Greetings this Holiday Season...As we wind down the year of 2011, and reflect upon the experiences, some good, some not so, and yet some wonderful, we need to make sure that we understand clearly, that we're learning, improving our knowledge on and off the court, grasping leadership opportunities daily (that we never knew were so important), making right decisions on and off the court and most importantly, having the experience of ongoing development in our academic and athletic environs...Wow!! T'aint that a "textFULL" reminder of 2011...!! :-) 

Okay, so for those who have just completed their Christmas Tournaments and their coaches are focused upon the upcoming conference season, we must daily remind ourselves that this "part" of the season, the middle, is where we begin to see our advancement, our improvements, our self confidence and our overall approach to the game aspire to new levels of success, meaning the opportunities for such abound, just for the "taking", no prodding from Family, teammates, coaches, just ourselves, a cognizant observation and conversation within that reminds us to "get busy...leave it on the court everyday, bust some prime USDA Hind Quarters and relax once the final buzzer has sounded..."...

For those individuals who have struggled philosophically, emotionally and physically (injuries, etc.) this season, don't despair, please...Know this: your value to your Teammates daily is paramount to the TEAM'S SUCCESS, even if it means you, as one of 1-12 players, struggles with your shot, your finishes, your FTs, your self confidence and your "stats", you will miss this golden opportunity to "grow" to another level of personal attainment with this wonderful game, abandoning ALL that makes up the fun aspects of being on a team, win or lose, the trust and confidence YOUR Teammates FEED off of your positive support model...So what if your minutes have been reduced when the team struggles in games, and you "feel" the pressure of NOT scoring like you should...Did you REBOUND? Did you BLOCK OUT your opponent so your Teammates could rebound? Do you sometimes "FORGET" your responsibilities to TALK on Defense, calling out Screens Left and Right? Did you forget to block out on a Free Throw...Have you made this game so personal that you're not having FUN anymore? If so, then take a DEEEEEEEEEEP BREATH....hold to the count of 10...eyes closed...and exhale slowly through your mouth and RELEASE every freakin negative thought you may have about YOURSELF (1st!) as a basketball player; how you FEEL about your Coach(es); how you LIKE certain players on your Team but not others ( YOU MUST RESPECT YOUR TEAMMATES ALL WAYS, not necessarily LIKE THEM)...If you NEED to repeat this EXERCISE, then do so, however many times it takes to "CLEANSE" your competitive basketball mind of the JUNK that YOU'VE ALLOWED to take a place upstairs...Let me ask you this: when your hands get dirty, and you know they are, do you pick up food with them (chips, french fries, candy, cupcake, burger, apple, orange, etc.) or do you wash, cleanse your hands before eating? Then WHY do we allow ourselves to get "dirty" from OUTSIDE GERMS (comments from teammates, coaches, friends) ATTACH themselves to our psyche, emotions of the moment/day/practice/game, and THINK that everything is "HONKYDORRY" and we can ENJOY ourselves before/during/after any engagement with Family, Team and Friends...WE MUST LEARN how to "cleanse" our minds of negative thought processes that weigh us down and overwhelm us in the end (of practice, games, at home when Mom or Dad ask us how everything is going...)...So, what I'm sharing here is INVALUABLE "gems from the gym" elements on "how" we can clean ourselves up DAILY, before practice/games and AFTER same...You gotta do this, if you don't, you'll go nutz trying to play the game with a shovel in one hand and the ball in the other: it won't work...it won't work...it won't work....If it does, call me, we'll go into business together and become rich and famous like Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies... 

Okay, I know, forgive me, please, it's been soooooooooooooooo long since I've seen and spoken to most of you, yet I sense we each have "suffered" through some emotional trauma related to our play, our team, and perceived lack of success SO FAR THIS SEASON...Bah HUMDATBUG!! NOW...TODAY...NOT TOMORROW...get'er done and have some FUN!!

Happy New Year Everyone...we'll be teein it up again NEXT weekend, and I hope for those to whom this email speaks to your heart, please don't go mute and NOT communicate with your parents and myself about what you're thinking, feeling and holding back deep down within that Warrior Spirit WE ALL POSSESS!!


Much love to all...

Coach t

Just wanted to wish each Student Athlete and their Families and very Happy Thanksgiving and day together, free from distractions and attractions, other than the presence of each Family member helping Mom in the kitchen either before or after your sit down celebration...

There is sooooooooooo much for each of us to be thankful for today and actually everyday, really, but we sometimes get waylaid by the events of normal daily living: late getting ready for school, how we look, tests pending, hungry ('cause we were late and didn't eat breakfast), need gas in the car BEFORE going to school, forgot something, didn't finish paper night before, wondering if we're going to practice hard today, forgot my shoes and gear, have a Drs. appointment, etc...

Sound familiar? Okay, so back to Mom again and 'what' YOU can do today to help Mom out: ASK!! It might even be the DISHES!! Whoa! I know that's something that you really don't want to "offer" to do, but guess what, DO IT!!

Then, take the time to sit down and write on a piece of paper what this day means to you and how much you enjoy all the work that Mom puts into the special day, and share it with your Mom...Think about it: it's the ONLY DAY that Mom and can really delve into making all those special delights from the Turkey to her special dressing and gravy, along with the vegetables and of course the homemade desserts...Wow!! So, take a moment to reflect about what your Mom puts into this special day for HER FAMILY and especially for each your siblings, Dad and perhaps another friend, Family who are joining the Day...I know, I know, Dad usually has the TV on getting ready for the Packers/Lions football game, but YOU can smell the Epicurian delights emitting from the kitchen, and visualizing how it's all going to come out on one table for all to enjoy...Now, if you are "distracted" by the temptation of the internet: Facebook, music videos, You Tube, texting and just isolating yourself, shame on YOU!! Get with it!! BE THANKFUL to your Mom and Dad, share it with them with a note OR at the table with a simple: "I am so thankful for the support I continue to receive for school and sports in my life right now from all of you, I am really thankful for that, and this day REMINDS me to do just that: BE THANKFUL for the love and support all ways...

 

Parents: thank you for your continued support and kind words with our training program that we hope is developing the necessary leadership skills and basketball disciplines that will always reflect the values and sportsmanship that your Family believes in life and competitions, respectively...I wish ALL MOMS a Happy Thanksgiving today, that the moment you sit down and embrace the vision of your Family sitting together, no phones ringing, no tv distractions, just you and the wonderful miracle of life blessing you daily at this moment, especially, Happy Thanksgiving..and I wish all DADS a Happy Thanksgiving as well, one that they know their hard work, provisions and sacrifices make this day of "reflections" possible to enjoy and memorable...Happy Thanksgiving...

 

To our Student Athletes: thanks for giving your Best Effort each and every time out during our training sessions, we know how much each of you wish to be successful off the court and on the court, and that experience is really a reflection by you at the end of each season, an experience that no one else can relate to, remember that, and now, here on Thanksgiving, we have another "reflection" of sorts, one that precedes our high school season which is about to commence, and for those who are already engaged in competitions, look upon your Mom and Dad, sister(s) and brother(s), and realize how much you've GROWN emotionally, physically and spiritually, all elements that make you thankful for their love and support...Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!!

As I said earlier, we have NO TRAINING this weekend...but will regroup the following weekend...have a wonderful weekend, seize the love, celebrate your Family...

God Bless, 

Coach t

My "take" on what happened at Penn State this past week...it's a long longer story than normal, but will help parents and kids to know why I am different than most coaches you would ever meet in youth sports today... 

Okay, this is been on my mind for over 30 years and perhaps even longer...my first experience of 'hearing' about a elementary school teacher and 'mentor'-type individual who preyed on unsuspecting young boys came from an experience I was made aware of over 35 years ago in Independence, California...

I had made a decision in my "sportslife" to move on from playing professional basketball overseas and get "on" with life as I "renewed" it back in the good ol USA (1974)...The opportunity to be involoved with kids in youth basketball and also as a volunteer as a Juvenile Justice Commissioner in Inyo County, the largest county in the State of California, was an experience that paved the way towards how I became the "advocate" for all children participating in youth sports today...

I worked part time with the Juvenile Probation Department in Inyo County, and Mr. John Lee, Chief Probation Officer at the time, took me under his wing and taught me many things about the troubled youth in this county that I will always remember and apply those lessons learned with the knowledge and skills to communicate with any young person today...

As a volunteer JJC, we would meet and discuss the "whys" of our issues with juvenile miscreant activities in our county and what could we do about it...I was so smart, I suggested that instead of sending our kids down to Los Angeles to the California Youth Authority 'camps', we needed to keep our delinquent boys, ages 11-17 in Inyo County...Why is all of this important, I'll tell you why...There was a young juvenile ward of the court who I had to transport from Independence, California to LA, and drop him off at this facility in Los Angeles...the drive was a 3 hours plus, and the conversation was intense...His name was Michael C., and I was suppose to transport him in my "cage" backseat as I was transporting him...well, as you can imagine, here is this young fella, scared to his toe cuticles, heading into the unknown, frightened like a spider monkey seeing an Orangutan for the first time...Anyway, I broke the "rules" and allowed Michael (his peers never addressed him with his last name, even teachers also) to sit up front with me for the long drive south...He "taught" me more about the "issues" of our rural area in terms of "not" helping kids with learning disabilities and broken family issues unlike any book that could have ever taught me during my time in the Probation Department...

Michael told me he "did" these miscreant activities (breaking into cars, shoplifting and getting into fights) to get help, any kind of help, as the beatings he endured at home from an abusive father making him think about doing things that were worse than he could have ever imagined at the time...Now, he was finally getting "help" in the way he never ever suspected: locked up in a "displaced" venue for troubled youth, an "disHONOR" Camp, so to speak, but unknown to me in terms of the stuff that was ongoing there...Michael and I became "new" friends on this trip and I told him that we stay in touch and that he could contact me anytime and I would "listen" to him...Just that WORD alone made all the difference in the world in his mind: "...someone who cares and will listen to me..."...When I transferred him over to the facility director, and walked the grounds to visualize what exactly Michael's life would be like daily, at first glance it appeared "safe" and I blindly thought Michael would flourish in such an environment...The 'camp' had outside sports fields, wood shop, small farm operations with a garden, chickens, etc...When I was ready to leave, Michael was summoned to say goodbye, and I hugged him and told him to write me and "let's stay in touch..."...

A month went by, and I heard nothing from Michael, so I called the facility and spoke with the Director there and inquired as to how Michael was doing...She said he was "struggling" with the discipline and structure of the programs there and was in solitary confinement several times...It was here that I became "aware" of something bigger that I could have ever imagined: "bullying and abuse within the confines of this facility..."...I asked my boss, Mr. Lee, if I could make a special trip down and visit with Michael and do a "research" on the overall advantages or not of our assigning Wards of the Court *(Juveniles) to this venue... 

The conversation and experience I had upon my return visit to this camp changed my whole outlook on how we (adults, parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, religious figures, etc.) "assume" other administrations can "reform" troubled youths...Michael met with me and broke down, uncontrollably, he had bruises on his arms and a healing black eye...It took me over an hour for him to "open" up and tell me the horror of his experience after one month...He was attacked by 3-4 gang members at this facility, and told me he had to "do" things or they would 'kill' him, and he couldn't do anything about it because "they" controlled this place...mind you, over 100 kids were at this 'honor' farm (kids who would "only" serve 6 months or less...the abuse he endured and was forced to do made me sick...The tears and fears he shared scared me so much I wanted to TAKE him back to Independence with me right now...I told him that he would be protected from this point on and I would try to have him relocated back to our city, Independence, as soon as we could...

I hugged him, said a prayer with him, and said not to worry about any repercussions from this conversation, that he would never be subjected to this type of abuse again...We parted, I immediately met with the Supervisor there, shared my story and concerns and told them that Michael's life is in danger and that it was their responsibility to separate him immediately from the general population there...that I was informing my boss, Mr. Lee of the issues and circumstances surrounding Michael's incarceration at this time...I called Mr. Lee, told him verbatim what I had just endured and experienced in conversation with Michael and "can you please get the court to release him to our custody RIGHT NOW, I fear for his life, etc..."...Mr. Lee told me he would speak to the Judge and see what he can do on his end and that he was going to speak with the authorities there...I was also instructed to "come home...", and leave it to him and others to help Michael at this time...People, I was so distraught with Michael's sad story, I sped back to Independence from LA and was stopped by the Highway Patrol for speeding on Highway 395...the Patrolman saw my "State" car, ID and License and the "cage" in my undercover State Vehicle, that he let me go...He asked me "why" I was going so fast...I told him what I had just experienced and was distracted just trying to think about how I could change the system of reforming our misguided youth in Inyo County and NOT send them away...He was very understanding and told me to "take it easy" and get home safely...I did...

The End to the Beginning of a new story...Within two weeks, Michael was released from this facility and returned "home" to Inyo County to a Foster home in the area...I was not allowed to return to the facility to pick him up as I was considered persona non grata by the Supervisor there and Mr. Lee didn't want me to get into it when I picked up Michael...guess he knew my "Irish" temper...Michael's subsequent relocation and counseling helped him tremendously and the foster family provided the model to follow that he never experienced before in his young life and he recovered... 

What happened next was the most incredible experience I can ever share with all of you who just think I was and have been a "basketball coach" in the NBA...My trip back from the California Youth Authority farm the second time, inspired me to come up with an idea that even Mr. Lee considered at the time, but didn't "know" anyone who lead it until we had become close friends: he, my mentor with troubled youth, and me, the willing student of life who cared and wanted to help anyway I could...The launch and operation of the "Boys Group Home" of Independence, California was underway...yours truly became the Director with NO relief help for the first 6 weeks (really!!)...6 boys were assigned to this home, and I was the cook, father, brother, teacher and coach all in one, at the young age of 27...We laughed together, cried together and yet learned something new about ourselves and respect for others daily...During the first six months of our operation, we had a total of 12 boys go through the  program, ranging from 30 days to 6 months 'lockup', which was far from anything that the California Youth Authority would ever endorse...One young person, Eddie L., age 12, gifted pen/pencil artist and "tagger", was in our program due to his miscreant activity that ranged from tagging, shoplifting, sniffing glue, minor in possession and stealing from parked cars at Park Trailheads in Inyo County...Eddie was the youngest and "weakest" of all the boys we had in our program that year...he wasn't any taller than 4'6" and I had to give him four rolls of quarters, two in each pants pockets, to weigh him down when he was outside and the wind was blowing...anyway, Eddie told me about his young life, the lack of supervision from his drug induced parenting model (mother and seldom seen father), and how he was labeled "runt" by his peers and "dared" to do things he shouldn't do in the community...he got caught, obviously, and similar to Michael, was just screaming for attention and help...Eddie told me he really liked school, but because he was always getting into trouble (fights with others, disrespecting teachers, etc.), he hated going to school also...I asked him if they (school) provided any counseling for him and his mother, and he said at the time, a social worker came by but they never saw her again...he then told me about an assistant "principal" at his school (Big Pine Middle School) that was a "bad" person, and he was in "charge" of discipline, etc...Eddie told me that this guy was taking advantage of boys who were getting in trouble and that it was not "nice" what he was doing to some of them...Whoa, I said to myself, "...what the hell is going on here...?"...without going into detail with me, he said he never "gave in" to this guy and it was then that he became a truant, not wanting to EVER go back to that school again...I immediately contacted Mr. Lee and asked him to come over and sit down with Eddie and myself as it was really a serious issue going on in Big Pine, California...Mr. Lee came over, took notes, told Eddie he was a "brave" young man to speak up and that he was going to help others so this wouldn't happen again...he told Eddie to NOT say anything to anyone as the (authorities) had to do background checks and investigate this and if said he told me and Mr. Lee about this conversation, they may never "catch" him and charge him...Two months later this "educator" was charged as a pedophile and sentenced to prison...the number of boys was more than several, ages 10-14...Eddie, under our program was successfully released back into his community with a Foster home and finished high school...

Okay, why is this reflection and this long, longer story than you would/could have ever imagined from me? Because WE, as adults have to "raise" our children in our "village" daily and embrace those young people who are friends with our children, and yet their circumstances in their home lives and sports lives might raise our awareness and we're wondering "if' there's something that they would like to talk about or share with us that will help them through their sadness, etc...Listen, Folks, all I'm asking here, saying is this: "...know your kids friends, understand their fears and needs, and most of all LISTEN to them now, so you too can help them to help others less fortunate and preyed upon by unsuspecting so called "leaders"...

As you know, I have NEVER closed our training sessions and remind parents to ALWAYS be sure to observe the "coach model" of your son/daughter training, playing, being coached in ANY activity by a volunteer coach...IT is OUR responsibility to make sure our children are safe, protected and encouraged to communicate WHENEVER a coach, teacher or other adult member of society tries to take advantage of them, or verbally abuses them for mistakes, the way they play, and just general negative imprinting upon their young psyches...Can I get an Amen, here?

To the voices of our children, may your hearts be heard by us all...

Coach tom  

Fears: often times we (Student Athletes ) forget that our Parents have nothing to do with the "process" of what "Tryouts" mean at the Interscholastic level of competition, whatever sport it is today...Why? Well, let's reflect a moment...Our Parent(s) sign us up for soccer, baseball, softball, swimming, tennis, football, LAX, and other activities as well at an early age, remember?...this "process" commences at the early age of 6 years old...so, for the next several years, we "learn" (hopefully) how to be on a team, practice, learn the rules of competition, how to wear a uniform properly, and hopefully understand the sportsmanship involved in each activity...During this process, our Parents make a decision for us to be "trained" by a professional or facsimile instructor who may or may not be qualified, per se, (limited knowledge of child psychology today in youth sports participation and proper fundamentals player development), and this investment on their part is really honest and hopeful...Honest in its initial application: developing the skills set to be successful in competition and gaining the self confidence to "advance" (play on a Select Team sometime soon) and maybe evolve into a position on the team in high school someday...Hopeful that their (Parents) expectations was a worthwhile investment towards individual achievements, etc...So, here we "arrive" at high school, and we're required to sign ourselves up, NOT our Parents this time, for the first time, as they are only required to "sign" the medical waiver (Insurance release form), sign the Honor Code and adhere to the Schools' required rules and regs when a Student Athlete in extracurricular activities...It is here, that the first emotion of "fear" when in high school, out of the class room and onto the field of competition begins: "...am I good enough to make the team...can I make the Freshman Team...JV Team...Varsity...will I start (whatever level of tryout I experience)...will I actually play..."

Peers: "...wow, I didn't know that there would be this much conditioning and work without the ball...I don't know if I'm strong enough to compete...geeze, he/she is so much more skilled than me, plus they played for one of the best Select teams...I haven't grown much this summer...I don't know if I like this "setup" as much as my Dad and Mom do...what if I shoot airballs...what if I make mistakes...what if I get my shot blocked...what if they steal the ball off my dribble or pass and cut...what if the coach(es) don't like me...I can't shoot very well outside (Coach t says: "...who can TODAY?")...I'm not strong enough...I can't stop anyone One on One...a Grasshopper jumps higher than I do...what do I tell my parents after each day of tryouts...wow, there sure are some better players than me trying out, look how well they shoot, run and jump, they're really fast, stronger, etc...why does the coach encourage these players and compliment them more than me and the other kids trying out...what if I don't make the team..."

Insight: Coach t believes that we can overcome all FEARS daily before we lace our shoes up for tryouts...How? Simple: visualize those elements of your skills set that you do have confidence in and focus on the ONE KEY ELEMENT that NO PEER can MATCH: Your BEST EFFORT!! Yep, think about it: "I am going to hustle and work harder than anyone else there, not drop my shoulders when I make mistakes, because Coach t says "...mistakes are part of the learning and developing process in organized sports...no one plays perfect...BUT...if my sports DNA is my Best Effort, then WHO can deny that aspect of my game that will ALL WAYS stand out before coaches and peers...?"...Then when I step on the court with a basketball, I am going to shoot some layups first on a side basket, make them all, then shoot some bank shots to make sure my "release point" is consistent and I am balanced when I shoot from the outside; then I'll warm up with the ballhandling drills Coach t taught us, and all the time just FOCUSED on the opportunity to demonstrate and exhibit how much I love this game and can hardly wait to show the coaches and my peers that I may not be as good as they are YET, skills set-wise, BUT I know I will outwork them at both ends because of my BEST EFFORT...Boohlyah!! I am going to be supportive of my new teammates during this tryout, complimenting them on their passes that helped me score or a teammate, support those who make mistakes, telling them it's "okay, don't worry about it..."; talk on defense, calling out screens left/right, switching properly, containing my opponent with the ball, pushing them to the sideline or baseline, knowing that I may 'stop' them, but they are not going to get a layup off of me;  reminding myself to be sure to block out the shooter and also block out inside and have my arms in a ready/rebound position, and lastly, reminding myself what Coach t always talks about: "being a leader on and off the court..."...Wow, what a Blueprint, right? So, let's reread this, talk about it with our Parents, and prepare for the one of the most exciting experiences in the game: Tryouts!!

Feel free to email me your fears, doubts and overall lack of self confidence if you wish to discuss this further...That is what makes our Student Athletes more prepared than most: we talk the walk...we visualize success before the lights go on...we know the 2 Habits in Basketball...we know the 2 Ways to play the game...we know the 3 Speeds, and will use them when applicable...and WE KNOW how to react, act and respond to adversity, because Coach t says: "...adversity and/or failure and mistakes are the beginning of developing the courage to compete..."...

Let's get'er done!! Begin now, today for tomorrow's success...Bottom line: have Fun...have FUN!! Always...

Coach t

Mathematics is a significant part of the game. Statistics, percentages, time/distance increments and the geometry of the game all make basketball easier to understand and to play. Basketball math can make points with a clarity easily comprehended.

On Offense without Ball & Defense

Perhaps the best example is using math to illustrate the importance of moving without the ball and playing defense.

There are 32 minutes in a youth game.

If you play all 32 minutes, how much time do you spend playing offense? Playing defense?

The answer is half on each.

If you are not the point guard, how much time do you actually spend having the ball in your hands? 1 to 2 minutes.

What are you doing the rest of the time?

This is where boys get blank looks on their faces! Moving without the ball. Cutting, screening, and getting in position to rebound a shot.

Now, how many of the 16 minutes spent on the defense are you actually playing defense?

Rarely does anyone fail to realize that you must play defense the entire time your team does not have possession of the ball. Which means you cannot rest on defense.

The point regarding the importance of defense is solidified.

Statistics & Percentages

The individual scoring statistic is the most detrimental basketball statistic in basketball. The stats you should pay most attention to:

  • Opposing team field goal percentage.
  • Assist/Turnover ratio.
  • Your field goal percentage.
  • Rebounds- Opposing and yours. Offensive/Defensive
  • Free Throw percentage.

Time & Distance Increments

A large part of basketball is based on time and distance. How long can you stay in the key, how long can you dribble the ball while being closely guarded, and how much time can you have the ball in the backcourt, etc…

Distance is more about the geography of the game- Spacing. Because small distance can make such a big difference, it is important to know the distance from the basket to the free throw line, the 3 point line, to half court. Or how wide is the key or the court.

Know the score, the time and the situation. In many instances the time and situation have something to do with one another.

Geometry

Basketball is a game of angles. Passing angles, dribbling angles, screening angles, cutting angles, and defensive angles. Utilizing incorrect angles in these areas can result in costly mistakes.

Hello again…I know, I know: “where have you been, tom?”…Let’s just say this: I’ve been a busy camper over the last several months, beginning with my Best Effort Camps & Clinics for kids in Seattle, Tukwila and Renton community centers…We had a great summer together…

I also visited the Bay Area to help Coach Bob Hill and Frank Matrisciano (Personal Trainer of the Highest Degree) at a summer-long program they operate…Frank is the gentleman who trained the NBA’s #1 pick, Blake Griffin, for a couple of years while he was attending Oklahoma as an underclassman…That experience was terrific for several reasons…Beginning with working with Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton of the University of Kentucky and Anthony Goods (formerly of Stanford), and Ed White (former Yale player)…There were about 18 players at the maximum training in the morning with Coach Hill (longtime NBA coach) and running sand dunes in the afternoons with Frank…Great stuff there…will redo that trip again this summer…

While there, I was fortunate enough to visit my high school JV coach, Ned Averbuck and his Family…Ned is and has been one of the most incredible positive influences in my life as a young neophyte in life as a teenage student-sometimes-athlete, teaching me and my teammates the values of working as a team and trusting one another through hard work and best effort always…he and his wife, Maxine, were gracious hosts to my visit in Sebastopol, California…Beautiful city, beautiful home, beautiful people…She is an artist, author and Grandmother extraordinaire…Ned is also an artist, a graphic “live” artist, meaning his work is on a court, not canvas, the colors being participants in his basketball academy, the abstracts defined by their unique skills set, but all blending together as a model of discipline and execution…And to think, I was invited to participate and “add” to his academy…That was one of the highlights of my summer experiences for sure…

Then in September, I was fortunate enough to have the wonder-filled experience of visiting Belfast, Ireland, Madrid, Spain and Boom, Belgium…All basketball related experiences…Belfast, Cork and Dublin, Ireland, were the cities where my Coaches Who Care, International coaches training clinics took place…I cannot begin to describe the exhilarating anxieties of being in my late Mother and Father’s parents country…First, growing up in a parochial academic environment and seeing photos and hearing stories from our Catholic teachers about the religious issues between Protestants and Catholics, and their hatred for one another and that same disdain carrying over from generation to generation in Belfast and all of Northern Ireland…Scary stuff for sure…And here I was in the middle of it all…Accompanying me was my good friend and assistant coach, Larry Stone of Seattle…LStone has helped me before in my clinics and is also a former youth select team girls coach in Seattle…He was kind enough to take the time from his busy schedule to accompany me on this trip and film the program until he returned to Seattle before my departure…We had a great experience together, teaching kids in 3 different cities as well as working with the coaches…

Madrid, Spain…that was an in-between trip, leaving Belfast for 3 days and accepting the FIBA (International Basketball Association) Hall of Fame Award Posthumously on behalf of my Family in honor of Pete Newell, my late father…That experience was an emotional highlight, culminated by thanking those in attendance for the opportunity to celebrate Coach Pete’s contributions to the modern game of basketball…Oscar Robertson was also inducted at the same time, both men representing the Gold Medal winning 1960 Olympic Men’s Basketball Team…

Fast Forward: well, I’m into my coaches training program once again…here in Seattle, Tukwila and Renton, Washington…It is such a great joy to have this opportunity to help volunteer coaches with learning how to teach young participants how to play basketball…Too often, we see former players in high school and perhaps college, become volunteer coaches in youth sports, self-believing that their ‘knowledge’ of playing and competing automatically qualify them to coach kids at the elementary, middle school and teen age levels (AAU)…Little do these coaches realize that they can’t coach basketball unless they teach the game (fundamentals, rules and habits) first…That’s where our program comes in as a mentor of sorts…I really enjoy the challenges associated with these annual trainings…Coach Ernie Woods, former NW college basketball icon, assists me as well…Together, we have provided a genuine template for volunteer coaches to draw from, and hopefully implement with their respective teams…Fingers crossed every season…

Now for my annual “Gem from the Gym” for parents, kids and players alike…

I made this statement awhile ago, during an interview with  a sports journalist in Canada during a break in one of my clinics/camps...I share this with all of you this Holiday Season, as a reminder about what you do have control over when you're on any team, especially basketball...Merry Christmas, Happy New ALL Year and thank you for your commitment each time we train, each application on our repetitive moves, and more importantly, thank your parents for me, please, for their trust and confidence that I am helping you become more knowledgeable and efficient as a Team Player...Being a Leader is a Feeder...being negative is Destructive...Teach yourself how to be Constructive and Productive...Coach tom

"I think every player on any team has the potential to be "great"...Great as a sub...great as a backup Point, Post, Forward or an end of the bench player who never gets to play but is invaluable to his/her team in practice because of their hustle and effort plays...Great as role player...Great as a Team Player...Great in the locker room...Great in the community, volunteering to help where help is needed...Great at making "value decisions" socially...Great in school...Great with fellow students and fans and in the stands." tn 2004

Part II of my Presence to all players at any level in basketball and sports in general…This reflection is to, hopefully, disarm the angst and disappointment that may be affecting parents, kids playing on a team now, and the overall emotions attached to being on a basketball team today…

As a Starter: This position on a basketball team is one that is earned a couple of different ways today: one is that if you possess innate basketball skills or a unique skills set (ballhandling razzle dazzles; shooting prowess; pogo stick jumping ability; elongated length not present in other teammates, etc.), then there’s a pretty good chance that you will be given the chance to shine…Now “given” this anointing, one has to bring his/her skills set everyday in practice and/or games, less the coaches lose confidence in your abilities and then you lose your self confidence and joy of playing, which means it is NOW no longer fun to lace up the sneakers, put on the gear and get out on the court…I do NOT know ANY participant and/or player in organized basketball that has not experienced the personal feelings and thoughts to “quit” playing at one time or another because of not having fun anymore with the game…Really, it has been this way for many many years and the many many tears of all players…This I know about basketball: it is an activity of adversity personified, daily, but in reality, diversified in so many facets of the game itself: turnovers, air balls, missed layups, missed FTs, poor defense, injury, social issues off the court, insecurity about playing in front of others, etc…So, when it comes to being a “starter” in high school, you enter a rare strata of “expectations and revelations” in basketball at ANY level: Sadistic Statistics overtake the reality of being a Team Player and just playing to continue getting better and helping the team succeed…In other words, for some reason, parents and kids think that “if” they start they NEED to SCORE POINTS and START if the opportunity is going to evolve towards the “next” level of competition and maybe, just maybe a scholarship that would reward the parents for the monetary “investment” in summer AAU tournaments and playing interstate games…The “rare strata” is definitely an eye opener to expectant Dads and Moms, trust me…and the kids themselves…Let me explain the “why” here…

IF a player in high school is NOT playing to the level of expectation (coach/parents), AND the team is losing, well, it is known as the “deep freeze” in basketball jargon: kids go mute, because of frustration…parents go batty wanting “answers” from their son/daughter, coach, other parents…and coaches having self doubts about skills of player(s) and second guessing “choice” of player(s) starting…Conversely, the kids on teams that ARE winning early, and everyone happy, to a point, STILL have an expectant level of results, thus “persecuting” their minds and psyche over and over again daily, until they have a “better” sadistic statistic (points, points, points…assists, assists, assists…rebounds, rebounds, rebounds…) that they can “sleep” on…Sounds crazy doesn’t it? It IS!! What we all need to do PRIOR to any season is sit down, independent of one another (parents, kids and even coaches), and write down 5 “expectations” of what each envisions for the upcoming season…Then, on the other side of the paper, write down the “revelations” that you fear most with your expectations…Example: starting or not…scoring or not…lots of playing time or not…better than others or not…adversity and not overcoming same…When you complete this exercise, you really and truly now “enter” a strata level of reality, that is healthy to you and your sportslife son/daughter that will evolve over the course of 3 parts to the season: the beginning, the middle and the end…Try it, it’s not too late…

IF you are a Substitute, active off the bench: this is a critical position in basketball, much like soccer, in that one HAS to be ready to perform on a moment’s notice: “teammate gets hurt…teammate starts off poorly…teammate not ready for prime time…teammate not playing defense…teammate playing selfishly…teammate not bringing leadership…teammate not executing…”…Substitute “teammate” for “Starter” and now you understand how very very important the “Sub” becomes to every team…This I know well: NO TEAM HAS 5 PLAYERS WHO PLAY EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY GAME AND PLAYS PERFECTLY…Do you know such a player? If so, please contact me directly…So, back to the “Sub” role: YOU ARE THE GLUE to any team’s success…You have the responsibility to be like a Fireman when you hear your name called, and the Fireman hears the bell for a call of action: respond, adrenalin rushing like a Winter River’s runoff, KNOWING exactly what the team NEEDS from you at that point in the game…HELP…Never ever take your position on any team lightly, EVER…If your best role on your team is to come off the bench to “spark” the team on Defense and Offense with your intelligence, skills set, best effort, well so be it: be the best freakin Team Player that ALL YOUR TEAMMATES and Coaches and parents could ever imagine or observe…I LOVE Subs, Bench Players, Role Players off the bench, Backups, you name it, whatever you want to call them, THEY ROCK!!! Parents understand this: Coaches in high school sometimes LOSE sight of player development, and will inevitably “pigeon-hole” your son/daughter because they’ve seen them at an early age in the program and unless they grow to 6’5” or above, will continue to pigeon hole them UNLIKE a college coach who evaluates high school talent this way: “intelligence on the court and off…skills set…player understands ROLE on team…has innate Team Player skills…integral part of team’s success…listens in timeouts as a Starter or “sitter”on bench…”, and there are other elements that college coaches take mental notes on, believe me…So, keeping this “pigeon-hole” mentality in place and your mind’s eye, you will now understand why I am not so supportive of AAU high school select ball, when in fact attending any college basketball camp during the summer months will be more beneficial to helping your son/daughter “see” firsthand and listen closely to “what” a college coach looks for, remembers about what he/she sees at THEIR camps regarding each player’s participation, and ultimately build on one’s confidence level when they return to their respective school programs…Booohlyah…now we’re gettin somewhere!! Okay, so now that we have “discovered” the all important role and position of the “Sub”, I think it’s safe to say that ol coach here has “tweaked” the egos and psyches of both parents and kids…oooops, maybe even coaches too, if they have continued to read on here…very few have the kahonees to do such, which doesn’t bother me in the least…I’m about helping parents and their student athletes at this point in my sportslife…

The “No Play Day” Sub on every team: This role player is really an important asset to each team as well…as long as they understand and accept this role without malice or disgruntled feelings towards coaches, teammates and parents…Every team has 1-2 players who may never wash their uniforms after a game or games…They don’t mind, they’re happy to be a part of the team and do a GREAT job supporting each teammate along the way…Their role is defined earlyon in high school basketball: they are limited in their skills set compared to others they practice during the season…They invariably get “pigeon-holed” by a coach this way: “he/she is limited, won’t PLAY at the next level, anyway, BUT has been in program for last 6 years (feeder program included)…”…The most important fact here is this: usually these players have decided AFTER they get their license to drive and have the privileges of driving a car of their own, their commitment and focus changes dramatically>they no longer want to put the time in to improving their skills set, strength and conditioning and establishing attainable goals…It is a phenomena of sorts, that is natural and expected at the interscholastic level, sometimes to the extreme disappointment of their parent(s), and in that demise, you immediately see the parent separate from other parents’ interests in the team’s season, success or not, just a quiet separation from expectation…What a shame…for the student athlete, because they decided to make a choice as to what was more important at that time in their life (structure of team skills development) and their parents (“I can’t believe I spent all that money on AAU ball when they were in the 7th, 8th and first two years of high school…”)…Do you see any similarities in my examples here, as a parent of a starter…a Sub…and a non-descript team member? This much I do know: without these team players on the bench encouraging their teammates’ efforts and supporting them during the game, on the court and when they come off, basketball would be a sorry example of what a Team Sport should be…

Take care, Happy Holidays to each and every one of my friends in this wonderful world of family sportslife today…Much love, Coach tom

People often believe that clutch players step up when it counts and perform better under stress.  But economist Dan Ariely studied how NBA basketball players performed in the playoffs and found that "clutch" players scoring performance as a percentage was no different in the final five minutes of the game vs. any random five minutes of the game.

