It's been a Hard Day's Night...we lost a tough one...

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

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

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

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

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