Saturday, January 28, 2006
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Apparently, if I want a technical I need to faint. From the AP via ESPN.com...
C-USA criticizes officials for foul against Penders
HOUSTON -- Conference USA said Monday that officials "exercised poor judgment" when they upheld a technical foul called on Houston coach Tom Penders after he collapsed Saturday during a game against UAB.
Penders passed out on the sideline late in the first half of Houston's 82-79 loss and was carried off the floor on a stretcher and given oxygen. He returned to coach the second half.
Penders dropped to his knees and then fell face-down as UAB's Wen Mukubu drove to the basket and was fouled by Oliver Lafayette with 52 seconds left in the half and UAB leading 46-44. Officials called a technical foul on Penders, apparently thinking he was reacting to the foul call. But the game stopped, and the crowd hushed when Penders didn't get up.
Penders, 60, has cardiomyopathy, a congenital heart condition, and had a defibrillator implanted in his chest in 1997. Houston officials attributed the incident to Penders' heart condition and dehydration.
Officials refused to reverse the technical after Penders received medical attention, and UAB's Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson made both free throws.
The guy was carted off the court on a stretcher with an oxygen mask strapped to his face and the officials didn't reconsider the technical foul? Did they think that too was an elaborate way of protesting the call? You'd think that being carted out on a stretcher would be enough to get ejected.
The story reminded me of a similar situation we had at an SLA game back in the early '90s. The boys team was playing a home game against Notre Dame of Fitchburg and early in the game, ND was whistled for many more fouls than the SLA kids were.
About midway through the first quarter--after a lot of complaining from the Notre Dame sidelines--an SLA player was called for a foul. The Notre Dame coach threw his hands in the air, clutched his chest, and fell to the ground in mock shock, lying flat on his back for a few seconds. To make matters worse, this guy was also a certified IAABO referee.
Somehow, he did not receive a technical foul for his dramatics, although he did get chewed out pretty good by the official. I thought he should have been ejected on the spot. In any event, his unprofessional display was enough to ensure that he was on our "do-not-assign" list in perpetuity when we had our officials assigned to do games at SLA or AUC.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Victor Owusu and Ian Brown--Rest in Christ
The following are the remarks made by Cameron Loss, athletic director, at the memorial service for Victor Owusu and Ian Brown.
Tonight there should be a basketball game here.
Tonight, I should be picking up Johnny Russell to bring him to the game.
Tonight, I should be getting on the case of players who aren’t helping set up. Uniforms should be set out for players to put on.
At 6:30 pm, the girls game should start, and the boys team should be sitting together behind the girls bench cheering them on. With about 10 minutes left in the second half, the boys should head downstairs to put on their uniforms and get ready. Jody should put on #44. Victor should put on #21. Ian should put on #4.
That’s not going to happen.
Instead, our new gymnasium lights are being used for totally different reason. Instead of announcing starting line-ups, I’ve been asked to start the memories session. What follows is what I’ve been able to come up with in the last 24 hours.
Ian Brown #4
• “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
• In class, if there was something Ian believed in, and usually it was that he deserved another point, he would not back down.
• Ian, Chris, and Harry—sitting together, creating non-stop foolishness.
• 6-4-6 and the block at St. Mary’s.
• The Brown brothers come straight out of the Bill Cosby Fat Albert gang stories—the pick in the hair, the layers of clothes, the hat askew.
• Singing special music in advisee worship; coming late because you were trolling the other rooms looking for donuts.
Victor Owusu #21
• “I got you man.”
• Somewhere, there is a used car lot looking for you to be their salesman.
• You could sell ice to Eskimos, but you ain’t selling it to me.
• The Worcester crew from the dark streets.
• Sophomore & Junior year—doing the books for the b-ball teams.
• Nobody has had to listen to my post game rants about the teams more than Victor.
• Helping create the ads for our flyer.
• Wanted to play hoops this year and I tested him to see if he really wanted to play.
• Pushing me to try E-bay and get a cell phone.
• Organizing advisee worships, and singing when you came late.
February 18, 2006—senior night in this gymnasium. Since my daughter has been born, I’ve enjoyed giving her a flower on that night. This year I was looking forward to giving something to both her and my son. I’m still looking forward to that. But it will be a night of sadness.