Ariely was interviewed by Marketplace host Ky Ryssdal:

Ariely: So first of all we asked people if they believed that there are clutch players, and people believe that there are clutch players. People also agree on who the clutch players are in the NBA, so everything seems fine. And when we look at how many points these people who are called clutch players score in the last five minutes of the game, compared to a randomly chosen five minutes of the game, they actually score better.

Ryssdal: So then the money that they get is money well spent by the team, yes?

Ariely: Well, that's not clear yet. Because remember that even if they get more points, there's two ways to get more points. One is to increase your percentage scoring, and the other one is just to try more. So we looked at their performance, not in terms of absolute scores but in terms of percentages. And what do you think happened now?

Ryssdal: I don't know. That's actually a good point. So LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and those guys, are they actually better percentage wise when the pressure is on? I don't actually know, that's a good question.

Ariely: And the answer is no. The answer is no. Their percentage keep the same. I mean they're all good players, by the way, they're the best players there are. But they don't seem to have any clutchness. And this goes both for field goals, and for free throws.

The key is that while the performance was no better, it was no different despite the high stakesConsistency matters.

And then because they are consistent, other players on the team get them the ball more.

Ariely: And you can think about there's a group coordination mechanism, where these guys believe they are better, the coach believes they are better, the team believes they are better, so they get the ball more frequently, and they try more. They just don't succeed more. But there's kinda of an arrangement that says that they'll succeed more.

The story is available on July 6th edition of Marketplace, at about 18:07.


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Danny Westneat's column in the Sunday Times is a must-read.  He chronicles the journey he takes as a sports parent:

  • being screamed at by a mother when volunteering as an umpire for a softball game of 10-year olds
  • watching a basketball game of 7-year-olds being stopped because of parents treatment of a referee
  • him yelling at his 9-year daughter to hurry up between ballet and softball practice (with one ballet slipper and one softball cleat on)
  • questioning his daughter for sitting on the bench

Does this sound familiar?

Forget the kids. It's the parents who are losing it.

In a 60-day period from mid-April to mid-June, my kids went to 104 out-of-school organized activities. Deliriously I toted them up the other day. Baseball, soccer, basketball and softball games. Practices for all of the above. Piano and ballet lessons. Recitals. Choir rehearsals and concerts.

:

The doctors and researchers and social workers have focused all along on the wrong party. We kids are all right. It's you parents who need a timeout.

Seattle, May 2nd...I have returned home via Korea and Canada today, happily accepting the itinerary that brought me home to the NW once again...I enjoyed immensely the last 3 plus weeks in the Far East of Russia, especially the last city on my clinics' visits...We spent 9 days in Yakutia, the Consul General, Mr. Tom Armbruster, his wife, Kathy, and Jenya, the Russian National who works in the State Department with Mr. Armbruster...

Yakutia, Capital City of Yakutsk, largest State in Russian Territories...Population: 250,000...Ethnic Origin: Eskimo...Language: Yakutsk, native tongue, and Russian...Resources: 2nd leading Diamond mining producer in the World (25% of the World's diamonds produced here); Gold, Silver and Oil are the largest producing minerals and fossil fuel in Russia...By the way, this territory has the largest collection of Fossil Tusks in the World...The Woolie Mammoths are originally from this area, meaning the indigenous people of Yakutsk have more knowledge and experience than most educated anthropologists (as to "where" to fine the bones, etc...)...Food Staple: Fish, fresh, naturally frozen and then eaten the same way, tasty too, I might add...potatoes, small spuds, but tasty tatters for sure...Weather: it was sunny for 8 out of 9 nine days, only being cloudy when I left on day nine...It was around 55-60 degrees, and in the evening, a little cooler in the evening, low 40's...Winter? Get ready for this: -70 F!!! That's right, MINUS 70 degrees Fahrenheit!! Imagine those wintry days and evenings...I can't even imagine, shucks, when I was in Changchun, China, last year, coaching in the CBA, the coldest I believe, it was close to 20 below there several times in the evening...so cold that my bones STILL remember, and funny thing was, when I heard about the "-70" my bones reverberated the same recall of anything minus Fahrenheit!! Remember, this area is known as the Perma Frost topography in the Far East of Russia...General Impression: the most wonderful culture I have ever encountered...you would not believe the warm smiles, shining countenance and hospitality of these indigenous people...truly amazing, they love life, culture and their Families very much...their rich history as a proud people and culture is intact and will be for many many years to come...

Before I begin my recount of this trip leg and clinics, I'm going to give you some ideas on the City of Yakutia and their highways also...and life as I saw it...

Business Opportunities:                                                                                               a) Car Wash 4 months out of the year...every car, and I mean every vehicle is dirty, one because of the snow melt, and also because of the perma frost warming up on the surface, meaning lots of puddles, dirty streets and roads...

b) Shock absorbers and Springs shop: the chuckhole "capital" of the world is best described this way: every three feet there is a chuckhole, some deep, some not so, some with water (the real dangerous ones if traveling fast) and some not...the demanding affect on any vehicle though are the constant impacts to the frame of each vehicle, big and small, as they travel through and around this city...They never need to "post" the Speed Limit anywhere in this city, mainly because the chuckholes maintain an average speed of 20 or below...There are NO lowriders in this city, unless they're operating on low tires inflation...

c) Les Schwab Tires: now this business would never lose customers...even though most of the miles are driven in town and surrounding area, the constant pounding of dancing treads upon chuckhole after chuckhole, well you can only imagine this "Guaranty" goes by "Number of Chuckholes Visited" and not "mileage"...I saw more outside "blister" or "bubble" size bulges on front and back tires, I couldn't believe it...I guess they continue to drive the car under these conditions until they can't...

d) Sneakers and Boots Store: for sure, as you won't sell flip flops or sandals here...I think most of the people can hardly wait to put on their sneakers again and get out of the wool inserts of their boots from Winter and early Spring weather...Nine Inch heels or 4" for that matter need not be imported, although I did hear a couple in the lobby of the hotel where I was staying...I figured that women bring a change of shoes to public places, rotate from boots to heels and hear their toes sing in unison: "free at last...free at last..."...

Crimes you won't see in Yakutia:                                                                                 a) Purse Snatchers...Why? Because they would end up spraining an ankle trying to run away and cross any street that has chuckholes...

b) Bank Heists: with the average speed of vehicles 20mph, and the traffic lights not synchronized, any perp and his accomplice who is waiting in a car for the getaway, well, you can only imagine how helpless they would be 2 minutes after the crime...

c) Bike Stealing: unless you have a pair of pants that are fanny-packed with Condor Feathers from three dozen condors, you would...if a young man, quickly realizes that the effects of hitting, rolling and avoiding chuckholes is hazardous to your manhood, you might consider trying out for the choir because if you were a soprano before your crime, you became a canary voice afterwards...thus, there aren't many bikes in town here...

d) Pickpockets: when you have to dress with several layers of clothes for 9 months out of the year, you've got no shot at trying to lift anyone's wallet here...

e) Auto Thefts: most people leave their vehicles running, to keep them warm inside and the engine warm as well, and their doors locked as well...seems everyone knows each other, and if someone were to "take" a vehicle, they would be caught soon enough by the pockmarked sideroads and traffic congestion on the main thoroughfare... 

Where to begin: Chuckles...upon arrival by Yakutia Airlines, we arrived in the late afternoon, and were greeted by the local VIPs from the State Government's Office and other representatives that were with the Youth Sports Ministry Department...Okay, you gotta picture this scenario, a "newell classic" for sure...We taxi to the tarmac area, waiting, as there is no "ramp" for unloading, and a tractor hooks up to the front landing gear and backs our aircraft into a holding area...A stewardess comes to me, Tom Armbruster and his wife, and tells him in Russian (he speaks fluent Russian) and says we are to depart the packed plane first...Hmmm, I think to myself, this is interesting, being treated as VIPs in a foreign land, Russia, no less...So, Tom and his wife line up first, Jenya, translator, second, and me last...I had my hat on, as the wind was blowing a little bit, and I didn't want to mess up my hair for the cameras below...So, the first three step off the plane, then myself and LOW and behold, I hit my head on the door entry of the plane, so hard that the stewardesses caught me from behind, and I  soon saw a species of birds flying birds in my semi conscious state that I've never seen before, and thought "wow, this city has some strange looking birds...", until I realized that I had my "bell" rung...As I regained my unstable balance thanks to a couple of Russian stewardesses, I look out from the top of the portable ramp and see Policemen with bullet proof vests on holding what looks like Uzzis...a Brinks Van...a couple of more unmarked vans, and then several people below shaking the hands of Tom, his wife and Jenya...I slowly walk down the steps and still groggy, figure out that we must have some "security" arranged for our visit, and the VIPs that are greeting us must be the "ones" getting such protection...Wrong! It turns out that the plane was carrying a whole lotta of Rubles, not Rubies, and the Brinks Guards were there to unload and carefully guard the transport to the local bank...Whew, that was a relief...After meeting the luminaries on the tarmac, we were taken by private vans to our hotel, the Hotel Tyginn...Out of 5 Stars, I give it a Four Star for sure...Great rooms, service and restaurant...

Official Dinner: upon checking in, we had 15 mins. to "unwind" and walk next door to a very nice restaurant for an "Official" dinner with the Minister of Foreign Relations, Minister of Foreign Business and Development and a woman named, Anastasia, a Yakutsk Native, who lived in Fairbanks for 10 years, understood and spoke English very well, and her position in government was with the North Forum Administration, that was working with the US and other countries on a global initiative that dealt with economic, education and environmental issues...The dinner was a traditional cuisine from this region: frozen white fish, caught in sub zero temperature, preserved as such when filleted; another white frozen fish, small cut squares, eaten frozen, with a couple of special sauces, and lastly the main course, which was choice of a horse I'm sure I bet on one day and lost at Emerald Downs (which I passed upon), or fish...I chose fish, and it had a great egg souffle' mushroom cover on top of it, and let me tell you: it was deeeeelicious!! I coulda eaten two of them, but this was an "Official" dinner and I didn't want to embarrass my country and our Hosts...but I would have if offered...The visit by our Consul General there, was very very timely, as they were so thankful and happy to have him and his wife accept their invitation to visit their city...Tom Armbruster is a tremendous Patriot, representing our Democracy and values so well in foreign lands...He made immediate friends and fans of this VIP group, and we haven't even begun our agendas yet...Needless to say, the first evening was an indication that we were going to have a grrrrrrrrrrrrreat experience here...

The Week in Yakutia: April 21, morning meeting at the Minister's Office with our Consul General and their Minister of Foreign Relations...this was an hour meeting and then we went off to meet the Minister of Sports, for a short meeting and lunch with him as well...Both meetings were with the purpose of "developing" future relationships and contacts for improving relations and programs for Yakutia...I was so well received by the Minister of Sports (and all the government people as a matter of fact), as he said that basketball was a fast growing activity and that "we need to teach our coaches better methods so they can teach the players..."...well, those that know me, know that was music to my ears, as I love to teach coaches how to leach kids and right away, before my first coaches clinic was to take place two hours from now, I knew that this trip was going to be fantastic...and it was...

Basketball Clinic #1: April 21, Afternoon...there were close to 200 men, women and kids in attendance for my first session...I was told that we would have anywhere between 60-150 coaches and thankfully there were only around 45 total, and then 30 when the program completed the next day (many coaches were working and took lunch at the same time as the first session and could not do same next day...)...The team I had for demonstration were high school boys, ages 15-18...Good group of kids...labeled one kid "Kobe" as he was more "noticeable" than others in an outspoken way, and yet lacked the overall skills to be recognized as a "Star" player, but I went ahead and asked him if I could call him "Kobe", and of course he said in perfect English: "YES!!"...His twin brother was more subdued/humble in our two days, whereas "Kobe" was always telling others what to do, even if it were/was wrong, and the players followed..."Kobe" did so many pushups for us, I think he became the strongest players in 7 hours plus of clinic time on the floor...He finally "got" the picture that there is one voice, the coach's, and that if any corrections are to be made, it is by the coaches only...We got along well, and he ended up following me around to other venues to listen to my instructions...Guess discipline has a way of "connecting" even with the most outspoken individuals...He and his teammates were terrific models and had a great time, or so they tell me...The coaches in attendance were very attentive and anxious to learn how to "teach" players the proper fundamentals and how to develop players skills...Evidently, I am the first foreign coach and/or domestic (Moscow Pro coaches) to visit Yakutia in many many years, and teach the coaches there about the game...We learned many new simple lessons today and the following session, that I knew this would be another great experience in a different Far East Russian city...I presented simple warmup drills with the ball that would empower the kids to practice on their own without a gym necessary, and the importance of always incorporating combination drills that would enhance their overall skills both on offense and defense...They understood well and hopefully will implement into their practice plans...Want to hear something crazy? They only play 10 games ALL SEASON!! Can you imagine? They practice over 275 hours on the court, excluding game times, and I couldn't believe it...When I heard this, I told them they were very lucky to have such an impact in a teaching environment to prepare their students for 10 examinations...They laughed but were curious as to why I would be so supportive of fewer games and more practice times...Basically what I stated to them was this: if you have more time on the court with your team, then the "formula" for developing your system has a better chance to succeed than not, that your fundamental disciplines on offense and defense will always stand strong and be the foundation towards the team's success...They thought otherwise until I explained the thought process of "look at soccer...look at track and field...look at swimming, wrestling, even the local orchestra, they perform only once a week in some cases, and practice very hard and very long in between, so why can't your players be prepared for the same competition on a weekly basis? Herein is where the problem arose...NBA games are televised weekly there, 3-4 times a week, and the kids and coaches see how many games are played there (USA) and how many are played in their nation's Premiere League (2-3 per week) and wish they could play more also...Told them to relax, as coaches, as the fewer games you play, the less grief you get from parents!! They all laughed at that one!! It's the same universally: Kids want to play, play, play...Coaches want to practice, practice, practice...Parents want to win, win, win...and Officials want to quit, quit, quit...

Shaman and Assistants Bless our visit to the next city over from Yakutia: Okay, there are 8 people in a Van traveling for an hour and a half to a very small city named, Ogulesk (spelling is most definitely incorrect, sorry about that)...Along the two lane paved road that was similar to an hour and a half roller coaster ride that was semi-level and made us all feel like two of the four wheels (left driver side wheel and rear passenger side wheel) on our Van were missing...We endured remarkably well, as the topography was similar to the wide open range area of Montana with mountains in the far distance...spectacular, actually...So, we're low flyin along this highway and heading up this long hill to the top of a ridge, tall pines on both sides of the road now, pretty I am saying to myself...Then we stop alongside a relatively new wood framed single story building with a parking lot...We park to the side of the road, and Sergey, representative of the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Business Development, informs us in perfect English (remember, he studied at Oxford at the age of 16): "this is the boundary of the next city we are visiting for the clinics, and this is a Visitor's Center and we have a ceremony that is being presented to us by a Shaman and his support staff...This was all news to Tom and myself, as we were "along for the ride" and of course accepted this treat gladly...The Shaman is dressed in a Bearskin Hat, Pelt is definitely an Indigenous Eskimo, sculpted features, narrow eyes that sparkled, strong hands and a wonderful smile...He lights a fire to a handful of small kindling pieces in a fire pit, and then begins to chant and raise his hand with the Horsehair-end baton to all of us standing before him...His aides were holding these beautiful Chorons (hand carved wood bowls that for centuries were used for milk and water to drink from...These chorons, by the way, were gifts to me by our Hosts while in Yakutsk, and each one is different in size and touch, what an incredible culture...Back to the Shaman, so he finishes his words of prayer to the Spirits in the Valley, asking them to "bless" our kindness for coming to share with "our" people, "bless" our travels safely, and then he brings forward the ritual of drinking from the Chorons, fermented horse milk and having fresh baked flat bread, shaped like a roll, but completely flat, but oh-so-good...It was a like the Catholic tradition of communion is the only way to describe this experience...Once we finished this ritual, he asked us to turn towards the Sun and raise our arms high to accept now the blessings from the Great Spirit and in their Yakutsk native tongue, chant with him...I chanted like I was part of Sha Na Na, let me tell you...The Sun was warm, not a cloud in the sky and the moment was beyond a Kodak capture...Incredible...

The "next" Cities for clinics: We turn off the main highway (similar to the N/S Highway in Colorado) and enter into a small city, the name again of which I cannot share at this time, but will later in life, I'm sure)...This appearance had Tom and Kathy visiting with teachers and local leaders as well as students in a High School classroom to discuss American Diplomacy, commerce and language arts with the people in attendance, while I was across the road in the local and only community gymnasium addressing coaches (20 and kids and parents)...This group was lively in that the kids we had on the court as models were both boys and girls, ages 12-18...They were so excited to have this foreign coach who used to be in the NBA come to there village (less than 5.000 people), which I found out later that most of the kids in the cities I visited went online and found my name and basketball life through Google.com...The amazing "links" in life today that brings the worlds apart together...We were here for an hour and a half and then on to the next village...We arrive on the outskirts of the city limits about 45 mins. later, and again we pull off to the side of the road as there is a delegation awaiting our arrival...This time there is a Princess ('cause that's the way she was dressed: like a Princess), and she has a Choron with milk in it and a large loaf of bread that I will tell you now is BETTER than any San Francisco Sourdough that I've ever had, and I know my sourdough in the world of breads...The Mayor is in the group and he welcomes us as did is wife, and we each take a sip and break off a piece of bread and the "Official Welcome to our City" is on...The Mayor is Anglo in appearance, and a Yakutian resident, not your typical Indigenous Eskimo that is so prevalent in the Territory...We get back into the Van and Kathy Armbruster comments to me about how "good was that bread!!"...? I told her it may have been the best I've ever had, and Sergey must have overheard our comments because the next thing I know, we're in the Van and the bread is in my lap and we're encouraged to partake (gladly for sure)...That bread had about as much a chance of not being consumed by everyone in the Van as a hungry catfish finding a juicy worm that fell into a lake...This city, and please, forgive me on the name, I misplaced my itinerary and can't find the English translation of this city, so bear with me...The main resource coming out of this city is the gravel and concrete "pit" yards...It is a very small city by Yakutia comparison (population 10,000+/-)...the roads here are well paved (and rightly so...) and I think a car warranty would be "safe" in this city on wheels, windshields and mufflers because of it...We all accompany the Mayor and his wife and a couple of other people to a Tunisian-owned restaurant in the city, relatively new (4-6 years old) and have a wonderful lunch together and receive gifts from his Honor for this epic visit by the Amerikansts...We leave for the gymnasium that is 5 minutes away, and has just been completed in only 9 months of construction...It is built upon the perma frost as well, and the gym level is up two stories...They did a great job on design, simplicity and providing a venue for their youth sports and development...The floor was even, the hoops I had concerns about only because the brackets that anchor into the wall from the backboard would not hold a suspended baby's crib, and I ain't talkin about Twins!! The rims were NOT breakaways and the high school boys team that I used in this clinic had a couple of players who were 6'5", and I'm sure anxious to "see" if they could finally dunk on this hoop...As I explained after the clinic to their Director of Youth Sports, "be careful with this attachment to the wall and not having breakaway rims (wondered how that was translated to Russian?), as there will be someone or others who will try to "dunk" and accidentally hang on the rim and their weight will cause this basket to collapse..."...He smiled and looked and it dawned on him, that "yes, he is right, we will have that problem..."...Fingers crossed for him and the poor kid that gets caught with the rim around his neck...

Clinic: I had about 16 players, all high school age boys, and they were terrific models to use as demonstrators...It was funny, because most of the kids in this remote village looked like they came right out of Bellevue, Washington: blond hair, blue eyes or hazel, tall and lanky...Found out that there's been a large contingent of immigrants from Germany, Holland and Finland that had sought employment in this city (construction), and these children are the offspring example of global migration that would surprise you in this region...There were about 10-12 coaches, and at least 80 boys and girls in attendance, all very attentive to our visit...I was amazed to see the number of hands raised when I asked the proverbial question: "how many watch the NBA on TV here..."...90% of them acknowledged "yes"...Now THAT blew me away...Why? Because if that is the only model of American hoops they see each year, I think they're seeing a glorified level of athleticism, individual play and attitudes that aren't necessarily common in our country and organized programs (MS, HS and Intercollegiate)...we were on the court for two hours and it sure went by fast...we worked on ballhandling drills and passing drills that the players and coaches could easily implement on their own...We also did a combination drill, where we had a defender moving his feet on a half court slide versus the ball handler who had to change his dribble and direction after two bounces...Huge success...Tom Armbruster helped me here with the kids and we wrapped it up well...The Mayor and Director thanked us and told us how much they appreciated our visit...Another wonderful day in hoops heaven...

The Yakutsk Presidential Library: On our return trip to Vladivostok, we stopped off at the Presidential Library, designed and built for a former Russian Federation President, Yeltsin and a famous Yakutsk Scientist, Nikolai ...The venue was well designed and the collection of memorabilia is fantastic: all original letters from leaders around the world and personal gifts from same...We spent an hour ther and it was well worth the "stop"...

The Yakutsk Zoo: Now this is a place that PETA would not hold their annual fundraisers...The gentleman whose vision it was and is today, was our host and led us on a 50 min. tour of the outdoor reserve...By our North American standards, this would probably rank somewhere between 1-3 out of 10 stars...Keep in mind, this is a work in progress and the director is doing his best to build and create a more attractive and stable environment for the Indigenous Yakutians to "call" their own...I saw Russian Wolves, Big Brown Bears with big brown claws, Razorbacks (2) that were about as ugleeeeee as ugly could be described in Webster's...then there were the Rudolphs without red noses, some pure white, some without racks, but large and beautiful all the same...Saw some leopards also that were bigger than kitties...I was taken aback by the end, but Kathy Armbruster told me that "this is really a work in progress,tom, and he has a terrific idea and mind to replicate what he has seen in America and other Zoo cities on the planet...

Return to Yakutia and Celebration of Victory Day and Soldiers Memorial: Okay, you will now know that I am nutz for sure: I PLAYED in a game with other Russian Men, uniforms and all, along with Tom Armbruster, Consul General, who was on other team...I was selected by my newest "best" friend, Sergei, whose two sons, Valentin and older brother, name slipping my mind (like many other things these days), attended a basketball camp for two hours the day before...Sergei talked me into playing in this event and I agreed ONLY if Tom Armbruster played as well...I figured we both would be on the same team and do "our" thing to best represent the two man game and teamwork...Wrong...We both were on opposite sides and the way we set up this whole appearance and playing was that we could only play in the first qtr., as we both had to attend a Ceremony at the Opera House an hour later...Good thing for the "other" cultural demands away from hoops...it saved my heinie for sure...The Game: Okay, so I have a uniform with number and of course it's Red and White...nice silk...haven't worn something like this in about 30 years...The only issue were the shorts felt like they were designed by Nate Robinson, as they went below my knees about 8"...I changed that immediately by double rolling the beltline seam over and bringing the bottoms right above my knees...I mean how can one play with shorts that feel like someone is "scratching" your shinbones as you walk and run?? Now I KNOW I'm really old school, right?   So we start the game and I told Sergei that if he were to pass the ball to me in Post Position and everyone move off the pass, screening for one another and all, I'd find someone open and pass to them...This translation was loss  somewhere between Moscow and Yakutia, because after a missed shot they would immediately start passing me the ball to bring it down court and that meant that I would be really working "overtime" in this exhibition...After about 4X up and down the court on missed or made shots, I stop at halfcourt and bend over and grab the bottom front of my silkies to catch my breath and identify the "shooting stars and planets" that were now in my vision..."...one of the referees stopped to ask me if I was okay, to which I replied: "I'm fine thank you, do you have an extra whistle? As I could help you now better than I can play..."...He laughed...First time I've ever had an Official "laugh" with me on the court as a player or bench coach...Kodak moment for sure...And his English was very good...My "planetary-moment" pause subsided and I resumed my cardio exercise by getting into the game again, both ends...I played the middle on our 2-1-2 Zone and pretended I was somebody I wasn't: Intimidator, Exterminator, Eliminator...No, I ended up being a pretty good "pretender"...I rebounded the ball in front of me, put my hands up on defense when drives came down the paint and acted like I knew I what I was doing, playing with players who had NO CLUE who this Amerikansk dude was who spoke no Russian at all...Fortunately, Sergei was the quintessential teammate: he was the team leader and made the team roll at both ends...At the end of the first quarter we were up by 14 points I believe, Tom Armbruster played well, but was on the "short" team in a figurative sense: only 5 players until the last 2 mins. of the 1st Qtr., and then only one player above 6'1"...Whereas we started 4 players including myself that were 6'3" and above, no taller than 6'5"...At the end of the qtr. and saying goodbye to Sergei and teammates, and his lovely wife, Olga and the boys, Tom and I hustled to the Van to go back to the hotel and shower and change our clothes for the event at the Opera House...

The Opera House: how's this for an "experience" as a spectator: nonstop perspiring for two hours on my part!! Seriously, I hustled back to the hotel, cleaned up, changed and on the way to the Opera House, I started sweating more and more, not dizzy or anything, just basically overheated from the exhibition less than 25 mins. ago...Fortunately, this episode brought back immediate memories of yesteryear when I was a youngin and use to play for hours and afterwards would find myself still sweating like an Arkansas Sweat Hog, so this meant after 30 years, NOTHING had changed in my metabolism and post workout recovery...I just sat there and kept wiping the beads off my forehead and neck, smiling left and right and telling those around me "I'm fine, thank you..."...Finally, after awards were presented by the President of Yakutsk to Leaders in the Community, I stopped sweating...Glory! And then the Opera and Entertainment of Cultural Artists began...What a treat that was...Most of the Hall emptied upon the conclusion of the Awards ceremony, but we stayed and I'm really happy we did that...Young and old, musicians, choirs, singers and variety acts all demonstrated great talents and made the whole experience of that day even more special...And when the curtain dropped, it was the end to my trip to Yakutia that began 7 days earlier...But I still had two more clinics to do the next day: high school boys and girls program for Basketball coaches at the schools in the region there (about 30 coaches)...went extremely well...and then in the afternoon another camp for kids only, ages 9-14, boys...This is where Sergie's oldest son participated and did well...We had about 50 kids in that setting, and my assistants were 3 coaches who attended my clinics earlier at the beginning of my trip...How blessed was I to have them there and volunteer with me...They did a GREAT job at the shooting stations we set up, perfectly demonstrating to each boy the proper mechanics that they had been taught by Coach Newell to teach kids...It is in that model to follow that reaffirms in my heart and mind that we're succeeding in teaching coaches how to teach kids basketball...Glory!!

Return to Seoul and on to the USA: the next day, April 30th, I left for Seoul, Korea, and accompanying me on my drive to the airport from Vladivostok, was the State Department's Resident (Beijing) Psychiatrist, Dr. John Stennett...We soon became newest best friends, discussing our mutual interests in the Chinese culture and experiences there, and his upbringing and education...So we spent the next 5 hours talking about kids, life and the world...He is an intriguing person in his own right, and I know that our Ex-Pats who visit with him are very fortunate to have someone who can help them if ever the need arises...It's not easy for our fellow Americans to live abroad and conduct diplomatic relations when sometimes people in these different countries don't necessarily like us like green peas on a plate...Kudos to Dr. John...keep doing your great and wonderful works, Doc!!  I arrive in Seoul late at night, check into the Ramada Hotel, this time taking a TAXI and NO BUS that would drop me off at a Factory and tell me "this is Ramada"...I ended up meeting up with my former Host, Coach Chung, who is the former Men's and Women's Olympic Team coach from back in the 80's, and is now semi retired, still coaching on occasion in Japan, with the women's pro league over there...I wasn't sure if I was going to meet up with him or not, as he travels so much, but indeed I was able to speak to him...We ended up going to lunch nearby the hotel at a traditional-style Korean restaurant, which means that you sit with legs crossed OR slide them under the table, whatever is comfortable...His wife and one of his former National Women's Players joined us for lunch...wow, what a delight each course of lunch turned out to be: we only had 10 dishes, all fresh vegetables and tasty morsels that honestly, I couldn't tell you what it was, except it was very very good...Coach Chung asked me if I would have time to visit a Private High School for girls and do a clinic for the coaches there and players...I said "of course, I'd be happy to do this, Coach Chung...", and after lunch we were on our one hour drive to Seoul to the school and gym...

Korean Clinic: now keep in mind, this was not on my itinerary whatsoever, but when a friend/coach asks me "if" I could help him/her out, y'all know me well enough to understand how excited I was to share the game with them...We had a blast!! First off, we learned how to pass and cut and screen away better than they have been executing before, and of course I asked the coach if it were alright for me to revisit this simple fundamental, and she said "of course Coach tom..."...Anyway, this 3 person drill is an excellent Part Method exercise as it reinforces the fact that there are only 3 players involved in any half court play: The Passer/The Screener/The Receiver...each executed sequence is a discipline, from the correct pass to the Wing, to the Step Off and Screen Away to the Receiver stepping off and having a target to the Passer to receive the pass and now Jump Stop and Square Up for a shot attempt...When all of the kids rotate lines and learn the proper mechanics and disciplines from this Position Drill, we add a few more Offensive One on One moves and one can immediately see the improvement at each position...I am so happy the Head Coach was taking a video account of this clinic...Next we worked on Defensive Rebounding, as their coach told me that this is one of their biggest weaknesses...So we went 4 on 4 with me being the "shooter" with no Defender, and I saw right away what the problem was with her "top" 4 players/starters...they would WATCH the ball come off the rim FIRST and EXPECT someone else to REBOUND the ball, INSTEAD of anticipating the miss and getting the rebound themselves...The blockouts were pretty good for the most part, but the hesitation issue loomed as their nemesis in being consistent when it came to Defensive Rebounding skills...I have this saying, or perhaps someone else's, "There is no Hesitation in Anticipation"...From this drill I was asked by Coach Chung and the Head Coach of the girls team if I could introduce a Zone Offense vs. 2-3 Zone...well, I told them I have a simple Triangle Offense titled "Blue Stack High (www.Hooptactics.com)" that would really help them attach ANY and ALL half court zones...I introduced this without Defense in the beginning, slowly walking each player through the sequence and spacing areas of responsibilities, and then we put in 2 Defenders (on ball and on Post), then added another and finally all 5 Defenders...What we learned together was like painting by the numbers until finally the "artists" (players) began to free-stroke what they just learned...This was the BEST group of players at any level I've ever taught the Blue High Stack to that picked it up so quickly, and I attribute that to their outstanding Head Coach and her assistants...I later found out that this team was the #1 Girls team in Korean High Schools...What was the level of skills of these girls? They would be one of the Top 2 teams in the State of Washington 3-A...They're small overlall, but so quick and STRONG fundamentally in passing and ballhandling...very impressive...We finished the clinic, Coaches were thankful, happy as were the players and they all in English thanked me profusely...It was a very nice way to spend an off day in Seoul before the flight home on May 2nd...

