior that the "more meetings" the better we will play...Wrong...just the opposite...The Chinese players are not easily attentive towards ANY dialogue, good or bad that discusses the game...Why? Mainly because they practice for eight months, then play in the CBA League for 3 and a half months, and MAYBE, just MAYBE two weeks separation from the team and teammates...Get the BIG PICTURE here? Especially when a team is on a multiple game losing streak (4 up to last night's salvation)...How to describe our last two losses before last night's victory: one on the road was an aberration, so much so, I can't even remember the score other than it was ugleeeeeeee to the end, as D Tate, 6'5" G/F got back spasms 3 mins. into the game off the bench and he had already scored 5 points...Imagine a Goodyear blimp getting a large hole in the nose of the craft...yep, it's in deep doo doo as it nosedives down, losing it's helium and power...Losing D Tate is like that with this team...This young player has the God-given skills and discipline, on and off the court to have a "shot" at the League next year...Pat Riley, Don Nelson, Pop in San Antone, PJ and Nate Mac would love this kid's natural talent and skills...He has come so far in his on ball and off ball defense, and yet, still has much room for improvement, BUT WANTS to be told what he's doing wrong, what he should be doing and how can "I get better, Coach" questions...Wow...been a long long time since I've been asked that question...Anyway, our next game is versus the Muslim city team Urumqui (phonetic-based spelling)...This young man is SO eager to improve his game, he wants to come to Seattle in preparation for an NBA tryout next summer...Let's see, that makes 3 of the players from the States who wish to visit me and train for a week at the UW or Seattle U., this is what is called being a "student" of the game: seeking a mentor/teacher that will build one's knowledge and confidence to succeed in any organized environment related to the game...I'm going to have quite a "cast" of characters and players this Spring/Summer...What fun my 'other' students will have when training with these professionals...I can hardly wait for Connor Witt, Richard Woodworth, Jeff Rerucha, Nile Kramer, Ian Gordon, Tanner and Tyson Riley, Lindsey Moore, Teddy McGuire Alyson Stone, Jordan Dalingstad, Josh and J-Mon Smith join my crew from China for our workouts...Man, are we going to have some fun THIS YEAR...my young students here in China are going to be such incredible additions to our workouts, that even Bobby Jones will be excited to join us again, and Ryan Rourke and Eric Sandarin also...Folks, I am having more fun teaching and coaching now than I've ever had before, and you KNOW I always HAVE FUN when I do "my thing" on the floor...Back to the games at hand...so, meetings, dialogues, translations, boredom and mindwanderings aside, we came home to play that Muslim city team, a good one at that, Top 4 in league presently, and Tate is so so for a nod to suit up and play...He received acupuncture from our Team Trainer and STEM hookups (you know, the electric stimulation patches) and was ready to go...We had the game in our hands, literally until we turned the ball over like Santa giving presents at Macy's...EVERY time we turn the ball over in consecutive fashion,I say fashion because our turnovers seem to be a "Runway Model on how to Turn the Ball Over Uniquely...", and we go from being up by 7 with ball to being up only 1 by the end of the 1st. Qtr...18-17...we were playing Defense as a Team so well it was exciting to me to witness and be a part of...UNTIL...we had to initiate our offense at the other end...Our offense at this point in the season is between a "Stillborn Orangutan and baked Cupcakes that come out of the oven flat as a cookie...Got the picture? So, we go into the 2nd Qtr., in a fog that made me wonder if the "energy" drink that these players drink religiously during timeouts, perhaps was spiked with some brown bag MogenDavid, 'cause the only thing that seem to take them out this stupor was the "fog horn" of the scorer's table stopping action to allow a substitution...I gotta interject something here that ALL coaches wish they could do under similar circumstances: call for a Heavenly intervention whereby there is a power outage and the game is delayed OR the scoreboard, clock and the "pea" in the Officials' whistles doesn't work AT ALL, and we retreat to a neutral zone where it doesn't matter whether or not there is light to SEE the players when you speak to them about how bad they are playing on offense out there...If I were taking Rogaine during this campaign, I would NOT be their Poster Generian (newellism word for someone older than 59)!!! I mean, here I am sitting on the bench and thinking about how to change the game completely: you know, have a league where you get POINTS for STOPS on defense and they are worth more than putting the friggin ball through a cylinder...yeah, NOW do you understand the metaphor/analogy of the aforementioned Animal Kingdom and Bakery itesm? Think about it...In wrestling you get points for takedowns, and smooth defensive counters...the same is true for boxing...I know I know, you're wondering now if I've been drinking from the "Brown Bag" to come up with THAT scenario in basketball...This much I know: the next Head Coach job I have, I am going to meet the Electrician, Mechanical Engineer and whoever else that controls the "switch" and tell them if they "see" the same things I do with our team at home, to PLEEEEEEASE pull the plug so we can quietly retire to a dark room and talk about life, Chinese traffic Pac Man, noodles and how cold the weather is outside, THEN talk about why we're here tonight...Hopefully this "mental pause" will resurrect our desires and memory bank to play the game at BOTH ENDS...Just a passing thought...Anyway, on to the rest of the game story here...We go down 7 at half, turned the ball over 11 times already that lead to 12 unanswered fast break points (note: when we turn the ball over, we stand there in disbelief and FROWN...kinda like a 4 yr. old boy whose older brother takes his Fudgesicle away from him and eats it...), not making any valiant/gallant effort in transition to thwart the miscarry on our part...Gimme me another shot from