I won’t be able to announce, “A one-year senior, #21, Victor Owusu.” His parents can still come down out of the stands if they want, but Victor won’t be there to hand them the flower. They won’t be able to pose for pictures. Uniform #21 will lay empty on a chair because Victor is gone.
February 17, 2007—senior night in this gymnasium. I should be able to say, “A four-year senior, #4, captain Ian Brown.” His parents and Jason can still come down out of the stands if they want, but Ian won’t be there to hand them the flower. They won’t be able to pose for pictures. Uniform #4 will lay empty on a chair because Ian is gone.
June 4, 2006—the class of 06 is going to the Bahamas. The Bahamas. And there will be an empty seat on that plane that Victor should occupy.
June 11, 2006—Mrs. Vandenbroek and I should pose for the class picture with Victor, shake his hand after he receives his diploma, and greet him in the receiving line. I should be able to remind him to remember the little people once he becomes the world’s biggest tycoon.
At the end of every practice, the Crusaders get together and in our huddle, say the following: We have our priorities:
In Heaven, I don’t think we will have basketball. While we will have eternity to learn, we won’t have school as we know it. But, we will have family—the family of God. And, we will have God.
If you know me, you know that there was no other man that I looked up to more than my grandfather. I would like to close my memories with the same thing I ended my talk with at his funeral. “My grandfather and I have a favorite passage in the Bible. I claimed this text with him on the phone 2 weeks before he passed away...John 14:1-3.
Ian, Victor, I now have a hole in my heart that will never be filled on this earth. But I believe that it will be filled in heaven by you. You were my students, my advisees, my players, and Victor, you were in the class I sponsored. You walked out of the school yesterday, and I said goodbye. I believe in the deepest part of my aching heart, though, that I have not said goodbye for the final time. I will see them again.
Friday, January 20, 2006
There’s something about hearing Jack Williams announce it on the 11 o’clock news that made it seem more real.
I’m sure it’s just that he was the anchor my parents watched and that’s where I got my news as a kid, and that someone whose parents watched channel 5 or who grew up in St. Louis or L.A. wouldn’t have the same reaction.
But I already knew that Ian and Victor were dead. I’d been at the hospital and then the school for most of the afternoon and I don’t think it seemed to be real to me until I watched it on the news.
Seeing my school, my colleagues, my kids, one of my best friends, grieving and sharing and explaining and eulogizing on my TV screen at home was somehow more real than experiencing it. Or maybe it wasn’t, and it just happened that I was finally unwinding from the day at the same time the news was coming on.
Mom called me at work around 1:30. It’s not unusual for her to call me at work on a Friday since we go over to their place for supper Friday nights and she wants to know what we want to eat. It’s essentially a Friday ritual: Mom calls, asks what we want to eat, I tell her anything will be fine, and it usually is.
But this was her second call. She told me that there had been a car accident and four SLA kids were in the car and that she thought one of them was on the basketball team. She said they had received a call at the insurance office from the kid whose parents owned the car asking about what coverage they had, if there was a death benefit on the policy, etc.
I assumed the kid was just a little freaked out and that he was probably just covering his bases. I didn’t know he was calling from the police station.
I tried to call the Sterling police to get some more information—how many were hurt, what hospital were they taken to—and got nothing except that they were investigating an accident. A coworker overheard my conversation, and called someone she knew in a neighboring town. The reports from that town were that one was dead on the scene…maybe two, and another was critically injured.
I called Mom back and found out who the four students were. Three of them were Crusaders.
I left work and headed to Worcester. I’m not sure what I thought I could do, but I figured there must be something I could do to help. I always try to find something to do. I guess I cope better by occupying myself, trying to find a way to do something. Or maybe to not do nothing.
I wanted to get to Cameron’s place to tell him in person. I didn’t think he should have to find out by phone that one of his players was dead. No one could find him. I figured I might catch him at home, but as I got closer to town I called ahead and he wasn’t home yet, but his mom said the phone at his place had been ringing off the hook.
So I went to the hospital.
I’m not sure what I thought I would accomplish there. If I’d thought about it at all, I probably would have realized that I probably wouldn’t be much help. I’m not good at talking to grieving people. I was at Mrs. Schmidt’s funeral last week and got stuck at the head of the receiving line and after I’d said “I’m sorry” and hugged the people who were there to hug I had no place to go. Just standing there smiling, but not too much, because there’s not much to smile about. Awkward really.
