Jilin Tigers: January 2008

January 30, 2008...Wednesday afternoon...about 45 degrees, sun out in Beijing...what I'm about to share with now, is what is called "losin it..."...

The Box returns...err...is found...err...HAS BEEN HERE ALL THIS FREAKIN TIME!! This morning, early, I was turning over and over again my thoughts and the dialogues of all the people involved in my packing, loading, unloading and droppoffs, trying to resolve in my mind that "it's gotta be somewhere in this country...help me, Lord...", and to His credit, He listened to ol tommy boy here in Beijing and gave a him a thought: "Ah, my son, have you considered that perhaps your BOX is in your midst? And that all the evil things you thought and said under your breath in tongues I have never spoken before myself, you may have the BOX before you...? Have you considered THAT notion, son?"...Aw, c'mon Lord, I'm NOT THAT "far gone" to even THINK that it is here, in this small room, and I haven't even considered THAT OPTION...Now, paranoia awakens, like a Stephen King novel 20 pages in and I'm looking at the 5 boxes on both sides of the bed...3 are from The Larson Legacy...one is from my room that I packed along with the missing BROWN BOX, right?...then I'm looking at a USPS Express Mail Box, White, that I don't remember Lee Larson sending me...hmmm, who sent this to me...and I look at the still-intact attached label, and it says "Sender: Chris Newell"...NO, it didn't say that....I walk away, come back, pick it up, put it down, walk away again and start shaking my head to make sure ALL THE MARBLES ARE IN PLACE when I open this box up to be humbled for ALL TIME...I rip the yards of tape that wrapped around it, as well as the straps that I had put on the box because it was NOT SECURE when I went to check in a week ago at the Changchun Airport...slowly I am beginning to see "pain, suffering, and inflammation of a sore neck from shaking one's head" syndrome, usually associated with an American basketball coach in Beijing, China who has been in the Northeastern part of China, having had his neurosensors FROZEN for quite some time now...HOLY SWEET OBAMA!!!

Yes, indeedy, there it was, EVERYTHING THAT I THOUGHT WAS on the streets somewhere trying to make someone happy...but no, the BOX is HERE...Glory...so for those of you who lit a candle, toasted my BOX and its whereabouts, and/or just said "newell's losin it...", thank you, thank you, thank you, I received ALL of your wishes and appreciate the empathy you felt for my BOX...And to think, last night I finally succumbed to "losing it forever" and went out and bought replacement cords for the tech stuff I have...laptop, portable DVD player, monitor...It only cost me about $50 bucks for replacement, and met some fans of the CBA and had fun talking about the league and all, BUT, THIS, here in MY ROOM...I shoulda had the Beach Boys song on all this time: "In my roooooooooooommmmmhhhmmmm", something would have been turned my switch on and saved me this embarrassing moment in my Chinese experience...Now I gotta go downstairs and 'fess up to the Bellman, David and his Boss Aaron, Asst. Mgr., GREAT GUY, has helped me so much, Wi, Asst. to the Asst. Mgr. and then walk around with a cardboard sign hangin from my neck: "My Name is "Not-so-smart"...If I look lost...I am..."

Okay, enough self deprecation here, and on to glorious future moments in my life...Tomorrow I visit The GREAT WALL...wow, can you believe it? I am so excited about seeing this...I remember a long long time ago, reading...errr, looking at the pictures in National Geographic Magazine and seeing this pictorial story on China's Great Wall, and remembering it being "One if the 7 Wonders of the World" at that time...Think there are a couple of more that could be added, but word is, the "Committee" are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame Selection group...Anyway, will give you my thoughts on the Wall after the visit...

Hey, I really mean this: so many of you emailed me and expressed sadness and shared my angst over the BOX, and I want you each to know I appreciate your laughter and also shaking your head as you read my account and followups to this point...I felt your "vibes" and THAT ALONE was the inspiration to find the BOX...Take care, safe travels, God Bless...tom
January 26, 2008...Sunday evening, Beijing...

At last! I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak and get on the court again at Coach Wang Fei's Basketball Academy outside Beijing...What a pure joy this experience was, and those parents whose sons and daughters have trained with me over the last several years "know" how much I enjoy teaching and watching players practice new skills they are being taught for the first time...

The Wang Fei Basketball Academy is part of a private middle and high school institution...It has over 1,000 boys and girls enrolled in the school for academics, and Coach Fei's program is an "add on" extracurricular program offered at the school...He only has boys, ages 11-17, all with varied skill levels, some advanced, some not so advanced, but ALL eager and willing to be taught...Coach Wang Fei bridged a relationship this past summer in Hawaii when I was accepting the invitation by SunJun, GM of the Jilin NE Tigers CBA team...Little did I realize then, how close Wang Fei was to SunJun, having played with him on numerous National Teams as well as on the well known Bayi Red Army Team, the Boston Celtics of old CBA team...Wang Fei shared with me during our dinner after the afternoon session today, about how SunJun approached him and asked him as friend and mentor what he thought about me as an "NBA Coach coming to the CBA for his team...?"...Wang Fei said that he had known my father, Coach Pete Newell for many many years and that he was watching how I interacted with the All Star Americans in the CBA Draft Camp in Hawaii during the week, and said the players respected me and listened to me during timeouts and substitutions, but that my greatest strength would be in teaching his young players in Jilin...Wow, I said to myself, little did I know that he too was supporting SunJun's decision to hire me as his team's leader...Couple that with Coach Bruce O'Neil, President of the United States Basketball Academy in Springfield, Oregon, how could I go wrong! Coaches, remember this always: if you teach the game the right way, respect the players, Officials and people supporting this wonderful activity, you have a much better chance to keep "working" than not...

Back to the Academy...So, Wang Fei introduces me to 72 students in attendance for this afternoon session, and his assistant coaches (OUTSTANDING Teachers in their own right!), and beforehand, asked me to "appeal" to them about applying their efforts in school, not just on the court everyday, that they are very lazy for the most part in classroom study and application...Now he's talkin to the right "Cat" when it comes to speaking to kids in school and sports...Not missing a beat, I have these young fellas in front of me, and right away ol coach here addresses them with a "Niaho" and then proceeds to have Wang Fei translate "how many habits are there in basketball?"...The murmur rises as the seconds tick by and I pick out a young player and ask him "how many?"...He answers correctly: "two" in perfect English...Now keep in mind, these players are supposedly "studying" English in school, albeit, not very consistently, but I am encouraged that he had the self confidence to give me the answer: "Good and Bad..."...The next question led to "how many ways can you play the game..."...Now many hands raise and I am really encouraged now...I point to one older player (16-17 yrs. old) and he says through Wang Fei, "two...good and bad..." with a smile, and I say "yes, there are two ways, but not good and bad, rather Right Way and Wrong Way...", using the example of dribbling the ball with your head down (demonstrating this I might add) and ask if this is a "good habit or bad habit, using my thumbs up or down, respectively, an International sign language unto its own), they all raise their hand with "thumbs down" and that leads into the next question, "is it the Right Way or Wrong Way?...Again arms raise and "thumbs down" is unanimous...Then I say, "Excellent, NOW we have an understanding about how I will teach you today..."...Then we explore the "3 Speeds in basketball": Quick (change of direction), Fast (transition on Offense and Defense) and lastly the most important: Slow (playing under control, learning something new in a drill etc.)...Their eyes lit up, I have 'turned' on a 30w Bulb in their basketball minds...This sets up the "next" conversation about "habits in school work and applications"...90% of the kids raised their hand when I asked them point blank whether they could "do better in school and studying..."...They ALL nodded and agreed that they had bad habits when it came to having a Best Effort everyday in school, NOT ever mentioning bball in this exchange...We then proceeded to the courts where I demonstrated a one dribble with right hand, step off with the left foot shooting drill from the top of the key...which evolves into several other one dribble or two dribble (no more than that) moves to the basket...There were 6 baskets available, and we had more than enough help to successfully complete the drills for today...Let me say this: I have worked many many basketball camps over the last 38 years and this was the FIRST camp where the kids "picked" up very quickly the importance of keeping their heads up when making a 1 on 1 move towards the basket (you must READ the defense always when going 1 on 1 so you can REACT to any "help" defense and change direction with the ball (Quick speed) to finish the ATTACK...by the end of our session together, each player had successfully learned a couple of new moves and were excited to have me show them how to practice on their own with the same...even Wang Fei's assistants 'seized' the opportunity to also demonstrate to players who had difficulty coordinating the dribble with the balance and handle needed to be successful going to the basket...But more importantly, I WAS ON THE COURT AGAIN!! GLORY!!

