Friday, February 7, 2014

Getting ready for a major sporting event, and saluting a great man

By next week, one of the most important sporting events in the world will be in high gear.

Yes, that's right ...

My Scholars Academy Eagles will be competing in the quarterfinals of the Charlotte Gastonia Athletics Association girls' basketball tournament.

Unlike the Olympics, our event doesn't have to pretend to be about sportsmanship, character and the spirit of pure competition. Because, unlike the Olympics, our event actually is about all of those things -- as opposed to being about the pursuit of big-money endorsement contracts and about the host nation trying to prove it is more than one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

With the Eagles, what I say goes, so I guess that makes me kind of a dictator. Nevertheless, I have yet to go shirtless while riding horseback and I have yet to threaten to jail people just for being who they are.

I also have yet to use my kids to make a political statement ... unless asking them to pass to their teammates instead of to the girls wearing the other uniforms is the equivalent of taking a stance against redistribution of wealth.

OK, enough about the trivial event taking place in Putinville this month. Back to an All-American event featuring the Eagles ...

After last week's massive 1 1/2 inch Snowmageddon, which closed school for 2 1/2 days and resulted in two games being postponed, we had a nice dry week and were able to make up those games.

In the first, we took a big lead but foolish coaching strategy contributed to a near collapse. I thought the game was in the bag in the fourth quarter and tried a lineup combination I hadn't used all season -- for one thing, it didn't include either of our two experienced point guards. We promptly gave up most of the lead, and by the time I rectified the situation, we had lost all momentum. Our opponent tied the game with about a minute to go and we were reeling, having scored only one point in the entire quarter. But with about 15 seconds to play, one of our captains, Sienna, stole the ball near the top of the key. Her 15-footer didn't go in, but her teammate Margaret grabbed the rebound, drove and made the tiebreaking layup with 5 seconds left. Our opponents were so dejected, they didn't even attempt a desperation shot.

I later apologized to the girls and explained that just as they make mistakes and referees make mistakes, coaches make mistakes sometimes, too. It is a coach's job to put every player in the best position to succeed, and I did the opposite of that! We were fortunate to come out with a victory.

The next day, things went much better. We got a big lead early and kept adding to it. We typically have at least one very good quarter and one very bad quarter every game, but this time, we scored 9 points in the first quarter, 9 in the second, 10 in the third and 10 in the fourth. It was nice to see.

With that two-game winning streak, we take a 6-8 record into the tournament. Given that on the first day of practice I was worried that my debut season as a head coach would be a winless one, I'll take it.

Our opponent Tuesday has beaten us twice -- by 4 points and by 6 points. The first time, we had a small lead but gave it away during a poor third quarter and couldn't quite pull even again. The second time, we fell behind 14-0 but used our intense full-court press to rally like crazy before falling short. If we somehow could combine the first game's first half and the second game's second half, we'd be in great shape!

We will have to play well to defeat this opponent, but we know we can do it. We will outwork them and outhustle them and badger them and battle them ... all the while hoping that a few more shots fall than in each of our losses to them.

I have to admit to being a little nervous going into my first ever playoff game. At least I know that this time, I won't use a lineup without a point guard! Wish me luck.


Today is the birthday of the greatest man I've ever known -- my dad, Jerry Nadel. If he were still alive, he'd be 95 years old.

Dear Dad:

You were such a warm, loving, intelligent, hard-working, funny, passionate, caring, talented man, and you set an incredible example for me and my brothers. Every time I think of you, I ask myself if I'm being as good a person as you were. It's an almost impossible standard for me to live up to ... but believe me, Dad, I'm trying.

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