How do I empathize with someone who’s lost a parent or brother or best friend when I’ve been so lucky not to have faced that kind of pain?
When I got to the Emergency Room, there were a couple of teachers and a couple of students waiting. Martha asked me if I had an update, and I told her what little I knew. She said Ian and Jody were both in surgery and that it was touch and go for Ian. The rest of the people who were waiting for news were up on the third floor where Ian was in surgery. I went up to see what was going on.
When I got off the elevator, I realized I probably had no business being there. I have no idea who I expected to see—actually I do, I thought some of my girls might be up there—but in the hall outside the elevator were a handful of people crying. I knew they were there for Ian, but I didn’t know them.
Except for Allyson. She told me Ian had died.
She then ran across the hall to the only place on the floor she had found cell service. I checked the waiting room briefly and found none of my kids there, and I didn’t know what to do. There were people I didn’t know grieving over their loss, the one person I did know, the principal, furiously trying to call teachers, pastors—anyone—to update them on the news.
And me. Standing in the hall. Not sure if I should hug someone I didn’t know, or help someone I did know, or just go back downstairs.
I don’t know how long I stood in the hall alone but not really alone. Probably not that long, but when Allyson got off her phone I asked her how she was and she said she was OK. I think she was just busy, but busy makes things better until there’s nothing left to do. I wanted to be busy (and courteous), so I asked if there was anything I could do. Allyson asked me to go downstairs to get the Bible teacher and ask him to come upstairs with her and Ian’s parents. And to try to find out what was going on with Jody and Nelson since no one on the third floor had heard any news.
I found Jeff and sent him upstairs, and then turned around to see that one of my girls had arrived.
Since I’ve been coaching again, one of things I’ve noticed that makes me a better coach now than ever before is the separation I have from my players. Where I’d always been closer to my players in age and by extension closer to them personally—especially when I coached at college—I’m now older enough and have a much fuller life outside of basketball and I haven’t developed the same casual closeness I have developed with teams and players when I was a lot younger. And not being at the school everyday and seeing the kids every day is also an advantage in the sense that my role in their lives is clearly defined. I care about my kids, love them dearly, but I am their coach.
What works for basketball is suddenly inadequate when two kids die and one of my players is crying and I’m holding her and realizing that I don’t know if she’s crying because she’s really close to the kids who are gone, or if she’s not so close but just overwhelmed, or if she’s remembering some specific experiences they shared…or for any reason really. I realize that I don’t know her as well as I would if I were at the school every day.
And maybe that’s just an excuse. Maybe I should have taken more time to know her anyway.
She tells me that another player is in the chapel where some of the friends have gathered and I go in and find her sitting trying to get news on what has happened, and how it happened. And I put my arm around her and she lays her head on my side and cries softly as I stand next to her as she sits.
I am sad for her. The first boy she ever kissed has died. I know that because she came to practice late one night completely nervous and worried and with a scarf pulled tight to her neck that she wouldn’t take off as we practiced because…well you know. Everyone knew why she was acting that way and why she was dressed that way, but she was thrilled and nervous and scared because it was the first time and she’d lost track of time and that had never happened before and how would she face her parents.
Of course it all turned out all right and over time it became an inside joke. I wear a mock turtleneck to each game and every once in a while when the young man would walk by I’d pull my collar up tighter over my neck and wink and she’d roll her eyes and laugh…and I’ll probably never do that again.
How does a 17-year-old deal with that?
A 34-year-old deals with it by staying busy. Cameron finally called me back shortly after I left the chapel. We needed to get a hold of the people at St. Mary’s High School to cancel Saturday night’s game. Cameron wasn’t at school and didn’t have all of his contact information with him at home so I volunteered to take care of that for him if he couldn’t.
I waited at the hospital until he arrived. He seemed to be doing OK. He came in as Ian’s parents were leaving and they shared a hug. After consoling a few of the other students that were still there, he told me he hadn’t been able to reach St. Mary’s. I volunteered to drive over to St. Mary’s to see if someone was at the school or gym and try to get word out. Failing that, I’d go to his office when I stopped by SLA and get the contact info.