Dinner later that evening with Wang Fei and his former teammate, Coach Lee...Wang Fei wanted me to experience Beijing Duck with him and Coach Lee, as well as other Epicurean delights, Chinese dishes I've had before but never so flavorful as these...the dishes: a spicy "bamboo" slices, sauteed and mixed with onions and mushrooms...I've had bamboo before, BUT this dish, WOW...next came a dish with "duck's feet", a delicacy served cold and prepared with Wasabe' hot mustard...I didn't want to disrespectful and not try it, so I did...not bad, not bad at all...good thing I had something to "wash" it down with...and that was puree Corn juice, heated to a boiling level and served in a tall glass...First time I'd ever tasted such and let me tell you, it had NO ADDITIVES such as sugar or molasses, just the fresh puree kernels, heated...Y'all gotta try that one, especially the kids, beats the heck out of a carbonated drink, that's for sure...next came a plate of large shrimp, with under-shell covered bread crumbs...how good was that? Of the 2 dozen, I had at least a dozen as Coach Fei and Coach Lee were into the duck's feet and bamboo root...next we had string green beans, with onions, small red peppers and mushrooms...are you getting hungry yet? Next was a saute' pan served at our table with Green Peppers, Red Peppers, Onions, Chicken pieces (no bones), green sting beans, and curry sauce...SOMEBODY please tell me how I've missed out "this" dish all the time I've been here!! Now that dish was "attacked" by 3 pairs of Chopstiks and surprisingly I "held my own" in the grab...If I can say there two "things" that I've improved remarkably on it would be as follows: How to cross the street safely, with a "bobble head" motion keeping me safe...next is my adept left handed chopstik mechanics...You wouldn't believe how many of the players and others who I have had the distinct pleasure of sharing a traditional meal with when I choose NOT to use the Western Utensils put in front of me...Most are dumbstruck by my being lefthanded and "doin my thing" with such precision...no, I don't "need" to catch flys or other flying objects to prove my skill, just know this: plastic chopstiks are no longer a "fear factor" when eating out in public in China...Back to the entree's...Next comes one of the Chefs wheeling a waist-high cart, and a roasted Peking Duck on top (this duck was through "peeking" at anything)...Wang Fei has him wheel his "duck cart" around so I can watch his skills carving a just-cooked Duck...Let me tell you, not only was this Chop Knife (the same used for veggies) SHARP, the Chef was "sharper"...I was so mesmerized by his skill, Wang Fei started laughing because my eyes were transfixed on how quickly he shaved to the bone the meat from the Duck...I mean this took all of maybe 4 and half minutes and there were two plates of meat well stacked and ready for "roll" shell that comes with this dish...How good was this? Wang Fei and Coach Lee laughed out loud when I took my first bite and under my breath I was sighing "ummmmmmm"...Keep in mind, I've had the Beijing Duck, back in early December in Beijing with our two American players and the GM...That was my first time and there also did I release an "ummmmmmm" and draw laughter from the table...But this "ummmmmm" was a different "octave" level, as it was served right before us, still warm and ever so fresh...I asked Wang Fei if he knew any Spanish, to which he replied no, so I taught him "NO MAS!!", meaning I was "done" eating for the night, there was not another morsel that could match what I had just experienced...He laughed again and so did I...what a prince of a guy Wang Fei is...His wife was suppose to join us but she was with her ill stricken father and could not be with us...I hope I can meet her sometime...They have one daughter who attends BYU Hawaii as a Freshman...She speaks fluent English and is a Business school major...Wang Fei is not a Mormon, but his actions and social disciplines are exemplary: he doesn't smoke or drink alcohol...and tonight was the first dinner I've ever had in China where alcohol and cigarettes were not part of the "menu" for the sitdown experience...This much I know: Wang Fei and I are going to be "newest" best friends for many years to come, trust me...We talked hoops the whole time we were not on the court...He has a great mind for the game and is without a doubt the BEST teacher of skills I have seen since arriving on this continent...I am committed to HELPING him any way I can with future additions of Pro Players to his teams in the near future...We are already planning a "tryout" in Seattle, whereby I will invite 10 players to come to Seattle and spend 4 days, going through drills, interviews and evaluations by myself and Coach Ernie Woods (Hooptactics.com)...I came up with this idea after hearing his "plea" to help him "find" good character and citizens that can make his team compete for a Championship...Our kind of guy, No? Anyway, Coach Fei will also bless my weekend sessions at Eastside Catholic on one of the weekend mornings, as I asked him to "help" me, then I will "treat" him to our Northwest Seafood delights: Salmon and Rockfish with vegetables...replacing Duck's feet with Fresh Calimari and of course Rice...If you ever need a Caterer, the best one I've ever experienced is Russell and Rick Lowell from Lowell Catering in Seattle...Now THEY know how to prepare Salmon and ANY Epicurean dishes to foreigners unaccustomed to our NW delights...They do Weddings, Special Events, Banquets and Private presentations...Keep them in mind if you're thinking of doing something different for the Senior Students' Graduation in June...

The "box"...don't ask, please...I've run out of Aleve and I don't have the energy to even try to "look" again into the whereabouts...tomorrow I have to buy new accessory items that go to my computer: camera, headset, plugs, monitor plugs...arrrrrrrrrgh!!! Enuff said...I leave for Russia on Sunday via Seoul, Korea, overnight there and on to Vladivostok...Being in "warm" Beijing now (Hawaii compared to Changchun cold), I am going to a city that is COLDER than Changchun!! And here I thought my cold "daze" was done, fini, ovah, adios, sayonara, goodbye...Oh well, might have to get some "woolies" as they call them here in China...Take care, drive safely, slow down, and God Bless...much love to all, Coach tom
January 23, 2008...Wednesday night...at the airport waiting for the flight from Changchun to Beijing...and Bob Marley is definitely the "Mastah Rastah Brah"...I've got him on my Nano now, and let me tell you, his words from his heart overshadow his love for life...and his was short...God Bless him...

It's kind of a bittersweet departure right now...leaving Coldchun and the kind, generous people that I became close to on the team at the Hotel and throughout the city...It has been a wonderful journey, these last 5 months in Changchun...The pictures I have captured through the lens of Steve Castleberry and my dear friend, Larry Stone, only accentuate the positive feelings I come away with from here...I'll always remember being addressed as an "old man" by Pancake, "Shortstack", our translator...NOW THAT was a cultural shock of sorts hearing that the first time, trust me...With the players, that all stopped quickly when I stepped on the court and began demonstrating footwork and change of speed one on one moves that detailed balance, recognition and execution, challenging each player to "new" areas of discipline and application...You see, our young aspiring players today seem to think that they can "get by" on their innate skills, which have evolved from And 1 videos, pickup games that are no more than 1 on 1 "horrorplay", and of course what they see on the tele professionally...and THIS IS UNIVERSAL, sadly...

Plane delayed ONLY 3 and a half hours...and FINALLY I arrive to my hotel in Beijing at 2am...The following events between Beijing airport and my hotel is a script that could only be acted out by Steve Martin or Albert Brooks...meaning, I need to rewind here (it's now Thursday after 6 hours sleep and 5 phone calls already this morning from the "new" on duty Concierge, whose understanding of the English language is about as good as mine in Chinese...got the picture?)...I was "hustled" by a supposed Taxi Driver upon leaving the baggage claim area, and after letting this "Napoleonic" figure know that I appreciated his effort, I wanted to speak first to the Information on Travel and Hotels that is in front of the Baggage Exit...I first ask the young woman if she spoke Chinese, which she said "yes"...I then asked her if this "gentleman" was a "licensed" driver and legit, to which she asked me if I was looking for some noodles to eat first...NOW THAT should have been a "sign" in itself...So, I changed my question to: "is this man a REAL Taxi Driver?"...She then asked him in Chinese and he in PERFECT English states: "I have BIG METER..."...and he's a small guy...We now have a "crowd" surrounding me and my dialogue, and true to my cynic nature, I tell him I'm "1 meter 95"...he didn't seem amused but the Lady laughed...Anyway, I "allowed" him to him and his "friend" to help me with my two carts, that being the case because of the materials I am taking to Russia, courtesy of Lee Larson and my son, Bo's "care" package mailing a couple of weeks ago...I have 3 suitcases and 6 boxes, file type that are on the cart...this is important to follow along here, as I am teaching you something about arriving to Beijing in the middle of the night, fatigued, and about as pleasant as old dog resting on hot summer day and being bothered by a fly that keeps trying to land on its nose...Keep in mind, I have been on a train over 7 and a half hours and a plane for 3 something in the last 24...How Kiefer Sutherland does "his" version of "24", I have no clue, but MINE require a number of pit stops and delays along the way, for sure...Fortunately, I don't wish to "eliminate" anyone like Sutherland does...but ALMOST was ready to after this trip...