Conclusion: Read a great book on this trip, Outliers by Malcom Gladwell...Great read and insightful reflections that help understand better the "world" we play in daily...The whole experience from beginning to end was an epic journey into cultures past, sports future presently and diplomacy at an unheralded level of respect and kindness...Wow...I thank Bridget Gersten, Dima, Jenya, Victor, Bear, Vlad (young translator in Yakutia, who spent a couple of years in Philly as an exchange student, helped me out alot during my stay in Yakutia), and of course, Tom Armbruster and his wife, Kathy...What a wonderful group of associates, co-workers and new friends that made this trip a complete success...I also want to give a "shoutout" to Lee Larson, The Larson Legacy, and a Clackamas, Happy Valley resident in Oregon, for his suggestions and support for Coaches Who Care, Intl. and our endeavors to teach coaches, parents and players about the game of basketball...Thank you very much...Excuse my "delay" in posting this blog entry so late upon my return, as I was waiting for the proper information regarding a couple of cities we visited in the Yakutsk Territory outside Yakutia...It is good to be home and in the gym again, doing what I enjoy the most: teaching kids in a gym about the game of basketball...Thanks for your patience with my musings and I hope you found it A-musing...Coach tom

Washington State now has the nation's strongest laws in protecting young athletes from severe brain injury. 

In October 2006, Zacn Lystedt, from Maple Valley, suffered a concussion in a middle-school football game and returned to the game without a medical evaluation. He took several more hits, and 60 seconds after the game ended, he collapsed. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, one that put him in a coma for months and requires extensive therapy more than two years later.

The Zackery Lystedt Law, the first bill Gregoire signed Thursday morning, was proposed and passed to prevent injuries like Lystedt's -- or worse, deaths from similar trauma.

:

The law requires that when an athlete has suffered an apparent brain injury -- whether in a game or practice -- he or she cannot return to play without the approval of a licensed medical professional, which includes certified athletic trainers.

The Governor signed the bill on Thursday, May 14th.  See http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sports/2009221799_headinjuries15.html

Area Coaches Answer Parents and Student's Questions and Help Understand Athletics Today

Family SportsLife Today presents the fourth annual symposium "Expectations and Revelations: an Insight to the Process of Intercollegiate Recruiting".

The symposium will be held Saturday May 30, 2009, in the Assembly Room of Hec Ed Pavilion. Registration begins at 8:45 AM and the program runs from 9:00 to 12:00 PM.  Directions are available here.

Representatives from the following programs will participate in a panel discussion and answer question on the subject of identifying prospects and how the process begins towards recruiting a high school student athlete.  This program is for parents and kids at the Middle School and High School levels of interscholastic sports. The symposium is FREE and refreshments will be provided. Canned food donations for Northwest Harvest will be accepted.

Panelists will include representatives from the University of Washington, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, Northwest College, and St. Martins University.  Basketball, baseball, volleyball, and other sports will be represented.  Former athletes will also share their experience.

 

What's Next?

graduation hats What are the opportunities for college scholarships? How does the college recruitment process work? What if my son or daughter is not an athletic superstar? What options are available beyond division-I schools?  What about post-graduate opportunities?

Panelists will include:

  • Keith Cooper, St. Martin's Men's Basketball coach
  • NW University, Kirkland, NAIA Men's Coach John VanDyke
  • Dave Wainhouse, Seattle U's Assistant Baseball Coach
  • UW Men's Asst. Coach in basketball, Paul Fortier
  • representative from Seattle U's Men's basketball
  • Al Mustante, co-author of "Keep Playing!  The Six Step Game Plan"
  • Coach Barry Mestel, President of Winning Ways, Orlando, Florida

 SymposiumSymposiumSymposium

Special Thanks

  • This program is made possible by the following Community Support Programs:
  • University of Washington, Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Seattle Pacific University, Intercollegiate Athletics 
  • Seattle Sports Advisory Council
  • Coaches Who Care, Intl.
  • The Ram Restaurants 
  • FamilySportsLifeToday.com
  • All Panelists and Testimonials by former Student Athletes  

Seattle UniversityUniversity of WashingtonSt. MartinsSeattle Pacific University

About Family SportsLife Today
FamilySportsLifeToday
was founded in 2006 by former NBA Coach Tom Newell, high school Coach Guy Perry, and technologist Jay Arnold. FamilySportsLifeToday.com is dedicated to assisting volunteer coaches, parents and participants develop better teaching models and motivational methods, bringing families to improve the dynamic of the youth sports experience. FSLT provides Internet radio podcasts, news articles, documents and resources for youth coaches, parents and players at http://www.FamilySportsLifeToday.com/

FamilySportsLifeToday organized the first televised basketball game with hoops raised to 11-feet in June 2007, kicking off a national discussion on the state of professional basketball. See http://www.FamilySportsLifeToday.com/ForLoveOfGame

About Coach Tom Newell
Tom Newell was the first NBA coach to coach a Chinese Basketball Association team, the Jilin Northeast Tigers in 2007-2008.  Coach Newell blogged about the experience at http://www.FamilySportsLifeToday.com/blogs/tigers  Previously, Newell was an Assistant Coach for the Seattle Supersonics, Director of Player Personnel for the Indiana Pacers, and Scout for the Golden State Warriors.  He also was an Assistant Coach for the WNBA's Portland Fire. 

Tuesday Evening, April 21...Well, finished the clinics here in Vladivostok in fine fashion again as the coaches were very appreciative once again for Coach tom's visit ala Lee Larson, former Clackamas Girls Basketball Association Volunteer coach (Oregon)...We wrapped up this afternoon's program with an observation of a high school basketball tournament in the gym where we held our clinics the day before and earlier in the morning...We finished the morning program with an assignment: what to look for when "scouting" a team...I presented as suggestions examples of how a coach could assess the strengths and weaknesses of an opponent by first watching how serious or not the teams were in warmups...Were they making their layups, shooting more 3's than game shots in the offense, shooting FTs, focused, serious, etc.? Then when the game begins, what type of defense are both teams employing out there, and what 2 players are the "feature" players in both teams' offense, because most teams have "only" two legitimate scorers in high school, universally, unless of course it's a powerhouse/stacked high school team...Next we discussed how the players come off the court and where they sit on the bench: close to the coaches so they can hear what he's thinking, saying and knowing that at some point the coach WILL put him back into the game...or...does he retreat with shoulders shrugged, slowly stepping towards the end of the bench? You see, I have this theory, that ALL players who demonstrate a selfish attitude when substituted and CHOOSE to act out before God, Flag, Cheerleaders, Mom, Dad and Grandparents that "woe is me, I'm NOT playing now and I don't like it...", they are about as ready to go back into a game like a cooked turkey tryin to fly out of the pot...No way, Jose', will ANY player who displays this type of attitude has any chance to redeem himself or herself when they make the Team Game of basketball personal...Give me 10 kids who cheer for one another, are eager to encourage their teammate when he or she is struggling and the coach is focused on the game and forgets to "touch" the player with a kind word or pat on the back to absolve any guilt the player might feel at the time...Now I know there are high school coaches out there who would disagree with me about that last statement, but the fact is, KIDS are KIDS and they NEED to be reinforced with positive constructive comments, NOT dirty looks or discouraging comments that finish the competitive courage of the player for the rest of the game...It's the same EVERYWHERE in the world of amateur sports, trust me, I've seen enough games to comment from experience...On to the game...

The game: One team is from Blagoveshenk (where I took the train for 72 hours roundtrip) and now they too were on that same schedule TO Vladivostok...the other team was from Harbansk, about halfway between Blago and Vladivostok...So, you have one team that took a day and half to get here, and the other team 18hrs...NOW this should be an interesting "warmup" to watch, as they both arrived on Sunday evening, they could have even been on our train...Anyway, I missed the warmups due to an interview I had to do but was able to "catch" the opening tip and watch the next 4 qtrs...Evidently, Blago was not ready to play prime time as they could not make their layups early or late in the first half, plus they had no answer for a very very talented 15yr. old 6'5" Brockman-Halogen type athlete...Imagine watching a kid who plays both ends of the court with the heart and passion of Jon Brockman and KNOWS how to dominate with a simple rebound outlet downcourt pass for a layup; has an incredible first step off an upfake on a jumper that would make any Radar Gun on WSP (Wa. State Patrol) pitch at such a high level you'd think he was speeding INSIDE a gym...yeah, that impressive...I was so intrigued by his play after 5 mins. I told Victor, my translator, that this young player has a chance to be very special someday...Anyway, all the "bad" things that you cringe at when watching a poor team struggle which Blago was doing here before us, were unfolding play after play, missed layups, no transition defense, poorer half court execution on offense and defense, etc...and NO, the two coaches of this high school team DID NOT attend my clinic last week in Blago...to bad, we coulda helped them a lil bit, I think...Back to the young Kirilenko-motor player from Harbansk: I just had to meet this kid after they won by 30...and I did...and he speaks English very well after studying it for the last 5 years...he just turned 15 last month...Anyway, his coach, a volunteer of 27 years experience, and a veteran youth coach who developed two players for Russia's National Men's Team, attended both days of my clinics here in Vlad, and we became "newest" best friends...Little did I know how well a model of coach he was until watching him in action...very positive, played all his players throughout the game, and generally demonstrated a demeanor that would inspire any level player...

Clinics Wrapup: so we met after the game and discussed what we saw and all agreed that the other team could not stop nor have an answer for the talented Big Player from Harbansk...We discussed how timeouts have to be towards making adjustments and not finger pointing as was the case with the other team's players and coaches, frustrated for sure, but worse was the dejected, downtrodden body language as each player yearned for the last seat at the end of the bench and mind you this bench has 20 chairs!! Visualize 2 coaches sitting close to the Scorer's Table and then about 12 chairs separating them from their players...yeah, THAT bad...The conclusion was the other team DID NOT prepare even in warmups, as they missed layups there and acted tired already BEFORE the tipoff...Yikes!! We then watched a DVD production that Lee Larson produced through his foundation a couple of years ago when I accompanied him on a humanitarian basketball clinic in the Northern Highlands of Guatemala, San Marcos de Atitlan...I wanted the coaches to see how in other parts of the world how coaches are taught, how young players play and how much fun both players and coaches have when involved in an activity such as basketball...It was an interesting response by the coaches, as they could not believe how happy the players appeared and how they just kept playing through airballs, turnovers, no complaining or making excuses or finger pointing and then finding out that the coaches there are also volunteers and had never had an NBA coach come to teach them also, similar to the Vladivostok coaches here...They wanted to know the "level" of talent there also, as they really couldn't tell one way or another...I told them that the players were mostly under 6' tall and the girls under 5'...they laughed at that and I told them it was true...they still laughed...so much for "leveling" with them...

Closing ceremony: gave the coaches certificates again and we exchanged hugs and handshakes and pleas to "come back Coach tom...", I told them I was, next Wednesday for a day...then back to Seattle...got a laugh out of that one...you know me...Anyway, I was pleased overall with what we accomplished and learned anew once again...I really really love these volunteer coaches, they truly wish to learn new drills for skills and proper teaching methods...I had one coach comment to me in front of the other coaches that he had  "never met a coach like me before in his life...that I have been to Moscow and attended coaches clinics there and outside Moscow, to learn from the best, yet they would keep their distance from us, never greeting us like you, or asking us for questions, caring about what we need for our teams...", and then asking me if all American coaches are like me, which I kindly replied not in the NBA today, although you might find several that would sign an autograph, but I'm not sure they would take the time to "ask" you how they could help you with your team...I said there are college coaches who would help them and gladly answer questions too...Guess the egos of being a "Pro" coach allows one to have a unseen "moat" around his persona...Bob Hill, former Sonics coach would NOT fit that category whatsoever, nor would George Karl, as they both enjoy discussing the game with coaches at any level...not surprising, they're both teachers...Pop from San Antone might also take the time and Larry Brown also...D'Antoni also I believe...Nate Mac too if asked...so I guess that leaves about 25 coaches left who may not take the time...I challenge ANY and ALL NBA coaches to forget their itineraries when doing international clinics and literally "sit" with the coaches and listen to their questions as opposed to teaching without listening...just a suggestion...

Piano Concerto later that evening: well, I just experienced a Vladivostok cultural happening: a Moscow Philharmonic Conductor who also moonlights in his hometown as a Concerto Pianist...He lives in Vladivostok in the "off season" and plays on occasion when he is available...what a Master he is...Michail Aekadyev...he is probably in his late 50's, but let me tell you this: he is a MASTER!! Wow...he gave us Bach, Lidst and Taichovsky...and let me tell you, I don't know what a C-Minor is when it comes to music, but I gave Mikey an A-Plus for his effort and demonstration...Wow!! Plus he got enough flowers from local fans to open a Florist for a week, and enough kisses from adoring females that would make Hugh Hefner jealous...I mean this gentleman has such a graceful hands coordination on the keys that I marveled continuously in awe...Shucks, I have a hard enough time trying to play Jingle Bells for my Grandson on a piano...As I watched him, and thought about how he has "arrived" in his career, being a Maestro in one of the World's most famous Philharmonic Orchestra's, yet, he chooses to continue to "play" from his heart, sharing what he loves most, music...now THAT is passion and soul combined...I learned many lessons tonight being entertained by this talent...This all came about by the Consul General's office offering me a ticket to attend along with Avi Dede, Voice of America broadcaster visiting Vladivostok and another Far Eastern city on behalf of the State Department...He lives in Arlington, Virginia...

On to another Far Eastern Colder City: Yakutia...tomorrow evening I leave for Yakutia...one week of clinics there...Mr. Tom Armbruster and his wife, Kathy are joining me for this trip...Supposedly we'll have 60 volunteer youth coaches in attendance for the weeklong program...I am really excited about this next clinic, although I was told that it is still very very very cold there...Good thing I brought my Roooskee Bearhair hat...you know the ones that Krushev used to wear back in the day...I have a nice black one...fits well too...shucks I LOOK like a comrade now, what, with my goatee and all...Okay, I'm off to bed, it's after 1am again and I'm beginning to feel a little tired...thanks for taking the time to read my stories...all the best, have a safe week...Coach tom

Vancouver, Canada...April 11, 2009...Awaiting connecting flight to Incheon Airport, Seoul, Korea...Down time: 2 hours plus...What to dos: not much...

Flight Experience 11 hours later: Window seat on an Air Canada 767...Gentleman next to me was about as calm as a Raiders fan sitting in the middle of Seahawk Diehards at Quest Field...for 11 hours...Sleep deprivation non control has set it for sure...Little did I realize how small a Window seat can become with an overactive aisle person...

I was very very impressed with the Audio/Visual tech display screen that this aircraft had...Wow!! I mean it has EVEREETHANG!! Where else can you sit for 11+ hours and be thoroughly entertained before your very eyes...The plane arrived on schedule and safely and that is the keyword on this trip: safely...

Incheon, Seoul...I made a reservation online through Priceline.com, which has proven to be a pretty reliable resource for hotels and travel, I believe...So I am at the baggage claim, and the beginning of sleep deprivation is setting in...How do I know this? Simple: I'm trying to remember what my two bags look like that I packed...After watching the carousel go round and round like a Merry Go-round, it dawns on me that there's only couple of bags left by now and two have to be mine...Good deduction, Miss Patrick, my 5th Grade elementary teacher would have been proud of my logic...Now on to “getting” to my hotel for an overnight recuperation before the flight out on Monday morning to Vladivostok,Russia...

Outside Incheon Airport...after receiving information from a kind young Korean bi-lingual regarding where the Ramada Song Do Hotel is in Incheon, and she letting me know that the “easiest” is to take the public bus, I set off to the curbside and begin my adventure...She wrote down in Korean for me the name of the hotel and location, or so I thought...I get on the bus, smile a whole lot with the driver and give him my piece of hope for R & R...He looks at it, speaks to me in Korean and points out his window like “overthere?”...I and nod in agreement with “overthere”, a word more dangerous in geographical terms than nautical at this point in my mind...

Twenty minutes later, the Driver comes back, awakens me and motions to follow him as I have arrived to my destination...I look out the window and all I see is a Factory that has an SK sign on the entrance, international flags and a whole lot of security guards with holsters and Glocks on their hips...thinking to myself: “...hmmm, the Ramada really takes care of its Guests...”...I point to the Driver and he smiles, nods and points to “overthere” as my point of arrival to the destination...Smiles and pointing should never be considered an affirmative action towards correctness when one or both parties have no clue where they are, what they're doing and what to expect should the location be wrong...which this was...

I roll down the entry towards the Security Guards and one looks at me, stops and calls for backup (yes, I do KNOW how to interpret 'voice inflections' very well)...His partner appears from an office and I say hello to both and the latter says “hello” back...I pull out my Priceline.com confirmation, all in English and think for sure, he 'knows' English because he smiled and said hello back...Wrong...He looks at the paper, gets on his walkie talkie and about 3 minutes later, anoter officer appears out of a tanned Hyundai Security SUV...He obviously is the Boss, Supe, Chief, you name him, that's what he is: in charge...He shakes his head, points out towards the main thoroughfare and says something to the gentleman who was trying to help me that I can only interpret: “overthere...get him overthere...”...And “overthere” I followed, not having a freakin clue if I would end up “underthere” after being “overthere”...I follow the young Lt. back out onto the busy street and he is now going to hail me a Taxi to take me from his “SK Factory” compound to the “SK Ramada Hotel in SongDo District”...overthere, I'm sure...

A Taxi pulls over, conversation between the Security person and Female Taxi Driver begins and five minutes later I am encouraged to get into the back seat and through smiles and finger directions, realize that I am on my way again...I was really encouraged when I noticed on the back window of this Taxi a sticker that read: “Professional Women Drivers Association” member in ENGLISH, which I must confess is the most incredible 'order' of acknowledgement for any American male/tourist in any foreign country...Now I know why my late Father was impressed with the Koreans and how they drive...

30 minutes later the Driver pulls up to the Ramada, almost two and half hours AFTER I arrive in Korea...I am so excited...a room, a shower, a bed, a time to relax after 17 hours of travel...I get to my room and it was perfect...I was hungry yet more tired than famished at this point, so I turn on the TV to see what programs they have in English...They have CNN, ESPN and a host of other international programs as well as their domestic...I lay back and now it is Korean time 7:30pm and I didn't awaken again until 3:15am Monday morning, Easter Sunday in America...I was full of energy once again, and made some complimentary room coffee and surfed through the TV stations to find the Masters LIVE...Wow!! I proceeded to witness Tiger and Phil Mickelson play a round of golf that would make any non-golfer understand how difficult it is to focus and concentrate on taking a long shaft with a abnormal head on the end and swing down and through on a ball either on a prop (tee) or laying on the grass...So, for the next 3 hours I watched the Masters in Korea from my TV...Great moment in sports TV...

Vladivostok, Russia, Monday afternoon arrival...2:30pm...Two hours ahead of Korean time...I am met at the airport by Dima, the Russian Public Affairs person who works in the American Consul General's Office in Vladivostok...Dima is the principle person in charge of coordinating my program/clinics in Siberia on the Russian side, and Bridget Gersten, American Attache' who is Dima's Supervisor, the lead person arranging my itinerary and public appearances in cities, Universities and before the Press for interviews...Between the both of them, they have everything pretty well established, coordinated and arranged for my departure 9 hours later to Blagoveshenk, Russia via Trans Siberian Railways...I am immediately taken to Ms. Gersten's compound/house by Dima, as she will arrive in an hour from work to go over everything with me and make me comfortable before we leave for Blago...Ms. Gersten is on her last duty station obligation here in Vladivostok, as she and her husband will soon be relocated to the Consul General's Office in Bogota, Colombia for the next 4 years on assignment...She is very excited for the change of venue and opportunity to have her husband and herself working together in the same city...I am happy for her opportunities, and more impressed for her and her husband's act of patriotism abroad, representing all that is good about our Democracy and values as a very young country compared to the rest of the world...We owe them and others a tremendous amount of respect for their service...So, the next times you travel abroad, keep in mind the professional dedication and services we have empowered with individuals and couples who have chosen to serve our Nation globally and extend the model of our values and democracy and human rights to the Free World...Our State Department should be commended over and over again for their undying commitment to have emissaries abroad be an extension of all educated and well trained Americans serve on our behalf and make our future travels outside the USA safer and eventful...

Vladivostok Train Station: 11:45pm...”Bear” picks up Dima and myself from Bridget's house and transports us to the Train Station...It is cold, dark and I am thinking to myself: “self, not many people would ever understand NOR even consider what you are undertaking at this time, for the next 36 straight hours on the same train...”, but then again, we already “know” that I am a lil diffrnt...

Sleeper Car # 34-36 on Trans-Siberian Railways...ah, let's see, there is Dima and Victor (my first translator when I was in Vladivostok, Russia the year before) and myself sharing this 4 bunk bed compartment...Size? Imagine a bath a half room with two lower benches and two upper for sitting and sleeping purposes...for the next 36 hours...Imagine also this compartment is a walkin closet the size a small Rancher house's Master Bedroom closet...a 6X6X9' room with a sliding door for privacy...Pictures will follow, hopefully...

The sleep-through-the-night was uneventful at best, a rolling left to right, iron wheels upon iron rails evolving slowly, gaining momentum and I assumed speed, the couplings reminding me that we were continually attached to other cars attached to a locomotive somewhere a quarter of a mile ahead of our compartment...

Tuesday morning, sunrise and the beginning of an uneventful but illustrative panoramic topography of South Far East Russia...Desolate at best, a frozen tundra or perma frost perhaps, not much to describe other than it appears to be a rural, hard life that many people endure, generations upon generation, accepting fate as decree for existence in a predisposed life and culture for existence...No thank you...

Physically my back is as sore as doing a dozen squats with knees bent standing next to a wall for two minute intervals...the only difference is that I feel I have done 100 of these over the last 36 hours...We are approximately 1 hour out of Blagoveshenk right now, and Dima informs me that we will have the local TV station meeting us at the Station upon arrival for an impromptu interview, as I am the first American basketball coach to travel to their city to teach the game to their coaches and speak at the local university on sports and recreation from my experiences...I am little concerned because one, my hair is not combed, I have the breath of many buffaloes, and I need to get my bearings “right” regarding walking and riding once again...Numb and Numbmer, this word by the way is a “newellism” courtesy of Trans-Siberian Railways...and I am for sure “numbmer” than the day before...and I think to myself, Dumber...The latter because I realize I accepted this opportunity and experience to return to Vladivostok and the accompanying two other cities without “thinking” of the reality of travel and hardship of isolation (by train 72 hours roundtrip), but, I have been blessed by my acquaintances of both Dima and Victor, two wonderfully kind humans whom I consider “best” comrades now...Victor, by the way, visited me in Seattle on his way back to Vladivostok, last July, when he was returning from a business meeting in NYC then...I took him to my favorite Irish Bar on Queen Anne, Sully's, where he made immediate new friends in Marquess and Patrick, both co-owners of this fine establishment...There were others that he met there and who graciously accepted him into the fraternity of reputable notables of Sully's...

Okay, not sure when I will be sending this transmission out, but hopefully Jay Arnold, my compadre' and partner with Familysportslifetoday.com program, will cut and paste to our Blog...I will keep you up to date on the goings on and itinerary, which by the way, begins today, in the afternoon, after arriving in Blagoveshenk at 9:30am and commencing at 2pm on the local indoor gymnasium...

Less I forget: how would I describe 36 hours on a train? Hmmmm, it is similar to being a Dryer with a pair of Levis whose brass buttons rap against the wall of the dryer, without the heat on, prone, not fetal in position of rotations/circular motions...or like a riding in an old '56 Plymouth that has no rear springs and the only cushion is the seat you sit upon when hitting a rut in the road...or like a having a small sharp pepple in both shoes and you have to walk a mile before you can remove them...or like a window seat on the back of a dark bus with a driver who hasn't slept in 30 hours...I think now you get the visual...Welcome to Siberia...

The Mysteria of Hysterisa in Siberia for basketball...

Blagoveshenk, Russia...City Population 250,000 plus/minus...We were met at the Train Station by Yuri, one of the most incredible young coaches in basketball I've ever met...He was the Host and organizer of this program here, and did a tremendous job setting it up...I can't begin to express how impressed I was with his professionalism and organizational skills...Exceptional to say the least...The city itself has the largest streets/thoroughfare I've ever seen...Also, keep in mind, less than a quarter of mile across the Amur River is China, yes China...They have undertaken a “new” city construction development, one to rival their cross border neighbors in Blagoveschenk...The number of high rises and construction cranes is phenomenal, according to Yuri, who was born and raised in Blago, and attests to the fact that the “new” China is well on its way to “lure” tourists from the Motherland to their city...Presently, the river is still about 4” thick with an ice cover...Word is “maybe” next month it will melt enough whereby boats will be out on the water again...Hard to imagine or experience being in a city where in April it's still 20degrees outside during the day and colder at night...there is some leftover snowbanks, but melting a little bit more each day....

Hotel Drushav, Blago...What a nice room overlooking the river's bay and seeing China so close...The bed was not as comfortable as the furniture in this large suite, but it didn't matter, it was more comfortable than the sleeper cot on the train, trust me...Hotel breakfast, lunch and dinner was very very good...Simple, tasty (lots of chicken, fresh vegetables, fresh made rolls) and vanilla ice cream with a couple of peaches was a wonderful dessert...

Session One: this began 4 hours after arriving in Blago, approximately at 1:30pm on Wednesday afternoon...We began with a Press Conference at the venue where the coaches program took place, Pedalogical University of Blagoveshenk...Yuri is a teacher of Physical Science there (25 years now) and their team's coach...He has been the most successful coach in history of the school's program...I met him last year in Vladivostok when I made my first clinic there in February of '08...The Press Conference was very surprising to me, one, because there were 6 TV cameras and reporters as well as numerous newspaper journalists as well...Why? Evidently, I am the first Foreign Coach to visit their city and teach youth coaches (boys and girls, middle school and high school) in 30 years...And this includes their own coaches association where they have not had coaches come from Moscow to share their knowledge of the game with youth coaches here...30 years of no visiting coaches, neither domestic or foreign...Now you know why the big hype for my visit...it went very well...Also in attendance were the coaches who were going to attend our program as well as Professors from the University who were curious about this American coach who took a train from Vladivostok to their city to share his knowledge with local youth coaches...Guess you could say I was a “novelty” of sorts...Happy to oblige the curiousity...

Tom and his “funny guy” humor...I introduced to the coaches in attendance my “observations” of how I see a player today when evaluating them in practice and competitions...It's actually very simple: players are either a 30w...60w...90w...or Halogen...When I defined each level of wattage a player is ID'd, the Russian coaches laughed in unison...And I did this in our first 30 minutes together? Now I knew I had their interest and attention to this American coach whom they heard about from Yuri, the organizer, and they too were excited to see what they might learn about teaching players how to play the game the right way...

On court presentation: this followed one hour after the classroom program...How do I describe the court by which I am suppose to work upon? Imagine a very old warehouse, high ceiling, windows on the side walls, rising from a 4' level to 8' in height...no tint or shade by the way...Now to the floor surface...Imagine two inch planks, side by side, no tongue and groove, installed over 70 years ago, NEVER sanded or replacement boards to this day, painted over and over and over with lead based paint, some areas of the court with uneven planks (the better players I'm sure used these locations for wicked crossover moves, no doubt J); now to the sidelines: imagine a sideline that is 6” from the walls and the ENDline at least a foot and a half...Pictures will follow, trust me, I kid you not...and I haven't even LOOKED at the baskets yet...I was extremely careful and sensitive to my hosts, and Victor and Dima about commenting whatsoever on this court we were going to use for the next two and half days, not that I would, but I am sure they were wondering if I could even conduct the drills properly...I just marveled at the whole visual before me and how my late Father, Pete Newell would have had a wonderful chuckle about the court and sidelines...I can hear him telling me in his quiet quick humor: “tommy, that Coach must be a great defensive coach with Traps full court and on the sidelines throughout the game...!!”...He'd be right, because that's immediately what I thought about also...Okay, now raising my head and eyes towards the basket, it was an equally incredible basketball relic too...it was suspended and anchored to the brick walls, evidenced by years of bolts coming out of the wall hundreds of times I'm sure as the college students wanted to demonstrate their dunking skills as they evolved with the game over the years of new players on the school's teams...The plexiglass backboards were extremely clean and almost new, about two inches thick...the rims were breakaways...nets were new also...

Before I commenced on the court, I was told by Yuri that I had a team of 12 players to use as models...They ranged in age from 14-18 years of age...Their coach was also one of the attending coaches, which helped me make sure that if I needed to split up the teams to two half courts I had someone to “watch” them also...I'm introduced by Yuri to the team and coach, and it was as always a “new” experience for me in another foreign city, greeting and meeting new charges, new players who are wondering who this coach is that “wants” them on the floor when he is teaching...For the next two and half hours we had a fabulous time together, both attendees and players alike...And Victor did a magnificent job translating, I am so lucky to have such a patient, willing assistant trying to understand my humor, the keywords in basketballspeak and of course answering the questions that the coaches would invariably ask...Dima was the Camp photographer, and I am sure he has the pictures to illustrate my reflections in Blagoveschenk...

Sauna Visit after Day One...My body is tired, really tired from the 36 hours on the train, and 5 hours on my feet upon arrival...Victor informs me that Coach Yuri (Host) wishes to take us to the local Sauna Club, that it will be very relaxing...Well, I gotta tell you, I hear Sauna and immediately I'm thinking what you're thinking, so I hesitate a little bit, wanting to just get back to my hotel room, change clothes, jump into the shower and get some rest...but...I relented and did not want to offend Yuri and his kindness and accepted with Victor the invitation to “go to the Sauna...”...First off, I have never been to a Sauna, but have had friends who had one in their homes, etc., or used one at one of the NBA teams I use to coach with, but NEVER a Private Club sauna...until now...So, we arrive at this very well designed building, relatively new, and walk downstairs, me following my two comrades and thinking to myself, “newell, you big dummy, what did you agree to get yourself into NOW...?”...We open this door and there is a receptionist, a woman, mid 30's, hadn't missed a meal all winter, giving us each a plastic bag put our shoes in, and giving us each a pair of flip flops in exchange...THEN I am given a bouquet of dried birch leave branches...Not really sure what the heck this is all about until Yuri through Victor informs me “it's part of the Sauna experience in Russia...”...I immediately tell the woman through Victor, “thank you, but in my country when one receives flowers they're usually with blossoms and fresh cut...”...Well, you can only imagine the laughter that ensued from that comment...Now we proceed to the “change room”...By the way, we are given bags with towels, wash cloth and pajama-like shorts and wrap around top...I now ask the question: “ah, Victor, is this an ALL men's private club?”...he asked Yuri, and Yuri said “of course, this is the one place where women cannot bother a man when he wants to relax and go to the Sauna...”...What happens next was the most exhilarating, relaxing experience I would have ever imagined...We put on WOOL beanie (half inch thick!!) and walked into the Finnish Sauna (there are 4 types in this Club) and this has Eucalyptus emitting from the steam, and it was fabulous...there were a couple of other men in this sauna and they immediately wanted to know from Yuri “who is this Amerikansk?” in Blagoveshenk? Yuri explains who I am and where in the US I live and they were surprised that I would have come to their city, and now their sauna...All the while this dialogue is being exchanged I am breathing in fresh Eucalyptus and sweating beyond profusely, I am what is described as a “full on DRIP”...I think I lost 5 lbs. in that first sitting...Then we leave after 15 mins. in there and have a choice to jump into a very polar cold pool...a very hot pool or a semi warm pool that had a Hydroplane “jet” Jacuzzi that turned out to be my “best” friend to my back that night...After 5 mins of pool time, we then went into the “next” sauna, which was a Swedish HOT steambath, and it was here that I understood “why” the birch leaved bouquet was given to me...Yuri had soaked these leaves in an oak bucket of extremely hot water and let it simmer while we were in the first sauna, me not knowing what was about to ensue in the immediate future of my saunize experience...As we were getting ready to go into the Swedish sauna there was another sauna next to this one and a guy in there was standing on the bench and beating himself with the branches like he was a bad bad boy...I stopped and couldn't believe what I was witnessing...Victor then tells me that Yuri told him to tell me that we too will use the branches in the Swedish sauna also...This much I know: I ain't about to beat myself with branch leaves for no reason...but then again, I'm in Russia...So, we go into the Swedish room, and it is very very HOT, searing almost (now I know how Tuna must feel when seared...), and I sit up on the second row and it is really really hot, too hot, so Yuri tells me to move down to the first row, lay on my stomach and put my feet together and relax...Hah!! He then takes the leaves and proceeds for the next 10 mins. to beat the everlivin evil that may or must have been in my life for the last 10 years!! I mean it was unbelievable...the ball of my feet got smacked, up to my shoulder blades and I gotta tell you: it was an incredible feeling, the oil from the branch leaves came out, mixed with the perspiration and all, I could feel oils and other chemicals that shouldn't be in my system leaving at that point...Then we jumped into the polar pool for 20 seconds and then into the very very hot pool for 10 seconds and on into the semi warm pool...Trust me, it was the most exhilarating experience I could have ever imagined...Then one last sauna out of 4 (I told Yuri I had enough already), a conventional radiant sauna with heater elements on the side...that was probably the driest of them all and really didn't do much for me...Anyway, that was the Sauna experience in Blagoveshenk and one I won't soon forget...