I went to St. Mary’s and found their AD in the gym. I told him what had happened and he said he’d just found out from Cameron’s wife. I felt a little weird being there since he’d already found out. He offered to pray for the school and I thanked him for that and headed back to Lancaster.
When I got to the school, most of the folks there had already cried themselves out. There was a lot of standing around, looking at each other, generally being awkward. Many of the rest of my players were there, and I got to talk with them for a couple of minutes, and hug them and listen to them tell a couple of stories.
One of them asked me about the game Saturday and I told her that it would be postponed. The question bothered me. I’m at the school, two of these kids’ classmates have died, people are grieving and she asks me about basketball. Not because that’s all that is on her mind, but because that’s all she has to talk about with me. And I again feel like maybe I’ve missed something here.
Cameron calls as I am leaving and I tell him that St. Mary’s knows and that all of the little items we had to take care of are done and that I’ll see him Saturday morning at the school where everyone is meeting again.
I had been calling Michelle periodically with updates through the afternoon. Every new update brought worse news, and I could hear her crying on the other end. It struck me that she seemed to be taking this news harder than I was. I think I just chalked it up to one of the ways we are different. But I realized once I got home that our different reactions might have been more basic than that.
I had found things to do. When I was at work and had the option of waiting for news or heading to town to busy myself, I made myself busy. Michelle didn’t have the same option, so she took my calls and watched the news and could think and empathize and cry and react to what she was seeing and hearing instead of pushing it aside.
As the day wound down I sat on the couch and turned on the news. The news crews had found the academy and Judy Hodder and Bob Malin and Allyson were being interviewed on channels 4, 5 and 7 and they talked about how good the kids were, and how tragic the loss was, and how every 17-year-old kid makes bad decisions and some are unluckier than others.
Then I turned to New England Cable News and watched their report and I was surprised to see Cameron on the screen. He talked about his kids, and how he loved them. He said he talked to the team after each practice about priorities and placing God and Family and School ahead of the team. As he talked he cried.
And it struck me that this was probably the first time that he had been asked. That he had held it together all day because he had made himself busy. Doing things, consoling others, being useful. And it wasn’t until some anonymous reporter stuck a microphone in his face and asked him to tell his story that he had a chance to deal with his grief.
I was sad and angry. I had left the office when I first heard the news with the express purpose of making sure someone was there for him and I got caught up in making myself busy and I forgot why I went in the first place. I was watching one of my best friends grieve and there was nothing I could do because instead of being there, I was at home watching on TV.
I tried all day to find something to do and I missed the one thing I actually could have done to make a difference.
I’ll get over it because I’ll see him tomorrow, or Sunday when the Seahawks play, or at the services next week.
But my kids won’t get to see their classmates or their friends again. How do they get over that?
Thursday, January 12, 2006
I also thought the article was a little too much about me and my coaching experience, etc. and not enough about the players, but it's not unusual for a writer to take that tack in discussing a team with a losing record. Oh, and I'm mortified that he quoted me using a dangling participle. If ever there were a time when I should have been misquoted...
SLA girls begin new Crusade
By Tom Flanagan / Staff writer
Thursday, January 12, 2006
LANCASTER -- Sometimes high school sports are like fashion trends.
Whether it's bell-bottom pants or a successful basketball program, things tend to go in cycles.
The South Lancaster Academy girls' basketball team is in a rebuilding mode for this season, but it's not all bad news for the Crusaders.
After qualifying for the Central Mass. Division 3 tournament in each of the last two seasons, the Crusaders have limped to an 0-8 start. Slow starts can be expected when you lose several seniors, including three of whom were among the leading scores in the history of the program.
"With a school with such a small enrollment, you're going to cycle quite a bit," said Crusaders' coach Lance Harris. "It's definitely a learning process, because there are times when we have four or five girls on the court who have never played before, or are adjusting to new positions."
Harris is no stranger to the ups and downs of coaching at a small school.
He was the coach in 1991 when SLA played its first season as an official member of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. After a few seasons, Harris moved down the street a few yards to coach at Atlantic Union College before returning to the Crusaders' girls' program.