The Ride: "Lil Nap" as I now have nicknamed him, and his friend take me curbside, all the while in my non-beveraged induced stupor, thinking to myself: "hmmm, here he is, with his "friend" taking me and my carts to the "Taxi"...Now, keep in mind, that there is NO FREAKIN way that the Port of Seattle Police would EVER allow a Taxi Driver to leave his "parked" taxi in front of the arrivals gate, right? So, as we ascend to the "Stairway to Hell" (tom's version of the Led Zepp classic), I am getting my second wind, meaning "sober" and realize that "this is going to be REAL interesting when I see HIS taxi and where he has it "stashed"...Lil Nap goes quickly to the curbside and hollers for this "private" BLACK, VW Passage sedan to come to the curb to pick me up (I KNOW Chinese well enough now to understand "voice inflections well, mind you), and here it comes, screeching to a halt, and a young fella jumps out, trunk popped and the two guys with my cart are getting ready to load "me" up...I politely tell "Lil Nap" to hold on...NO!!...They both stop in their tracks and Nap says to me: "what your problem?"...I say, where's the "meter" on this car? He says: "you have many bags...I have many cars, and this is special for your hotel..."...They say during the day the smog is really bad in Beijing, but no one ever told me about the "methane particles" that are also a HUGE emission problem at the airport...I tell him to give me the price NOW before he takes one bag and places it inside the vehicle (did I say BLACK SEDAN...? ...the windows were so tinted that a laser couldn't penetrate its film!!)...He says: "200 Yuan"...Which is about right...BUT he wanted to take TWO CARS to the hotel...Now the lyrics to Led Zepp's classic are ringing in my mindshare: "There's an Old Man I know, whose intentions are good and he's driving his way to hellllllllllll...oooh weee oooohooooh wee...and he's buying his way to hellllllllllla..."...I say ONE CAR, and look to call a METERED Taxi...I tell him that he was not honest with me, when he said he had "BIG METER" and that I was not happy with his actions now...He apologized and said 'okay', one car...He says that this is "Good Driver", he will take good care of you, okay...now you must tip tip tip me for my hard push...and to think, in less than 5 months, the world is going to "experience" thousand-fold what I am going through right now, and I thought I was a savvy "cat"...Back to the "Blackmobile"...the back door is opened and the seats are lamb hair covered, really nice in fact...so all the bags and boxes go into this vehicle, and I thank Lil Nap and his friend and give them a $10 tip between them...which they both looked at me like: "did you see the Stock Market today, bad day, we want more...", and I smiled and "SiChi" (thank you...seeshe)...Now to the "ride"...so we're rollin along on the highway with very very few automobiles traveling at 2am right now, and I strike up a conversation with "The Fella"...he knows a little English, and not enough, I'm soon to learn, and we're heading downtown to my hotel from the airport...not only did this car have its seats lamb covered, but so was the steering wheel...so much so, that I'm hoping that no animals "jump" in the path of our car, 'cause if it did, there's NO WAY that this fella is going to be able to do a "Nascar" swerve accurately...That mental pause on my part was short lived, as I remembered all too well, that most dogs and cats are "delicately" prepared for the table, which meant "fat chance" on hitting anything with four legs right now...Our conversation quickly moved to "you like basketball" and you "play" basketball...His eyes and smile told the rest of the story...He loves basketball and the NBA...Great, I say to myself, he just might be alright for this trip to my hotel...Now we are inside the city limits, heading towards my hotel as he slows down on an offramp...he soon STOPS in the right lane of the two lane offramp, calls someone on his cellphone to GET DIRECTIONS...and then I'm singing to myself: "Help me if you can I'm feelin dowwwnnnn...and I do wish that someone else were arounnnnnd...", and NOW he's LOST...I shoulda known that someone as young as Li is (24 years old), living in Beijing, where there are more than 20 million people, that he has NO experience with ALL the hotels that are in this city, let alone the street addresses...This I know, he wasn't a "homing pigeon" before in another life, as we spent a half hour trying to find my hotel, which I actually gave him IN CHINESE the directions and he goes "I know I know...", they say that alot in English here when they DON'T know something...keep that in mind when you're here...Then, at a signal, he jumps out of his car TWICE to get directions to the hotel, the first time at a signal, the next time at a side street and he runs back about 50 yards to ask a Taxi Driver the same...Now why wouldn't he just BACK UP like he did on the offramp to "get" directions on his first call for help...I now have my hotel on the cell and as he gets into my car, I give him the receptionist and he's listening and driving ahead...hmmm, now all of sudden HE KNOWS where he's going...he cuts her off to take another call and then 3 mins. later, we pull up in front of the Red Wall Hotel...does he pull up in front...no...he pulls ahead away from lights and says okay, "Pay me 200 Yuan and Tip"...I tell Li that he must back up to the front of the hotel and I will pay him then to help me get my bags out of the car...so, backs out of the lot and drives around to the front and jumps out, starts pulling bags and boxes out and I'm slowly helping all the while and then he shuts the doors to his passenger side back door and says "now Tip"...I said, "Li, you did good job to get me here, but you did not do good job to find hotel..."...With that he jumps in and takes off...I check in and forgetting to get a receipt from Li, soon realize that two of my 6 boxes are missing..."Won't you pleeeeease pleeeeease HELP ME HELP MEeeeeeeee ooooooh..."...Now I am NOT a Happy Camper at all...I start speaking in "tongues" to no one in particular, and this young bellman, David, says to me in a kind, reassuring voice, "Sir, I can help you...do you have the Taxi receipt?...I tell him no, but I do know what they ALL look like and the name of the Driver...so, my newest "hero", David, takes me to my room and says, I will help you, please don't worry, this man will have to call back because you know what he looks like...So, about 10 mins. later, I get a call to my room and David is all excited as get out to tell me that the "driver" called to the hotel and says that he has your box...but that I must "pay" another 200 Yuan to get it back...I tell David to keep him on the line as I will come down quickly to speak to him directly...Let me tell you something, my "transition" was so good that Lorenzo would have had me demonstrate at my age on how to "run a fast break lane" correctly...Now I'm at the Bellman's desk and I tell David to tell him that I am calling the Police NOW, and that he will never drive again and to bring my box back NOW...David translates this to Li and he wants to now speak to me...He now is speaking English and telling me that he is sorry that he didn't realize that the box was still in the back seat...I told him that there is no way I am paying him another 200 Yuan and that if the box is not here in the next 20 minutes I will call the Police and report him...I give the phone back to David and he repeats the SAME words in a different voice inflection that I am sure spoke to "the fella's" conscience...David says my box will be here in 20 mins. as he was back at the airport again...

20 Minutes later...an older lady dressed as a Taxi Driver comes into the hotel with my box...not "the fella", but a heavy set woman, with no smile and demanding 100 Yuan for this box...I'm sitting down while David, my new "hero" is negotiating with her...I know that I have to "pay" something to this driver because she got set up, and at 3:30 am, I AM NOT about to do evil upon her, so I kindly give her 80 Yuan, thank her and explain that the Police are going have a report this incident...She NOW smiles and says back to David, that she was doing "Lil Nap" a favor that's all and away she went...I now ask David to call Li back and ask him where the other box is...he tells David that there was only ONE, not two, and "that is the truth..."...the bar's closed and I am in need of a G&T RIGHT NOW...Larry Stone where ARE YOU when I KNOW you can handle this situation much better than I, and even my good friend Big D would have had BOTH boxes in my room by 3am, not one by 3:30am...So, now my day begins with becoming the American version of Inspector Clousteau...I was planning on visiting the Forbidden City, which is across the street from my hotel, but that shall wait, as I NEED the box that has my materials for the Russian Clinic in 10 days...Hope you're able to follow my story, Folks, as this is the only way I can maintain my sense of Irish humor and share the "Magical Mystical Tour" with y'all...Stay tooned...Safe travels, all the best, hope you enjoyed this entry...I felt much better after reading it twice...I'm a slow reader...Coach tom
January 25, 2008...Saturday late morning...2 Advils, meditative positive thoughts vibrating once again...BUT STILL NO FREAKIN BOX that's disappeared between my hotel and Beijing...Okay, I know, "it's just a box, tom...", but YOU don't know that I had my laptop headset in it, my laptop camera, my seattle cell phone, my basketball folders for the Russian coaches, my hookup connections to various plugs...In other words, I am only 'half-connected', but then again there are those out there who've always thought I've been "half connected" for a long time...Guess what? I've always had a "ground" plug attached and that's what has made me unique compared to others...Thank God!!