Overview of Clinic Days 2-3: what a fabulous experience...We learned so much about teaching first and coaching second, it was really fun to see the enthusiasm of the coaches...We had coaches, men and women, who coach kids ages middle school and high school, all volunteers, educated in physical science, but not so much in the process of coaching a team, especially basketball...I sensed thatt our exchange would not soon be forgotten...They were excited to learn how to introduce the Triangle Offense and simple options that could evolve from this offense, as well as how to defend one on one on the perimeter and Post Play Defense, basketball methods that defined player development issues that they did not know how to address per se, until now...We went over warmup drills for skills, shooting drills, Disruptive Pressure Defense stations that teach disciplines as well as principles that can help a team be more successful in their matchups...

The Players as models: one player in particular stood out above them all, literally, and that was Timothy...he must be at least 6'9”, long armed and hands twice the size of mine (and I can palm a ball) and a GREAT eagerness and passion for the game...Timothy is only a young 18 year old, brought to Blagoveschenk from some outside Siberian small village by Yuri, given an opportunity to gain an education (high school and college) through his basketball experiences...He has only played hoops for two years, and let me tell you, NOW I truly understand when I remember reading about Olajuwon taking up basketball when he was only 16 years old in Nigeria...Timothy is the most natural “big” I've come across in my international travels in a long long time...He's a natural leader by his effort and example and his teammates look up to him as well, and NOT because he towers over them...I used him as model for our Post Defensive moves, � deny, Full Front, � push up baseline and he picked up on it so well and quickly, it was exciting for me to see how well he adapted...Next we learned the basic Post Play moves, beginning with the Jump Hook after stepping off and the counters that follow that sequence of read read attack plays...Afterwards, I sat down with him and Victor and asked him if he liked basketball and if ever thought about becoming a “great” player...His eyes opened wide and he said “of course, I want to play in the NBA someday...”, and he said that with a straight, serious countenance...I was NOT caught off guard whatsoever by his “vision” as he has dream to believe and realize someday and wants to develop beyond what anyone from his village, including his mother would have ever thought when she agreed to let him come to the big city for education and sport...I told him that he would have to work very very hard and that it would not be easy at all, and he nodded...I told him that he would have to make serious social choices in his life, off the court with the friendships he develops, leaving drugs and alcohol aside and focusing on one thing: self discipline...He looked me in the eye, and said “I know, I am doing that now...”...Clearly, I am sitting with a young man that may be in the NBA someday because he “sees” himself doing that...Wow...I asked him if he had any questions and he said, “I would like to have a drill that will help me with my left hand (he's right handed) and be just as good as my right hand around the basket...”...We went out onto the court and I proceeded to introduce him to the Mikan Right/Left hand step hook shot, which he picked up on right away for never having been taught this before...What a kid...what a GREAT potential...Wow!! I said goodbye, asked him one last question: “what kind of student are you...?”...To which he honestly replied and said “not as good as I should be, Coach...”...I told him that education is the balance to his dreams, that without applying himself towards school he could never realize his full potential as you can't always play basketball, and the lessons you learn in a classroom and reading a book will be more valuable than any game you score many points and get many rebounds...He then says, “I know I must do better in school and I will...”...I told him that he must study English next and that if he does well in school and English I will bring him to America for college...He was very excited and said he hopes that he can do that someday...Stay tuned...I am blessed beyond words to have this experience, Folks, and the blessings of my family's love and support for my endeavors...

Post Clinic Ceremony: on campus, in one of their classrooms...by the way, I didn't mention how “old” and dilapidated this university was did I? Let's put it this way: the EPA, FEMA, OHSHA, Fire Department and HEW department would collectively “shut” it down in a heartbeat...Trust me, it's that bad!! Yet, they don't complain, nor do they worry about whether or not they have an elevator to take them up 4 flights or lighting in the hallways to see where they're going, no they manage, more interested in receiving their education than complaining about something they have no control over anyway...I also by the way, met the President of this fine institution, right before our first session on the second day...He was very gracious and kind, and was very appreciative of my coming to teach coaches in his city...I also spoke to a class of his PE students and a teachers about our students and their PE classes and post graduate opportunities...It was all in all a great experience for each of us...

Friday night: back on the train again...aaaaaaaaaaaaarggggggggggghhhh!! I was NOT looking forward to this return trip, believe me...We left at 9:37pm, not 9:36 0r :38, 9:37, and this time I was having reservations about the return trip, only because my lower back was sore from standing and teaching the last two and half days...Yuri was so kind to take us to the railway station, what a great person...I met his son earlier in the day, a student at the university, and on his father's team...his name is Sergei...very shy, smiles a lot and speaks quiet English, and speaks it well...His Dad wouldn't let Victor translate, so Sergei and I got along great...Yuri also has a 12 year old boy that he says will be a multi sport athlete someday because he loves all sports...Somehow, I get the feeling he will indeed...

The Iron Horse going “backwards”...I fell asleep uncomfortably, and for the next several hours tossed and turned like a fish out of water tangled up in a fisherman's line...nothing worked, and my back ached...I guess it was around 9 when Victor, Dima and myself finally awakened to the rolling swayback of this Iron Horse and it was here that I realized I may be in for a long long ride, both mentally and physically...Fortunately, Victor and Dima were able to ask the Dining Car Hostess if I could sit in the car and operate my computer...she said no problem and I have been here for the last 9 hours, occasionally getting up to let the circulation begin again in my derriere...I know that you are wondering if the train this time is any better than the first ride...The compartment is the same size, although a little quieter...the car itself is completely full, as this is Easter Weekend (their Orthodox Easter Sunday is tomorrow) and I think many folks are going to visit relatives for the weekend...Anyway, the claustrophobic feeling of NO fresh air in the compartment was bothering me beyond description, and I was beginning to understand what Aleyxandr Solzhitzyn (sp) described about his Siberian “Gulag Archilepago” experience when he was a young dissident in this country...When you hear about Siberia and the hardships of life here: it's ALL TRUE...very true indeed...these rural life citizens have been living in a seasonal hell I'm sure for centuries, and yet they have their peace and quiet...yes, the winters are seriously cold and dreary, but very seldom do you hear them complain, at least I haven't...We, as a Nation are so blessed by our Democracy and system of Constitutional Rights...so blessed...

Get this: my laptop does NOT play DVDs!! I have this laptop I picked up in China last year and for the first time, I decided to take it with me and watch DVDs on the train...turns out I don't have the proper “downloads” to read the DVDs and therefore can't access them UNTIL I do such...72 hours on a freakin train, 6 DVDs and I can't watch ONE!! AAaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrggggh!!

Sunday Morning, Vladivostok Hotel: Glory!! Arrived by train to Vladivostok, 36 hrs. later, 7:30am...This is the same hotel (for those who remember my blog from Vladivostok last year), and I was hoping that perhaps their bathrooms had “fresh” water and the decline of malordorous particles emitting from it...It DID and DOES and HAS!! In fact the room actually has a new rug, new tiles and smells purrtier that Freshener used in cat litters...I think I will get some much needed rest now...I am suppose to have dinner with the Consul General, Tom Armbruster and his wife this evening at their residence...Tom is a GREAT Patriot and representative of our country in this city and region...He is so actively involved in the community as a whole it's really a pleasure to meet such a wonderful example of our Diplomatic Corps...After submitting this blog, I think I'll try to get some shut eye for a minute or two...Tom and I will be traveling together to Yakustk, Russia for a 4 day clinic, leaving on Wednesday early afternoon...This will be his first time also visiting this territory and I'm sure he'll be a great model to follow in our clinics...This particular city is well known for its natural resources: gold, silver, diamonds and other non edibles I understand...Another “first” experience for the coaches there, having a foreign coach visit and teach their volunteer youth coaches about the game of basketball...I am looking forward to this clinic for sure...Tomorrow, Monday, I am conducting a two day clinic here in Vladivostok again...The coaches are excited to see me again, or so I'm told, we'll see how excited that translation is...I will have my high school model team to use again, and from what I understand, they had a tremendous season this year and they all are really looking forward to seeing me again and learning new skills from drills...Stay tuned...

Postscript on the Train Ride: I cannot begin to tell you how difficult a return train ride can be when your body aches (lower back)...I had no idea how my body would respond to such a transition from court to compartment...just an FYI for those who desire to travel the Motherland of Russia someday by train...Okay, let's see if I can load this puppy up and over to the blog...

Hi to the Families and players who have been wondering “where in Russia is Coach tom today...”...All the best to everyone...Sincerely, Coach tom

Coach Tom Newell and Jay Arnold talk with Patricia Marino and Alan Musante on their book Keep Playing - The Six Step Game Plan. The Non-Superstar's Guide to Playing Your Sport in College.

KeepPlaying.jpgAfter investing so much money in kid's sports over the years, many parents believe the return on investment is in scholarships or grants in helping their student athletes go to college and play in college.  P.J. and Al talk about their experience in supporting their daughter Alexis with a college search--their daughter was a junior varsity athlete and a late bloomer.  They took the initiative to contact college coaches, broadened their search beyond NCAA division-I, and investigated walk on opportunities.

"There is a world of opportunity in college that I don't think student athletes and their parents find out about early enough in their high school experience.  Our book is a primer for parents explaining how to open the door, especially for the kid that is not highly recruited, not all-league, not on the top of their AAU team," said Mustante. 

"You have nothing to lose. Why close the door?  Let some one else tell you 'no'.  Don't shut the door on your self," explained Marino.

Their research and lessons learned are in their book and web site, which they hope will be helpful for other parents.  See http://www.youcanplaycollegesports.com/

Webmaster's note:  my apologies about the echo on Coach Tom.  It sounds like he is recording from the locker room!


(and grandfather and great-grandfather)

It isn’t everyday that you lose someone with all the aforementions above in ONE day…unexpectedly…I am so happy that last Saturday, November 15th, I placed a call to Papasan (my reverent address to him as he was well known in Japanese Basketball Circles as 'Petersan’)…Keep in mind, please, that NO ONE ever calls Pete Newell during a live broadcast of a football game, baseball game, basketball game and/or Horse Race, especially if the Kentucky Derby had the horses in the paddock area for viewing…I didn’t call during live action, rather I learned many many years ago, that “if” you wanted to speak to Coach, Pete, Papasan, Mr. Newell, you better have a very good reason OR during a Timeout…He hated Timeouts! So, remembering this was the day that Cal was playing the Beavers of Oregon State University, and it was also being televised live in the Northwest, I figured I had a great chance to “catch” him in the 4th Qtr. when there was a critical timeout and at least 2mins. were to be exchanged in conversation…I was perfect on my timing…As the Official raised his hands in motion signaling the TO, I had already begun my dialup…Why the 4th Qtr.? There weren’t any other games on until later, which meant that he would have the commercial distraction to disregard OR my call…

Rog (my wonderful caregiving brother under me) answered the phone and said 'just a minute’, and handed the phone off to Papasan…”Hello…tommy?” Hey Papasan…how are you? The Bears are hanging in there aren’t they? PN: “I like this quarterback kid…can’t remember his name, but he has real courage out there when he steps back to pass…” TN: “So how are you doing?” PN: coughs a little and replies “Not so good…I have to go to the Drs. on Monday and they’re going to check to see what’s wrong…I have difficulty breathing right now, lots of stuff in my chest…” TN: “Are you staying warm?” PN: “oh yes, Roger has been really good taking care of me, Pete ah, Greg, ah Roger, ah dammit, tommy…” (It was here that I KNEW he was okay as that is the same exchange that’s been a staple of conversation over the last 50 years... my 3 brothers names and then remembering me…and he did that with all of us…)

I knew that I had at least half a minute before the commercial was over (watching my own screen) and it was here that I told him about Chris, his Grandson, being the new Boys Freshman Basketball Coach at Eastside Catholic High School…he was so excited and elated to hear about that…PN: “that’s great, tommy, he’s going to be a great teacher and coach someday, you watch…he really listens well and studies the game…I am happy you told me this…” TN: “how did you like hearing about Ashleigh bringing you another Great Grandchild?”…PN: “oh, that’s wonderful…please tell her I am so happy for her…how is she doing? How’s my Paige doing?” TN: “both are doing well and ask about you all the time, hoping your feeling better and taking care of yourself…” PN: “tell them I don’t move so quick anymore but I can laugh…How’s Elaine? TN: told him she was well and was asking about him as well and hoping he was taking care of himself…PN: “Rog has been a godsend, tommy, he has done so much for me…I have not been sleeping very well at night and he’s always right there for me…he really has taken unbelievable care of me…be sure you and your brothers understand that…” TN: “ I know, Papasan, I know, and he has done an incredible service to keep you healthy and well these last several years…” PN: 'yes he has…yes he has’…

The game comes on, 8 mins. to go, Cal down 27-21 with Cal having possession…he tells me: “I think Cal is going to go down the field now and score…I feel they can do it with this quarterback (he couldn’t remember his name, I told him 'Reilly’)…it was here that I wanted to stop, one because his voice was tailing and two, it was LIVE action now, and that means the timeout is over and I need to finish the dialogue…TN:”okay Papasan, great to visit with you, take care of yourself, stay warm, I’ll call you on Monday and check in…I love you very much…PN:”okay tommy, I love you too, tell everyone there I love them also…take care, talk to you next week…”…Boy was that a PROFOUND closing comment: “take care, talk to you next week…”…Did he ever, read on…

Pete Newell passed away on Monday, November 17, 2008, approximately at 10:45am unexpectedly and without a doubt the “way” he would want to leave his incredible “ride” of 93 years…He told Earl Shultz, former player, as he sat in his favorite chair at Earl’s house in San Diego, “I’ll just take a little nap right now before Jerry (West) arrives…”…he closed his eyes and expired…quietly, no pain and suffering…his terms…no live games on TV, no timeouts, no nurses, doctors, examinations, phone calls, doorbells, awakenings, reminders, bathroom visits, changing clothes or having to eat when not feeling up to it…no, Pete, Papasan, Coach Newell, Mr. Newell took a deep breath and relaxed during live action…Wow…

Has he EVER talked to me this week!! The outpouring of love, kindness and respect by former players, camp players, coaches (globally), friends and relatives, has been the most humbling and remarkable experience I have ever witnessed in my life…Did he ever mean to “take care, talk to you next week…”…Whew…The emails, calls, voice mails, text messages and flowers have been so kind, I can’t begin to describe the surreal feeling that has overtaken me the last 48hrs…As an example, Derrick McKey, former Sonic and Pacers player, and Big Man Camp participant, called me out of the blue, 3 hours after Papasan passed away, telling me how sorry he was to hear about “your father, and how he helped me like you did also, tom…I just wanted you to know I was thinking of Coach and how many players he helped in their careers…”… Part sympathy? Part reflection? No, not now, this was from his heart, as it was with the 300 hundred other calls and emails and messages I received…Did he ever “talk to you next week…”, the voice inflections here, transcends any phonics recognition of foreign accents and email narratives, all identifying in their own selfless grief of losing a friend, a confidante, a mentor, a coach and especially their teacher…Have I been down? Most definitely…am I hurting? Not so much hurting as much as I feel like a bowling ball has been dropped on my tummy after I exhaled while laying down…The void is not so much a blank stare or a listless emotion, rather, it is a numbing sensation, kinda like when I went to my first overnight camp during the summer and saying goodbye for the first time to my Dad and Mom, scared worse than a King Kong mask on a tall kid visiting the same porch for Trick or Treat on any Halloween back in the early childhood days…Yes, a sensation that vacillates between a teargate and ego-posture, but in the end, so weak and sad for the moment, yet relieved that he is not suffering any more, although he wouldn’t 'fess up to that completely…Summary: I’m getting better, stronger each hour…

Shout outs to the community at large…basketball community that is…I can’t thank Earl and Karen Shultz enough for their undying love and affection for Papasan since the day Earl graduated from Cal back in ’61…he and Karen adopted Papasan into their lives and Rancho Sante Fe in the year 2000…They found the perfect Townhouse, setting and of course Del Mar being 10 mins. away, made the decision really easy when one researches “how” he ended up there…Earl Shultz was one of those unspoken and unheralded players that was often mentioned about the Cal Bears Finalists years at the NCAAs…he was by far one of the BEST defensive guards I have ever seen in basketball, and inspired me later when I played shooting guard in college and loved guarding the other team’s best guard…He was NEVER intimidated by any opponent, especially a Bruin or Trojan! Thank you Earl, Karen and Bob Wueste for your love and care of Pete…

Roger: whew…you will never hear about Rog’s divine interventions (middle of night episodes with Papasan), sacrifices and of course overall caregiving extraordinaire skills when being Papasan’s Shepherd these last several years…Thank you Rog for your love of Dad, thank you for the many personal sacrifices you made to take care of him, from Drs. appointments, the store shopping, his every beckoned call, and of course his “social schedule” and calendar, I’m sure one that rivaled any sitting-elect President…No, you are the ultimate Team Player, the Captain who listened and stayed close to the action daily, the one who chose to sacrifice his personal well being for that of his father’s…and made him so proud and humble for this love and devotion…YOU, are the hero here, Rog, and I thank you so much for keeping him on his “ride” all this time…

Cousin Yoli and Ken McKenzie…Papasan’s spiritual partners on Sundays and breakfast companions afterwards…Gosh he really looked forward to Mass and the visits with you and your Family after Church…thank you so much for “being there” also, extending your Family’s love and kindness to Uncle Pete…he loved all of the Villars (Papasan’s sister, Catherine’s family name) very much and of course the attention and kisses from your children…

To Pete Jr. …Pete was a wonderful joy to his father, celebrating with him his induction into the California High School Basketball Hall of Fame several years ago…I remember Papasan telling me about it, not once, not twice, but several times over, he was so proud of Pete’s accomplishments at Santa Cruz High School…Pete painstakingly took time away from his profession as a High School teacher to be with Papasan when he was recovering from his 2005 surgery, and between he and Roger and the late Stu Inman (former San Jose State Men’s coach and long time NBA Executive), Papasan was able to recover beyond the expectations of conventional medical wisdom: “no one in their late 80’s, losing 70% of one lung can expect to live very long after...”…Wrong…they forgot, he had a Big Man’s Camp coming up in the summer several months away and had to get ready for it…and he did…Thanks Pete for being there to help Rog when he needed relief and assistance…you too, made Papasan so proud with your success and the fact that you were able to take his idea of a Tall Woman’s Camp and implement this program with Bill McClintock…that was a great feat in itself…as well as taking over the Big Man’s Camp as Court Director…

To my Brother Greg: he was so happy for your children’s activities, from show horses by Taylor to jumpers by Peter…you made him so proud of their accomplishments and future successes…he also was extremely happy to receive your letters of late, and how happy you were at this time in your life…reuniting with your children, being an integral part of Peter’s education at Glendale Community College…Yes, he would tell me about your letters and share what was going on with Peter and Taylor…thank you for staying so close to Papasan…he knew now his 'ride’ was about over, on his terms, everything in place…

To ALL those Angels-in-disguise out there, and you know who I am talking about: former players, acquaintances, Doctors, scribes, ADs, coaches, current players, NBAers, foreign acquaintances, nurses, waiters, hostesses, owners, horse enthusiasts, friends, relatives, trainers, whomever I have forgotten, thank you thank you thank you, for your love and support during the most difficult time of his life when our late Mother, Florence , passed away 24 years ago last month…You have no idea how important your roles were when his “ride” came to a complete halt, and he went into a deep, saddening moment that as a son, I had never witnessed before in my life…Your phone calls, your visits, your schedules to include him on your trips, all of these made the difference in Papasan “getting off the ride” or continuing…Obviously, he continued, and we were all blessed for his extended journeys…He only made 5 videos and co-wrote 6 books at that time, plus a number of appearances all around the country…yes, YOU ALL had a hand in Pete’s survival at that pivotal point in his life…Thank you so much…

Finally, I would welcome any and all testimonials from one’s personal experience(s) with Papasan, Pete, Coach, Mr. Newell as I will be putting together a compilation of all for publishing later…thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences at this time…tom newell


Editor's note: Thanksgiving week there will be a Private Funeral for the family. In addition, there will be a Memorial Celebration for Pete Newell at Loyola Marymount University in LA, at Shaker Heart Cathedral on Monday, December 15th, Open to the Public.

SportingNews talks about Dexter Pittman, who got his first start after attending Pete Newell's Big Men camp last summer.  "He told me I was a beast," Pittman said.  "He told me I was one of the biggest big men he had ever had through the camp."

Pittman said Newell told him to keep improving his feel for where a defender is without looking at him.

thank you so much for your kind, caring thoughts and comments at this time...I've lost a great friend, mentor and father now, and this whole experience has been undeniably a most humbling event...His influence on teaching the game and keeping it simple for players and coaches at all levels is the mantra that will always be associated with his contributions to the game...I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate the time and love he shared with you as a Coach, Player, Parent and Fan in the greatest Team Sport the world has ever witnessed...On behalf of the brothers Newell, keep it simple, praise the effort always in your kids play, and always teach the difference between a "good habit" vs. a "bad habit"...Sincerely, tom newell

...with the loss of Pete Newell today.Pete Newell

 Please leave your thoughts and best wishes for Tom and his family in the comments.

- Jay and Guy
FamilySportsLifeToday.com

 

 

August 3, 2008...Paul Simon made this recording a well-hummed tune for many many years...And I still hum it on my "arrival" date and even some days and months before my first cry...

Okay, where and what has ol tommyboy been up to of late? Well for starters, I just finished the Seattle Parks Best Effort/HopeHeart Institute camps for kids...We had close to 1,000 kids, ages 7-14 (with very very few 13-14 year olds in attendance: DANGER!!)...The kids were terrific, the help I had was terrific, having Greg George and Greg Peters from Northwest University help me for the last 5 weeks...They both are tall and imposing "teddy bears", trust me...GGeorge is 6'10 and GPeters is 6'8...They were positive models to the kids each day...I have been really blessed over the last few years to have such wonderful "models to follow" with our Best Effort Camps..

This week we're doing the Best Effort program at the Tukwila Parks Community Center and then over to the Renton Parks Center in the afternoon...Coach June Daugherty is representing the HopeHeart Institute in these two programs and I will be reppin the Best Effort model...June is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE people in basketball...She loves the game, the players and kids who also love basketball...We have been close friends for a long long time, and together with her husband, Mike, I think they'll turn the program around over there on the Palouse...She suffered a Heart Attack last Spring and recovered, but it was a touch and go situation for sure...HopeHeart Institute of Seattle is a non-profit organization and they have been a terrific partner this summer in our camps...The packets that Laura Suter put together for the kids on the last day has been the true highlight for the camp experience...They provide info on proper nutrition and exercise for BOTH Parents and their children...I am really happy to have met Greg Ritter, Executive President of this organization and his able-ready-to-help staff...What a TEAM they have...Wow!!

Okay, so I leave after a short and sweet update...will be blogging again from Houston as I leave on Wednesday to train several NBA players for a week...Then I come home or arrive in Portland for our oldest daughter's, Ashleigh's, wedding...Yikes...NOW I really KNOW I am getting old...Our oldest getting married to a terrific fella, Brian Fortune...he too is a graduate of Linfield College...works as a Real Estate Executive in Hillsboro...Has a nice jump shot too to go along with his overall Men's League Game...I "scouted" him out folks, you know, that's why they call me "Tonto"...Take care, drive safely, wear your bicycle helmets when ridin the streets ANYWHERE!! Lots of love, Coach tom

July 4th, 2008...Happy 4th to all...I hope you're day is safe and filled with the essence of an alder-smoked rib or steak that made you enjoy the weekend...Me? Well, let's see...the Karma gods or gremlins "blessed" me with a GREAT start last night to the long weekend...I gotta call from my son, Chris (Bo), informing me that our car was stopped at Exit 49/Castle Rock off I-5 with a V-belt in shreds...Hmmmm, I said to myself, this is sounding like a baadddd start to a nice weekend...He and his Mother, my wife, Elaine, were returning from visiting our daughter, Ashleigh and her son, Carter and his father, Brian...Everything was "onkee doree" and that of course is what I call the "Beach Warning...be careful!!"...Needless to say, I ended up driving down I-5 to pick them up and return them to home...the car of course being towed back to Longview, awaiting the fateful return of a certified mortician-mechanic to begin his assessment of the damage done...I got a chance to "look" at the car before we returned to Seattle...Fortunately, there wasn't any collateral damage to the rest of the engine (as I could see "it": radiator damage, hose connections, oil residues), so, in one sense, I was relieved...Now, I'm trying to figure out how to get back down there next week and pick it up...plus, this really puts a cramp in my plans, as our Best Effort Camps begin in Seattle next week for the next 5 weekdays straight...Somehow, I figure there's a "reason" for this latest experience, so it probably means I'm about to meet someone new, or learn a new lesson along the way...but...I gotta tell you: it ain't a whole lotta fun drivin the corridor between here and PDX...

Okay, on to another memory link from this week: The beleaguered Sonics and the demise of political figureheads as sports enthusiasts...I read with great interest and intrigued, the commentary by Jerry "Heizah" Brewer and Stevie "FullofWonder" Kelly...Man, those two Cats were clinical pathologists in another life, trust me, 'cause their "reads and writes" were some of the best reflections I've read in a long long time on the Sonics issues...

Am I sad? Am I indifferent? Am I disappointed? Am I pizzed off? Am I depressed? Am I angry? Am I ambivalent? Am I ______? Well, let me tell you my true thoughts on this subject...After being in the NBA as a Front Office executive (Pacers Director of Player Personnel/Asst. GM '84-86), Asst. Coach on the bench in Seattle ('86-'90), New Jersey Nets ('90-92) and the Dallas Mavericks ('93-94), I learned this much about the NBA: it's truly a BUSINESS ONLY, there is no allegiance to fans in the stands...UNLESS you're the Lakers, Celtics and Knicks...I mean, really, did you ever think that being in the Far NW, that NYC would be interested in "what" the paying fans felt (not the corporate entities who STOPPED supporting the retention of suites and sponsorships) ...I mean, afterall, that the NBA is FANtastic, 'cause Dyan Cannon tells me so....ooops that was in the late '80's...Then of course when the Celtics finally broke down and introduced Ladies with Bodies Dance Corps to rival the team (keep in mind, THIER record was one of the 3 worst in the League over the last 10 years!!!), Uncle Red Auerbach couldn't take it anymore and ASKED to "get me outta here....now....what's this league comin too?"...and HIS wish was granted...As for the Sonics faithful, I have a poem for you, an Ode to the Sonics so to speak, that perhaps will reflect upon the past and remind one of the future when it comes to sports...                                          

                                                  An Ode to the Sonics Past        

The Team was introduced to the Northwest as an Expansion...

Little did anyone know that over 40 years later...

It would become a "relocation"...

The Sonics became a treat and a favor...

For many diehard fans who needed pro sports beyond television...

Embracing future Legends as adopted children in an everchanging NW culture...

It was only when Sir Lenny became Head Coach that the Sonics would complete their mission...

Only to lose the status and confidence of many as a Team contending for renowned "stature"...

Oh how I revel in my reflections of the many practices and games that filled my daily life as a Sonic...

From Xman, Dale, Nate and Tommy to the arrival of Shawn Kemp and the success of George Karl...

And yet, upon reflections, I see now that those memories and respect is no more than Historic...

You see, my friends, fans and former players, your life was a void, filled with minutes of joy and angst...

From "sweet" 3s by Ellis to the steals by The Glove and the slams by the Reign Man...

No one, and I mean no one can ever take away the heart and soul of the modern Sonics team...

The voice of Kevin Calabro, his resonant reminders of spectacular plays as smooth as Lake Chelan...

And yet, we ALL feel betrayed, abandoned, disjointed from the rest of the basketball world and dream...

No more Rookies to assess...no more Free Agents to critique...no more Squatch...no more no more...

Do we rise up and speak our peace? Do we take up arms (sans High Fives) and demonstrate against this reality...?

Or do we learn from this lesson in life when it comes to sports: "in the end...it's not about the outcome or score..."

It has everything to do with money, money, money, money...and in that realization you will always find mortality...

I thank the Sonics and the many players and friendships I've made over the years when we moved here many years ago...

And I will always hold high the notion and heartfelt love and experience that we were ONE...Team and Fans...Thank you!!

 

Okay, enuff of that sentimental stuff...shoot, next I'll be eatin Quiche or something fluffy like that!!

I've been busy, and it seems I'll be busier than a worker bee lookin for a new hive...I hope my New Balance sponsorship over the last 5 years will continue to support our community service endeavors this summer...I received an email 3 weeks ago telling me that "we have re-structured our model and we are pulling back from branding and community oriented programs such as yours...this due in part to the economic issues that have affected the National economy today..."...Hmmmm, by my account, I'd say MORE people are going to be BUYING more tennies than NOT when you see the Gas prices going up each week...Shucks, one can get at least 5 thousand miles on a pair of NB Cross Trainers walkin to work, no?? Anyway, wasn't expecting "that" email notice and now I gotst to scramble and figure out how we're going to finish strong and positive to the end of our camps...

I've missed YOU ALL and my fingertouches on the laptop, and it seems that you have also, as there have been many readers who have emailed me and wondered if I was "ever" going to write again...I apologize...It's true: "absence makes the heart (for writing) grow fonder..."...So, let's see if my inspiration towards your desire to read my rants and what nots on a Scorecard will continue more regularly than recent non-posts...

Take care, hope y'all are having a GREAT SUMMER...Big Shoutout to Kristen O'Neil!! Booohlyah!! She just signed with the Storm and let me tell you: she has a "MOTOR" for the game and will bring a special presence to this team before the season ends...I've had the pleasure of being a teacher in her later basketball career at the UW and Euro league to work with her on her game...She works harder than ANY female player I've ever worked with, and that includes Jackie Stiles, who at the time was off the charts when I was an Asst. coach with the Portland Fire, WNBA, '02...She can play 3 positions defensively and offensively, not afraid of ANY matchup assignment and role that Coach Brian Agler dictates...If you haven't checked out this year's team, do so...they have one of the best coaches in basketball in Brian Agler, and the collection of talent on this team this season, if healthy to the end, have a chance to do something that NO OTHER Pro team has ever done in Seattle: WIN TWO Championships!!! Go Storm!!  All the Best, God Bless, Coach tom

Postscript from Parent Symposium May 31st, UW Hec Ed Assembly room...

First off, I want to humbly thank each panelist who joined in our program last Saturday...I know how each coach made the necessary sacrifices from Family, work and "day off" to accept my invitation to be a part of this uniquely arranged forum...I can't begin to tell you how impressive it was to those in attendance and online viewing our livestream program for 3 and a half hours...Wow!! The parents and kids in attendance all gained invaluable information that will help families understand intercollegiate recruiting and the process of same, now and in the immediate future...For that alone, I am so happy we were fortunate enough to have the support from the coaches, the UW Athletics Department, Athletics Directors from Seattle U, and Seattle Pacific University, including Stan Morrison, AD at the University of California, Riverside, who, along with his Staff members, went online to watch and listen in on our program...Thank you...

The most thought provoking result from this event was the fact that parents and kids still DO NOT ACCESS the free website www.ncaa.org to seek the necessary information that will enlighten their knowledge-base (or not) on the subject of requirements and eligibility rules for becoming an NCAA Student Athlete today...I certainly hope that in the future, the audience, both online and in attendance will share the information and encourage their friends and other family members to log on to the NCAA website and from there carefully assess the values and traditions that have been established for many many years by this organization...

Okay, if you really "want" to know how it went, what was said and presented as advisory reminders, then I suggest you check in with our Home Page to see when we will have the symposium online for your observations...

Again, thank you parents and kids for taking the time out of your schedules to be a part of this program...Your questions and interests in learning from our panelists for the benefit of your child(ren) is complimented well from our end...This just means that we need to do a better job of getting MORE parents, kids and coaches "tuned in" to this model/template of information today, meaning stay tuned...we'll do this again next Spring...Coach tom

Monday afternoon...day after camp...

Okay, so this much I know: I'm intrigued by the travel opportunities that basketball has provided me on my journeys...I mean, I was in China in January, Vladivostok, Russia in February and now Fairbanks, Alaska in June...Wow...

I am here assisting a former Sonics player who is a very close friend of mine, Clemon Johnson...We've known one another through our association with the Sonics back in the day when I was an Assistant Coach on the bench with Bernie Bickerstaff ('86-'90)...Clemon is one of those uniquely talented ex-players, who has quietly gone about gaining the necessary experience and understanding as a basketball coach by taking himself to the "Top of the World", Fairbanks, Alaska, as Head Men's Basketball Coach of U of A, Fairbanks...