"I'm really thankful that I have the opportunity to coach here," said Harris, a 1988 graduate of SLA. "It gives me the opportunity to feel like I'm giving back to a school that [I] love and care so deeply for."
The Crusaders will be rebuilding in a slightly different manner than in years past.
This season is the school's first in a league. SLA joined the newly-formed Worcester County Athletic Conference, and will play its first league home game on Saturday night against Bethany Christian at 6:30.
"I think that playing in a league will enable us to improve as a team because we'll be matched up with schools that have a similar enrollment and are in similar stages with their programs," Harris said.
"It will be nice for the kids to have some type of regular set of opponents each year, rather than having to shop around and find schools to play."
After opening the season with six games against tough competition from the Mid-Wach D Conference and perennial postseason participant Monty Tech, SLA faced
University Park Campus School in its inaugural WCAC game Monday and lost, 40-25, but Harris and his team were not discouraged.
"I think we're already playing well defensively," Harris said. "We've been able to hold our opponents to 40 points or less on a consistent basis. Over the second half of the season, I'd like to see our offense improve and I think we'll be able to do that."
Despite not having the numbers to field a junior varsity team this season, Harris isn't concerned that on-the-court growing pains will stunt the overall growth of his program.
"We have the type of kids who are willing to fight through the tough times in a season," Harris said. "Before our team reached the playoffs two consecutive seasons, we were 1-17 the previous year. I think something like that is a motivator to these kids. Things can turn around in a hurry."
As a point of fact, the 1-17 season was two years before our first trip to the playoffs, but I believe I gave Tom that information in the midst of one of the long-winded answers I was lamenting in yesterday's post.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
I've decided that I talk a little too much when I give interviews. If I were more Bill Belichick-like, I'd probably recognize what I say when I read my quotes from the newspaper. But since I overtalk, I think writers have to boil me down to fit into their pieces. I wasn't misquoted in the following article, but the writer filtered what I said to the point that I'm not sure it conveys exactly what I wanted to get across, or that it accurately reflects the way I talk.
For instance, I'm quoted as saying "I thought Megan Jones played very well, her shooting has shown great improvement." I think what I said was more like, "I thought Megan Jones played very well. She has worked hard in the offseason to improve her game and her hard work is really starting to pay off." The quote in the paper isn't wrong, in the sense that it's a distillation of what I said, it's just not the way I talk. Not that anyone is clamoring for a detailed dissertation on this team...
Below is the portion of the Item article that deals with our game.
Tahanto boys, girls best SLA Crusaders
By Bill Marsh
SOUTH LANCASTER -- It was a busy week for the Tahanto Regional High School boys and girls basketball teams. After a 48-27 loss to Bromfield last Wednesday, and a nail-biting 52-47 defeat to Littleton on Friday, the Lady Stags bounced back with a 57-28 victory over South Lancaster Academy (SLA) here on Saturday night in a non-league game.
The Tahanto boys lost 73-58 to Bromfield, before beating Littleton 59-33 and SLA 76-38.
The Tahanto girls' overall record is 4-5, and they are 0-2 in the Midland-Wachusett League D Division. With 11 games left on their schedule, the Lady Stags are just one victory away from bettering last year's four win mark.
With the two victories and the loss, the Tahanto boys are 5-3 overall, and 1-1 in the loop.
In the girls' victory over SLA, senior co-captain Kalli MacKinnon turned in her best effort of the season. MacKinnon led all scorers with 19 points.
Junior forwards Nikki Johnson and Nikki Scott, who were both in double figures, netted 17 and 11 points respectively.
For the Lady Crusaders, sophomore forward Megan Jones had a team-high 10 points, and sophomore guard Amber Manning added nine.
"After playing back-to-back (Littleton and SLA) games it was tough," Tahanto coach Kim Dufresne said. "We were tired and understandably some of our shots weren't there, but with heart and intensity we were able to win it."
SLA coach Lance Harris was pleased with his team's effort, especially compared to the first time the two teams met.
"We played much better offensively than the first time (a 39-22 loss), especially in the first half," Harris said. "We were more aggressive on offense. We are a young team, and it is going to take a while to gain confidence.
"I thought Megan Jones played very well," he added. "Her shooting has shown great improvement."
The Lady Stags opened the game by going on a 12-2 run. After Scott made a free throw, Johnson drove to the hoop for a basket. Scott then followed with a successful drive and two free throws.