Okay, here is how my Thursday went after getting to sleep around 4am same morning...I spent several hours with 4 different people "sleuthing" the missing "box" and getting down to the nitty gritty of where it may have disappeared from when I left the hotel in Changchun...The Staff here at the Red Wall Hotel have been magnificent Hosts...From David, the Bellman, to Aaron, Asst. Mgr., to Wi (Wee), asst. to the asst. Mgr., and then the momentary appearance and greeting from the Mgr. herself, Stacy...Here's the lowdown as of Saturday morning: my box DID not, according to Security Cameras at the Red Buds, Changchun Hotel, indicate that I had 6 boxes, that they only counted 5 on the cart going outside to load up into the Taxi...This information arrived at 5 pm on Thursday night, leaving me a "new found" type of headache, AKA "Boxache"...So now, I am retracing the last steps from room to elevator and who was with me, and THEN a "flash", not a "hot" one, but similar: "YES, the EMS Shipping fella was with me and helped me with my boxes (who by the way is a GREAT GREAT new Friend, responsible for getting my Xmas presents home to the US on time...), and I'm thinking that he must have accidentally taken it with him and I forgot to give him instructions as to where to send it...Now I am so excited I jump into the elevator to share this "brainstorm" recollection with Aaron, and as the elevator doors open, guess who is walking in the hallway in front of me? Aaron!! Now he gives me this look like: "aren't you ever going to accept the fact that you lost your box...?"...And I quickly embrace him and tell him "I think I know what happened to it...the EMS Shipper may have accidentally picked it up..."...Which means that in order to call the Shipper, I need someone to translate and Aaron knows this...We then go to his desk, I give him my cell phone and he calls "my Guy", who says initially YES, I have Coach's Box, and watching Aaron's countenance change from Hyde to Dr. Jekyll very quickly...Ah, I'm thinking to myself, I am really good at this CSI stuff, I "found it" by reflecting...or so we thought, when in fact, EMSer didn't have the box and was now worried that I thought he "took" the box...Poor Aaron has this look on his face, like: "doesn't this American have something better to do than WORRY about a "box"...?...He's right, I do, BUT the fact of the matter is I had a lot of stuff in THAT box that I want back if I can track it down...Aaron hangs up, explaining that I DID NOT even for one minute think he, EMSer took the box and that's where it is...Then Aaron politely says, "I'm not sure what you can do next, Sir, I am at a loss here..."...So I ask him a simple question: "if you were me, and you lost a jacket in an airport where would you TURN to?"...he looked at me and realized that we had NOT asked the airports to locate this missing "box"...I am now thinking that the "box" and the Stat sheets I never received are linked...Aaron then says: "why of course, the Lost and Found...we have one here also at the Hotel...you're right, we only spoke to the baggage claim people NOT to LOST and FOUND...I will see if I can connect with both airports...BUT, right now, I have a headache and need to take a break, do you mind?"...Now I really felt bad...I asked him if I could buy him dinner in the Hotel...no thank you...then I asked him if he'd ever had a Gin and Tonic, it's very good, makes my hair grow...And he looked at me like I was truly "half connected" or "nutz" and it was then that I realized his "service" had run its course and pleaaaaaaseleavemealonenow so I can gather my thoughts for the "other" 200 guests...Dang, I felt so bad, I didn't do a darn thing about the "box" yesterday but I'm on it today...what the heck, it beats doing the Crossword Puzzle in the China Daily newspaper...So here I be, with a "boxache" to boot, trying to figure out what happened...

Stay tooned...as you can see, the books I've read, the games I've coached in and the life in China has devolved into a "challenge" of sorts, trying to find my "box"...Safe travels, God Bless...Coach tom
January 22, 2008...Tuesday...Somewhere between Coldchun and Shenyang on a slow train to Shenyang...When I say slow, we're talking the kinda "slow" that when you paint your house with an oil base paint and watch it dry...yep, THAT slow...

Okay, I FINALLY received the DHL documents this morning, which was originally expected to arrive no later than the 191h from Vladivostok, Russia...That being said, I missed the train yesterday, Monday, and had to ask a favor of the Bellman to exchange them back at the Station for me if he had the time (most definitely tipped him, which he refused to accept, until I told him that I wouldn't be his friend anymore...)...He was able to get 80% of face value, which means the tickets to Shenyang that I didn't use cost me 8 dollars...There's no such thing as "changing" the ticket to another day in China...Why? You ask? Because it's China...

So, my "newest" best Friend in China, Louis Ming, the Headmaster and Co-Director of the BAIDAWEI English School in Changchun, and myself are traveling together on this "slow" train filled with every imaginable character known to Mao...Without, Louie, I can't imagine how I would have ever been able to get to Shenyang safely and with my sense of humor still intact...Louie and I became friends three nights ago at dinner (see previous Post), when I presented to him a Concept and Draft on an student exchange program that now appears is going to happen...I am really excited about this prospect, trust me, as the students (ages in school 5-16 boys and girls) in this school are the most astute and clear speaking Chinese students I've met to date...They look right at you and address your questions, and also your answers...The model they've implemented in this school is beyond "commendable", it's truly an outstanding piece of extraordinary structure and administration...The teachers are imports from abroad, Americans, English, Aussies, Canucks, I mean now I know how China was the first manufacturer to come up the idea of a "blender", 'cause they most definitely "know" how to blend...And Louie, the CEO and his partner, David, President, have established this school as the #1 in Changchun, having to turn away applicants...They're considering adding another venue next year...the only thing holding them back is the qualifications of applicants online for a teaching position...It's a difficult process they've experienced in the past, but NO MORE...I am now helping this school in expanding its horizons, by introducing "New Horizons...portals to the World..."...This will begin with bringing students over to the Puget Sound for two weeks to experience firsthand our culture and having the opportunity to speak their ESL in a public environment, where English is the norm...Also in this "plan" would be ol tommy boy here, helping them with the screening process of applicants for overseas placement at BAIDAWEI schools (4-5 schools at this time)...Also included in this "vision" is Louie's idea of helping him develop a basketball program within BAIDAWEI that would bring in 14 yr. old students, boys and girls, whose parents would love nothing more than to see their children learn English, become outstanding students overall, and perhaps qualify for an Athletic Scholarship for basketball skills...Imagine this scenario: "true" Student Athletes, attending high school in the Puget Sound, sharing cultural experiences, athletic endeavors and developing the necessary academic disciplines to go on to a university and gain a degree in the end...NOW THAT would be a GREAT scenario/ending in my book...Will let you know how Family Sports Life Today is able to bring this whole program along...If I were to put it on a scale of 1-10 for happening this Summer: "!!" would be the number of record...

"Get me a Ticket for a Fast Train...ain't got time to take no Slow Train..."...Well, I finally received my "stamp" of approval from the Russian Consulate in Shenyang...Now we're on the Fast Train back to Changchun, I repack, check out and catch a plane to Beijing at 7:40pm tonight...Talk about a whirlwind..."The same thing that makes you mad, will also make you glad..."...after being sorely disappointed in DHL service, and NOT to their fault but the "Security" measures taken by ANY AND ALL Documents that come through China to anyone, the "weight" of my Official Invitation in this Airbill was the equivalent of a book of stamps...So, after catching the train last night, sleeping soundly and preparing for the Consulate's Office this morning, I was cognizant enough to remind myself (keep in mind, I think I have "Halfheimers", 'cause I only remember HALF of what I tell myself), bring a TURTLENECK, just in case you have to stand outside for 5 to 10 mins...So I actually did remember to pack this item...and boy, did it help immensely in reminding me how cold it is to stand outside in 25 below Zero weather for 40 MINS. and NOT 5-10 as hoped...Whoever thinks that the "Cold War" is over, just try to stand outside in subfeezing weather, waiting numbly for an invitation to come inside the Attache's Office for your Visa Stamp...After 10 mins. you're thinking like the anxiously addicted Lotto holder, who week to week can hardly "stand" to wait for the numbers to appear...I often wonder if those people actually play Ping Pong, and if they do how well...you know, the balls etc., and watching them come up one by one on the screen daily...Back to story: so here I am, 8:00am, standing outside the Embassy Entrance to the Russian Delegate's Office, with Louie translating to the Chinese Guard protecting the gate, identifying me and my purpose and trying to "throw in" an extra plug about "why" I'm there and that they are expecting me, which was true...The Guard gives us the telephone number of the Attache' who I met back in September when we (Tate and Castleberry) had to get our visa stamps for the Tournament in Vladivostok, Russia (earlier blogit)...Louie tells me that we have a half hour before they open the gate, let's go to KFC until then...I declined, as I remember how they have this special security camera outside the gate to "observe" the applicants BEFORE inviting them inside, and figured IF they saw this somewhat tall (by Asian standards) Anglo outside freezing his natural parts to the infantile stages of conception, that maybe JUST MAYBE, they'd let me in early...Back to the phone number of the Attache' inside, Paul is his name...So I call him and inbetween stutters and stammers, reminding me of my first "date" in high school as a 14 year old who had no clue what to say or how to act in conversation, he screams out to me "What...you come to gate 9am...I think I let you in..."CLICK...or was that an ear-wax projectile that came out of my right ear?...So, I tell Louie if he'd be so kind to bring me back a coffee, first one in a long long long time, I'd be forever grateful...he did 15 mins. later, as it takes 15mins. for every 5 that you're outside in the subzero weather...Man, it could have been Havoline 10W 30W, heated in a styrofoam cup and I would have DRUNK it at this point...It's been close to 30 mins. now, my ears as stiff and I'm sure as crisp as a Michael's Potato Chips, my nose/septum blocking my vision remarkably and me STARING right into the security camera from across the street...All I''m thinking at this point is "who the hell said that the "Cold War" was over...'cause if they're enjoying the black and white picture on the Security Camera of this American Patriot exhaling vapor like a poor runnin VW Bug, well, at my expense they got a chuckle for sure...Geeeze, I'm trying to remember when it's NOT SAFE to be outside for X number of minutes...Finally, at exactly 9:10am, Tall Paul (6'5" former University player I befriended the first time we visited this Consulate) appears and in front of about 20 applicants converging on the gate, he motions for me to come inside, "Please"...with a smile and a handshake, and in perfect English, he greets me and welcomes me again...WOW, my ears ringing with pure delight and defrosting at the same time, I do have a "friend" afterall in the Embassy here...You see, basketball friendships are without borders and paranoia, Paul took my application, 2,100 Yuan/RMB, and passport and said: "wait a moment, Coach, I come back to you shortly..."...20 mins. later...ONLY 20 mins. later he delivers my Passport with stamp included and wished me well and said he appreciated how much I was doing to help coaches in Russia and to consider going to St. Petersburg, Russia to help the college coaches there..."...I asked him how long it would take by train from Vladivstok...he said "ONLY 7 days...!!"...I asked by plane? "Only 12 hours..."...Whoever said that Russia is NOT a large country only has to hear where one coast stretches to the other to get an idea of the vastness of geography...

