Wednesday, June 7, 2017

New Adventure for Coach Nadel

I have been a North Carolina resident for nearly 7 years now, and the single best thing I have done since moving here was agreeing to become the girls basketball coach at The Scholars Academy. It was an amazing 4 seasons, capped by the first 2 conference championships in school history, and I will remember my experience with my Eagles forever.

However, life is not static, and when opportunities present themselves, one must be ready and willing to seize them.

And so, I am excited and honored to have accepted the position of Assistant Women's Basketball Coach at Ardrey Kell High School.

Academically, the school in the south part of Charlotte is one of the best in the state. Athletically, it's one top-notch, too. The Lady Knights have won 4 consecutive titles in one of the most competitive conferences in the state (South Meck 8), and have advanced deep in the NC tournament in all 3 seasons under Coach Jeff Buseick, my new boss.

The Lady Knights won the Hoodie's House Hoops Classic
under Coach Jeff Buseick a few years back.
Coach Buseick is a dynamic, knowledgeable, young coach. I have seen him in action and have been very impressed with his grasp of the game, his passion for teaching and his ability to communicate with his athletes. I am looking forward to helping him any way I can and to learning a ton from both him and his players.

One fringe benefit of building a winning program is it leads to the coach getting a little attention. That's exactly what happened for me, as the hard work, dedication and success of my Eagles led to several high schools inquiring about my availability for next season.

I actually interviewed for a head coaching job at a very good school, but I came away from the experience believing I was not quite ready to take such a major step. Coach Buseick happened to have offered me the Ardrey Kell position just the night before, so I ended up removing my name from consideration for the other job and accepting the AK offer.

My long-term goal is not just to be a head varsity coach but to be a great one, and working with an amazing high school coach and outstanding young athletes will help me see if I have what it takes.

This will not be the first time I will have coached prep athletes. Several years back, I was the assistant softball coach at Charlotte Country Day. I mostly took that job as a favor to the athletic director back then, as I knew next to nothing about coaching softball. It was fun, and it showed me that, personality-wise, I could work with HS kids. But this will be an entirely different experience.

One thing I'll have to get used to: I had my middle-schoolers call me Coach Mike. At Ardrey Kell, they will call me Coach Nadel because that's simply the way things are done there.

Two years ago, I almost left Scholars Academy to be JV coach at Latin High School. It was a very good job at a great school, and I was honored to have been their choice. But at the last minute, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had unfinished business at Scholars and that, with only 2 years as a middle-school head coach, I might not be quite ready for the move.

As it turned out, staying at Scholars was the second-best thing I've done during my time in Charlotte. I don't regret the decision for one second, as these last two years were so rewarding and enjoyable. Those years were crucial to my development as a coach, as I feel I improved in every facet, from preparation to motivation to game situations. A huge bonus: The girls and their parents became like a second family to me.

Still, it was time for this big Eagle to flap his wings. I feel confident that, a few years from now, I'll look back on my decision to join Coach Buseick at Ardrey Kell as another of my best decisions.

Go Knights!


Last week, Jack McCloskey, the architect of the "Bad Boy" Pistons who won NBA titles in 1989 and 1990, died at age 91. He also had been the GM of the Minnesota Timberwolves - a team I covered during my AP days - and I got to know him fairly well.

Here's my "Trader Jack" story ...

On Jan. 13, 1993, midway through McCloskey's first season in Minnesota, I wrote a column about team management's general incompetence since being awarded an expansion franchise.

I said this in my 15th paragraph:
Finally realizing that they needed a 'basketball man,' last summer they hired general manager Jack McCloskey, who had helped build Detroit's championship teams. However, the 66-year-old "Trader Jack" was available partly because he had failed to stem the Pistons' slide from supremacy.
One of my duties as AP's Minnesota Sports Editor was that I ran the annual state meeting of newspaper sports editors. In that capacity, I had to line up guest speakers. Near the end of the T-Wolves' 1992-93 season, I called McCloskey's secretary to see if we could get him to join us.

Two days later, he called me, and here is how our conversation went ...

Jack: Thanks for thinking of me, but I have another commitment and I can't do it this time.

Me: Oh, I understand. It was worth a shot.

Jack: Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to get out of it. I'd really like to do it and I hope you'll ask me again next time.

Me: OK, great. I will.

Jack: And one other thing ... That column you wrote about me not being able to stem the slide was complete horse-(bleep). If the Pistons' owner had let me make the moves I wanted to make, we would have won three more titles!

Me: (Stunned silence, followed by ... ) Uh, OK, sorry about that. Bye!

Who knew an NBA general manager read my columns, let alone all the way down to the 15th paragraph?!?!?!

The next time I saw McCloskey, it was as if our conversation had never taken place. He treated me with respect, and vice versa.

He went on to draft Christian Laettner and J.R. Rider for the Timberwolves, but out of respect for the dead - and out of concern that he'll call me from the grave - I won't say a word about those choices!

R.I.P., Trader Jack.