the Brown Bag please...We come out the 2nd half, fired up, forcing the other team into 5 turnovers in 8 possessions...Right?....BUT we in turnover "fashion" provide our own bakery products, all different pastries, but the same freakin TURNOVERS...so we go down 12, take a timeout, get it together, I stay positive about STOPS on defense, and coach is talking about offense, always something different in our sets, never the same...We force two consecutive turnovers, score in transition, and then they miss 3 more shots and now we're only down 3, 54-51 with 6:56 left in the 3rd Qtr...We have BIG MO goin our way at home now, fans are into the game, players are alert, we're playin to win now...and the other team takes a Timeout...So what do we do? Substitute our Point Guard "Pops" out of the game and rotate in a 19yr. old inexperienced PG, whom has not played a minute in 3 weeks, hasn't traveled on the road with us either, and HE is now playing at this point in the game...Gimme the whole damn BROWN BAG now please...I'll put it this way, the STOP sign on Defense became the Ole' "would you like to start your offense on this side of the court or the other Sir...?"...and when this rookie was finally taken out, mercifully I might add, with 4 mins. to play in the 4th Qtr., and the score 88-69, THEM, we all were shocked, founddumbforsure, and discouraged, we could hardly wait to end this death march and go home...err, to our rooms...After the game, the coach never said a word, because HE KNEW what everyone was thinking, and was too embarrassed to say anything...Am I throwing this cat under the bus? Nah, he "jumped" in front of the bus a long time ago...I'm just an attendant in the ambulance making sure the "siren" works as we slowly drive to the Hospital...THEN the next day, nothing is mentioned about the game, BUT there were words about the Journalists stories on our team that the coach spoke incessantly about over and over again: "don't worry about the press...don't listen to what they say (I thought they wrote...), we must overcome our burdens and play better at home, our defense in the 4th Qtr. was not as good as OUR DEFENSE in the first 3 and a half...No foolin Sherlock...Arrrrrrgh...Coach Woods, we HAD STOPS that were right out of your Disruptive Pressure Defense book...you'd a been proud of this collective effort until the 6:56 mark in the 3rd Qtr...

Last night's game: WE WON...WE WON...I know I am repeating myself here, forgive me, it's just that it's been so long since I was able to share with family and friends: "WE WON!!"...Our collective defense and applications at both ends were astonishingly consistent and fun to watch...From start to finish, we played the game the right way...We forced them into 26 turnovers...bad shot selections...and transition hoops for us at the other end...We also had a season HIGH 24 assists...in one game...48 mins...usually we have MAYBE 9-10 assists total...yeah, I know, hard to believe...but true...Now, about this game and a life lesson here for young coaches who read my blogits...There is a "cardinal rule" in universal basketball that all coaches must observe, reserve and preserve...and that is: NEVER EVER take a timeout with under 3mins. to go unless there is an injury, you're just trying to substitute a reserve into the game for a regular, etc., or another game emergency situation otherwise this is considered a "cardinal sin...", but then again, there is no sin in China, right, how would this coach know "sin" in basketball? Anyway, he calls a 20 second timeout, much to my and the other Americans on the floor amazement and question, and proceeds to draw up a PLAY...??? I can't believe it...can YOU?? Play resumes, time runs out, we don't get the shot off and now I am going down towards the Visitors Bench to shake the Foreign coach's hand (we have mutual acquaintances in Belgrade, Serbia, where he's from), and he has this look upon his face that resembles someone who went out the front door to get the morning newspaper and the neighbor's dog dumped a "footlong" on the walkway and he didn't see it...steps barefoot in it...,and says to me: "Coach tom, why did he call a Timeout when you are up 20...doesn't he know that a coach NEVER embarrasses the other team and coach at home doing this...?"...I tell him I don't know, and yes, we shouldn't have done this, I apologize, and then I say "maybe it's because we haven't won in so long and he wanted to keep playing....?...We both laughed at that, hugged and wished one another well...oh for the humor in war between foes...Spirits were lifted once again in our locker room after the game...what a relief it was to see how well we can celebrate our hard fought victories, however few they have been so far...By the way, D Tate had 35 pts. and showed no ill effects of his previous back spasms that kept him less than average the previous two games...He plays with heart and soul, meaning that he plays hurt very well, and our Team Trainer, "Doc", a "Master in Acupuncture", did his professional best to get DT ready for last night's game...I encourage parents of kids in youth sports: check out Dr. Bob Greczanik, Sports Acupuncturist, Bellevue, if your son or daughter EVER has a problem with a sports related injury and the alternative at hand is Anti-inflammatory meds...I am DOWN on kids taking these prescriptions and will go toe to toe with any "Doc" on the so called "merits" of these medications...A child SHOULD NEVER be given a prescription for a sports injury that could affect their organs later, and by that I mean this: 90% of kids today, ages 8-18 do NOT EAT properly, meaning that when they are told to "eat BEFORE taking medication. drink liquids", (water, NOT soda pops), they ignore that on their own (at school, taking meds anyway, maybe NOT even eating lunch prior to time order of prescription)...So, as a Parent, you need to Google anti-inflammatory meds and read up on the post effects of same on the body...I speak from seeing so many former Pro athletes, basketball, football, baseball walk with arthritic conditions now, some in their 40s, others older, all former "under care" of prescribed anti-inflammatory meds...Boy, I know if someone wants to take issue with me here, I'll raise a few eyebrows...good, at least I'm suggesting a positive alternative to orals...