Okay, so here I am on the Fast Train back to Changchun...this train has "sleeper" cars with 4 bunks and an area the equivalent size of an apartment walkin closet, yeah, that COZY...fortunately, this is a "day train" and not so busy nor occupied like last night and we're really not bothered by anything...I'm writing this blogit, Louie's reading the newspaper, and life outside the window is a blur...

I will blogit tomorrow, after my meeting with the NBA/China President, and hopefully share some insight to their "future" plans...I figure with as much international experience I have under my belt, there's gotta be some value to League with my expertise areas...In the meantime, take care, keep a happy face and drive safely...Best wishes always, Coach tom
January 18, 2008...in a colder Changchun City...

So, today, I was expecting my documents from the Vladivostok, Russia, Basketball Federation via DHL...only to be left out in the "cold" so to speak, as it was revealed to me that they will may not arrive until Monday or Tuesday, meaning I will postpone my trip to Beijing until Thursday, after I go by train to Shenyang, a 3 hour trip to the Russian Consulate's office for the "stamp" of approval...arrrrgh...It's not that I want to leave, rather I had already planned on my departure date on the 23rd of January...Imagine this: an "overnight" letter from Russia to China takes 5-7 days to get to my city, Changchun...I did NOT expect this delay, after waiting so patiently for the last two weeks to receive this document...now, a delay, but there MUST be a positive that comes from this setback, so to speak...And there was!

Tonight, I had dinner with the CEO of Beidawei (By the Way) English Teaching School here in Changchun...I was introduced to this gentleman, Mr. Luis Ling, through an English teacher, who I asked "if" they have a foreign exchange program in place...which they do not at this time...So, ol tommy boy got his thoughts together, focusing on the positive and forgetting the "woe is me" for a moment, and put together a proposal whereby students who attend this prestigious school for ESL, and the next thing I know, my "idea" was born into reality...I proposed to this gentleman, the prospects of having his English speaking students (high school age) come to Seattle this summer and visit our Seattle Asian community and experience firsthand the culture of Asian-Americans living in the United States...Little did I realize that Mr. Ling would be enthralled with the concept and idea to have his students and chaperones participate in such a tremendous learning environment...I had proposed that students would visit the UW, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific and Northwest University, Kirkland, and see firsthand what a US campus life environment would be like...These students are the "creme de la" crop of the school, and are so intelligent and well spoken in our language, that they would surely qualify for ANY and ALL universities, BUT, would NOT know how to prepare (SATs) for applications and enrollment without having the firsthand exposure to the campuses of varied numbers of students...I am so excited that this idea was so well received by Mr. Ling and the English teacher...Next order of business will be contacting the people I know at the respective universities and asking them for a "day" of exchange for these student visitors and embracing their desire to apply to a large University, Medium-size, and small sized University, shucks I might even "throw" in BCC, with the large number of Asian students attending there, it would be a great complement to the aforementioned institutions...Anyway, I'm on "it", and proceeding forward with establishing initial contacts in the Seattle Asian community and listening to their ideas and thoughts on "receiving" these gifted students...We're talking about 16-20 students, together with parent chaperones and two administrators...Stay tooned on this one, as I am excited as all get out to facilitate such an exchange program of such magnitude...Listen closely: the MORE we exchange our culture to China, the more we will learn from them and they from us...without "preaching" anything...Children have wonderful minds when it comes to "seeing and believing" new elements of learning, vis a vis, an American university of higher learning...Oh I am so excited to be a part of this in a small way, trust me...World Peace only happens through cultural enlightenment and exchange of friendship and kindness...We SET THE EXAMPLE in the world for this measure, and to be a small part of such an epic program...Shucks, I'm stoked beyond words of descriptive delight...Will let you know how it all evolves...I am truly blessed to have this opportunity through basketball to once again "bridge" cultures...Wow...Best to all, and hope everyone is healthy and WARMer than moi...Coach tom
January 16, 2008...Coldchun City, China...Okay, I've been harpin on the fact that there's cold and then there's C O L D...and add an "E R" to this word and you get the chilling visual...The citizens of this city have it down pat...Let's say this: PETA followers would have a hard time wearing non-fur coats under these conditions...I mean really, when you go back a few thousand years, and even a couple of hundred with Native Americans, there was a reason they wore WARM PELTS to keep from freezing in their steps... My nose serves as an able "thermometer" as sorts, and when I have wandered away from the hotel outside to take a Taxi during the DAY, my nose starts to wiggle and waggle...Waggle? A waggle by nostril definition is a motion that doesn't go left to right, but rather the septum raises up on its own as if to telepathically tell me: "What? Are you nuts? YOU shouldn't be out in these elements with the "jet intakes" you have...you trying to freeze me off your face?"...And then I hustle into the cab and began a quick defrost as we speed away...That's the meteorological report of the last week here...One reminder to anyone who comes North of Beijing: bring your Thermals, upper and lower, and some thick wool socks, not that it matters but psychologically you feel like you're protecting yourself a lil bit...

Okay, here is my installment on "Items that one should not leave out of their suitcase when visiting China..."...

Late Summer Visit: Drs. Pepto and Bismol, the "best friends" money can buy as your digestive system "adjusts" to the cuisine...Claritin D or just plain ol Claritin; this will stabilize the affects of smog and dust in the air when you're outside for an extended time (sightseeing, etc.)...Altoids...and the new product, Altoids Gum...Man, those two items were best "pals" for me during my initial stay and also carried me through "dry" nights during these winter months when I chose to keep the heat off in my room (it was soooo dry, I'd wake up like I'd been hiking in the Mojave Desert)...Vitamins C, E, B-12 Complex...even though the Fruits available here are unbelievably delicious, it's not a bad idea to bring your own vitamin supplements...Tissues, hand type variety...they come in sooooo handy when you least suspect they would...small bottle Hand Sanitizers...these are Man's Best Friend in this country...when you visit a hotel restroom or airport restroom and read a sign by the sink that says to "Conserve Water" and then you watch grown men WALK RIGHT OUT of the restroom, well, it's just nice to know that you can wash AND clean your hands with the sanitizers...Bring lots of patience when it comes to trying to get somewhere and your hotel key doesn't seem to "register" with the Taxi drivers...how to avoid "problems?"...Have the Concierge write down on the Hotel Stationery in Chinese the place(s) you wish to visit and then on the backside of the paper, the name and address of the hotel WITH THE PHONE NUMBER...I have found that the Concierges' in most of the Hotels where we stayed as a team during the season, most helpful, and trust me, the Chinese are true professionals when it comes to Service...The Staff here at the RedBuds Hotel are wonderfully trained and continually amaze me with their customer service applications...Case in point: my Anta Team Bag was damaged recently by the airline, unbeknownst to me until I got back to the hotel, and now I need to have it repaired and I completely forgot about it...So, today I took it downstairs, showed the Bellmen and Concierge personnel my dilemma, and immediately said they could repair it...I was so happy to hear that, one, because I really like the bag (wheels on the bottom), and two, it was FREE and the best bag I owned at the time...broke down and bought an unbelievable carryon like Airline Crews have for a GREAT PRICE at one of the largest Marts for International Business Exports...But, now that I'm leaving China, I need to get this bag fixed, and they're taking care of it...Light sweaters in the Spring evenings will keep your Polo shirts warm to your body, as it does cool down in the evening in early Spring...Summer? Forget about it! It's just plain HOT and SWEATY time for 3 and a half months...in Beijing that is...maybe longer...Bring a small Chinese/English Dictionary to help you with simple word identifications...don't overpack...in fact, go look in your closet right now, or even the clothes your wearing and I would wager a bet that the label says "Made in China" on probably 90% of your clothes...jackets...hats and tennis shoes...all that means is this: you can find at a very reasonable price, the same clothes you buy at home, HERE...and their brand new...So, pack light, expect to spend around $200 on some nice shirts and other items...Visa is accepted at most Malls here, but there are some significant amount of stores that only accept Yuan, the Chinese currency...By the way, if you're planning on coming over here, I'd recommend you "change" your budget dollars NOW into Chinese Yuan, as it is dropping daily...When I came here in September, the Dollar was equivalent to almost 7.50 Yuan...today it was 7.17!! I get the feeling it will drop even more as the Olympics approach this summer...just a suggestion...There are some other items I'd recommend you bring for the most part, but I'm at a blank right now, as the "cold" has sneaked into my room and I'm shivering, which means that I have to turn on the "blast furnace" for 5 mins., drink a bottle of water and then turn it off...Okay, hope this helps a lil bit...take care, safe travels, and best wishes to all in your daily lives, I miss the NW very much and my Family and Friends even more...Coach tom
January 13, 2008...Sunday night apre' All Star game...somewhere outside Urumqui, Northeast China...

