Thursday Afternoon…September 27, 2007

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THURSDAY: Nihao...well here I am again, thinking of a "mindtrack" and what do I come up with for my friends in my generation: "Moody Blues" song, Thursday Afternoon...Now you might wonder "why would Tom choose this particular song to describe his Thursday afternoon...Let's put it this way, conventional thinking begets conventional wisdom, no? Well, it's a misnomer here in terms of basketball organization and practical application towards continuity...Simply put, the "order" of our day began with breakfast at 9:30am...then we were "told" to come back and pack our bags to leave hotel for "new" hotel above our favorite Russian restaurant, Peking Restaurant...We were to meet as a team at 11:20am for the bus departure and transport to the new hotel less than 3 mins. away...This is also taking into mind that our lunch will be at 12pm and we will depart for the gym at 12:50pm...Hmm, if memory serves me right, we were in traffic congestion ALL DAY yesterday after lunch...so now, we are waiting for the bus and guess what? Right, the bus is "stuck" in traffic and won't be there for at least another 45mins...So, conventional thinking would assess the time and realize there is no way that we will be able to check into the hotel, eat and get to the gym for "our" scheduled practice at 1pm...right? Wrong...we arrive at the "new" hotel and our rooms are not ready yet (it is 12:20pm) and won't be until AFTER we eat...So, we saunter down below to the floor marked "0" on the elevator and see what surprises are in store for us now, eating wise that is...After a "quick" bite (2 chews, green tea and "excuse me" departure), we return to the reception to hopefully retrieve a key to the rooms available so we can change (yours truly and the 2 Americans were already thinking ahead as was several other players) and get on the bus leaving for our practice venue 25mins. away...Now, keep in mind, I am told that we only have a two hour window, 1-3pm and that cannot be changed...so, wearing my rubberband as I do, I pull it hard and let go to "remind" me to be flexible as "it is what it is...and there ain't a whole lot you can do with it now..." reaction, so I adjusted my schedule by simply telling the players once we took the court, that "we have a short practice today and much to accomplish, so I ask you to please pay attention, if you don't understand something, then ask questions through your teammates and assistant coach, because I cannot "stop" to repeat myself over something that we have covered in the past...We had a GREAT practice, the players worked hard, we went into our half court sets, early offense and set plays after Timeouts and made baskets, and broke into two courts, with the Assistant coach, YoYo taking one group and I the other...I was really pleased and thankful the players understood the seriousness of my voice inflections regarding our being very serious in practices...You see, we now have Hip Hop back and he is a 19 yr. old Point Guard who's favorite teammate is you-know-who: Spider...Little did I realize that we had "pastry" class being taught by Spider to our younger players...I love Hip Hop's quickness and his ability to pick up the ball early, BUT his "bowling ball" push passes one hand are closer to a Wild Pitch by Ramirez of the M's than a normal guard to wing connection...I told Spider today that I am going to "enroll" him in a class that will teach him how to "make dough" not
"waste" it as much as he does...Went over his head and Pancake's too...I gotta start workin on my Mandarin soon...Anyway, have I intimated to y'all about my concerns with our Point Guard play? Well, it's real and I'm thinking about using a Point Forward concept to initiate our offense...I know that Wang Bo will at least make the right pass entry in the half court as opposed to not...