After MacKinnon got three points the old fashioned way, she nailed an eight-foot jumper.
Two minutes later, with Tahanto leading 16-5, the Lady Crusaders put together a 7-2 run. Sophomore center Anny Cunha fired in a hook shot for a basket that was followed by a jumper from Manning, and a 3-point field goal from senior Beth Kalmansson.
That narrowed the Lady Stags' lead to 18-12, but Tahanto went on to outscore SLA 15-7 for the rest of the first frame, taking a 33-19 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Tahanto, led by MacKinnon and Johnson, came out strong in the second half, going on a 16-2 run to put the game away. MacKinnon and Johnson both scored eight points in that second half spurt.
I talked with Tom Flanagan of the Times and Courier for a season-preview that should appear tomorrow. It was a phone interview and I'll be interested to see how he distills what I had to say. As you'll note in the article I posted last week, he has a thing for small schools playing out of their league, and he had a couple of questions for me about the new conference, the challenges of being a small school, etc. I wonder how my answers will fit into his approach.
Tuesday, January 3, 2006
I thought the host school handled the situation in the most dignified and classy manner possible. My problem is with the visiting school and the decision to schedule such a game in the first place.
The school is new and so is the athletic program, so the learning curve must be factored in, and we must assume that the administration meant no harm to its student-athletes and will learn from its error in judgment.
However, several new athletic programs have surfaced in area high schools as of late and have not put the emotional and perhaps more importantly, the physical well-being of its students at risk.
For example, when area schools start a lacrosse program, they almost always compete at the junior varsity level for a year, or two, or three before swimming with the sharks.
I certainly would never campaign for a school to forbid students from competing in sports, but there has to be realistic expectations put in place.
There is a valuable life lesson that can be taken from learning how to deal with adversity, disappointment and losing, but there's also no reason to put a group of young kids in a situation where the result almost certainly will lead to embarrassment or injury.
I know what you're probably asking, and the answer is 69-17.
Flanagan is missing part of the story. In fact, I think he's missed the mark nearly altogether with his point.
North Central is a new program. This is their first year with a varsity level team, but they did play at a junior varsity level last year, as Flanagan suggested a young lacrosse program might. In fact, they continue to bring programs along slowly, as they are fielding a junior varsity girls team this year, in hopes of moving to the varsity level in the future.
How do I know this? Because like SLA, North Central Charter School is a member of the Worcester County Athletic Conference. A conference of schools with similar athletic philosophies, histories, and of similar sizes. The conference has three schools (Abby Kelley Foster Charter School and Bethany Christian School) that are in either their first or second year of MIAA athletics, one school (University Park) in their third season, and the Parker School, a fifth year team.
Only SLA and St. Mary's have anything that would resemble an athletic history (both schools have fielded teams that made the district final four, though not recently), and both of those schools have under 100 students.
As a member of the conference, North Central plays home and home with the other six schools. That's 12 games against the six smallest schools in Division III. That seems like pretty good judgement to me. I'm not sure what else North Central needs to do. Should they not schedule non-conference games? Just play 12 contests because their team isn't very good?
Filling out a schedule as a first year team is difficult. You have no history, no track record to go on. You play whoever will give you a game. Some teams are more than willing to schedule you because the may need one more win to make the playoffs, or gain a high seed, other teams will refuse to play you because you won't be competitive, or because they have nothing to gain.
When we scheduled our first season at SLA the boys ended up with Division I Shepherd Hill, Division II St. Bernard's, and Division III powerhouses St. Mary's (at the time, not any longer)and Nipmuc. That's the best we could do. There were nights when that team got pounded, but the freshmen on that team ended up leading the Crusaders to their only final four appearance as Seniors. So was it worth it? I'll bet the players on that team would say it absolutely was.
Were there unrealistic expectations? No. We knew that we were going to get pounded, but we also knew that as we established a track record we could carve out a place in our own right, and that would allow us to solidify a schedule, develop rivalries etc.
I'd guess that North Central would have preferred to play teams other than Bromfield and Whitinsville this season, but perhaps it was all they could find. They already have 12 games lined up against the smallest schools in the district. When you're starting from scratch, you can only schedule up.