This will be Clemon's 2nd season in Fairbanks, and he is as excited as a proud Papa awaiting the "birth" of his 2 child in 5 months...He will have 8 new players on his squad, his recruits, and return only 3 lettermen from the season before...

Why am I here? Right now, we've just completed the Position Camp for the last 3 days on campus, and it went very well...We had around 16-17 players, boys, ages 13-17 and varied level of skills...some terrific, some not-so-good, but all possessing a willingness to want to be taught and learn something new about how to improve their skills and game...I am blessed because when we're on the court, the kids really come to life, eager to execute properly and most definitely getting "stronger" when they miss layups...That's because Coach Newell has a rule: "You miss your layups with no defender on you...What happens when you play in a game WITH a defender?...Right, you miss it worse!!"...The "reminders" I use to help them focus better on this mis-skill: pushups...5 for each layup missed...Yesterday, lil Oba, all 5'4" of him missed 8 layups during our drills...I slide up to him and ask him: "Oba, how many pushups do you have to do today?...He goes "I've got 40 coach and COUNTING..."...So I told him he has 2 hours to do his layups and he smiles a relief of salvation from having to do them all right then and there...So fast forward here, we're 5 mins. away from practice being over and we're finishing up and come together as a team and break...Oba comes up to me and thanks me for helping him and I acknowledge his gratitude and tell him to be sure to get his rest tonight...He said he will "after" he gets through doing his pushups: now it's over 60!! I tell him that he worked very hard today and that his effort more than made up for his missed layups, BUT he must work very hard NOT to miss as many tomorrow as he did today...He's so excited, one, because he doesn't have to do the pushups, and, two, because he knows that this ol coach "likes" him as a player, even though the ball is bigger than his face and an Alaskan Hound is longer than he is on all fours!! I love Summer Basketball Camps...the kids are wonderfully bright and excited for the daily event and usually there are 3-4 kids that just stand out in their personalities and application...They're usually the "Lil Caboose" that can't make it up the Hill who end up reminding me why I love to teach this game...Their eyes and eagerness to learn far surpass any disappointments and distractions the older players may cause me, because the lil fellers are trying so hard to do the drills the right way...God love them...what a treat to teach!!

Monday, June 9th...afternoon...Team Camp begins in 3 hours...looking forward to seeing the "talent" up here...Shucks, if I were a high school player playing soccer, basketball, football and/or baseball, I guarantee you I'd be outside until midnight every night playing, practicing, etc....I mean, think about it: outdoors with the sun shining until 1 in the morning!!?? YOU HAVE TO LOVE THAT ENVIRONMENT, and I would imagine that I'll be seeing some interesting play over the course of the week...Stay tooned, I'll fill y'all in the observations...Coach tom

 Update:  The local newspaper had a story announcing the clincs at http://newsminer.com/news/2008/jun/10/newell-slates-hoops-camp-all-coaches/

Our symposium, "Expectations with Revelations: An Insight into the Process of Intercollegiate Recruiting" will be held Saturday May 31, 2008, in the Assembly Room of Hec Ed Pavilion at the University of Washington. Directions are here.

Registration begins at 12 noon and the program runs from 12:30 to 3:30 PM.

Representatives from the following programs are scheduled to participate in a panel discussion and answer questions on the subject of identifying prospects and how the process begins towards recruiting a high school student athlete.

  • University of Washington: Leslie Tuiasusopo, Volleyball; Paul Fortier, Men's Basketball; Loree Payne, Women's Basketball
  • Seattle Pacific University: Jeff Hironaka, Men's Basketball
  • Seattle University: Joe Callero, Men's Basketball; Dan Kriley, Women's Basketball
  • Northwest University (Kirkland): John Van ***, Men's Basketball
  • University of Nebraska: Sunny Smallwood, Women's Basketball
  • Eastern Washington University: Cheryl Sorenson, Women's Basketball
  • St. Martin's: Keith Cooper, Men's Basketball
  • Bellevue Community College: Coach Ernie Woods, retired NWAC Hall of Fame coach
  • Coach John Bowers: former D-IAA College football recruiter, current Ballard High School Football Head Coach

This program is for parents and kids at the Middle School and High School levels of interscholastic sports. The symposium is FREE and refreshments will be provided.

"I attended the symposium previously and had a lot of questions on how the college application process fit with the athletic recruiting for my son. Tom and his panel of speakers did a great job of outlining the parent's role in their child's athletic future, what the student should realistically expect beyond high school, and how colleges approach scouting, recruiting, and scholarships," said Pat Ulhman, whose son Ryan Roarke is a Cornell University graduate.

Donations of Food items for Northwest Harvest will be greatly appreciated and gladly accepted!

Questions will be presented to the coaches as well as parents learning about the various rules and regulations related to their children becoming NCAA Eligible for recruitment. Materials will be passed out to each family in attendance.

For those not able to attend in person, the program will be broadcast live over the Internet at www.FamilySportsLifeToday.com/tv

Our upcoming symposium, "Expectations with Revelations: An Insight into Intercollegiate Recruiting..." will be broadcast live over the Internet. People who cannot attend the event in person should go to

www.FamilySportsLifeToday.com/tv

to watch on Saturday. The program will run from 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM Pacific Daylight Time.

If you have the latest Adobe Flash Player, you should be able to watch the video. This is a free download.


Injuries can be devastating to a young athlete, but also are a common part of sports. Coach Tom Newell discusses with Dr. John Thayer, who specializes in sports medicine, how to avoid injuries, how to recognize them, and how to deal with them, both as an athlete and as a parent.
  • Do playing in multiple sports increase the chance of injury?
  • What are the most common injuries? 
  • How do I recognize whether an injury is something that needs treatment?
  • My son or daughter is taking their injury really hard.  How can I best support them during their recovery?  

Dr. Thayer is a othopedic surgeon at Proliant Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.

We're proud to announce that Family SportsLife Today is holding a FREE Symposium for Parents and Student-Athletes to be held at University of Washington on Saturday, May 31st entitled "Expectations with Revelations: an insight to the process of Intercollegiate recruiting today...".

The event will be held at the University of Washington, Hec Ed Pavilion, Assembly Hall, Saturday, May 31, 2008, from 12:00 -3:30pm. Middle School and High School parents and their student athlete children are invited to this FREE program.  Pre-registration is encouraged by joining
www.FamilySportsLifeToday.com.

This program features college coaches as Panelists from various areas of intercollegiate sports. Division I, II, III, NAIA and Community College representatives will present their recruiting insights and information for parents and their student athletes on what identifies a prospect today when they evaluate a student athlete playing interscholastic sports.

The representative Universities and Colleges from the Puget Sound will include coaches from Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, St. Martin's College, Pacific Lutheran University, University of Puget Sound, Northwest University, Bellevue Community College, and the host school, the University of Washington. The sports being represented in this symposium will be the following:

  • Men and Women's Basketball
  • Volleyball (D-I, D-II)
  • Men and Women's Soccer
  • Football (D-I, D-II)
  • Track and Field
  • Fast pitch Softball

Also featured in this extraordinary program are former intercollegiate student athletes from the various levels of intercollegiate athletics and their respective sports. Certified professionals from Strength and Conditioning training programs will also provide information for parents and student athletes.

Topics will cover:

  • Identifying a student athlete "prospect" today. Where and when are they first discovered?
  • The "first" contact: is the beginning of "expectations"?
  • The Parent's role in supporting their student athlete today in middle school and high school sports.
  • How a Parent can best prepare for understanding the eligibility related to NCAA Clearinghouse rules and regulations today.
  • Important information and dates to remember.
  • Core subjects that are pre-requisites for eligibility standards per NCAA Clearinghouse rules.
  • Select Team programs: does it help to be on a "Select" team today or not?
  • What age should individual training, such as Strength and Conditioning programs be initiated?
  • Sports Nutrition and your student athlete today. The importance of eating well and staying healthy.

The program is FREE to the Public. The program is FREE to the Public.

Refreshments will be available.  A question and answer session will follow the presentation.  Questions for the seminar can be submitted in advance to FamilySportsLifeToday@gmail.com.  Before the event, we'd like Parents to fill out a survey on college recruiting at www.FamilySportsLifeToday.com/survey.

Registration will be open from 12:00 - 12:20pm.  Pre-registration is recommended at www.FamilySportsLifeToday.com. Seating is limited, so it is important to register online now for this event. 

Donations of Food items for Northwest Harvest will be greatly appreciated and gladly accepted!

This is the third program of its kind. The inaugural program began in 2001 at Seattle Pacific University and was widely acclaimed by all parents in attendance at that time. The second program was hosted on the campus at Hec Ed Pavilion two years ago, and all parents in attendance came away with a better understanding of what college coaches think when they identify a "prospect" for their sports programs.

Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban posts frequently on basketball, technology, media, and business on his personal blog, BlogMaverick.com. His post on April 9th asks whether 18 or 19 year-olds are ready for the personal, financial, and business decisions that go along with their new career.

From the perspective of an NBA owner, maturity is far harder to qualify than talent. Can he manage the personal side of his life ?

Can he deal with all the obligations that come with living on your own, and being in a job that requires you traveling more often than not ?

Does he have an understanding of financial principals ? To a 19 year old kid without financial training, a million dollar contract makes him a millionaire. There is no concept that 50pct goes to taxes and that by the time he pays his bills, he has a great job, that pays great money, but he isn't at a level that allows him to spend without limit. Unfortunately, there are far too many agents that won't have the tough love conversations with their clients until its too late.

Read the full post here.

The Seattle Times has a story today on Seattle U's plans for a major fundraising campaign. Increases in the university's endowment will be used for new facilities including a new library and hi-tech classrooms, new scholarships, a fund for travel for religious study, and new fitness center and athletic facilities.

Seattle U leaders say that part of the challenge for the future is reaching out to students' secular interests -- like basketball -- while maintaining the college's religious roots...

The push to rejoin NCAA Division I basketball, after Seattle U dropped out of the West Coast Conference in 1980, also remains a priority for [Seattle U President Rev. Stephen] Sundborg. That despite a setback last year when the member schools from the West Coast Conference said they weren't interested in expanding any time soon. Sundborg said it will just take more time. He plans to spend $1 million more on athletics each year in hopes of elevating Seattle U to a standard at which the school would be more welcomed in the division. There is also $20 million earmarked from the campaign for the new fitness center and to upgrade athletic facilities.

The Time's editorial board expresses their support for the campaign here.

The New York Times ran an article on March 10th talking about how parents have the expectations that high school sports and select teams will lead to a path to college.  They are often disappointed, given that college scholarships only cover a portion of the full bill.

"People run themselves ragged to play on three teams at once so they could always reach the next level," said Margaret Barry of Laurel, Md., whose daughter is a scholarship swimmer at the University of Delaware. "They're going to be disappointed when they learn that if they're very lucky, they will get a scholarship worth 15 percent of the $40,000 college bill. What's that? $6,000?"

See the full article here.

April 6, 2008...Sunday afternoon...

I LOVE the Final Four...no, I LOVE college basketball in March and April as it truly defines teams' characters, courage, resiliency, hope, and the ability to push through adversity, no matter what the score is...

Watching UNC's demise last night on TV, was a painful exhibition and had to take Coach Williams breakfast and lunch and make it feel like a Maytag Washer on the Bering Sea...As a Coach, you always hope and pray that your players are mentally "ready" to compete, NOT JUST PLAY, and I got the impression that Carolina was ONLY ready to play, not compete until it woke up after halftime...I mean, imagine: 40-12 during Kansas' first half run, and in between the TV's and Carolina's timeouts during this tsunami-like offensive wave by the Jayhawks, Carolina had no answer...they were just flat outplayed...WOW...WOW!!

So, what do you do as a coach or parent directly affected by such a blowout and wonderment of confusion being associated with a team that's getting blow out (and TRUST me, as a Coach, parent or friend, you WILL experience this as a spectator or bench member)? Find the Arena's engineer and ask him to "pull the plug" for 5 mins. on the scoreboard and clock...The other suggestion, would be, to a more-than-usual exhorting to the players on the court with some heavy lovin encouragement...Seriously, think about this: if I'm playing and as a team I "overhear" someone in the stands callin for the " HazMat team to come in quick 'cause there's something definitely "unknown" goin on down on the court and someone NEEDS to check it out...", and I look at the scoreboard and then to the sideline, and all I see are coaches who are noticeably "balder" than before the game started (heads down) and then my head's up observing family and friends in the stands, and they've all got that expression of "Children of the Corn" look, well, trust me, if I hear screaming and yelling of positive encouragement NO MATTER WHAT, that's enough to get me through the "storm" and pick the energy up for myself and teammates...That is what happened to Carolina towards the end of the 1st half, they got some positive "love songs" from their fans and bench and closed with confidence... That run and the 2nd half run was reminiscent of Coach Dean Smith's great Carolina teams of the past...I wasn't surprised, and would not have been in shock IF the Tar Heels pulled off the greatest comeback in Final Four history...Why? Carolina has great, no GRRRRREEEEAAAAAAT basketball tradition and legacy paving its way in all competitions related to ACC lore and NCAA Big Dance games...Anyway, it was really fun to watch the energy and competitive matchups from both teams...

UcLA...hmmmm, that game did not surprise me in the least...I am not a big "fan" of Darrin Collison and he proved me "why"...As a "lead guard", one must take the responsibility of getting your team into the offense and directing the spacing on the floor as an "extension" of the Head Coach...That is what a "lead guard's" responsibility is and always will be...Somewhere along the way, during the 2As, he missed that chapter, paragraph, discussion or email, unfortunately, because he did not rise to occasion as his teammates did...The biggest GRIPE I have today at all levels of basketball is when a Big Post has position inside with a Defender playing behind him, THEN PASS THE FREAKN BALL to him and let him go to work: QUIT DRIBBLING and dominating the ball for 15 seconds, going from one side of the court to the other...I'm sorry, I don't get that at all...The one thing that I will always remember about Magic Johnson and John Stockton is that they truly kept the offense in the "flow" and kept the game simple in the half court with their decision-making and execution...UcLA did not have a clue on spacing, angles and proper execution to get the ball into the best passer on the team, young blood Kevin Love...He is truly a remarkably gifted young student/athlete for UcLA...I love his verve, his basketball quotient is "Bird-like", his love for the game is "Magic-like" and more importantly he HAS FUN playing the game...Wow...I did however feel that his back was bothering him early on in the 1st half (mid) as he did not run the floor nor move like he normally does, and his "pained" expressions during dead ball situations were obvious signs to me that it would be a long night for Kevin and his kidneys matching up with Dorsey and company...Let me say this: I certainly hope that Kevin stays at UcLa for another season, as he is one of the most wonderful models for ANY and ALL level basketball players today UNIVERSALLY speaking, and even though he is a bona fide Pro, there is no guarantee that he would end up with a veteran-laden team that would take the pressure off of him and he would develop accordingly...Having this young man on college TV hoops next season would encourage Dads to sit and watch with their sons and daughters how simple this player makes the game with his footwork skills, passing touch, and shooting the ball facing and back to the basket....plus he's not too shabby on defense either: block shots and rebounding both ends...

Memphis is the real deal...Coach John Calipari is one of the true teachers of the game today...he learned under Larry Brown back in the day at KU, and has been a student of the game ever since...He had the short lived experience of coaching in the NBA a couple of seasons after his first Final Four appearance with Marcus Camby and UMass years ago, and I think that experience alone (NBA Nets), helped him see what a coach can do with exceptionally gifted athletes...I'm tellin you now: that team could run with a lot of current NBA teams today...yeah, that good...Their point Guard Rose? WOW!! His feel and demeanor for the game is off the charts and he will soon be spoken in the same breath with Wade, Nash, Kidd and Chris Paul, who is a remarkable lead guard today in the League...Seriously, I haven't seen a better guard (Point) in college the last two years than this young man (19 years old)...He has a chance to be one of the "future" Stars of the NBA whose illuminations and success stories have yet to be written...

I have really enjoyed being home again in our beautiful country...I am so proud to be an American and have the opportunities to represent my country through basketball, you have no idea...The China experience was a terrific stay as was the Vladivostok, Russia clinics and visit...Know this, basketball is a peaceful medium, means, and an olive branch that melds all the differences, both political and religious to a level of respect and friendships that we can all appreciate and cherish forever...And I do...

Take care, more to come this week...BIG ANNOUNCEMENT coming in two days...A "must" for Parents and their student athletes to attend...There's NOTHING LIKE THIS provided here in the NW...FREE...FREE...Coach tom

Seattle, Washington...March 23, 2OO8...

Okay, I'm over my "rants"...maybe...I think that sometimes the World is flat when I read the papers and see the stories and comments of educated people (or are they?)...When I have been to various parts of the world, teaching the game to kids, players, coaches and parents, and complete my sessions for the day, I always have been able to collect my thoughts and reflections of the day by looking up at the stars and seeing the Big Dipper, Lil Dipper and other reminders of the universe bigger than our planet...And during these quiet moments, I remind myself just how small I really am, kudos to the late Buckminster Fuller, Astrophysicist, MIT, who inspired my mortality many moons ago when I lived in Belgium, when I could get up and down a basketball court professionally...He was a Professor of notoriety at MIT, and architect (Geodesic Domes) when he saw what was happening to our planet as he knew it back in the day (early 70's), and would greet his "new" enrollees with this provocative introduction to "life" as they didn't know it at the time: "Today, we learn about the universe..."...He would pull down a white screen in his auditorium and have the lights turned out and then project a slide of the universe on the screen...He would then take a pointer and explain the mysteries that they were about to engage upon and point to a "speck" on the screen and reflect: "this is Earth...so for anyone here who thinks they are significantly important in the grand scope of their existence...you're not..."...And that is his introduction to "his" world and theirs, and he would begin his class for the semester...I have never forgotten that simple explanation to our world and the universe in general, so now whenever I pause and reflect with my eyes towards the heavens, ol Bucky Fuller comes to mind, not a jump shot that Michael Jordan hit to win a game or a Home Run by Mickey Mantle...Little did I realize that my "awakening" would carry over from one continent to another, reminding me of my quiet reflections from years past to this present moment in my life...The last two weeks have been a burden of sorts, knowing that there is a region in the world whose people are suffering for being independent, meditative and most definitely peaceful...They too look to the heavens above, reflecting, wondering why they are tormented and abused by educated literates, censored for asking people in the "free" world to hear their pleas for help and assistance...I could name the country and the small region, but knowing that my blog is monitored and that I may someday return to this large country, I think it is best to not engage in a political war of words and critique, but trust me, as an Ambassador to the world in my small but effective way, I have some unfinished work to be done there in a peaceful application, and through that model, believe that one can do more with a ball that bounces and can be shot at a basket than a "scope over"...I pray for peace, world peace, and know that this summer of sports regalia will go on, but not without a distraction or two by the world's athletes in their own way...Let us all hope that their voices, performances and competitions will acknowledge the freedom of speech and expressions in non-violent manners will hopefully do more for affecting change than the other alternatives...Had to get that off my chest tonight so I can rest peacefully...

Hope all are well who take the time to read my musings and what knots now and then...have a great week and I'll try to blog again tomorrow...Happy Trails to you...until we read again...Coach tom 

With the close of the basketball season, Coach Tom Newell discusses how expectations turn into frustrations at the end of the season, especially for parents. Upon reflection, the target of that frustration is misguided.

More information on reflecting on the season and setting goals during the off-season is available at:

BobKnightPeteNewell Bob Knight, former coach at teams in Texas Tech and Indiana, introduced Coach Pete Newell at his induction into the Breitbard Hall of Fame in the San Diego Hall of Champions. He said "I don't know anyone that has contributed more to basketball over a longer period of time than Pete Newell has."

Video is available at http://video.nbcsandiego.com/player/?id=226045

Sports Illustrated's Chris Ballard reports on the dunk in the NBA, asking the question is it just two points, or an important part of the game?  Included is discussion of our "For the Love of the Game" exhibition, which raised the hoops to 11 feet. 

Some in the hoops community don't share Kerr's admiration for the dunk. "It's very bad for the game," that most esteemed of basketball men, John Wooden, once said. "If I want to see fancy play, I'll go see the Globetrotters." This is the fate of the shot: alternately celebrated and derided and, at one time, banned (from 1967 to '76, by the NCAA). Perhaps we're now entering the jam's postmodern period, when the shot itself no longer evolves but our feelings about it do. 

See http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/the_bonus/02/20/dunking0225/index.html 

February 17, 2008...I'm on our "hometurf" now, having arrived on Thursday night from Beijing...Jet Lag? Hmm, listen to this schedule: Friday afternoon went to Bellevue Community College and took in the Skyline HS vs. Issaquah HS game...Issaquah won going away, but not without having to overcome a double digit effort...then visited Seattle to see my close friend, Dave B., and politely excuse myself as "another" game beckoned my desire to watch another student of mine perform...This time it was Kentwood vs. Kentridge, with the latter winning handily...The young fella who I was observing was Josh Smith, Jr...Joshua has been a student of mine now going on 4 Springs and Summers...he is a gifted, patient student of the game, and has many many more competitions ahead of him...Then on Saturday morning, Coach Ernie Woods and myself took in a 5th Grade Boys basketball game at Canyon Park Junior High in Bothell, watching a very young and talented basketball aspirant by the name of Sean Perry, whose Papa is Guy, and the youth coach of Sean's team...It was a fun game to watch, as one team's mistakes lead to another's treasure and the disappointment to many parents in the stands...YIKES!!...and then as IF I didn't have enough American hoops to absorb, I attended the Northwest University vs. College of Idaho game...There are two players on NU's team whom I have helped over the last couple of years, and I wanted to see them while their season was still underway...NU won by 20...David Rengo and Greg Peters, the two players I know, came off the bench and contributed solid defense and timely baskets when the opportunity presented itself...It was so much fun to watch this level of competition, as the players compete just as hard as any D-1 player; shoot with accuracy like D-1 players, the only thing lacking may be that there aren't ENOUGH D-1 schools for players today...Greg hails from St. Vincent Grenadine, and is not afraid of competition "indoors" , considering he's only played outdoors all these years...

The date has now fast forwarded to February 26, 2008...I am sitting in a Starshucks "thinking" that I'll be able to "hookup" free and go WiFi...UNTIL, Howard-baby is now providing a "pillow" from T-Mobile to his bed and, of course, somebody has to pay for it: US!! So, after being able to on occasion, WiFi in China FREE at most Starshucks, I now have to "sign up" and pay which collectively and figuratively means another FREAKN Password!!!!....Does anybody out there get tired of the same ol schtick that keeps pressing us daily when we "want" something on an interactive basis? I mean at what point does Bill G. and Steve decide to tell their R & D Boyz to "come up with a simple voice activator that a "User" can identify him/her self with their favorite song...I'll give you an example: I'm in Cali and need to go WiFi and the prompt comes up "Sign In with Password"...And of course, I start singin the Beach Boys "I get around...round round round round round r o u n d...I get around..."...Then my IE illuminates my screen, I'm "on" and life is good...Or, I go to New York and same thing applies there in Grand Central Station...The prompt comes on, I go ahead and start belting out, Frankie Blue Eyes fav jingle: "New Yahwk New Yahk...", and all is good...Or, I go to Hawaii and belt out, Don Ho's Island Classic: "Tiny Booobles..."...Do you agree with me, how wonderfully simple that could and WOULD BE?? I mean NO ONE on this planet sings as BAD as I do, therefore my datavoice would either work or CRASH if someone TRIED to impersonate me signing on...Just had to revisit that issue again...I find myself digressing, regressing and depressing sometimes when it comes to the technology and convenience issues today when I blog and/or signon with memorybanks, fingerstrokes and other means for being "wired"...

Okay, spent 4 wonderful days with our Grandson, Carter, who is all of two-and-a-half-plus now and his favorite word is "NO"...We learn the words "Listen...and...YES" while I was there...Ashleigh and Brian, mom and dad, respectively, are doing a marvelous job of raising their babyboy today...I had so much fun with them...One day we went bowling and Carter got a Strike to my none and his Daddy was like *** Webber, makin contact with pins like he's ready for the "Pro Circuit"...I've never been much of a bowler, more of a "bawler" in my early years, as I didn't have much pain threshold for failing to keep the ball out of the gutter...I was so bad as a kid, I thought a great way to keep score for numbskillz like me in bowling, would be to count the NUMBER of pins that still stand AFTER you hit the gutter and come out onto the lane again...Let's put it this way, most of the bowling balls I used back in the day, were "retired" early and probably have been recycled as anchors for small boats...Anyway, that afternoon was totally fun...The next day, Carter wanted to take me to the Zoo and let the Monkees look at me and see how I reacted to them...So we went to the Portland Zoo, and I gotta tell you, it's really a nice, well thought-out venue for people to "view" endangered and captive species from our planet...Carter had a blast, his Daddy, Brian, had a blast and I was in awe of the whole experience...the only downer being the captive Eagle in a net enclosure, which I am hoping the only REASON this great bird is there, is because it is recovering health-wise before taking off for the wild blue yonder, otherwise, I'm bummed over looking at that exhibit...Next we saw a Sumatra Tiger pen...The Tiger was kickin back, BUT checkin us out closely, and I reminded Brian Captive Tigers today are not really happy "campers" as evidenced by the Tiger escapes in SF and now Hawaii...So, here we are thinking like the Tiger on the OUTSIDE "how" would this Tiger decide to leave on a moment's notice...It wouldn't be that difficult as this lil puttytat could leap a building on a single bound, and with that we moved on...It was a great visit to the Portland Zoo, and again, I highly recommend it to any and all...I also was fortunate to visit my dear friends, Lee Larson and Jim Dail from Clackamas, Oregon...The two of them together, coupled with me, makes us the 3 Amigos (hold the "salt"), and we had some great laughs about my experiences in China...It's been a wonderful reentry, Folks, one that has basketball friends, parents, kids and coaches touching base with me and welcoming me back and also for me to see LIVE high school playoffs action again, especially at this time year...I was really excited to see two young students of mine named to the SeaTimes HS All Star Team...Josh Smith, 6'10" (with his shoes on...last time I looked, that's what kids play with on the court...) and Lindsey Moore, 5'10" -/+...both are from Kentwood High School...Josh is a Post Player, sophomore, and comes from a wonderful Family...his lil Bro, J-Mon (Jeremy), is an 8th Grader who is a talent in his own right as well...Josh has been a part of our weekend group now going on 5 Springs/Summers now, and I can't tell you how much fun it's been to watch him grow as young man and Team Player...This young fella "gets it"...His Parents are truly "models to follow" when it comes to the balance between books and sports...Their philosophy is simple: "eat the food on your plate and you get dessert...", in other words: "learn in class, study and DO your homework and you'll get to PLAY sports..."...NOW THAT is a REFRESHING perspective isn't it? Lindsey will be attending the 3 Spring/Summer program with us this year, having been introduced to me by Coach Barbara Berry...Barbara is the Director of "The Way to WIn...", and has a wonderful teaching skills program that complements each of her players' developing skills as Team Players...Lindsey has a "motor" for the game, no question...she competes at a high level, won't back down to anybody and is NOT afraid to make mistakes, take a critical shot with confidence and ultimately make her teammates better with a pass, screen or help on defense...She too has two wonderful parents who are also terrific support models for Lindsey and her teammates...I am blessed by their successes on and off the court, and know that the other kids I've worked with over the years have evolved in a positive, mature way towards improving their leadership and life skills on and off the court, and having a better understanding of the "purpose" of the game overall...

Okay, I'm back in the NW again, jet lag over, I think, although I still have afternoon yawnings that coincide with when I would be going to sleep in China...I've never been into power naps, per se, only on tarmacs and long train rides in the mid afternoons, but I'm beginning to think that it may not be a bad "add-on" to my daily schedule...better than "nodding off" at 60 MPH on I-90 somewhere...I gotta run, have a VIM (very important meeting), that I hope will be shared with y'all before too long...Been workin on this for awhile now, and know that you will be happy to read the progress and advance notice of this "NEWell" event...

To those students and other players whose sportslife I haven't had the opportunity to bless and share the game with, I hope you enjoyed the "moment" of your season past, and if you are so fortunate to continue towards "State", that you have a wonderful experience and more importantly, SEIZE the MOMENT in your young life to grasp the essence of being on your team and sharing in the emotions and anxieties of warmups, playing, sitting and competing for a Championship...I've always believed that any team at any level that EVER makes the "tournament" in anything should always be considered a "Finalist" and to hold one's head high for the "Kodak moment" that no one can ever take away from them: the experience...All the best, God Bless...Coach tom My next blogit will address the frustrations of accepting "your" coach as your son/daughter's leader today...Definitely a subject we ALL need to revisit and learn from...tn

March 3, 2008...San Diego, California...

I am blessed to have this opportunity to be with my family and visit my father, Pete Newell, 92 years young, over this past weekend and tomorrow night's festivities of him being honored into the San Diego Hall of Champions program...He once was the General Manager of the San Diego Rockets before they relocated to Houston...He is very excited to be able to "live" this experience tomorrow night and we're so happy that he is with us now...Should be fun...

Now to the "heading" aforementioned...I am really REALLY concerned about the level of play that I have witnessed recently in high school basketball, both boys and girls at the 3A and 4A levels...First off, why is it that kids don't know how to make a correct CHEST PASS, BOUNCE PASS, OVERHEAD OUTLET PASS, PUSH PASSes, left hand/right hand? Why is it that kids don't understand that once you pass the ball YOU MUST MOVE WITHOUT IT or you might as well hold a Polaroid Camera and take pictures of the plays 'cause you're NOT a part of the motion any longer...Why is it kids don't talk on defense or anticipate helping a teammate when they get beat one on one? Why is it kids don't block out in late February when you know the coaches have taught them in October? Why is it kids hang their heads when they come out of the game and don't accept the fact that they're NOT helping the team with their mistakes or ineffective play and cast a dirty look at the coach or want to SIT at the end of the bench? Why is it kids who do start and then come out don't "cheer" their teammates who are still on the court competing for the TEAM? Why is it that some kids LOOK to the stands for support of their parents when they can GET ALL the support in the world from their coaches and teammates? Yeah, I'm BACK and not a "Happy Hooper" with the model I see on the courts today...Y'all need to listen to my podcast and hear my rant and suggestions to overcome the negativity that is surrounding our game today at the interscholastic levels...If I "stir" your emotions, good...If you think I'm "losing it"...you better have someone "film" you in the stands and YOUR son/daughter when they play or sit, then we'll see who's "losing" it...I am really upset at this time with what I see as a terrible slack-state of fundamental skills in interscholastic basketball in the NW...The "hype" that is being put upon young people today in newspapers and magazines, is unfortunate and setting up kids and parents for a "free fall" that is bungeecordless and doomed for a "post mortem" on one's high school basketball experiences IF the "expectations" are unfulfilled...Those of you, Parents, Coaches (all levels), Student Athletes and Administrators who KNOW me and my passion for the game, realize that I speak from my heart and trust me, my heart is hurting after watching basketball over the last three weeks in the NW...Listen to the Podcast to hear my feelings if you dare...Nobody ever said "Oral Medicines" were "sweet tasting", and trust me, this "prescription" is not sweet, BUT can HELP overcome the "nausea" that you (parent(s), student athletes, administrators and coaches) felt after the last defeat that eliminated you from District, Regionals, State and in State Finals...

Now I feel a whole lot better after getting that OFF my chest...thank you!! Okay, where do we go from here...Stay tooned, as I have a couple of events coming up for announcement that may or may not interest the parents and their student athletes...a Novel approach once again on my part to share with Family Sports Life Today in the NW...

I am soooooooooooo happy to be back in the NW and with Family and Friends...I thank you each and every one for emailing me over the last several months, encouraging my weblogits, and of course keeping me posted on your lives as well, on and off the court...Drive safe, buckle up and all the best, God Bless...Coach tom

February 3, 2008...somewhere between China, Japan and Russia...sitting close to the window seat and don't see any Migs or F-116's flying along, so I guess we're in a "free" flyzone...Okay, I gotta get something off my chest: Passwords...This blogit is for anyone over the age of 50 who "suffers" the same freakn embarrassment of using a website and not remembering your passwords...Now, I am of the generation, whose "generator" is still operating at a steady pace, mind you, that was introduced to the novel Apple Performa 756 I believe, a relic of sorts today, I'm sure, and after never taking an IT class to familiarize myself with the Mac-OS and other "loadins", I experienced my first "Choose a Password" direction, NOT instruction, direction...Well, at first that seemed harmless and actually quite convenient until Apple and I aged together, albeit, me with less hair and meals not missed, and Apple off on to new wellsprings of technology R&D...Ever notice the difference today between the sleek "Apps" and my non "Abbs"?...Yeah, that's why I never bought an Apple again...it hurt to much too see how handsome it had become and how "leathered" my looks became over the last 12 years...Vain you say?...Shucks no, I just don't turn the light on when I blow dry my hair...!!! Okay, back to the "theme" here, as I have a tendency to write like a Hawaiian Helicopter pilot trying to find the perfect "shot" for your experience on Maui, and he rolls left to right better than any Disney ride today, so I'm sitting in the Incheon Airport in Korea this morning, awaiting departure to Vladivstok, Russia, and find a "Wi-Fi" location in my nearby gate area...Glory, say to myself, this is going to be fun, I can check out the SuperBawl and see how the Pats and Gints are doing...(I use to live in New Joisey, just across the Hudson when I was coaching with the Nets '90-'92)...But before I know it, I have to PAY for access to the "AirLan" wireless system in order to go online...So I pay at the counter for a card, almost $5 and I'm not sure about how much "time" I've purchased, as I just wanted to go online and see the update on game...It was here that my quest for access went awry...Not only did I NOT get access, but until I "signed" in and gave a "Password", I would not be granted access...Now I'm getting about as brown as a milktoast broiled...I click everything "yes", until I come to the area of "Create New Password"...and it was here that I began to suffer "malaches" unknown to the generations below 50 today...I say to myself: "not another freakn password...and all the mundane questions and answers 'in case' I forget' my password...Now I have a dilemma: do I take the time to "use" this card this moment for the purpose of catching any information on the Super Bowl, or do I just take my card back to the counter and ask for refund and be done with messin with this program...I held out and chose to seek "New Signin Password", and here is where my story begins and ends (but not really if you know me...)...