Fast forward to a "friendly" game between Korea and the Russian Team II...This game started at 4pm...The team returned to the hotel to "clean up" and then come back to watch as we were invited to do so by the tournament hosts...So, I decided to stay, because "conventional thinking begets conventional wisdom" right? Right...I am going to "scout" the Russian team, not knowing that it isn't their Men's team but a collection of Men's level players (19-21yrs.) with other younger players, 16-20...As I am watching the Russian players warm up, the Korean Assistant coach, Rick Ross, comes up to me and says, Coach, our GM wants me to tell you that you are not allowed to be watching this game and scouting at all...I said: "Rick, what did you just say?" He goes: "our Coach is concerned about you scouting us and seeing what we do and preparing for our competition on Saturday..." ...Folks, kids, I started to laugh and ask Rick this simple question: "Rick, are there any secrets in organized basketball once the ball goes up?" ...He smiled and said "Coach, you're right, I know it, but they are afraid you will have an advantage versus them..."...So then I ask him this: "so, they don't want to take notes, right, even though I am NOT scouting the Koreans, but scouting the Russkies?"...He goes, "Coach, they don't want you in the gym watching ANY OF THE GAME!!!"... I then asked the question for him to ask his GM and Coach: "Will you not be watching our game tomorrow vs. the Russians...?"...And he said "of course...", to which I replied, "what is the difference?"...He smiled and shook my hand and said "I got the message, Coach and I agree with you..."...Holy Batdroppings, Kemosabe, I am in total disbelief now, trust me...We've got our team bus coming back with our delegation to this "friendly" match at the invitation of the Host Director here in Russia, and the Koreans are dictating to me, TO LEAVE...Now, I know the world isn't "round"...I ask Rick, to please tell the GM that I am NOT scouting "them" that there are no secrets in basketball and that all I would like to do is watch the Russians...He goes back and I almost started a revolution of sorts, the Korean Coach, whom I've met over the years, a former National coach at that, deposed because of the embarrassing finish (they didn't win a game in the Asian games last time out), threatened NOT to play IF I was allowed to stay and watch...Now get this, the Russian Men's team, to a player were ALL watching as well, as well as their coaching staff, and now the organizer from Russia is upset with the Korean coach because he doesn't WANT THE RUSSIAN TEAM watching either...whew, and I thought it WAS ME!!! I am watching all of this, no one is saying anything to me, as I am just watching the players warm up (Russian) and minding my own business...So the game is held up while the GM, his Russian translator and the GM of the Russian team, Spartak, are conferring, hands are up in the air, heads shaking, and the game finally gets underway 15mins. late, which was fine as our team bus didn't arrive until 4:30pm anyway...traffic jams...I now see why the Korean coach didn't want to have any of us there, as they used changing defenses from man to man to 2-1-2 zone or 1-2-2 depending on the ineptness of the Jr. Russian team's attack or lack of...Then, they employed a 2-1-2 Full Court Press after FTs that was pretty effective and I really liked their aggressiveness with it...this defense allowed them to force several turnovers that resulted in layups as the Russkies tried to beat it with a dribble and NOT a pass ahead...I LOVED seeing this type of aggressive defense as it reaffirms what I've been preaching and teaching the last two weeks: pass first, dribble second...IF you need a separation dribble...The Koreans won by 40...I left with 3mins. to go, didn't think the Russkies would be able to overcome the deficit at the end...Trust me on this one: The Rooskees are going to put a
"Sputnik" on the Koreans beehind come Sunday, trust me...Looking across the way, at the GM of the Russian team and the overall organizer's hands in traditional Slavic nature/reaction, I can only imagine what they both said to one another when the Koreans walked away...For once, I laughed at myself, for awhile here in Vladvistok, Russia, I was beginning to think I was "losing it", and that for sure I was coaching in the wrong activity...Whew, thank God for humor...

I am learning slowly mind you, about the Asian "way" and thinking...I'm learning very slowly obviously, but will keep pulling on my rubberband and be ready for "it is what it is and that's the way it is..." syndrome...but DAILY??? Until we meet again, Happy Trails...Coach tom...

*Post Game Observations: The Rooskees have a 7'2 19 yr. old player that is going to be in the League someday, IF he continues to develop as he has thus far...He is a Freshman in the University of Vladvistok, and is playing on the Spartak Men's Team and also developing with the 2nd Team, the Jr. Team each Russian Men's League team has...This young man is quite a talent...he can run the floor, has GREAT footwork inside and takes up a whole lot of real estate with his Post Flashes...at that is in the Trapezoid lane of FIBA rules...I predict this young fella will be in the Draft someday in the next 2-3 years...yep, THAT good...

It's interesting, the Euro League teams favor the older, veteran type players over the younger, in that the young developing players don't get time to learn how to play "up" because the coach wants to "win" now and not wait for the future...It will be interesting to see which NBA team grabs him when he becomes available...Did you notice I didn't mention his name? Won't either...he might have some serious eligibility left and don't want to get him in trouble or me...tn

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