The CBA did a great job to promote their event prior to tipoff, having players from both teams visit elderly people, schools and I believe a hospital as well...They had their "Rookie Game" last night, which wasn't televised, and then their main event tonight...The pregame ceremonies were well planned and a great effort was made by all to put on a "show"...Unfortunately, the players in the Main Event reminded me of pickup basketball by Sunday hoopers, lots of offense and Ole' defense by bothteams...It was the kind of game that if you had a sleeping disorder, no meds were needed, just watch the game and you would see how this particular game reminded you of a level "yo=yo" going up and down the court...

Score? Let's see, when I woke up in the 4th Qtr., DT's team was leading by 5 with 45 seconds to play, and ended up winning by same margin I believe...DT scored 16 points in the first half on array of shots, one coming from Downtown Freddie Brown "zone", like about a 45' uncontested jumper...this was his first activity since last Sunday, and his first "sweat" stepping on the floor after being so ill during the week with the flu...He is scheduled to drive to the Muslim city, Urumqui, not far from this All Star city, and play for the #2 seeded team in the playoffs...I wish him well...He started in this game and I think finished with over 20 points, but I was zonked out when he left in the 2nd Qtr...Only 3 Americans from other teams were added to this All Star event, and having DT being on it in his first season is quite an accomplishment...He's going to have to work very very hard when he returns to the States in preparation for an NBA gig...He has the strength and body type to make a positive impression, only lacking experience vs. top athletic competition to make an "imprint" at this point...We talked about how important it is to continue to develop his upper body strength and conditioning regimen, so he can be successful in the tryout process...He's a fierce competitor and I'm biggest supporter for anything he attempts with the game...He's very "young" in athletic competitions, having only started playing when he was 16 years old...Never was on an AAU team, didn't go through the fanfare and "worship" period of being a "phenom" in high school, so all of the "late" rewards to date have been a result of his commitment to improve his overall skills and as he says: "just get better every time out, Coach..."...

Power Outage in Coldchun today...not once TWICE...Hmmm, I'll say this, as cold as it is outside, and the number of people who have electric heat, there could be some new "offspring" come this summer...This morning the power went out for about 25 mins. unexpectedly, and I was watching a movie on HBO when that happened, hoping that I could see the end of Xmen...Never saw that flick before, it was pretty good. when it came back on for the last 20 mins...Then tonight, another blackout, just in case there were those who "didn't" experience the first one during the day...this one lasted about 40 mins., and again I was in my room watching Seven Years in Tibet with Brad Pitt and a wonderful host of actors supporting his role...This movie was an epic event to behold, presenting the awful incursion/experience of this peaceful sovereignty, Tibet, unlike any stories I was aware of before I came to Changchun...My friend, Lee, in Happy Valley, Clackamas, has been a tremendous supporter of these people's cause, and is a dear friend to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama...Who by the way, is making an appearance in the NW, Puget Sound to be exact, sometime in April, I believe...Lee hopes to introduce me to HH and that would be a true highlight in my life, trust me...Okay, enuff said and done here...I'm going to bed, finishing up my template for the Vladivostok clinic coming in a couple of weeks...I was hoping to be working with the Junior team here in Changchun, but everyone in the Jilin Tigers team has gone on vacation already, and the teams are out of town playing in some tournaments, so here I am, packed and rarin to go to Beijing and then Russia in two weeks...I leave for Beijing January 23rd and will be there 10 days before my trip to Russia...I have a appearance at a basketball academy there in Beijing the week after next, helping out a coach/friend of my father...There are suppose to be high school boys and girls who attend this school...Will blogit when I arrive and keep y'all posted...

Take care, drive safely, and best wishes to all...Coach tom
January 12, 2008...Changchun...

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a very interesting ex-pat by the name of Aaron A. Vessup...He is a distinguished gentleman from Southern California, whose life of education and life experiences has brought his "journey" here Jilin University, Changchun City, China...I met Aaron at our last home game, sitting directly behind our bench, and of course you know me, I just had to acknowledge him before the game got underway...We exchanged acquaintances after the game, giving him my name and "call me at the hotel Redbuds...", which he kindly did...So, today, we met at the lobby bar and visited for a good hour and a half, enjoying the pleasure of one another's company, sharing stories of our immediate experiences and past travels...You want to know how "small" the world is today? Get this: he has a home in San Marcos, Guatemala, overlooking the Atitlan Lake and village...Why is this significant? Only because I happened to have been in that very small lake village twice over the last 5 years, accompanying Lee Larson and his Family on a humanitarian visit, teaching local and extended lake village locals on how to teach basketball to children...Now, in a country of 3 billion people and a city of under 4 million, you have to wonder how this could ever happen today...Aaron is an Author, Teacher, Poet, Photographer, Philosopher and genuine kind human being...His travels and intrigue brought him to this province awhile back, and he hasn't left...He teaches college students at Jilin University the merits of debate and patiently "how" to think outside the box, when it comes to understanding life as they know it today in their city, province and country...By no means is he an anarchist or anti-model of all that is good and positive in this ever-changing world, especially on the cusps of the "new" China...He possesses the values and intellect to clearly understand culture and behavior, thus elevating him to a level of instruction that is both praiseworthy and developmental...He comes from an athletic background himself, having been a wrestler and track competitor in college, and more importantly a National Debate Finalist and Champion back in the day...Gosh, it was so fun and unique to have this experience with him, Folks, as you can only imagine...He is working on another manuscript AND photo album/narrative that will capture his observations and those of his students here in Changchun...He gave me a book he recently published, titled: "Songs for Confucious" (Poetry and Photography)...it is quite a compilation he has published here, and I hope to share it with you upon my return...It warms my heart dearly, to see educators here in China, providing a positive-constructive template for learning new skills and knowledge relating to one's world...and to think he has a home in San Marcos, Guatemala...wow...Okay, that's all for now...The CBA All Star game is tonight and I am hoping that it is televised so I can tell you how DaJuan Tate and Wong Bo performed in this annual event...Best wishes to all, safe travels, buckle up...Special note to my students: "May all your Wishes be Swishes..."...Coach tom
January 11, 2008...Coldchun City...about 20 degrees day time...10 'maybe' at night...

Now I know why "furry" animals hibernate during the winter...I think I probably would too if I had any mop on top these days...I mean really, how people are able to daily survive in this type of really cold, you know, the "type" where manmade cloth and half covered body leather, down coat, shoes, thermals DO NOT HOLD BACK the invitation of being outside in this environment...I swear, any "new" hairs that had any desire to regenerate are definitely "on ice" right now...

Went to the Winter Ice Sculpture Park in Changchun last week...It was really a work of art...and admirable too, when you consider this work wasn't done in a warm warehouse or garage, but rather constructed outside over a two to three week period...The ice forms of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and other Disney characters were really well done...I must say, the Chinese really know how to make impressions and professional displays in their public works...

This past week: rest rest and more rest was my menu "choice du jour" when all said and done...I was so exhausted from the last several weeks of cold, flu cough syndrome, due to all of our traveling in and out of Changchun, my body at this point on the "meter" was like "okay, Newell, one day we're in 10 degree weather, with an assistant coach coughing on you during the games, leaving "gel" on your backside hair, and then in 70 degree weather the next 3-4 days and back to Coldchun...give me a break..."...so you see where the end of the season couldn't have come at a better time, in terms of allowing my complete healing from within to begin and sustain itself in preparation for next month's Russian clinic in Vladivostok...My cough is 90% removed...my "jingle" in my step is back...I always have a "jingle", you know a song in my mindshare that gets me goin each new day, it's fun and I highly recommend it...As long as it's not "heavy metal"...I mean if you choose that, there's a good chance you'll "become" heavy metal, entangled on the highway somewhere from an accident...hope not...