As I began to fill out the questions and impatiently mistype all over the place, I stopped and had an epiphany of sorts: Passwords: the first signs of being old and realizing the loss of memory...Whoever the neurologist or whateverologist that came up with the scientific term: Memory Bank, was not over 50, let alone 40, as he or she did NOT know what we now know as "t-r-o-u-b-l-e", making a password that NO BODY can remember for "security reasons", including yourself...For once, I would just like to praised for REMEMBERING my Password and not being criticized for "forgetting" where I left something (Boxes, keys, wallet, passport, hat, gloves, tissues, you know the drill)...I mean when WE forget our Password and then the series of questions arise about "who you REALLY are..." well, it's then that I realize I'm a "Peking Duck"...no questions...I just want to get to the link that I signed up on two, three months ago...leave me alone already with all the freakin questions, please...!! I mean, from Expedia to CSTV to United Airlines to GoHuskies.com to aol.com to Yahoo.com to MSN online.com...to and to and to...help me Rhonda, help help help help me pullllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze!!

Then, on top of FINALLY answering CORRECT the "secret" questions so someone who has a hard time remembering where he is in the middle of the night "bladder call", I don't get any feedback from answering it correctly...no "Great Job, Old Man...waytogo, young fella...You're right! You DID get the right answer after 10 mins...OR...Congratulations, you have just successfully accessed your link...we're so happy that you finally remembered who you were, are and hopefully will become..."...I mean really, isn't there anyone out there, male or female, my generation or a couple of floors lower, that agree with me on "Passwords" today and the imposition it requires to function as an Interactive adult? or Youth or Octogenarian, looking ahead here...So, here's a shoutout to Biil G and Steve B: how about "thinking" ahead to YOUR future years online and come up with a simple "access" passALLthewords so we can function without stress after the traffic jams we engage in our lives weekly...Peace...I'm outta here...more later...

Coach tom
January 4, 2008...Sunset on the frozen bay of Valdivostok, Russia from a truly picture perfect window in my hotel room...

It's cold, but NOT that cold compared to Changchun, aka Coldchun, China...maybe 25degrees, no wind or breeze, unless you're waiting to cross the street and the whirlwind of a passing car hits your face, and then you remember "cold" as it once was 2 weeks ago in Changchun...

I arrived in Vladivostok from Seoul, Korea about 2pm today...I was met by a Non-Government Official by the name of Demitreyev Motolivov, who goes by "Dima", and is working with our State Department on this event and other events that our State Department asks him for help with, either by translation or planning...He has a Driver, whose name would begin here: and end here...so I nicknamed him Igor...he doesn't say much, but his eyes tell a myriad of stories and experiences that he has learned over his 40+ years in Vladivostok...He handles his Mitsubishi 4WD like it's a VW bug as he wound thru traffic as if he were blind and knew what the other driver would do before he would turn, pass or stop...Let me get back to the Hotel Vladivostok...If you were to go back to earlier blogits, you would find my "story" on Vladivostok very interesting, as we were here in the early part of October for an International Tournament, if you remember...Back then, I mentioned the first hotel we stayed as a team and how it smelled of smoke, like there must have been a fire or something, only to find out later there was, one floor below us, the week before, and every one of the players' rooms smelled like the fallout of a serious fire had taken place not long ago...Well, the lobby is repainted, they've added a Business Center and the Rule: No Smoking in the lobby...and you could immediately tell that there was something "fresh" about this return already to Hotel Vladivostok...until...I get to my room...I'm on the 9th floor, and as I stated earlier you couldn't ask for a better view of the Bay and looking upon the frozen ocean, dotted by brave ice fishermen, who fish near one another or within "save me please, the ice broke" distance...this was the same Bay where Windsurfers braved the cool winds in their wetsuits to soar and land continuously before Sunset back in October...The trees are skeletons of dark bark and branches, nothing here is green life, save the automobiles that have that color when driving in town...My room: when I opened the door and got hit by the waif of some stench only familiar to a stockyard cowboy, I felt like Michael J Fox in a short version of Back to the Future...Wheeeeeeeeew, that strong...But, I am not complaining as I appreciate every effort on the Russian side and our side to make this epic event happen...Just to make sure that the 'methane particles' I sense are in the air, I choose not to take anything out of my suitcase and hang, although I did have to take my suit out and put in the closet, which is okay, because I have a plastic cover over it...just when I thought I wanted to complain or whatever, I just looked out my window and relished with good spirit/feeling of "what a view...what a view" and forgot quickly any other malodorous distaste for where I was going to stay for the next 9 days...

Viktor Euopvov, Public Relations Manager, Translator for Team Spartak, Russian Premiere League, came to the hotel to visit me around 5pm, today, and boy is he really "feelin" the pressure of being the Translator for his team...Evidently, the team has not paid its players in almost two months, and the two foreigners in one month...They've just returned from an uneventful trip to Moscow, playing 3 teams on the road there and like my previous team, Jilin Northeast Tigers, could not eke out a "W" in any of the three contests...which doesn't help the management come to terms with the players now...Poor Viktor, he looked like someone who accidentally fell into a oversized Dryer/Tumbler and no one found him for a month until now...I knew I just had to make "his day" and help disarm the "ill" that he felt at this time with his current situation...For the life of me, I've never understood how "professional" teams and their management group think that they can withhold any team members salary, coaches included, yet I hear this every year and have heard it for the last 36 years, and have been victimized by that disrespect also, both as a player in Belgium and also as a Head Coach in Greece and Japan...This I will say about Mr. Qu, the Jilin Tigers owner, he was always fair and on time with all salaries to players...give or take a week to ten days, but did 'honor' each team member and coaches contract...There were however, other CBA teams, whose owners "failed" to meet their financial obligations to the Chinese players, but always paid the Americans...bad balance there, I'm afraid, because the Chinese players make a quarter of what the Foreigners do, and when you "honor" some and not all on a team, baaaaaaaad things happen...Such is the case right now with Team Spartak, I'm afraid...I didn't press Viktor for details but told him I would like to take he and his wife out to dinner tomorrow night and get away from his "stress mess", and I won't take 'no' for an answer...He looked at me and smiled and laughed and said my "wife would love for me to be able to do that sometime..."...He too had not been paid in a month, but didn't want to dwell on that aspect...Tonight was a "big management" meeting with coaches, players and support staff, meaning that Viktor must translate what is going to be said regarding contracts and payments for the rest of the season...He's worried that the two Foreigners will leave, one being JR Bremer, former Ohio State player of years ago, and a pretty good one at that...Evidently they needed to get at least one victory on this last road trip in order to make the Playoffs and now it's almost impossible for them to join the Top Eight...I'm hoping to see Coach Sergei Babov, Head Coach of Team Spartak, and hear how he's doing through all of this...He and his Assistant Coach, Michalev, were very kind and open to me as a colleague when our team was in their tournament...I'm hoping that I can bring some little joy to Viktor and his wife tomorrow night...He has been painstakingly trying to translate my "handout" materials for the coaches, and I told him not to, but he wanted to be sure that the coaches understood everything that I was teaching and demonstrating this week...What a guy!!

Okay, I'm here, fired up to get back on the court and ready for Russian Bear!! Will let you know how tomorrow night goes with Viktor and his wife...I'm thinkin a nice restaurant with a bottle of Red Wine for the occasion...I gotta do something for this gentle man who put so much time and best effort into the planning and coordinating of this event...

By the way...I didn't "lose" a box or a suitcase on this trip...Glory!! Best to all, safe travels, Coach tom
February 2, 2008...Beijing...Sunny...cold...but colder on the Great Wall like you wouldn't believe...Anyone who is a Tall Mountain Climber, well, hats off to you, briefly, as the experience I had today was one I won't soon forget...depending on how quickly my "not-so-smart" cells continue to defrost...When I left the RedWall Hotel (my hotel in Beijing) this morning, I felt pretty good overall, considering I was squinting from the sunshine at the entrance of the hotel..,plus, the chill factor was probably a reasonable 40 maybe, tolerable for sure, but nothing compared to the neuro-sensory assault on my "sometimes" nervous system...Remember how I described living in Coldchun, Northeast China for the last several months? And how the cold had no respect for articles of cover, leather or fur when it made your chilly acquaintance? Guess what? The Wall, yes The Great Wall, introduced me not only to its historical impressions, but a reminder that many thousands upon hundred of thousands citizens built by hand this truly incredible Wonder of the World, and it took over 2,000 years and covers over 4,000 miles throughout China...Ponder THAT "teamwork and commitment", coupled with the the thought that these workers were not only commissioned, supervised and honored for their service, they all had to experience what I did JUST WALKING upon the hand-carved stone steps: Frrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeze...I was accompanied by, Aaron, the Asst. Manager of the RedWall Hotel, who was my "Chief" inspector/detective when I lost my "BOX" upon arrival here 10 days ago...which has since been FOUND...back to the Wall...We chose the 2nd Exit, Badaling for our "freeze point entry"...now, I know we have the Space Needle and I-5 Corridor that runs from border to border, which is a remarkable passage in its own right, until you hit 'rush hour' traffic, and then the curses rain down from on High about the idiot who "designed this highway anyway...?"...But to look right to left and watch this serpentine structure, snake up and down hills and mountains, whoa Nellie, it IS a Wonder of the World...Keep holding my thoughts here, please, as I am still defrosting and reflecting...and it is cold, by Coldchun standards, yet, I think since the sun's out, "no problemos, I CAN handle this (warm blooded thinking for sure from a person who has NO HAIR on top)..."...UNTIL I make a decision with Aaron to "let's turn right, since we'll be walking into the sunlight and maybe stay warmer..."...Wrong Turn!!...As we made our way up the steps from the Visitor center, and me with my turtleneck, down coat. jeans and casual cross trainers (shoes), the only thing that was more important to me at this moment was the fact that I wore my infamous Coaches Who Care, Intl., hat, that at least kept a smile 'isle' of follicles insulated, or so I thought as we made our way towards a lookout point on the Wall...Now try to imagine this: about a 45degree angle upwalk, into the sun BUT more difficult wind coming from the South and hitting us face on...Anyone who knows anything about climbing, knows that at 45degree upwalk, you're NOT walking flatfooted, you're basically putting all the weight on your insteps and Achilles heels, so much so, I WOULD NEVER RECOMMEND ANY MALE OVER 40 to EVER walk up a steep incline such as this without FIRST, stretching both Achilles', calves, hammies and lower back...otherwise you will have the following issues when you awaken the next morning: "What the hell "hit" ME in the middle of the night...Holy Molee, my achy-breakee=backee=...whooosh, wow, why are my Achilles a-killin me right now?...oooh, my hammies haven't felt like this since pre season practices in college over 40 years ago...where's Dr. Bob Greczanik when I need him NOW (Sports Acupuncturist in Bellevue>The BEST!!)!!

So to summarize because it is already Tuesday and I need to post this, I did defrost 45 minutes later, the headache, backache and hammies (quads were fine) were sore for two days and I feel "new" hairs growing on top...

Take care, stay safe, all the best...Coach tom
January 30, 2008...Wednesday afternoon...about 45 degrees, sun out in Beijing...what I'm about to share with now, is what is called "losin it..."...

The Box returns...err...is found...err...HAS BEEN HERE ALL THIS FREAKIN TIME!! This morning, early, I was turning over and over again my thoughts and the dialogues of all the people involved in my packing, loading, unloading and droppoffs, trying to resolve in my mind that "it's gotta be somewhere in this country...help me, Lord...", and to His credit, He listened to ol tommy boy here in Beijing and gave a him a thought: "Ah, my son, have you considered that perhaps your BOX is in your midst? And that all the evil things you thought and said under your breath in tongues I have never spoken before myself, you may have the BOX before you...? Have you considered THAT notion, son?"...Aw, c'mon Lord, I'm NOT THAT "far gone" to even THINK that it is here, in this small room, and I haven't even considered THAT OPTION...Now, paranoia awakens, like a Stephen King novel 20 pages in and I'm looking at the 5 boxes on both sides of the bed...3 are from The Larson Legacy...one is from my room that I packed along with the missing BROWN BOX, right?...then I'm looking at a USPS Express Mail Box, White, that I don't remember Lee Larson sending me...hmmm, who sent this to me...and I look at the still-intact attached label, and it says "Sender: Chris Newell"...NO, it didn't say that....I walk away, come back, pick it up, put it down, walk away again and start shaking my head to make sure ALL THE MARBLES ARE IN PLACE when I open this box up to be humbled for ALL TIME...I rip the yards of tape that wrapped around it, as well as the straps that I had put on the box because it was NOT SECURE when I went to check in a week ago at the Changchun Airport...slowly I am beginning to see "pain, suffering, and inflammation of a sore neck from shaking one's head" syndrome, usually associated with an American basketball coach in Beijing, China who has been in the Northeastern part of China, having had his neurosensors FROZEN for quite some time now...HOLY SWEET OBAMA!!!

Yes, indeedy, there it was, EVERYTHING THAT I THOUGHT WAS on the streets somewhere trying to make someone happy...but no, the BOX is HERE...Glory...so for those of you who lit a candle, toasted my BOX and its whereabouts, and/or just said "newell's losin it...", thank you, thank you, thank you, I received ALL of your wishes and appreciate the empathy you felt for my BOX...And to think, last night I finally succumbed to "losing it forever" and went out and bought replacement cords for the tech stuff I have...laptop, portable DVD player, monitor...It only cost me about $50 bucks for replacement, and met some fans of the CBA and had fun talking about the league and all, BUT, THIS, here in MY ROOM...I shoulda had the Beach Boys song on all this time: "In my roooooooooooommmmmhhhmmmm", something would have been turned my switch on and saved me this embarrassing moment in my Chinese experience...Now I gotta go downstairs and 'fess up to the Bellman, David and his Boss Aaron, Asst. Mgr., GREAT GUY, has helped me so much, Wi, Asst. to the Asst. Mgr. and then walk around with a cardboard sign hangin from my neck: "My Name is "Not-so-smart"...If I look lost...I am..."

Okay, enough self deprecation here, and on to glorious future moments in my life...Tomorrow I visit The GREAT WALL...wow, can you believe it? I am so excited about seeing this...I remember a long long time ago, reading...errr, looking at the pictures in National Geographic Magazine and seeing this pictorial story on China's Great Wall, and remembering it being "One if the 7 Wonders of the World" at that time...Think there are a couple of more that could be added, but word is, the "Committee" are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame Selection group...Anyway, will give you my thoughts on the Wall after the visit...

Hey, I really mean this: so many of you emailed me and expressed sadness and shared my angst over the BOX, and I want you each to know I appreciate your laughter and also shaking your head as you read my account and followups to this point...I felt your "vibes" and THAT ALONE was the inspiration to find the BOX...Take care, safe travels, God Bless...tom
January 26, 2008...Sunday evening, Beijing...

At last! I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak and get on the court again at Coach Wang Fei's Basketball Academy outside Beijing...What a pure joy this experience was, and those parents whose sons and daughters have trained with me over the last several years "know" how much I enjoy teaching and watching players practice new skills they are being taught for the first time...

The Wang Fei Basketball Academy is part of a private middle and high school institution...It has over 1,000 boys and girls enrolled in the school for academics, and Coach Fei's program is an "add on" extracurricular program offered at the school...He only has boys, ages 11-17, all with varied skill levels, some advanced, some not so advanced, but ALL eager and willing to be taught...Coach Wang Fei bridged a relationship this past summer in Hawaii when I was accepting the invitation by SunJun, GM of the Jilin NE Tigers CBA team...Little did I realize then, how close Wang Fei was to SunJun, having played with him on numerous National Teams as well as on the well known Bayi Red Army Team, the Boston Celtics of old CBA team...Wang Fei shared with me during our dinner after the afternoon session today, about how SunJun approached him and asked him as friend and mentor what he thought about me as an "NBA Coach coming to the CBA for his team...?"...Wang Fei said that he had known my father, Coach Pete Newell for many many years and that he was watching how I interacted with the All Star Americans in the CBA Draft Camp in Hawaii during the week, and said the players respected me and listened to me during timeouts and substitutions, but that my greatest strength would be in teaching his young players in Jilin...Wow, I said to myself, little did I know that he too was supporting SunJun's decision to hire me as his team's leader...Couple that with Coach Bruce O'Neil, President of the United States Basketball Academy in Springfield, Oregon, how could I go wrong! Coaches, remember this always: if you teach the game the right way, respect the players, Officials and people supporting this wonderful activity, you have a much better chance to keep "working" than not...

Back to the Academy...So, Wang Fei introduces me to 72 students in attendance for this afternoon session, and his assistant coaches (OUTSTANDING Teachers in their own right!), and beforehand, asked me to "appeal" to them about applying their efforts in school, not just on the court everyday, that they are very lazy for the most part in classroom study and application...Now he's talkin to the right "Cat" when it comes to speaking to kids in school and sports...Not missing a beat, I have these young fellas in front of me, and right away ol coach here addresses them with a "Niaho" and then proceeds to have Wang Fei translate "how many habits are there in basketball?"...The murmur rises as the seconds tick by and I pick out a young player and ask him "how many?"...He answers correctly: "two" in perfect English...Now keep in mind, these players are supposedly "studying" English in school, albeit, not very consistently, but I am encouraged that he had the self confidence to give me the answer: "Good and Bad..."...The next question led to "how many ways can you play the game..."...Now many hands raise and I am really encouraged now...I point to one older player (16-17 yrs. old) and he says through Wang Fei, "two...good and bad..." with a smile, and I say "yes, there are two ways, but not good and bad, rather Right Way and Wrong Way...", using the example of dribbling the ball with your head down (demonstrating this I might add) and ask if this is a "good habit or bad habit, using my thumbs up or down, respectively, an International sign language unto its own), they all raise their hand with "thumbs down" and that leads into the next question, "is it the Right Way or Wrong Way?...Again arms raise and "thumbs down" is unanimous...Then I say, "Excellent, NOW we have an understanding about how I will teach you today..."...Then we explore the "3 Speeds in basketball": Quick (change of direction), Fast (transition on Offense and Defense) and lastly the most important: Slow (playing under control, learning something new in a drill etc.)...Their eyes lit up, I have 'turned' on a 30w Bulb in their basketball minds...This sets up the "next" conversation about "habits in school work and applications"...90% of the kids raised their hand when I asked them point blank whether they could "do better in school and studying..."...They ALL nodded and agreed that they had bad habits when it came to having a Best Effort everyday in school, NOT ever mentioning bball in this exchange...We then proceeded to the courts where I demonstrated a one dribble with right hand, step off with the left foot shooting drill from the top of the key...which evolves into several other one dribble or two dribble (no more than that) moves to the basket...There were 6 baskets available, and we had more than enough help to successfully complete the drills for today...Let me say this: I have worked many many basketball camps over the last 38 years and this was the FIRST camp where the kids "picked" up very quickly the importance of keeping their heads up when making a 1 on 1 move towards the basket (you must READ the defense always when going 1 on 1 so you can REACT to any "help" defense and change direction with the ball (Quick speed) to finish the ATTACK...by the end of our session together, each player had successfully learned a couple of new moves and were excited to have me show them how to practice on their own with the same...even Wang Fei's assistants 'seized' the opportunity to also demonstrate to players who had difficulty coordinating the dribble with the balance and handle needed to be successful going to the basket...But more importantly, I WAS ON THE COURT AGAIN!! GLORY!!

Dinner later that evening with Wang Fei and his former teammate, Coach Lee...Wang Fei wanted me to experience Beijing Duck with him and Coach Lee, as well as other Epicurean delights, Chinese dishes I've had before but never so flavorful as these...the dishes: a spicy "bamboo" slices, sauteed and mixed with onions and mushrooms...I've had bamboo before, BUT this dish, WOW...next came a dish with "duck's feet", a delicacy served cold and prepared with Wasabe' hot mustard...I didn't want to disrespectful and not try it, so I did...not bad, not bad at all...good thing I had something to "wash" it down with...and that was puree Corn juice, heated to a boiling level and served in a tall glass...First time I'd ever tasted such and let me tell you, it had NO ADDITIVES such as sugar or molasses, just the fresh puree kernels, heated...Y'all gotta try that one, especially the kids, beats the heck out of a carbonated drink, that's for sure...next came a plate of large shrimp, with under-shell covered bread crumbs...how good was that? Of the 2 dozen, I had at least a dozen as Coach Fei and Coach Lee were into the duck's feet and bamboo root...next we had string green beans, with onions, small red peppers and mushrooms...are you getting hungry yet? Next was a saute' pan served at our table with Green Peppers, Red Peppers, Onions, Chicken pieces (no bones), green sting beans, and curry sauce...SOMEBODY please tell me how I've missed out "this" dish all the time I've been here!! Now that dish was "attacked" by 3 pairs of Chopstiks and surprisingly I "held my own" in the grab...If I can say there two "things" that I've improved remarkably on it would be as follows: How to cross the street safely, with a "bobble head" motion keeping me safe...next is my adept left handed chopstik mechanics...You wouldn't believe how many of the players and others who I have had the distinct pleasure of sharing a traditional meal with when I choose NOT to use the Western Utensils put in front of me...Most are dumbstruck by my being lefthanded and "doin my thing" with such precision...no, I don't "need" to catch flys or other flying objects to prove my skill, just know this: plastic chopstiks are no longer a "fear factor" when eating out in public in China...Back to the entree's...Next comes one of the Chefs wheeling a waist-high cart, and a roasted Peking Duck on top (this duck was through "peeking" at anything)...Wang Fei has him wheel his "duck cart" around so I can watch his skills carving a just-cooked Duck...Let me tell you, not only was this Chop Knife (the same used for veggies) SHARP, the Chef was "sharper"...I was so mesmerized by his skill, Wang Fei started laughing because my eyes were transfixed on how quickly he shaved to the bone the meat from the Duck...I mean this took all of maybe 4 and half minutes and there were two plates of meat well stacked and ready for "roll" shell that comes with this dish...How good was this? Wang Fei and Coach Lee laughed out loud when I took my first bite and under my breath I was sighing "ummmmmmm"...Keep in mind, I've had the Beijing Duck, back in early December in Beijing with our two American players and the GM...That was my first time and there also did I release an "ummmmmmm" and draw laughter from the table...But this "ummmmmm" was a different "octave" level, as it was served right before us, still warm and ever so fresh...I asked Wang Fei if he knew any Spanish, to which he replied no, so I taught him "NO MAS!!", meaning I was "done" eating for the night, there was not another morsel that could match what I had just experienced...He laughed again and so did I...what a prince of a guy Wang Fei is...His wife was suppose to join us but she was with her ill stricken father and could not be with us...I hope I can meet her sometime...They have one daughter who attends BYU Hawaii as a Freshman...She speaks fluent English and is a Business school major...Wang Fei is not a Mormon, but his actions and social disciplines are exemplary: he doesn't smoke or drink alcohol...and tonight was the first dinner I've ever had in China where alcohol and cigarettes were not part of the "menu" for the sitdown experience...This much I know: Wang Fei and I are going to be "newest" best friends for many years to come, trust me...We talked hoops the whole time we were not on the court...He has a great mind for the game and is without a doubt the BEST teacher of skills I have seen since arriving on this continent...I am committed to HELPING him any way I can with future additions of Pro Players to his teams in the near future...We are already planning a "tryout" in Seattle, whereby I will invite 10 players to come to Seattle and spend 4 days, going through drills, interviews and evaluations by myself and Coach Ernie Woods (Hooptactics.com)...I came up with this idea after hearing his "plea" to help him "find" good character and citizens that can make his team compete for a Championship...Our kind of guy, No? Anyway, Coach Fei will also bless my weekend sessions at Eastside Catholic on one of the weekend mornings, as I asked him to "help" me, then I will "treat" him to our Northwest Seafood delights: Salmon and Rockfish with vegetables...replacing Duck's feet with Fresh Calimari and of course Rice...If you ever need a Caterer, the best one I've ever experienced is Russell and Rick Lowell from Lowell Catering in Seattle...Now THEY know how to prepare Salmon and ANY Epicurean dishes to foreigners unaccustomed to our NW delights...They do Weddings, Special Events, Banquets and Private presentations...Keep them in mind if you're thinking of doing something different for the Senior Students' Graduation in June...

The "box"...don't ask, please...I've run out of Aleve and I don't have the energy to even try to "look" again into the whereabouts...tomorrow I have to buy new accessory items that go to my computer: camera, headset, plugs, monitor plugs...arrrrrrrrrgh!!! Enuff said...I leave for Russia on Sunday via Seoul, Korea, overnight there and on to Vladivostok...Being in "warm" Beijing now (Hawaii compared to Changchun cold), I am going to a city that is COLDER than Changchun!! And here I thought my cold "daze" was done, fini, ovah, adios, sayonara, goodbye...Oh well, might have to get some "woolies" as they call them here in China...Take care, drive safely, slow down, and God Bless...much love to all, Coach tom
January 23, 2008...Wednesday night...at the airport waiting for the flight from Changchun to Beijing...and Bob Marley is definitely the "Mastah Rastah Brah"...I've got him on my Nano now, and let me tell you, his words from his heart overshadow his love for life...and his was short...God Bless him...

It's kind of a bittersweet departure right now...leaving Coldchun and the kind, generous people that I became close to on the team at the Hotel and throughout the city...It has been a wonderful journey, these last 5 months in Changchun...The pictures I have captured through the lens of Steve Castleberry and my dear friend, Larry Stone, only accentuate the positive feelings I come away with from here...I'll always remember being addressed as an "old man" by Pancake, "Shortstack", our translator...NOW THAT was a cultural shock of sorts hearing that the first time, trust me...With the players, that all stopped quickly when I stepped on the court and began demonstrating footwork and change of speed one on one moves that detailed balance, recognition and execution, challenging each player to "new" areas of discipline and application...You see, our young aspiring players today seem to think that they can "get by" on their innate skills, which have evolved from And 1 videos, pickup games that are no more than 1 on 1 "horrorplay", and of course what they see on the tele professionally...and THIS IS UNIVERSAL, sadly...

Plane delayed ONLY 3 and a half hours...and FINALLY I arrive to my hotel in Beijing at 2am...The following events between Beijing airport and my hotel is a script that could only be acted out by Steve Martin or Albert Brooks...meaning, I need to rewind here (it's now Thursday after 6 hours sleep and 5 phone calls already this morning from the "new" on duty Concierge, whose understanding of the English language is about as good as mine in Chinese...got the picture?)...I was "hustled" by a supposed Taxi Driver upon leaving the baggage claim area, and after letting this "Napoleonic" figure know that I appreciated his effort, I wanted to speak first to the Information on Travel and Hotels that is in front of the Baggage Exit...I first ask the young woman if she spoke Chinese, which she said "yes"...I then asked her if this "gentleman" was a "licensed" driver and legit, to which she asked me if I was looking for some noodles to eat first...NOW THAT should have been a "sign" in itself...So, I changed my question to: "is this man a REAL Taxi Driver?"...She then asked him in Chinese and he in PERFECT English states: "I have BIG METER..."...and he's a small guy...We now have a "crowd" surrounding me and my dialogue, and true to my cynic nature, I tell him I'm "1 meter 95"...he didn't seem amused but the Lady laughed...Anyway, I "allowed" him to him and his "friend" to help me with my two carts, that being the case because of the materials I am taking to Russia, courtesy of Lee Larson and my son, Bo's "care" package mailing a couple of weeks ago...I have 3 suitcases and 6 boxes, file type that are on the cart...this is important to follow along here, as I am teaching you something about arriving to Beijing in the middle of the night, fatigued, and about as pleasant as old dog resting on hot summer day and being bothered by a fly that keeps trying to land on its nose...Keep in mind, I have been on a train over 7 and a half hours and a plane for 3 something in the last 24...How Kiefer Sutherland does "his" version of "24", I have no clue, but MINE require a number of pit stops and delays along the way, for sure...Fortunately, I don't wish to "eliminate" anyone like Sutherland does...but ALMOST was ready to after this trip...

The Ride: "Lil Nap" as I now have nicknamed him, and his friend take me curbside, all the while in my non-beveraged induced stupor, thinking to myself: "hmmm, here he is, with his "friend" taking me and my carts to the "Taxi"...Now, keep in mind, that there is NO FREAKIN way that the Port of Seattle Police would EVER allow a Taxi Driver to leave his "parked" taxi in front of the arrivals gate, right? So, as we ascend to the "Stairway to Hell" (tom's version of the Led Zepp classic), I am getting my second wind, meaning "sober" and realize that "this is going to be REAL interesting when I see HIS taxi and where he has it "stashed"...Lil Nap goes quickly to the curbside and hollers for this "private" BLACK, VW Passage sedan to come to the curb to pick me up (I KNOW Chinese well enough now to understand "voice inflections well, mind you), and here it comes, screeching to a halt, and a young fella jumps out, trunk popped and the two guys with my cart are getting ready to load "me" up...I politely tell "Lil Nap" to hold on...NO!!...They both stop in their tracks and Nap says to me: "what your problem?"...I say, where's the "meter" on this car? He says: "you have many bags...I have many cars, and this is special for your hotel..."...They say during the day the smog is really bad in Beijing, but no one ever told me about the "methane particles" that are also a HUGE emission problem at the airport...I tell him to give me the price NOW before he takes one bag and places it inside the vehicle (did I say BLACK SEDAN...? ...the windows were so tinted that a laser couldn't penetrate its film!!)...He says: "200 Yuan"...Which is about right...BUT he wanted to take TWO CARS to the hotel...Now the lyrics to Led Zepp's classic are ringing in my mindshare: "There's an Old Man I know, whose intentions are good and he's driving his way to hellllllllllll...oooh weee oooohooooh wee...and he's buying his way to hellllllllllla..."...I say ONE CAR, and look to call a METERED Taxi...I tell him that he was not honest with me, when he said he had "BIG METER" and that I was not happy with his actions now...He apologized and said 'okay', one car...He says that this is "Good Driver", he will take good care of you, okay...now you must tip tip tip me for my hard push...and to think, in less than 5 months, the world is going to "experience" thousand-fold what I am going through right now, and I thought I was a savvy "cat"...Back to the "Blackmobile"...the back door is opened and the seats are lamb hair covered, really nice in fact...so all the bags and boxes go into this vehicle, and I thank Lil Nap and his friend and give them a $10 tip between them...which they both looked at me like: "did you see the Stock Market today, bad day, we want more...", and I smiled and "SiChi" (thank you...seeshe)...Now to the "ride"...so we're rollin along on the highway with very very few automobiles traveling at 2am right now, and I strike up a conversation with "The Fella"...he knows a little English, and not enough, I'm soon to learn, and we're heading downtown to my hotel from the airport...not only did this car have its seats lamb covered, but so was the steering wheel...so much so, that I'm hoping that no animals "jump" in the path of our car, 'cause if it did, there's NO WAY that this fella is going to be able to do a "Nascar" swerve accurately...That mental pause on my part was short lived, as I remembered all too well, that most dogs and cats are "delicately" prepared for the table, which meant "fat chance" on hitting anything with four legs right now...Our conversation quickly moved to "you like basketball" and you "play" basketball...His eyes and smile told the rest of the story...He loves basketball and the NBA...Great, I say to myself, he just might be alright for this trip to my hotel...Now we are inside the city limits, heading towards my hotel as he slows down on an offramp...he soon STOPS in the right lane of the two lane offramp, calls someone on his cellphone to GET DIRECTIONS...and then I'm singing to myself: "Help me if you can I'm feelin dowwwnnnn...and I do wish that someone else were arounnnnnd...", and NOW he's LOST...I shoulda known that someone as young as Li is (24 years old), living in Beijing, where there are more than 20 million people, that he has NO experience with ALL the hotels that are in this city, let alone the street addresses...This I know, he wasn't a "homing pigeon" before in another life, as we spent a half hour trying to find my hotel, which I actually gave him IN CHINESE the directions and he goes "I know I know...", they say that alot in English here when they DON'T know something...keep that in mind when you're here...Then, at a signal, he jumps out of his car TWICE to get directions to the hotel, the first time at a signal, the next time at a side street and he runs back about 50 yards to ask a Taxi Driver the same...Now why wouldn't he just BACK UP like he did on the offramp to "get" directions on his first call for help...I now have my hotel on the cell and as he gets into my car, I give him the receptionist and he's listening and driving ahead...hmmm, now all of sudden HE KNOWS where he's going...he cuts her off to take another call and then 3 mins. later, we pull up in front of the Red Wall Hotel...does he pull up in front...no...he pulls ahead away from lights and says okay, "Pay me 200 Yuan and Tip"...I tell Li that he must back up to the front of the hotel and I will pay him then to help me get my bags out of the car...so, backs out of the lot and drives around to the front and jumps out, starts pulling bags and boxes out and I'm slowly helping all the while and then he shuts the doors to his passenger side back door and says "now Tip"...I said, "Li, you did good job to get me here, but you did not do good job to find hotel..."...With that he jumps in and takes off...I check in and forgetting to get a receipt from Li, soon realize that two of my 6 boxes are missing..."Won't you pleeeeease pleeeeease HELP ME HELP MEeeeeeeee ooooooh..."...Now I am NOT a Happy Camper at all...I start speaking in "tongues" to no one in particular, and this young bellman, David, says to me in a kind, reassuring voice, "Sir, I can help you...do you have the Taxi receipt?...I tell him no, but I do know what they ALL look like and the name of the Driver...so, my newest "hero", David, takes me to my room and says, I will help you, please don't worry, this man will have to call back because you know what he looks like...So, about 10 mins. later, I get a call to my room and David is all excited as get out to tell me that the "driver" called to the hotel and says that he has your box...but that I must "pay" another 200 Yuan to get it back...I tell David to keep him on the line as I will come down quickly to speak to him directly...Let me tell you something, my "transition" was so good that Lorenzo would have had me demonstrate at my age on how to "run a fast break lane" correctly...Now I'm at the Bellman's desk and I tell David to tell him that I am calling the Police NOW, and that he will never drive again and to bring my box back NOW...David translates this to Li and he wants to now speak to me...He now is speaking English and telling me that he is sorry that he didn't realize that the box was still in the back seat...I told him that there is no way I am paying him another 200 Yuan and that if the box is not here in the next 20 minutes I will call the Police and report him...I give the phone back to David and he repeats the SAME words in a different voice inflection that I am sure spoke to "the fella's" conscience...David says my box will be here in 20 mins. as he was back at the airport again...

