Hi Everyone...I am now "wired" to inspire...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment on Hi Everyone...I am now "wired" to inspire......