Russian Update: got an email from our State Department's Attache' Office in Vladivostok, Russia, confirming the Visa Documents have finally been approved by the Minister of Sport and Education and a couple of other Ministry closets...I guess...Anyway, this event is turning into an exciting itinerary based upon the latest update from our State Department...I will be doing a 4 day coaches clinic, Feb. 4-8, then a visit to a secondary school outside Vladivostok, addressing a couple hundred kids about Proper Nutrition when playing sports, how to be successful when participating and also talking about making right decisions, off and on the field of one's activity, especially when parents aren't around...then on Feb. 9th I will be an invited speaker to an assembly of Sports Development Students at a Primoryti University, outside Vladivostok, and the topic of presentation will be developing "volunteerism in youth sports through training and certification programs, related to sports nutrition, youth sports injury awareness, and teaching participants first instead of coaching them initially...But the one affair I am most humbled and honored by is the invitation by our Consulate General in Vladivostok, who is having a hosted party for me and the Russian college coaches who will be participating in my clinic...I got goose bumps when I read this part...I mean, what better way to introduce diplomacy and improved relations than through sports training and exchange programs and THEN honoring the attendees...that's great stuff...I can hardly wait to meet the CG there..his support staff of Bridget and Dimitry have been so helpful in cooperating with the various entities there in Vladivostok to make this event happen...I am so blessed...Now, here's the tough part: once I get the Visa Letter/Invitation, I have to take a train from Changchun to Shenyang by train, about a 3 hour trip one way, visit the Russian Consulate's Office there, pay for the "stamp" that will be good ONLY for 10 days NO LONGER...otherwise ol tommyboy is in the "Gulag" writing messages and sending them to you guys in a bottle!! Hah!! Then I get back on the train and return to Changchun, leave the following day to Beijing for hopeful meetings regarding Head Coaching positions, and also making an appearance at Wang Fei's Basketball Academy...high school age players...looking forward to that visit before departing for Russia...

The trip home in February...I am making arrangements to return after the trip to Russia...then on February 18th, I plan on making a trip down south to LA, to visit our daughter Paige, who works for a design company there, and then on to San Diego to drop in on my Father, Coach Pete Newell...I have been able to speak to him throughout my stay here in China, and it has been a wonderful relief to hear his stories and accounts of Cal Football, college basketball and the NBA observations that he has...He is really excited about Yi, the Milwaukee Bucks Rookie who attended The Big Man's Camp when he was 16 and then again the following year...He is so proud of this young man's development, and I can see why: he's a natural when it comes to understanding the game, his footwork and his court demeanor...There should be more CBA players playing in the NBA today, but as long as the coaches misunderstand the template for teaching and developing players, it is going to a very slow process of entry, I'm afraid...

Okay, gotta run, now...it's late and I'm tired, goin to hit the sack...take care, have great Seahawk weekend watching the Hawks vs. the Pack, and I hope the Dawgs fair well vs. USC...drive safely, hug your kids, and kids hug your parents and tell them how much you love them for their love and support in all that you do...Coach tom
January 8, 2008...the Day After the season ended quietly...

Got some GREAT beauty sleep last night, this morning and a nap this afternoon...It's amazing after all these years when a season is abruptly "over", how the order and discipline of daily practices and here the novelty of "controlled" environment is no different in the psychosis of a coach without a practice, competition and playoff to prepare for anymore...There is such a remarkable void, it's hard to describe unless you're a player, coach and parent who experiences this phenomena themselves...I learned a long time ago from my Father, Coach Pete Newell, that is always important to sit down and reflect upon the season completed, reflecting upon positives and learning from the not-so-positives, which quite frankly are defined as: "shouldas...wouldas...couldas..."...once that is done then the visualization of preparing for another opportunity begins to slowly enter the daily thought process, allowing for one's mind to expand the knowledge learned from the many lessons of "yesterseason..."...

So, this means I now get to have "fun" again, sharing with you my humor, if you wish, on what is different between our cultures and how to prepare for a trip in the future to China...

Team Dinner:

I got a call while working on this blogit from Pancake, our translator, inviting me to the Team Dinner...now, you have to understand something about this culture...Pancake tells me the "best plans are no plans...the best schedule is NO schedule...", and Lordy let me tell you, after experiencing first hand the changes in schedules and meeting times, his call this afternoon was NO surprise...in fact, I thought he was calling because I was late for practice or a meeting!! Anyway, he invited me and DaJuan Tate and his wife to join in the celebration (?) of the season past...Number One: I have never had an end-of-the-season celebration when one finishes out of the Playoffs and 3 teams from last in a 16 team League...so I accepted and let me tell you this: the Chinese KNOW HOW to forget and move on from the "day(s)" before, let me tell you...I have NEVER in my basketball life experienced so much forgiveness, happiness and encouragement as I did at this dinner...The media was there, the Fans Support Group of Jilin was there (about 20 core people), myself, the team, the coaches, GM and Ownership Group...I was toasted and celebrated as the "old man" who came to Changchun and through many off court changes stayed and helped us learn many lessons..."...I gotta tell you, that humbled me more than any reward from any season previous in my basketball life as I was caught blindsided by their feelings...That's one thing I have learned daily: "don't put ANY expectations on reactions to your comments, suggestions or recommendations...", as the answer will NEVEDR follow your words...This one lesson I have learned well, off the court and MOST definitely on the court when I "suggested" a Timeout here and there...I never once suffered frustration as much as irritation this season, but then again, I am a "visitor" and the lessons I can teach to the Head Coach and the team are opportunities for all to excel in their professional lives as basketball players and coaches...The dinner: unbelievable...it was held at the Hotel I am staying in right now, The RedBuds Hotel in Changchun City...Where to begin on the entree's...Let's put it this way: there were 9 dishes and NOT ONE WAS BAD...plus my chopsticks (plastic) never once lost a drop...meaning I have taken the bio mechanics of using these utensils to another level...I know this, because I hear the table discussing how a "lefthander", American uses these sticks "so well and freely..."...Pancake then revealed to them that I went to school in Hawaii many years ago and "learned" there, plus coaching in Korea and Japan helped my "dexterity"...let's put it this way: no way will I ever "starve" because of chopsticks at the table!!! The mood was festive, forgiving as aforementioned, but above all it was a wonderful example of "praising" the players for their efforts and courage...I agree with that surmise, as I truly believe the players played to their level of experience and skill, unfortunately their skills were NOT at the level of their competitions...I was asked later in the evening by both the Head Coach and Owner, Mr. Qu, to come back next season, as there will be many changes and they appreciated what I brought to the team...I told them both that I was going to interview with two teams for a Head Coach job and that I would call and let them know what's on the table, that I wouldn't mind being back to help take the Jilin Northeast Tigers to the "next" level in '08-'09...stay tooned...

Things you WON'T see very much of in China:

1) Planes flying overhead in most cities in China, with the exception of Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong (haven't been there but would imagine there are a number of Boeings and Airbuses in airspace hovering Hong Kong on takeoffs and landings...)...I mean, I have YET to see any military aircraft flying overhead or even hearing a "fast" supersonic jet leaving a jet stream in its tail...

2) Birds...I know that sounds strange, but I mentioned in earlier blogits, that I was astonished to NOT see birds in most of the cities we visited when playing...and China has a lot of "Pear Trees", let me tell you...Not sure why of this phenomena, but it's real...

3) Hearses...Mortuaries...and Funeral Processions...now this is understandable, given the vast cultural differences in acknowledging life and "releasing" one's soul to the afterlife through cremation...

4) Pet stores...hmmm, that is A surprise to me here in Changchun, as I would think there would be more Pet Stores than restaurants that specialize in "Canine Cuisine"...I know, I know, but this is considered a "delicacy" in China...I haven't...I won't...and Lord help me if someone tries to "sneak" a morsel of such on my plate someday...

5) Sit Down Commodes...in public restrooms...now THAT is a "shock" to the natural digestive system when you are on a bus and the courtesy "pit" stop for occupants treats you to this cultural SHOCK...needless to say, on LONG road trips, I skipped eating anything that needed digesting, thus allowing me the dignity of standing upright to relieve myself...Whew, this took way too long to describe in a "G Rating" kind of way...

6) Paper Towels in public restrooms...always advisable to "bring" your own tissues to dry your hands after washing...it amazes me when I walk into a Men's Room and there are signs that "encourage" water conservation, thus meaning that most Nationals here, of the male gender, do NOT wash their hands...I probably "spent" a whole lotta Yuan on small package tissues for my "Coach's Bag"...I also was very careful NOT to shake hands and if I did, the "hand sanitizers" from Rite-Aide was applied soon after...

7) Tall Glasses in Restaurants...the glasses for water, juice and soda pop (I don't drink that stuff) are perfect for a Junior-age patron...I've never exercised more in my life eating lunch or dinner to refill my small glass with juice...

8) Ambulances...they're out there I swear, but I've only seen a half dozen on the streets during the day over the last 4 months...go figure...I know this though, the way pedestrians cross the street and the way the Taxis "control" the streets of ANY and all city streets in China, there's not a high demand at this time...

9) In city Gas Stations...visualize this: a very very large city ANYWHERE in China, and NOT seeing a gas station within 5 MILES either direction!! Yes, this is true...They are usually located close to the freeways BEFORE the toll roads (you must pay to travel on any major thorough fare outside the city proper...Can YOU imagine THAT planning and action in the Puget Sound? I can't for the life of me...Anyway, I don't know "when" and where the thousands of automobiles go for gas in this city and others, as it boggles the mind that you would see more KFCs and McDonalds than you would Petrol locations...thus said, take a Taxi, forget about "renting" a car in China...

10) Grocery Stores...forget about it...there are WalMarts and the Mom and Pop stores that are present all over Changchun (2 WalMarts) and hundreds of the others...if you have money (Yuan), then one shops at WalMart...they have ALL the grocery items that AREN'T in the USA stores...and let me tell you, these stores are PACKED...progress will diminish the "value" of neighborhood stores over the next 10 years, I believe...what a shame...