20 Minutes later...an older lady dressed as a Taxi Driver comes into the hotel with my box...not "the fella", but a heavy set woman, with no smile and demanding 100 Yuan for this box...I'm sitting down while David, my new "hero" is negotiating with her...I know that I have to "pay" something to this driver because she got set up, and at 3:30 am, I AM NOT about to do evil upon her, so I kindly give her 80 Yuan, thank her and explain that the Police are going have a report this incident...She NOW smiles and says back to David, that she was doing "Lil Nap" a favor that's all and away she went...I now ask David to call Li back and ask him where the other box is...he tells David that there was only ONE, not two, and "that is the truth..."...the bar's closed and I am in need of a G&T RIGHT NOW...Larry Stone where ARE YOU when I KNOW you can handle this situation much better than I, and even my good friend Big D would have had BOTH boxes in my room by 3am, not one by 3:30am...So, now my day begins with becoming the American version of Inspector Clousteau...I was planning on visiting the Forbidden City, which is across the street from my hotel, but that shall wait, as I NEED the box that has my materials for the Russian Clinic in 10 days...Hope you're able to follow my story, Folks, as this is the only way I can maintain my sense of Irish humor and share the "Magical Mystical Tour" with y'all...Stay tooned...Safe travels, all the best, hope you enjoyed this entry...I felt much better after reading it twice...I'm a slow reader...Coach tom
January 25, 2008...Saturday late morning...2 Advils, meditative positive thoughts vibrating once again...BUT STILL NO FREAKIN BOX that's disappeared between my hotel and Beijing...Okay, I know, "it's just a box, tom...", but YOU don't know that I had my laptop headset in it, my laptop camera, my seattle cell phone, my basketball folders for the Russian coaches, my hookup connections to various plugs...In other words, I am only 'half-connected', but then again there are those out there who've always thought I've been "half connected" for a long time...Guess what? I've always had a "ground" plug attached and that's what has made me unique compared to others...Thank God!!

Okay, here is how my Thursday went after getting to sleep around 4am same morning...I spent several hours with 4 different people "sleuthing" the missing "box" and getting down to the nitty gritty of where it may have disappeared from when I left the hotel in Changchun...The Staff here at the Red Wall Hotel have been magnificent Hosts...From David, the Bellman, to Aaron, Asst. Mgr., to Wi (Wee), asst. to the asst. Mgr., and then the momentary appearance and greeting from the Mgr. herself, Stacy...Here's the lowdown as of Saturday morning: my box DID not, according to Security Cameras at the Red Buds, Changchun Hotel, indicate that I had 6 boxes, that they only counted 5 on the cart going outside to load up into the Taxi...This information arrived at 5 pm on Thursday night, leaving me a "new found" type of headache, AKA "Boxache"...So now, I am retracing the last steps from room to elevator and who was with me, and THEN a "flash", not a "hot" one, but similar: "YES, the EMS Shipping fella was with me and helped me with my boxes (who by the way is a GREAT GREAT new Friend, responsible for getting my Xmas presents home to the US on time...), and I'm thinking that he must have accidentally taken it with him and I forgot to give him instructions as to where to send it...Now I am so excited I jump into the elevator to share this "brainstorm" recollection with Aaron, and as the elevator doors open, guess who is walking in the hallway in front of me? Aaron!! Now he gives me this look like: "aren't you ever going to accept the fact that you lost your box...?"...And I quickly embrace him and tell him "I think I know what happened to it...the EMS Shipper may have accidentally picked it up..."...Which means that in order to call the Shipper, I need someone to translate and Aaron knows this...We then go to his desk, I give him my cell phone and he calls "my Guy", who says initially YES, I have Coach's Box, and watching Aaron's countenance change from Hyde to Dr. Jekyll very quickly...Ah, I'm thinking to myself, I am really good at this CSI stuff, I "found it" by reflecting...or so we thought, when in fact, EMSer didn't have the box and was now worried that I thought he "took" the box...Poor Aaron has this look on his face, like: "doesn't this American have something better to do than WORRY about a "box"...?...He's right, I do, BUT the fact of the matter is I had a lot of stuff in THAT box that I want back if I can track it down...Aaron hangs up, explaining that I DID NOT even for one minute think he, EMSer took the box and that's where it is...Then Aaron politely says, "I'm not sure what you can do next, Sir, I am at a loss here..."...So I ask him a simple question: "if you were me, and you lost a jacket in an airport where would you TURN to?"...he looked at me and realized that we had NOT asked the airports to locate this missing "box"...I am now thinking that the "box" and the Stat sheets I never received are linked...Aaron then says: "why of course, the Lost and Found...we have one here also at the Hotel...you're right, we only spoke to the baggage claim people NOT to LOST and FOUND...I will see if I can connect with both airports...BUT, right now, I have a headache and need to take a break, do you mind?"...Now I really felt bad...I asked him if I could buy him dinner in the Hotel...no thank you...then I asked him if he'd ever had a Gin and Tonic, it's very good, makes my hair grow...And he looked at me like I was truly "half connected" or "nutz" and it was then that I realized his "service" had run its course and pleaaaaaaseleavemealonenow so I can gather my thoughts for the "other" 200 guests...Dang, I felt so bad, I didn't do a darn thing about the "box" yesterday but I'm on it today...what the heck, it beats doing the Crossword Puzzle in the China Daily newspaper...So here I be, with a "boxache" to boot, trying to figure out what happened...

Stay tooned...as you can see, the books I've read, the games I've coached in and the life in China has devolved into a "challenge" of sorts, trying to find my "box"...Safe travels, God Bless...Coach tom
January 22, 2008...Tuesday...Somewhere between Coldchun and Shenyang on a slow train to Shenyang...When I say slow, we're talking the kinda "slow" that when you paint your house with an oil base paint and watch it dry...yep, THAT slow...

Okay, I FINALLY received the DHL documents this morning, which was originally expected to arrive no later than the 191h from Vladivostok, Russia...That being said, I missed the train yesterday, Monday, and had to ask a favor of the Bellman to exchange them back at the Station for me if he had the time (most definitely tipped him, which he refused to accept, until I told him that I wouldn't be his friend anymore...)...He was able to get 80% of face value, which means the tickets to Shenyang that I didn't use cost me 8 dollars...There's no such thing as "changing" the ticket to another day in China...Why? You ask? Because it's China...

So, my "newest" best Friend in China, Louis Ming, the Headmaster and Co-Director of the BAIDAWEI English School in Changchun, and myself are traveling together on this "slow" train filled with every imaginable character known to Mao...Without, Louie, I can't imagine how I would have ever been able to get to Shenyang safely and with my sense of humor still intact...Louie and I became friends three nights ago at dinner (see previous Post), when I presented to him a Concept and Draft on an student exchange program that now appears is going to happen...I am really excited about this prospect, trust me, as the students (ages in school 5-16 boys and girls) in this school are the most astute and clear speaking Chinese students I've met to date...They look right at you and address your questions, and also your answers...The model they've implemented in this school is beyond "commendable", it's truly an outstanding piece of extraordinary structure and administration...The teachers are imports from abroad, Americans, English, Aussies, Canucks, I mean now I know how China was the first manufacturer to come up the idea of a "blender", 'cause they most definitely "know" how to blend...And Louie, the CEO and his partner, David, President, have established this school as the #1 in Changchun, having to turn away applicants...They're considering adding another venue next year...the only thing holding them back is the qualifications of applicants online for a teaching position...It's a difficult process they've experienced in the past, but NO MORE...I am now helping this school in expanding its horizons, by introducing "New Horizons...portals to the World..."...This will begin with bringing students over to the Puget Sound for two weeks to experience firsthand our culture and having the opportunity to speak their ESL in a public environment, where English is the norm...Also in this "plan" would be ol tommy boy here, helping them with the screening process of applicants for overseas placement at BAIDAWEI schools (4-5 schools at this time)...Also included in this "vision" is Louie's idea of helping him develop a basketball program within BAIDAWEI that would bring in 14 yr. old students, boys and girls, whose parents would love nothing more than to see their children learn English, become outstanding students overall, and perhaps qualify for an Athletic Scholarship for basketball skills...Imagine this scenario: "true" Student Athletes, attending high school in the Puget Sound, sharing cultural experiences, athletic endeavors and developing the necessary academic disciplines to go on to a university and gain a degree in the end...NOW THAT would be a GREAT scenario/ending in my book...Will let you know how Family Sports Life Today is able to bring this whole program along...If I were to put it on a scale of 1-10 for happening this Summer: "!!" would be the number of record...

"Get me a Ticket for a Fast Train...ain't got time to take no Slow Train..."...Well, I finally received my "stamp" of approval from the Russian Consulate in Shenyang...Now we're on the Fast Train back to Changchun, I repack, check out and catch a plane to Beijing at 7:40pm tonight...Talk about a whirlwind..."The same thing that makes you mad, will also make you glad..."...after being sorely disappointed in DHL service, and NOT to their fault but the "Security" measures taken by ANY AND ALL Documents that come through China to anyone, the "weight" of my Official Invitation in this Airbill was the equivalent of a book of stamps...So, after catching the train last night, sleeping soundly and preparing for the Consulate's Office this morning, I was cognizant enough to remind myself (keep in mind, I think I have "Halfheimers", 'cause I only remember HALF of what I tell myself), bring a TURTLENECK, just in case you have to stand outside for 5 to 10 mins...So I actually did remember to pack this item...and boy, did it help immensely in reminding me how cold it is to stand outside in 25 below Zero weather for 40 MINS. and NOT 5-10 as hoped...Whoever thinks that the "Cold War" is over, just try to stand outside in subfeezing weather, waiting numbly for an invitation to come inside the Attache's Office for your Visa Stamp...After 10 mins. you're thinking like the anxiously addicted Lotto holder, who week to week can hardly "stand" to wait for the numbers to appear...I often wonder if those people actually play Ping Pong, and if they do how well...you know, the balls etc., and watching them come up one by one on the screen daily...Back to story: so here I am, 8:00am, standing outside the Embassy Entrance to the Russian Delegate's Office, with Louie translating to the Chinese Guard protecting the gate, identifying me and my purpose and trying to "throw in" an extra plug about "why" I'm there and that they are expecting me, which was true...The Guard gives us the telephone number of the Attache' who I met back in September when we (Tate and Castleberry) had to get our visa stamps for the Tournament in Vladivostok, Russia (earlier blogit)...Louie tells me that we have a half hour before they open the gate, let's go to KFC until then...I declined, as I remember how they have this special security camera outside the gate to "observe" the applicants BEFORE inviting them inside, and figured IF they saw this somewhat tall (by Asian standards) Anglo outside freezing his natural parts to the infantile stages of conception, that maybe JUST MAYBE, they'd let me in early...Back to the phone number of the Attache' inside, Paul is his name...So I call him and inbetween stutters and stammers, reminding me of my first "date" in high school as a 14 year old who had no clue what to say or how to act in conversation, he screams out to me "What...you come to gate 9am...I think I let you in..."CLICK...or was that an ear-wax projectile that came out of my right ear?...So, I tell Louie if he'd be so kind to bring me back a coffee, first one in a long long long time, I'd be forever grateful...he did 15 mins. later, as it takes 15mins. for every 5 that you're outside in the subzero weather...Man, it could have been Havoline 10W 30W, heated in a styrofoam cup and I would have DRUNK it at this point...It's been close to 30 mins. now, my ears as stiff and I'm sure as crisp as a Michael's Potato Chips, my nose/septum blocking my vision remarkably and me STARING right into the security camera from across the street...All I''m thinking at this point is "who the hell said that the "Cold War" was over...'cause if they're enjoying the black and white picture on the Security Camera of this American Patriot exhaling vapor like a poor runnin VW Bug, well, at my expense they got a chuckle for sure...Geeeze, I'm trying to remember when it's NOT SAFE to be outside for X number of minutes...Finally, at exactly 9:10am, Tall Paul (6'5" former University player I befriended the first time we visited this Consulate) appears and in front of about 20 applicants converging on the gate, he motions for me to come inside, "Please"...with a smile and a handshake, and in perfect English, he greets me and welcomes me again...WOW, my ears ringing with pure delight and defrosting at the same time, I do have a "friend" afterall in the Embassy here...You see, basketball friendships are without borders and paranoia, Paul took my application, 2,100 Yuan/RMB, and passport and said: "wait a moment, Coach, I come back to you shortly..."...20 mins. later...ONLY 20 mins. later he delivers my Passport with stamp included and wished me well and said he appreciated how much I was doing to help coaches in Russia and to consider going to St. Petersburg, Russia to help the college coaches there..."...I asked him how long it would take by train from Vladivstok...he said "ONLY 7 days...!!"...I asked by plane? "Only 12 hours..."...Whoever said that Russia is NOT a large country only has to hear where one coast stretches to the other to get an idea of the vastness of geography...

Okay, so here I am on the Fast Train back to Changchun...this train has "sleeper" cars with 4 bunks and an area the equivalent size of an apartment walkin closet, yeah, that COZY...fortunately, this is a "day train" and not so busy nor occupied like last night and we're really not bothered by anything...I'm writing this blogit, Louie's reading the newspaper, and life outside the window is a blur...

I will blogit tomorrow, after my meeting with the NBA/China President, and hopefully share some insight to their "future" plans...I figure with as much international experience I have under my belt, there's gotta be some value to League with my expertise areas...In the meantime, take care, keep a happy face and drive safely...Best wishes always, Coach tom

Jerry Brewer writes a column in the January 20th edition of the Seattle Times discussing Tom Newell. Many of the stories are covered in Tom's blog, but also mentions some changes that happened before the season...

Displaced in China, 5,000 miles from basketball civilization, Tom Newell listened as a Pancake told him he was fired.

Newell hadn't even coached a game as the first American to lead a Chinese Basketball Association team, and here was Pancake, the 4-foot-8 translator whom Newell preferred to call Short Stack, giving him the strangest news ever.

The mother of all rich-man whimsies felled Newell, a former Sonics assistant and basketball lifer. The owner of the Jilin Northeast Tigers abruptly fired his general manager, Chinese basketball legend Sun Jun, and then rehired a former coach to replace Newell. A day later, Pancake was sent to tell Newell the team still wanted him to lead practice.

"WHAT?!?!" Newell asked.

"Coach, this is China," Pancake explained. "We do things differently here."

Brewer also details some more from Newell in his extra points blog.

January 18, 2008...in a colder Changchun City...

So, today, I was expecting my documents from the Vladivostok, Russia, Basketball Federation via DHL...only to be left out in the "cold" so to speak, as it was revealed to me that they will may not arrive until Monday or Tuesday, meaning I will postpone my trip to Beijing until Thursday, after I go by train to Shenyang, a 3 hour trip to the Russian Consulate's office for the "stamp" of approval...arrrrgh...It's not that I want to leave, rather I had already planned on my departure date on the 23rd of January...Imagine this: an "overnight" letter from Russia to China takes 5-7 days to get to my city, Changchun...I did NOT expect this delay, after waiting so patiently for the last two weeks to receive this document...now, a delay, but there MUST be a positive that comes from this setback, so to speak...And there was!

Tonight, I had dinner with the CEO of Beidawei (By the Way) English Teaching School here in Changchun...I was introduced to this gentleman, Mr. Luis Ling, through an English teacher, who I asked "if" they have a foreign exchange program in place...which they do not at this time...So, ol tommy boy got his thoughts together, focusing on the positive and forgetting the "woe is me" for a moment, and put together a proposal whereby students who attend this prestigious school for ESL, and the next thing I know, my "idea" was born into reality...I proposed to this gentleman, the prospects of having his English speaking students (high school age) come to Seattle this summer and visit our Seattle Asian community and experience firsthand the culture of Asian-Americans living in the United States...Little did I realize that Mr. Ling would be enthralled with the concept and idea to have his students and chaperones participate in such a tremendous learning environment...I had proposed that students would visit the UW, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific and Northwest University, Kirkland, and see firsthand what a US campus life environment would be like...These students are the "creme de la" crop of the school, and are so intelligent and well spoken in our language, that they would surely qualify for ANY and ALL universities, BUT, would NOT know how to prepare (SATs) for applications and enrollment without having the firsthand exposure to the campuses of varied numbers of students...I am so excited that this idea was so well received by Mr. Ling and the English teacher...Next order of business will be contacting the people I know at the respective universities and asking them for a "day" of exchange for these student visitors and embracing their desire to apply to a large University, Medium-size, and small sized University, shucks I might even "throw" in BCC, with the large number of Asian students attending there, it would be a great complement to the aforementioned institutions...Anyway, I'm on "it", and proceeding forward with establishing initial contacts in the Seattle Asian community and listening to their ideas and thoughts on "receiving" these gifted students...We're talking about 16-20 students, together with parent chaperones and two administrators...Stay tooned on this one, as I am excited as all get out to facilitate such an exchange program of such magnitude...Listen closely: the MORE we exchange our culture to China, the more we will learn from them and they from us...without "preaching" anything...Children have wonderful minds when it comes to "seeing and believing" new elements of learning, vis a vis, an American university of higher learning...Oh I am so excited to be a part of this in a small way, trust me...World Peace only happens through cultural enlightenment and exchange of friendship and kindness...We SET THE EXAMPLE in the world for this measure, and to be a small part of such an epic program...Shucks, I'm stoked beyond words of descriptive delight...Will let you know how it all evolves...I am truly blessed to have this opportunity through basketball to once again "bridge" cultures...Wow...Best to all, and hope everyone is healthy and WARMer than moi...Coach tom
January 16, 2008...Coldchun City, China...Okay, I've been harpin on the fact that there's cold and then there's C O L D...and add an "E R" to this word and you get the chilling visual...The citizens of this city have it down pat...Let's say this: PETA followers would have a hard time wearing non-fur coats under these conditions...I mean really, when you go back a few thousand years, and even a couple of hundred with Native Americans, there was a reason they wore WARM PELTS to keep from freezing in their steps... My nose serves as an able "thermometer" as sorts, and when I have wandered away from the hotel outside to take a Taxi during the DAY, my nose starts to wiggle and waggle...Waggle? A waggle by nostril definition is a motion that doesn't go left to right, but rather the septum raises up on its own as if to telepathically tell me: "What? Are you nuts? YOU shouldn't be out in these elements with the "jet intakes" you have...you trying to freeze me off your face?"...And then I hustle into the cab and began a quick defrost as we speed away...That's the meteorological report of the last week here...One reminder to anyone who comes North of Beijing: bring your Thermals, upper and lower, and some thick wool socks, not that it matters but psychologically you feel like you're protecting yourself a lil bit...

Okay, here is my installment on "Items that one should not leave out of their suitcase when visiting China..."...

Late Summer Visit: Drs. Pepto and Bismol, the "best friends" money can buy as your digestive system "adjusts" to the cuisine...Claritin D or just plain ol Claritin; this will stabilize the affects of smog and dust in the air when you're outside for an extended time (sightseeing, etc.)...Altoids...and the new product, Altoids Gum...Man, those two items were best "pals" for me during my initial stay and also carried me through "dry" nights during these winter months when I chose to keep the heat off in my room (it was soooo dry, I'd wake up like I'd been hiking in the Mojave Desert)...Vitamins C, E, B-12 Complex...even though the Fruits available here are unbelievably delicious, it's not a bad idea to bring your own vitamin supplements...Tissues, hand type variety...they come in sooooo handy when you least suspect they would...small bottle Hand Sanitizers...these are Man's Best Friend in this country...when you visit a hotel restroom or airport restroom and read a sign by the sink that says to "Conserve Water" and then you watch grown men WALK RIGHT OUT of the restroom, well, it's just nice to know that you can wash AND clean your hands with the sanitizers...Bring lots of patience when it comes to trying to get somewhere and your hotel key doesn't seem to "register" with the Taxi drivers...how to avoid "problems?"...Have the Concierge write down on the Hotel Stationery in Chinese the place(s) you wish to visit and then on the backside of the paper, the name and address of the hotel WITH THE PHONE NUMBER...I have found that the Concierges' in most of the Hotels where we stayed as a team during the season, most helpful, and trust me, the Chinese are true professionals when it comes to Service...The Staff here at the RedBuds Hotel are wonderfully trained and continually amaze me with their customer service applications...Case in point: my Anta Team Bag was damaged recently by the airline, unbeknownst to me until I got back to the hotel, and now I need to have it repaired and I completely forgot about it...So, today I took it downstairs, showed the Bellmen and Concierge personnel my dilemma, and immediately said they could repair it...I was so happy to hear that, one, because I really like the bag (wheels on the bottom), and two, it was FREE and the best bag I owned at the time...broke down and bought an unbelievable carryon like Airline Crews have for a GREAT PRICE at one of the largest Marts for International Business Exports...But, now that I'm leaving China, I need to get this bag fixed, and they're taking care of it...Light sweaters in the Spring evenings will keep your Polo shirts warm to your body, as it does cool down in the evening in early Spring...Summer? Forget about it! It's just plain HOT and SWEATY time for 3 and a half months...in Beijing that is...maybe longer...Bring a small Chinese/English Dictionary to help you with simple word identifications...don't overpack...in fact, go look in your closet right now, or even the clothes your wearing and I would wager a bet that the label says "Made in China" on probably 90% of your clothes...jackets...hats and tennis shoes...all that means is this: you can find at a very reasonable price, the same clothes you buy at home, HERE...and their brand new...So, pack light, expect to spend around $200 on some nice shirts and other items...Visa is accepted at most Malls here, but there are some significant amount of stores that only accept Yuan, the Chinese currency...By the way, if you're planning on coming over here, I'd recommend you "change" your budget dollars NOW into Chinese Yuan, as it is dropping daily...When I came here in September, the Dollar was equivalent to almost 7.50 Yuan...today it was 7.17!! I get the feeling it will drop even more as the Olympics approach this summer...just a suggestion...There are some other items I'd recommend you bring for the most part, but I'm at a blank right now, as the "cold" has sneaked into my room and I'm shivering, which means that I have to turn on the "blast furnace" for 5 mins., drink a bottle of water and then turn it off...Okay, hope this helps a lil bit...take care, safe travels, and best wishes to all in your daily lives, I miss the NW very much and my Family and Friends even more...Coach tom
January 13, 2008...Sunday night apre' All Star game...somewhere outside Urumqui, Northeast China...

The CBA did a great job to promote their event prior to tipoff, having players from both teams visit elderly people, schools and I believe a hospital as well...They had their "Rookie Game" last night, which wasn't televised, and then their main event tonight...The pregame ceremonies were well planned and a great effort was made by all to put on a "show"...Unfortunately, the players in the Main Event reminded me of pickup basketball by Sunday hoopers, lots of offense and Ole' defense by bothteams...It was the kind of game that if you had a sleeping disorder, no meds were needed, just watch the game and you would see how this particular game reminded you of a level "yo=yo" going up and down the court...

Score? Let's see, when I woke up in the 4th Qtr., DT's team was leading by 5 with 45 seconds to play, and ended up winning by same margin I believe...DT scored 16 points in the first half on array of shots, one coming from Downtown Freddie Brown "zone", like about a 45' uncontested jumper...this was his first activity since last Sunday, and his first "sweat" stepping on the floor after being so ill during the week with the flu...He is scheduled to drive to the Muslim city, Urumqui, not far from this All Star city, and play for the #2 seeded team in the playoffs...I wish him well...He started in this game and I think finished with over 20 points, but I was zonked out when he left in the 2nd Qtr...Only 3 Americans from other teams were added to this All Star event, and having DT being on it in his first season is quite an accomplishment...He's going to have to work very very hard when he returns to the States in preparation for an NBA gig...He has the strength and body type to make a positive impression, only lacking experience vs. top athletic competition to make an "imprint" at this point...We talked about how important it is to continue to develop his upper body strength and conditioning regimen, so he can be successful in the tryout process...He's a fierce competitor and I'm biggest supporter for anything he attempts with the game...He's very "young" in athletic competitions, having only started playing when he was 16 years old...Never was on an AAU team, didn't go through the fanfare and "worship" period of being a "phenom" in high school, so all of the "late" rewards to date have been a result of his commitment to improve his overall skills and as he says: "just get better every time out, Coach..."...

Power Outage in Coldchun today...not once TWICE...Hmmm, I'll say this, as cold as it is outside, and the number of people who have electric heat, there could be some new "offspring" come this summer...This morning the power went out for about 25 mins. unexpectedly, and I was watching a movie on HBO when that happened, hoping that I could see the end of Xmen...Never saw that flick before, it was pretty good. when it came back on for the last 20 mins...Then tonight, another blackout, just in case there were those who "didn't" experience the first one during the day...this one lasted about 40 mins., and again I was in my room watching Seven Years in Tibet with Brad Pitt and a wonderful host of actors supporting his role...This movie was an epic event to behold, presenting the awful incursion/experience of this peaceful sovereignty, Tibet, unlike any stories I was aware of before I came to Changchun...My friend, Lee, in Happy Valley, Clackamas, has been a tremendous supporter of these people's cause, and is a dear friend to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama...Who by the way, is making an appearance in the NW, Puget Sound to be exact, sometime in April, I believe...Lee hopes to introduce me to HH and that would be a true highlight in my life, trust me...Okay, enuff said and done here...I'm going to bed, finishing up my template for the Vladivostok clinic coming in a couple of weeks...I was hoping to be working with the Junior team here in Changchun, but everyone in the Jilin Tigers team has gone on vacation already, and the teams are out of town playing in some tournaments, so here I am, packed and rarin to go to Beijing and then Russia in two weeks...I leave for Beijing January 23rd and will be there 10 days before my trip to Russia...I have a appearance at a basketball academy there in Beijing the week after next, helping out a coach/friend of my father...There are suppose to be high school boys and girls who attend this school...Will blogit when I arrive and keep y'all posted...

Take care, drive safely, and best wishes to all...Coach tom
January 12, 2008...Changchun...

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a very interesting ex-pat by the name of Aaron A. Vessup...He is a distinguished gentleman from Southern California, whose life of education and life experiences has brought his "journey" here Jilin University, Changchun City, China...I met Aaron at our last home game, sitting directly behind our bench, and of course you know me, I just had to acknowledge him before the game got underway...We exchanged acquaintances after the game, giving him my name and "call me at the hotel Redbuds...", which he kindly did...So, today, we met at the lobby bar and visited for a good hour and a half, enjoying the pleasure of one another's company, sharing stories of our immediate experiences and past travels...You want to know how "small" the world is today? Get this: he has a home in San Marcos, Guatemala, overlooking the Atitlan Lake and village...Why is this significant? Only because I happened to have been in that very small lake village twice over the last 5 years, accompanying Lee Larson and his Family on a humanitarian visit, teaching local and extended lake village locals on how to teach basketball to children...Now, in a country of 3 billion people and a city of under 4 million, you have to wonder how this could ever happen today...Aaron is an Author, Teacher, Poet, Photographer, Philosopher and genuine kind human being...His travels and intrigue brought him to this province awhile back, and he hasn't left...He teaches college students at Jilin University the merits of debate and patiently "how" to think outside the box, when it comes to understanding life as they know it today in their city, province and country...By no means is he an anarchist or anti-model of all that is good and positive in this ever-changing world, especially on the cusps of the "new" China...He possesses the values and intellect to clearly understand culture and behavior, thus elevating him to a level of instruction that is both praiseworthy and developmental...He comes from an athletic background himself, having been a wrestler and track competitor in college, and more importantly a National Debate Finalist and Champion back in the day...Gosh, it was so fun and unique to have this experience with him, Folks, as you can only imagine...He is working on another manuscript AND photo album/narrative that will capture his observations and those of his students here in Changchun...He gave me a book he recently published, titled: "Songs for Confucious" (Poetry and Photography)...it is quite a compilation he has published here, and I hope to share it with you upon my return...It warms my heart dearly, to see educators here in China, providing a positive-constructive template for learning new skills and knowledge relating to one's world...and to think he has a home in San Marcos, Guatemala...wow...Okay, that's all for now...The CBA All Star game is tonight and I am hoping that it is televised so I can tell you how DaJuan Tate and Wong Bo performed in this annual event...Best wishes to all, safe travels, buckle up...Special note to my students: "May all your Wishes be Swishes..."...Coach tom
January 11, 2008...Coldchun City...about 20 degrees day time...10 'maybe' at night...

Now I know why "furry" animals hibernate during the winter...I think I probably would too if I had any mop on top these days...I mean really, how people are able to daily survive in this type of really cold, you know, the "type" where manmade cloth and half covered body leather, down coat, shoes, thermals DO NOT HOLD BACK the invitation of being outside in this environment...I swear, any "new" hairs that had any desire to regenerate are definitely "on ice" right now...

Went to the Winter Ice Sculpture Park in Changchun last week...It was really a work of art...and admirable too, when you consider this work wasn't done in a warm warehouse or garage, but rather constructed outside over a two to three week period...The ice forms of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and other Disney characters were really well done...I must say, the Chinese really know how to make impressions and professional displays in their public works...

This past week: rest rest and more rest was my menu "choice du jour" when all said and done...I was so exhausted from the last several weeks of cold, flu cough syndrome, due to all of our traveling in and out of Changchun, my body at this point on the "meter" was like "okay, Newell, one day we're in 10 degree weather, with an assistant coach coughing on you during the games, leaving "gel" on your backside hair, and then in 70 degree weather the next 3-4 days and back to Coldchun...give me a break..."...so you see where the end of the season couldn't have come at a better time, in terms of allowing my complete healing from within to begin and sustain itself in preparation for next month's Russian clinic in Vladivostok...My cough is 90% removed...my "jingle" in my step is back...I always have a "jingle", you know a song in my mindshare that gets me goin each new day, it's fun and I highly recommend it...As long as it's not "heavy metal"...I mean if you choose that, there's a good chance you'll "become" heavy metal, entangled on the highway somewhere from an accident...hope not...