On the road again this morning, December 8, 2007...early morning flight...coaches and players are upbeat, good sign...tired and hungry I'm sure, as they will always sacrifice appetite for more rest...go figure...Anyway, we're headed to Yunnan area (Southern) of China...Short trip: 6 hours on plane, then 3 hours on bus all today and a game tomorrow night, then same return trip home on Monday, and game on Wednesday...Ain't life grand!?!...We beat this team for our first win last month...hopefully we can do it again, as our defense has improved demonstratively since then...Fingers are crossed that our coach will NOT have practice when we get in, rather just a meeting, watch some film, and get some food and rest tonight...usually what he does is has us dress down for a two hour practice, or one hour and weights one hour, then go back for two hours, eat, then have a meeting at 7:30 for an hour, watching film and hearing his dissertation on life as a basketball player in the CBA, then back to our rooms for the night...Monotonous? Nah, nutz, yes...These players need rest #1, not shooting baskets, jumping up and down in a scrimmage full court, or doing a 3 man fast break drill...we need fresh legs...I share this with him regularly and feel like I'm one of the detainees in Guantanamo...deaf ears...If he would just listen to experience now and then, his words of "wisdom" might be received better in the BIG PICTURE...I will say this: George Irvine, Indiana Pacers, Bernie Bickerstaff, Sonics, and Bill Fitch, Nets had more sensitivity towards "reading" players body language and 'LISTENING' to their Trainers, they should all be teaching coaches worldwide with this genuine "feel" for the game and their team...I learned so much from each of them over the years...it's a true gift, and they "had it"...

Okay, battery is low on the laptop, we're about to land in a half hour and I need a break from my fingertip touches...geeeze, I don' know how people with long nails do this so well...I know I promised my "musings" on life as I know it here in China...I will try to enter this tomorrow...in the meantime, hope you enjoyed this latest "catchup" and wish everyone good health, an act of kindness towards someone you don't know, and that your families are well and happy....God Bless...Coach tom

UPDATE on Bus Ride to Yunnan: beautiful Flintstone (at least that what it appears to me to look like) monoliths rising up from the ground like petrified tree trunks...There was one visual that stood out on this sortie, and that was off in the distance was the LARGEST GOLD Buddha that sat upon a hill overlooking the farmland below, with a path that lead from the Temple to this "wonder"...Incredible sight...The three hour ride here was an incredible assortment of new development mixed with old clay/straw one door shanties...I will say this: if the Farmers of China ever decided to NOT farm, this country would be in a world of hurt...Big Time...I mean the land is so red rich soil that you could plant your old kids shoes and they'd probably grow an inch or two in a year!! Anyway, observing couples working together on small plots, hands and knees cushioned by the tender soil, you really appreciate the time, effort and discipline of these quiet people, doing what millions of generations did before them throughout their country...One other notable observation: there were hundreds of white shrines scattered throughout the countryside, very very old, yet you sensed that this was a family tradition, a reminder of the farmer who raised his family and their children also for many years...Quite a sight if you can imagine...the shrines were mostly similar with about a 7' arc with columns and a tombstone...First time I've seen ANY gravesites in China...Did I tell you that you probably won't see Hearses or Mortuaries in any large Chinese city, let alone graveyards... Cremation is a strong belief in their Creation...Practice? NO!!! Coach says to me that we will watch video since the trip was so long (12 hours) and we need rest...He's learning, slowly but surely...Good for him...he's a nice person, no question...Alright, I'm off to bed, watching on Chinese television the Rockets vs. Nets in New Jersey...This Chinese station will televise at least 120 games this season: FREE to the Chinese nation...Guess where the "next" cash cow in the NBA is spawned? You got it...