Okay, Part III of my "reflections" on this culture begins again tomorrow...hope this helps all understand the VAST cultural differences between major powers...

Saw where the Huskies went down to the wire at Hec Ed vs. Wazzu, only to lose...Mark this: Lo Romar WILL pull off a couple of upsets this season in the Pac 10 that will bring extreme parity in the League by the end of the season...Shucks, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Dawgs UPSET the Cougs IN Pullman...One other note: I am so happy that the UW has FINALLY acknowledged the legendary contributor to the modern game of basketball in naming the practice court at the UW after Coach Marv Harshman...He is one of the true contributors to the modern game and this is qualified by my Father, Coach Pete Newell, who holds Marv in the HIGHEST ESTEEM...I remember back in the day, when Marv was two years removed from the game holding a "kids" camp at the WAC and he was in a Handball Court there teaching 10 year olds how to pass!! If that isn't what a contributor to the game is, I don't know what is...Take care, safe travels...Coach tom
January 6, 2008...the season is ovah...PERIOD!

We lost our last home game in typical fashion...down by 20, only to come back within 7 and 9 mins. to play WITH THE BALL in our half court...we proceeded to "open" our infamous "CBA Bakery" and served up 3 consecutive turnovers that lead to the opponents' 7 straight points and it was over...and this was our last game of the season at home...We have some wonderful fans here in Changchun City, faithful and loyal to the end, as we had close to 3,000 show up in our arena that holds 4,000 plus...Our effort was undermanned by the absence of DaJuan Tate, our best player, who sat out with flu...he tried to play, but was soon sitting where he belonged: on the sidelines...He had a great year, one of the top 3 scorers in the League at around 27 per game...His best games are ahead of him, I'm sure...It's immaterial to describe this outcome as we were DOA several weeks ago and were only kept alive by pride and effort to finish the season...

This past week in the new year was not what I would call memorable in my basketball life, but then again, most people who know me would consider "my world" a little different by global standards...The game is a simple contest that requires aptitude, attitude and a whole lot of beatitudes...Every country that I have been blessed to share the game with as a former European player after college to the present day of teaching and coaching through camps and clinics, one thing stands out significantly: there are a lot of young participants and players who are in this world activity, and the major problem is the level of teaching that DOESN'T complement the spirit and commitment their teams provide them in practices and competitions...Now you know why FamilySportsLifeToday.com is committed to helping all levels of organized youth sports, their parents and especially their coaches, volunteers and hired coaches...Our future Podcasts and my submissions will hopefully reflect upon the "need" for annual training modules to help teach coaches how to teach kids...stay "tuned"...

My itinerary over the next four weeks has me preparing for my college coaches clinic in Valdivostok, Russia...our State Department in conjunction with the invitation of the Minister of Sport and Education in Moscow, has requested my presentation to the coaches in Vladivostok, Russia, Feb. 5-12...I am really excited for this opportunity to visit another foreign country and share my basketball life experiences with these coaches for the week...We'll cover basketball philosophy, basketball psychology and the FUNinthementals of teaching the game to their players...Before I depart from Beijing for Vladivostok, I will be in Changchun for two weeks, waiting for my Russian Visa Stamp which I will have to secure with a trip by train to Shenyang, where a Russian Consulate's office is located...that will be a "book and a half trip" (6 hours round trip)...Evelyn Wood was never an option growing up...While visiting Beijing, I hope to visit a couple of museums and perhaps an interview or two for a couple of jobs that supposedly are going to be available in the CBA next season...I most definitely would come back to coach in China...there's too much work to "pass on" in just one season, I'm afraid, plus "if" the city is tad bit warmer than Coldchun City...also, I will be making an appearance at a well known basketball academy in Beijing for high school boys and girls...I know, I know, don't I EVER stop teaching? No...my Father, Coach Pete Newell taught me that work ethic a long long time ago...it's "my" DNA for sure...

Stay along some more for my "Magical Mystical Tour..."...Best to all, safe travels... Coach tom
January 3, 2008 soaring above 20,000 feet to another Chinese City, Guanzhou, and their local team...our last road trip for the season, and one game to go...at home on Sunday...

Please please forgive me for not being "wired" the last several days on this weblog, as I truly was in a "moody blues" type of funk over my misplaced power cord for the laptop, leaving me with a weak battery (where's the "Bunny" when you need POWER??) and that lasted about as long as Papa Murphy's Pizza in the oven...I finally figured out I left it in the last hotel we we're in...having left it in the room on the desktop outlet...the hotel is sending it to me but I couldn't wait, so I went and picked up a new power cord. and now life is good again: "I'm on..."...So, where to begin? First off, Happy New ALL Year to my Family, Friends, Students, their Parents, Coaches and Officials in Youth Sports today...New Year's in China is a "quiet" celebration, quite distinguishable and separated from the normal universal observance of 95% of countries...There were no firecrackers, fireworks, loud, boisterous, alcohol-induced behavior on the eve of New Year's...My evening began with Larry Stone, Seattle area resident who was visiting for 5 days and taking in the CBA atmosphere that produced two lottery picks and starters in the NBA today...we were accompanied by Babacar Camara, DT and his wife, Rah-Rah...We had a wonderful Buffet-style dinner with a Readymade Chef behind the grill, ready to serve noodles and pasta to any patron wishing something "readymade"...Man oh man, were the Lamb Chops, Scallop Potatoes and Squash an Epicurian delight...Now you're asking me where does one indulge in such a feast (oh yes, an Australian Shirazz to complement my palate's delight)? The ShangraLa Hotel in Coldchun...Then the "next" entree' I chose from was a fresh turkey *** that only Moms and Grandmas "know" how to make the right way during the Holidays...How good was it? I didn't even WANT gravy to go with it...now this "bird" was prepared better than the T Day soaked in wine sauce without feathers prepared bird that we had a while back...To top it off they had a fountain of decdent rich chocolate three tiers high to cover one's vanilla ice cream...IT DID!!

Then after dinner, the fellas and Rah-Rah wanted me to join them at a club in town that is called The Mayflower...I'll put it this way, "my guy" CBerr (former Center, Steve Castleberry) had it right the one time he went there: "a lot of lasers, a lot of smoke, a number of males whose pheromones presented a malordorous fallout anytime they walked by...'' ...all I could think of was that as soon as the clock struck 12, my sneakers were turning into slippers and this cowboy was headin for the barn...Afterall, we did have an early practice the next day and even though we're out of the playoffs, both American players have remained a model of social discipline in getting their rest and being ready for practice on off game days...I would surmise that our two Americans may be the best complement to their Chinese teammates as they have connected well with them, the coaches and of course the Fans and community...I am really proud to speak of them glowingly, especially when I've heard horror stories about other players who have had troubles with their teammates, coaches and administration...This organization has been totally professional, every step of the way, including the owner, Mr. Qu...I have no regrets whatsoever about the early "awe and shock" that hit me and the team when the change was made, more surprised and disappointed in the process of elimination (SunJun) and the addition (asked to stay on as the top assistant to new Head Coach)...I survived, and even though the season as a team was a disappointment, I have learned many new lessons on the cultural differences in teaching the game here in China than I ever would have known without getting my "feet" wet this go around...

Update on last 4 games: lost two on road before Xmas...won one at home day before New Year's Eve, which was our first win in 7 games...whew...then lost a thriller last night by 1...we missed a FT with 5 seconds left in regulation that would have put us into OT...It was by far the BEST EFFORT at both ends of the court for 4 quarters all season...I felt bad for the players afterwards, because they truly did leave it all on the floor this night...Shucks, even Tiger, our backup 2 Guard PLAYED man to man defense in the "new" Year!!! So, we have one more tomorrow night, then home for Sunday's finale, and meetings with organization thereafter, then off to Beijing to be a guest coach at a very famous basketball academy for high school boys and girls, directed by Wang Fei, former National Men's Coach of China and also a famous former CBA player in his own right...After that assignment is completed, Vladivostok, Russia beckons me for the college coaches clinic that I will be directing in conjunction with our State Department and the Minister of Sport and Education in Russia...And finally back to the good ol RED WHITE and BLUE, Family, friends and students, once again doing what I love most: teaching kids how to play the game the right way...

Take care, hope everyone had a safe New Year, and let's believe that a couple of miracles will happen in 2008: the Sonics go nowhere far from the Puget Sound; the Huskies surprise the Pac 10; Coach Willingham is vindicated with a great season in the Fall and my students hard work on the court in the offseason allows them continued success with their respective teams...Now THAT would make me a Happy NEWell Year indeed!! God Bless, safe travels, and again, those kids who have their licenses now, slow down, don't be in hurry anywhere on or off the court, as you are only late when you don't reach your destination SAFELY...much love, Coach tom Less I forget, Larry Stone left this morning for Beijing and then on to Seattle, having enjoyed himself immensely while here in Coldchun City...It was GREAT to have a NW friend visit and bring me up to speed on the sports happenings in our wonderful city...