Russian Update: got an email from our State Department's Attache' Office in Vladivostok, Russia, confirming the Visa Documents have finally been approved by the Minister of Sport and Education and a couple of other Ministry closets...I guess...Anyway, this event is turning into an exciting itinerary based upon the latest update from our State Department...I will be doing a 4 day coaches clinic, Feb. 4-8, then a visit to a secondary school outside Vladivostok, addressing a couple hundred kids about Proper Nutrition when playing sports, how to be successful when participating and also talking about making right decisions, off and on the field of one's activity, especially when parents aren't around...then on Feb. 9th I will be an invited speaker to an assembly of Sports Development Students at a Primoryti University, outside Vladivostok, and the topic of presentation will be developing "volunteerism in youth sports through training and certification programs, related to sports nutrition, youth sports injury awareness, and teaching participants first instead of coaching them initially...But the one affair I am most humbled and honored by is the invitation by our Consulate General in Vladivostok, who is having a hosted party for me and the Russian college coaches who will be participating in my clinic...I got goose bumps when I read this part...I mean, what better way to introduce diplomacy and improved relations than through sports training and exchange programs and THEN honoring the attendees...that's great stuff...I can hardly wait to meet the CG there..his support staff of Bridget and Dimitry have been so helpful in cooperating with the various entities there in Vladivostok to make this event happen...I am so blessed...Now, here's the tough part: once I get the Visa Letter/Invitation, I have to take a train from Changchun to Shenyang by train, about a 3 hour trip one way, visit the Russian Consulate's Office there, pay for the "stamp" that will be good ONLY for 10 days NO LONGER...otherwise ol tommyboy is in the "Gulag" writing messages and sending them to you guys in a bottle!! Hah!! Then I get back on the train and return to Changchun, leave the following day to Beijing for hopeful meetings regarding Head Coaching positions, and also making an appearance at Wang Fei's Basketball Academy...high school age players...looking forward to that visit before departing for Russia...

The trip home in February...I am making arrangements to return after the trip to Russia...then on February 18th, I plan on making a trip down south to LA, to visit our daughter Paige, who works for a design company there, and then on to San Diego to drop in on my Father, Coach Pete Newell...I have been able to speak to him throughout my stay here in China, and it has been a wonderful relief to hear his stories and accounts of Cal Football, college basketball and the NBA observations that he has...He is really excited about Yi, the Milwaukee Bucks Rookie who attended The Big Man's Camp when he was 16 and then again the following year...He is so proud of this young man's development, and I can see why: he's a natural when it comes to understanding the game, his footwork and his court demeanor...There should be more CBA players playing in the NBA today, but as long as the coaches misunderstand the template for teaching and developing players, it is going to a very slow process of entry, I'm afraid...

Okay, gotta run, now...it's late and I'm tired, goin to hit the sack...take care, have great Seahawk weekend watching the Hawks vs. the Pack, and I hope the Dawgs fair well vs. USC...drive safely, hug your kids, and kids hug your parents and tell them how much you love them for their love and support in all that you do...Coach tom
January 8, 2008...the Day After the season ended quietly...

Got some GREAT beauty sleep last night, this morning and a nap this afternoon...It's amazing after all these years when a season is abruptly "over", how the order and discipline of daily practices and here the novelty of "controlled" environment is no different in the psychosis of a coach without a practice, competition and playoff to prepare for anymore...There is such a remarkable void, it's hard to describe unless you're a player, coach and parent who experiences this phenomena themselves...I learned a long time ago from my Father, Coach Pete Newell, that is always important to sit down and reflect upon the season completed, reflecting upon positives and learning from the not-so-positives, which quite frankly are defined as: "shouldas...wouldas...couldas..."...once that is done then the visualization of preparing for another opportunity begins to slowly enter the daily thought process, allowing for one's mind to expand the knowledge learned from the many lessons of "yesterseason..."...

So, this means I now get to have "fun" again, sharing with you my humor, if you wish, on what is different between our cultures and how to prepare for a trip in the future to China...

Team Dinner:

I got a call while working on this blogit from Pancake, our translator, inviting me to the Team Dinner...now, you have to understand something about this culture...Pancake tells me the "best plans are no plans...the best schedule is NO schedule...", and Lordy let me tell you, after experiencing first hand the changes in schedules and meeting times, his call this afternoon was NO surprise...in fact, I thought he was calling because I was late for practice or a meeting!! Anyway, he invited me and DaJuan Tate and his wife to join in the celebration (?) of the season past...Number One: I have never had an end-of-the-season celebration when one finishes out of the Playoffs and 3 teams from last in a 16 team League...so I accepted and let me tell you this: the Chinese KNOW HOW to forget and move on from the "day(s)" before, let me tell you...I have NEVER in my basketball life experienced so much forgiveness, happiness and encouragement as I did at this dinner...The media was there, the Fans Support Group of Jilin was there (about 20 core people), myself, the team, the coaches, GM and Ownership Group...I was toasted and celebrated as the "old man" who came to Changchun and through many off court changes stayed and helped us learn many lessons..."...I gotta tell you, that humbled me more than any reward from any season previous in my basketball life as I was caught blindsided by their feelings...That's one thing I have learned daily: "don't put ANY expectations on reactions to your comments, suggestions or recommendations...", as the answer will NEVEDR follow your words...This one lesson I have learned well, off the court and MOST definitely on the court when I "suggested" a Timeout here and there...I never once suffered frustration as much as irritation this season, but then again, I am a "visitor" and the lessons I can teach to the Head Coach and the team are opportunities for all to excel in their professional lives as basketball players and coaches...The dinner: unbelievable...it was held at the Hotel I am staying in right now, The RedBuds Hotel in Changchun City...Where to begin on the entree's...Let's put it this way: there were 9 dishes and NOT ONE WAS BAD...plus my chopsticks (plastic) never once lost a drop...meaning I have taken the bio mechanics of using these utensils to another level...I know this, because I hear the table discussing how a "lefthander", American uses these sticks "so well and freely..."...Pancake then revealed to them that I went to school in Hawaii many years ago and "learned" there, plus coaching in Korea and Japan helped my "dexterity"...let's put it this way: no way will I ever "starve" because of chopsticks at the table!!! The mood was festive, forgiving as aforementioned, but above all it was a wonderful example of "praising" the players for their efforts and courage...I agree with that surmise, as I truly believe the players played to their level of experience and skill, unfortunately their skills were NOT at the level of their competitions...I was asked later in the evening by both the Head Coach and Owner, Mr. Qu, to come back next season, as there will be many changes and they appreciated what I brought to the team...I told them both that I was going to interview with two teams for a Head Coach job and that I would call and let them know what's on the table, that I wouldn't mind being back to help take the Jilin Northeast Tigers to the "next" level in '08-'09...stay tooned...

Things you WON'T see very much of in China:

1) Planes flying overhead in most cities in China, with the exception of Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong (haven't been there but would imagine there are a number of Boeings and Airbuses in airspace hovering Hong Kong on takeoffs and landings...)...I mean, I have YET to see any military aircraft flying overhead or even hearing a "fast" supersonic jet leaving a jet stream in its tail...

2) Birds...I know that sounds strange, but I mentioned in earlier blogits, that I was astonished to NOT see birds in most of the cities we visited when playing...and China has a lot of "Pear Trees", let me tell you...Not sure why of this phenomena, but it's real...

3) Hearses...Mortuaries...and Funeral Processions...now this is understandable, given the vast cultural differences in acknowledging life and "releasing" one's soul to the afterlife through cremation...

4) Pet stores...hmmm, that is A surprise to me here in Changchun, as I would think there would be more Pet Stores than restaurants that specialize in "Canine Cuisine"...I know, I know, but this is considered a "delicacy" in China...I haven't...I won't...and Lord help me if someone tries to "sneak" a morsel of such on my plate someday...

5) Sit Down Commodes...in public restrooms...now THAT is a "shock" to the natural digestive system when you are on a bus and the courtesy "pit" stop for occupants treats you to this cultural SHOCK...needless to say, on LONG road trips, I skipped eating anything that needed digesting, thus allowing me the dignity of standing upright to relieve myself...Whew, this took way too long to describe in a "G Rating" kind of way...

6) Paper Towels in public restrooms...always advisable to "bring" your own tissues to dry your hands after washing...it amazes me when I walk into a Men's Room and there are signs that "encourage" water conservation, thus meaning that most Nationals here, of the male gender, do NOT wash their hands...I probably "spent" a whole lotta Yuan on small package tissues for my "Coach's Bag"...I also was very careful NOT to shake hands and if I did, the "hand sanitizers" from Rite-Aide was applied soon after...

7) Tall Glasses in Restaurants...the glasses for water, juice and soda pop (I don't drink that stuff) are perfect for a Junior-age patron...I've never exercised more in my life eating lunch or dinner to refill my small glass with juice...

8) Ambulances...they're out there I swear, but I've only seen a half dozen on the streets during the day over the last 4 months...go figure...I know this though, the way pedestrians cross the street and the way the Taxis "control" the streets of ANY and all city streets in China, there's not a high demand at this time...

9) In city Gas Stations...visualize this: a very very large city ANYWHERE in China, and NOT seeing a gas station within 5 MILES either direction!! Yes, this is true...They are usually located close to the freeways BEFORE the toll roads (you must pay to travel on any major thorough fare outside the city proper...Can YOU imagine THAT planning and action in the Puget Sound? I can't for the life of me...Anyway, I don't know "when" and where the thousands of automobiles go for gas in this city and others, as it boggles the mind that you would see more KFCs and McDonalds than you would Petrol locations...thus said, take a Taxi, forget about "renting" a car in China...

10) Grocery Stores...forget about it...there are WalMarts and the Mom and Pop stores that are present all over Changchun (2 WalMarts) and hundreds of the others...if you have money (Yuan), then one shops at WalMart...they have ALL the grocery items that AREN'T in the USA stores...and let me tell you, these stores are PACKED...progress will diminish the "value" of neighborhood stores over the next 10 years, I believe...what a shame...

Okay, Part III of my "reflections" on this culture begins again tomorrow...hope this helps all understand the VAST cultural differences between major powers...

Saw where the Huskies went down to the wire at Hec Ed vs. Wazzu, only to lose...Mark this: Lo Romar WILL pull off a couple of upsets this season in the Pac 10 that will bring extreme parity in the League by the end of the season...Shucks, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Dawgs UPSET the Cougs IN Pullman...One other note: I am so happy that the UW has FINALLY acknowledged the legendary contributor to the modern game of basketball in naming the practice court at the UW after Coach Marv Harshman...He is one of the true contributors to the modern game and this is qualified by my Father, Coach Pete Newell, who holds Marv in the HIGHEST ESTEEM...I remember back in the day, when Marv was two years removed from the game holding a "kids" camp at the WAC and he was in a Handball Court there teaching 10 year olds how to pass!! If that isn't what a contributor to the game is, I don't know what is...Take care, safe travels...Coach tom
January 6, 2008...the season is ovah...PERIOD!

We lost our last home game in typical fashion...down by 20, only to come back within 7 and 9 mins. to play WITH THE BALL in our half court...we proceeded to "open" our infamous "CBA Bakery" and served up 3 consecutive turnovers that lead to the opponents' 7 straight points and it was over...and this was our last game of the season at home...We have some wonderful fans here in Changchun City, faithful and loyal to the end, as we had close to 3,000 show up in our arena that holds 4,000 plus...Our effort was undermanned by the absence of DaJuan Tate, our best player, who sat out with flu...he tried to play, but was soon sitting where he belonged: on the sidelines...He had a great year, one of the top 3 scorers in the League at around 27 per game...His best games are ahead of him, I'm sure...It's immaterial to describe this outcome as we were DOA several weeks ago and were only kept alive by pride and effort to finish the season...

This past week in the new year was not what I would call memorable in my basketball life, but then again, most people who know me would consider "my world" a little different by global standards...The game is a simple contest that requires aptitude, attitude and a whole lot of beatitudes...Every country that I have been blessed to share the game with as a former European player after college to the present day of teaching and coaching through camps and clinics, one thing stands out significantly: there are a lot of young participants and players who are in this world activity, and the major problem is the level of teaching that DOESN'T complement the spirit and commitment their teams provide them in practices and competitions...Now you know why FamilySportsLifeToday.com is committed to helping all levels of organized youth sports, their parents and especially their coaches, volunteers and hired coaches...Our future Podcasts and my submissions will hopefully reflect upon the "need" for annual training modules to help teach coaches how to teach kids...stay "tuned"...

My itinerary over the next four weeks has me preparing for my college coaches clinic in Valdivostok, Russia...our State Department in conjunction with the invitation of the Minister of Sport and Education in Moscow, has requested my presentation to the coaches in Vladivostok, Russia, Feb. 5-12...I am really excited for this opportunity to visit another foreign country and share my basketball life experiences with these coaches for the week...We'll cover basketball philosophy, basketball psychology and the FUNinthementals of teaching the game to their players...Before I depart from Beijing for Vladivostok, I will be in Changchun for two weeks, waiting for my Russian Visa Stamp which I will have to secure with a trip by train to Shenyang, where a Russian Consulate's office is located...that will be a "book and a half trip" (6 hours round trip)...Evelyn Wood was never an option growing up...While visiting Beijing, I hope to visit a couple of museums and perhaps an interview or two for a couple of jobs that supposedly are going to be available in the CBA next season...I most definitely would come back to coach in China...there's too much work to "pass on" in just one season, I'm afraid, plus "if" the city is tad bit warmer than Coldchun City...also, I will be making an appearance at a well known basketball academy in Beijing for high school boys and girls...I know, I know, don't I EVER stop teaching? No...my Father, Coach Pete Newell taught me that work ethic a long long time ago...it's "my" DNA for sure...

Stay along some more for my "Magical Mystical Tour..."...Best to all, safe travels... Coach tom
January 3, 2008 soaring above 20,000 feet to another Chinese City, Guanzhou, and their local team...our last road trip for the season, and one game to go...at home on Sunday...

Please please forgive me for not being "wired" the last several days on this weblog, as I truly was in a "moody blues" type of funk over my misplaced power cord for the laptop, leaving me with a weak battery (where's the "Bunny" when you need POWER??) and that lasted about as long as Papa Murphy's Pizza in the oven...I finally figured out I left it in the last hotel we we're in...having left it in the room on the desktop outlet...the hotel is sending it to me but I couldn't wait, so I went and picked up a new power cord. and now life is good again: "I'm on..."...So, where to begin? First off, Happy New ALL Year to my Family, Friends, Students, their Parents, Coaches and Officials in Youth Sports today...New Year's in China is a "quiet" celebration, quite distinguishable and separated from the normal universal observance of 95% of countries...There were no firecrackers, fireworks, loud, boisterous, alcohol-induced behavior on the eve of New Year's...My evening began with Larry Stone, Seattle area resident who was visiting for 5 days and taking in the CBA atmosphere that produced two lottery picks and starters in the NBA today...we were accompanied by Babacar Camara, DT and his wife, Rah-Rah...We had a wonderful Buffet-style dinner with a Readymade Chef behind the grill, ready to serve noodles and pasta to any patron wishing something "readymade"...Man oh man, were the Lamb Chops, Scallop Potatoes and Squash an Epicurian delight...Now you're asking me where does one indulge in such a feast (oh yes, an Australian Shirazz to complement my palate's delight)? The ShangraLa Hotel in Coldchun...Then the "next" entree' I chose from was a fresh turkey *** that only Moms and Grandmas "know" how to make the right way during the Holidays...How good was it? I didn't even WANT gravy to go with it...now this "bird" was prepared better than the T Day soaked in wine sauce without feathers prepared bird that we had a while back...To top it off they had a fountain of decdent rich chocolate three tiers high to cover one's vanilla ice cream...IT DID!!

Then after dinner, the fellas and Rah-Rah wanted me to join them at a club in town that is called The Mayflower...I'll put it this way, "my guy" CBerr (former Center, Steve Castleberry) had it right the one time he went there: "a lot of lasers, a lot of smoke, a number of males whose pheromones presented a malordorous fallout anytime they walked by...'' ...all I could think of was that as soon as the clock struck 12, my sneakers were turning into slippers and this cowboy was headin for the barn...Afterall, we did have an early practice the next day and even though we're out of the playoffs, both American players have remained a model of social discipline in getting their rest and being ready for practice on off game days...I would surmise that our two Americans may be the best complement to their Chinese teammates as they have connected well with them, the coaches and of course the Fans and community...I am really proud to speak of them glowingly, especially when I've heard horror stories about other players who have had troubles with their teammates, coaches and administration...This organization has been totally professional, every step of the way, including the owner, Mr. Qu...I have no regrets whatsoever about the early "awe and shock" that hit me and the team when the change was made, more surprised and disappointed in the process of elimination (SunJun) and the addition (asked to stay on as the top assistant to new Head Coach)...I survived, and even though the season as a team was a disappointment, I have learned many new lessons on the cultural differences in teaching the game here in China than I ever would have known without getting my "feet" wet this go around...

Update on last 4 games: lost two on road before Xmas...won one at home day before New Year's Eve, which was our first win in 7 games...whew...then lost a thriller last night by 1...we missed a FT with 5 seconds left in regulation that would have put us into OT...It was by far the BEST EFFORT at both ends of the court for 4 quarters all season...I felt bad for the players afterwards, because they truly did leave it all on the floor this night...Shucks, even Tiger, our backup 2 Guard PLAYED man to man defense in the "new" Year!!! So, we have one more tomorrow night, then home for Sunday's finale, and meetings with organization thereafter, then off to Beijing to be a guest coach at a very famous basketball academy for high school boys and girls, directed by Wang Fei, former National Men's Coach of China and also a famous former CBA player in his own right...After that assignment is completed, Vladivostok, Russia beckons me for the college coaches clinic that I will be directing in conjunction with our State Department and the Minister of Sport and Education in Russia...And finally back to the good ol RED WHITE and BLUE, Family, friends and students, once again doing what I love most: teaching kids how to play the game the right way...

Take care, hope everyone had a safe New Year, and let's believe that a couple of miracles will happen in 2008: the Sonics go nowhere far from the Puget Sound; the Huskies surprise the Pac 10; Coach Willingham is vindicated with a great season in the Fall and my students hard work on the court in the offseason allows them continued success with their respective teams...Now THAT would make me a Happy NEWell Year indeed!! God Bless, safe travels, and again, those kids who have their licenses now, slow down, don't be in hurry anywhere on or off the court, as you are only late when you don't reach your destination SAFELY...much love, Coach tom Less I forget, Larry Stone left this morning for Beijing and then on to Seattle, having enjoyed himself immensely while here in Coldchun City...It was GREAT to have a NW friend visit and bring me up to speed on the sports happenings in our wonderful city...

December 22, 2007...Saturday afternoon...day after another loss...when we shoulda, coulda and woulda won...but during this Holiday weekend, I'm not about to go into THAT...No, I've decided to give you a little Christmas Cheer from Coldchun City, China...

This is a "jingle" I came up with to describe life on the streets here in Changchun...

Jingle Honks

Jingle honks jingle honks jingle all the way...oh what fun it is to sprint through an open 4 wide lanes...hey...jingle honks jingle honks jingle all the way...oh what fun it is today to avoid another car...hey...Dashing through the lanes, on my way across the street...looking left and right, scared beyond all fright...All the cars and Taxis, angle for a lane, never minding walkers whose life is in their wheels, that makes you want to scream ....ohhhh jingle honks jingle honks jingle all the way...oh what fun it is to sprint in a stagger run of cars...hey...jingle honks jingle honks jingle all the way....

Here is my Christmas Wish to all of my basketball Family in North America, Belgium, West Indies, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Belgrade, Canada, Guatemala and China, I truly wish each of you and your Families the warmest and most caring time together this Holiday Season..one that allows reflection and thankfulness for all the many blessings of the previous year in your Family sports life and personal lives...I know that there are those who have suffered the loss of a Family member and/or relative, experienced hardships that are private and sensitive, but through all of your adversity, the most important reflection is that you have each other in your lives today, and that this moment of warm gathering togetherness, is not "wrapped" nor is it consumed, but rather is a "Spiritual" bond that hopefully allows the healing to continue and you may rejoice in the magic of life...God Bless all, safe travels and I sincerely wish each and everyone one of you a Happy New ALL Year...You all have given me so much of your time and kindness in supporting the vision of what FamilySportslifetoday.com wishes to share with you... Thank you...Sincerely, Coach tom...and my "wish" for a Stat sheet may be fulfilled...

Less I forget: we travel on Christmas as the looooooonnnnnnnng road beckons our "choir" for a visit to another Chinese city...I hope to blog to you all on Christmas Eve with words that will make you chuckle and shake your head, remembering that I may be in a strange land and going through an interesting basketball experience, but I still have my sense of humor intact, albeit a "lil different" than most...hah!!!

December 20, 2007...Thursday night...15 Degrees outside...can anyone besides Polar Bears, know the difference between 15-25 Degrees? I'm telling you it's so cold here icicles form on runny noses if you're outside more than 5 minutes...

The Game last night: The Grinch didn't make an appearance per se, nor did he steal anything, we just left the "front door" open again and got beat by a team we defeated a month ago...which means, either the other team got better...OR...we have regressed...the latter, I'm afraid...Once again our "troops" forgot to battle and while the opponent demonstrated skill and verve in our home...Let's put it this way, the game was actually worse than my cough and cold (the nasaliclles melted in the first 2 mins.)...We had plays where a player did a nice crossover from right to left, took a couple of dribbles and then picked the ball up for a moment, and proceeded to dribble again, only to be "given up" to the Officials for his infraction by our fans who gasped in disbelief and allowed the Official to inhale enough air to exhale this infraction...When that happened, I knew immediately we were in for a long night...actually it was looooonnnnnnger than any of us wished: 4 Qtrs...Now I know you think I'm being negative and "down" on our team, but actually what I'm learning here each day and every competition is that we are very unskilled in most positions, beginning with our Point positions, as we continually give up position in the halfcourt allowing the opponents' lead guard to enter the wings with a pass or dribble entry...Probably, for me, the most vulnerable of any offense is an opponent's lead guard going where he wants with the ball...That is when you see coaches on any sideline in organized basketball scratching their heads, when in fact, it's the beginning of a migraine headache...So the remedy most coaches seek is a "timeout" where they can vent their irritations with the Lead Guard and ask the simple question: "Do you think there's a possibility that you MIGHT get up on the ball sometime tonight before you catch a cold on the bench...?"...or something to that effect...I think I told y'all once before I don't look at the score upon leaving the court in a loss, old habits never die...basically taking the approach I'd rather "take a picture" of our players countenance to see whether or not they really were affected by the loss...Enough of our game...Tis YOUR Season to be jolly...fa la la la la la la la la la la...Still waiting for a Stat Sheet...

Okay, so I was very happy on Tuesday night to find out that my gifts home to family and friends have arrived safely and still waiting to hear if the others made it as well...It's not cheap to ship from China as they more than make up for NOT charging in some areas of transportation (Taxis, Buses and Trains) by imposing STRONG fees on International shipping of small to medium boxes...

Here's hoping all in the Northwest, Family, friends, coaches, players, parents, Officials and anyone who reads our blogits to have a wonderful Holiday Season, one filled with many blessings and safe travels throughout the Happy New ALL Year...I just confirmed my clinic in early February to Vladivostok, Russia, where I've been invited to lead a coaches clinic, representing our game to college and high school coaches in that Province of the Eastern seaboard of Russia...Our State Department sent me an Official invitation that was initiated by the Ministry of Education and Sports in Moscow, who in turn received the request from the Vladivostok Basketball Federation requesting my visit...This would NOT be possible if The Larson Legacy, lead by Mr. Lee Larson, himself, of Oregon, did not sponsor this endeavor from the roundtrip flight, and visa fees that Russia charges for any and all foreign visitors...My host, the VBF, will provide the hotel accomodations, hopefully NOT the first hotel we stayed in back in October when our team was playing in a tournament there, and I do remember blogitting about that experience as well...Anyway, kudos to Lee and his non-profit organization for making this happen...I received a very kind email from our State Department's Attache' in Vladivostok, thanking me and The Larson Legacy for our efforts to help this program happen...I've been working on the program syllabus and trying to simplify all of the drills for skills and presentation templates that we will introduce over the 5 days of the clinic...Lee is a former Clackamas Girls Basketball Association coach whom I met several years ago when I was coaching in the WNBA with the now defunct Portland Fire...His model of leadership and keeping drills fun for the kids has been an inspiration to me to this day...He is one of the very very FEW volunteer coaches that I've ever met in my basketball life that "gets it", meaning he KNOWS it's about the kids, not winning at all costs but making the sure the participants have fun in practice LEARNING new drills and also not worrying about the outcome of game as opposed to "did you have fun playing?", questions...His daughter improved from the level of her early experiences with her Dad coaching, to play Freshman basketball in High School one year and then lose interest because it wasn't fun anymore...I have accompanied Lee on a couple of humanitarian trips to Guatemala, making visits to Guatemala City and the Northern Highlands of San Marcos, which is located on a beautiful lake known as Lake Atitlan...Anyway, I have that to keep me positive at this time and of course basketball-busy as wellwith our remaining games...I also will be a guest coach at a camp in Beijing mid January...This came about from an invitation by one of China's most respected former players and fomer National Coach, Wang Fei...He is a GREAT teacher and one of the best coaches I've had the pleasure of meeting in China and the world of basketball in general...He understands the importance of player development, strength and conditioning programs and proper nutrition...his current team Guandong has only been in the CBA for two years, and this is his first season with them and he's done an incredible job to date...His team plays with confidence at both ends of the floor and their overall effort is 2nd to none..he's currently in the middle of the pack and has a chance to surprise everyone and make the playoffs...Good for him and his team...

On another note of personal interest: I am very saddened by the abrupt resignation of my close friend Todd Turner, Athletics Director at the University of Washington...Todd and our families go back over 28 years now, and first met in Charlottesville, Virginia when he was an Associate Athletic Director...His integrity, loyalty and vision for doing things the right way, helped the UW regain the respect and admiration from his colleagues and peers within the infrastructure of the NCAA...He truly loved the campus life environment of the UW complex, and even more so the Student "Dawg" spirit that followed most of the non-revenue sports of intercollegiate athletics at the University...His hardest decision was not renewing Coach June Daugherty's contract last Spring, but he felt that it was time to take the program "up" a notch, and made the decision to bring in Tia Jackson who will in time do very well as the Women's coach there...I wish Todd, Sara and their son, Drew, a fine student athlete himself at Seattle Prep, all the best in their lives, and know that the reunion he and Sara will have with their 3 daughters back East will "ease" the pain of leaving the Northwest...This much I know about today's state of affairs in college athletics: there are expectations that accompany most major universities today across the United States and with that come anticipated celebrations of Championships, but in reality, of the 320 or so Division I schools, not all can compete for a National Championship in Football, though many believe they can, or I should say Alumni organizations hold the belief that they should...I hope that the model of respectability and stability that Todd and his professional Staff put into place over the last 3 years will continue to evolve towards that elusive expectation on the gridiron...Thanks TTodd for a job well done...

We play again tomorrow night against another team we had success with on the road a month ago...Any predictions on my part? Let me put it this way: we're between a rock and hard place, the rock being our arena (the oldest in the CBA with Asbestos insulation) and the "hard place" being the opponent who is in 5th place out of 16 teams and wanting to improve their standing after leaving Changchun with a victory...When a team is eliminated from the playoffs, and you have several games left on your schedule, you try to keep the players positive and focused on being professional in their approach towards preparation and application (competitions), as they ALL are playing for the future: theirs to gain a new contract with the current team or impress another team to consider them for their rosters next season...My last blog I mentioned how important it was for the players to rededicate themselves and "play this season out and finish on a positive note..."...we'll see...The press has been less than kind towards the Head Coach Gao and Mr. Jiang, the General Manager who came in one week before the season started..along with Coach Gao...Happy last minute shopping to all those Fathers out there who dread the pressure of "finding" the right gift for their families...Take care, best wishes, will visit with you again...Coach tom
Oooops...and here I thought I sent this the night before...my bad...my friend, Bob Condotta, a true literary genius and advisor to me from the Seattle Times Sports, told me the most difficult aspect of writing a blog is keeping it "current and fresh..."...Just remember this Dear Friends, y'all like cold pizza and heatin up the Chili the next day right? Okay, so my current blogit is "day old"...Peace on Earth...Enjoy!

December 17, 2007...It's 8 days here before Christmas in China, and I gotta tell you, they are into the commercial "spirit" of Christmas very well...We have lights, trees (plastic, wire, steel, rubber, paper...you name it, they've got it...), Music of ALL the Christian songs BUT instrumental only...you know, you can only "go" so far with the English language...but it stops there, i'm afraid as the store owners and employees really don't understand the true "Spirit" Sante Nicholas and the Birth of Christ, yet if they did, they would celebrate it in a most caring and wonderful Spirit...The Olympics in Beijing this coming summer will either enhance or diminish the opportunity to, worship as a community...This past General Assembly of the People's Republic of China passed a measure (remember that political word: measure) allowing the their citizens the right to worship in a Church...BUT it must be approved by the respective authorities and government for times of service. observances and of course NO OPEN exhibition of faith in Public at anytime...By my "measurement" that's a tremendous step in the right direction as the country becomes more "wired" to the Free World..Think about it: we gave them Windows, they love it and also have pirated it on the streets of Beijing, but this small gift of mankind to his fellow species will have more to the ever-changing culture than I would have ever imagined BEFORE coming to China...Think about it: Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and Bill Gates are the pioneers in accessing one's modalities for learning...Wow...and China has carefully weighed in on this phenomena of Windows (great name, Bill) and VISTA and realize that as powerful as that software may be, WE can have better methods of control over our citizens than at any time before...Meaning, that every major city has at least ONE University that is specifically centered on Technological Research and Development...I happen to live in the largest demographic for such schools...One that has over 26.000 thousand students attending...plus a couple more with less enrollment...Wow, talk about "digressing" here, how'd I come up with Bell, Edison and Gates in the same sentence? I must be SICK!!! Back to hoops Hades...

Last night's game...let's see, HOW do I or HOW can I put that loss in perspective...Hmmm, let me think a minute............................................................Okay, here's how bad it is on the road: there are 3 things I don't like when coaching basketball and sitting on the bench: 1) losing because the effort was lacking...2) unforced turnovers and 3) when the freakin PA puts on Engleburt Humperdinck Elevator music with 9 mins. to play and we're down 30...Geeze Louise, I thought I was on the Columbia Tower Elevator forever goin to heaven listening to that music and having to sit and watch our inept play...We've had 4 blowout losses whereby the PA's put on the most numbthinking music score to keep the people entertained!! Can you believe they ACTUALLY stayed to the END, swaying to and fro in their seats to the music, oblivious to the action before them...I gotta remember that one: when you're beating an opponent baaaad, and it's the 4 Qtr. mid to late, it's important to entertain the masses with soft music so the guests are comfortable as they "ride" this one through to the end...What do we do at home when we're getting slammed? We play WALTZ music or Mitch Miller Big Band Music (Tie a Yellow Ribbon...)...Anyway, maybe I'm being to over dramatic here, but all the same, it's a really painful loss to me when the game devolves into an Elevator music fest and the only thing missing is Robert Goulet as the emcee...Where's my Bombay Sapphire? Oh yeah, I'm drinking Green Tea these days to help with my cold and cough...but a lil Elixir "should" also help now and then, no?

Okay, here is my Christmas Wish to all the little munchkins and "lynchpins" (those who don't like the Sonics and present ownership...)Kids, please reflect upon this past year, your successes and some failures inbetween, know that your parent(s) love, support and careful reminders of making right choices is what makes them so important and special in your life today...please give them a long long hug and the words of "thank you Mom...thank you Dad...thank you Grandma...thank you Grandpa, for your love and support and prayers that I do the right thing always and NOT something not-so-smart that would hurt me, you and my teammates after the fact...This, young friends is the GREATEST gift you can give your parents today: the gift of communication, wrapped with your words, sealed with your lips, for I guarantee you this, your loved ones will be astonishingly amazed that you would take the time to reflect and share with each of them your feelings...THEN, I wish for you to consider the following: visualizing some "genuine act of kindness" towards someone you don't know in your daily life, meaning when you go to the store, hold the door open for the person behind you...when you go to the store and observe an elderly person needing help with their groceries, help them freely and gladly, make them feel wonderful about the youth of today's world: "my oh my, they DO care about us..."...and then of course doing something special for your family or a family member that they would least expect YOU of all people to do...Now THAT in itself is a genuine ACT of KINDNESS...Merry Christmas and many many blessings and safe travels to you all in the New ALL Year, on to the Lynchpins: I share with you your ill thoughts whenever the subject of the Sonics moving to OKCity comes up, but I want you to seriously,consider this "genuine" act of kindness the next time you go to a Sonics game> thank the Ushers for their assistance, the Sonics staff members who have been so faithful to stay the course of the franchise at this time, and continue to support this young team, at several have homes here and we definitely would want them to always remember the GREAT spirit of the Northwest when their careers are completed...and lastly, along the same lines of being 'kind' towards the Sonics, please express your love and support with a "Happy You're Here Seattle Storm" card, they are a wonderful model for young aspiring participants who play basketball in Washington State...

Update on the Team upon return to Changchun last night...we had a team meeting following our return from the recent two game trip...We watched our first game vs. Shanghai Sharks, a memorable win in that we came from behind 14 points to win on the road, an improbable win...it was the first time we've WATCHED ourselves play AFTER the fact...I know, I know, hard to believe but it's his team and he wants to do his preparations from what he knows, obviously not from what he can learn...We'll see tomorrow night how this meeting and reflection turns out for us...fingers and toes crossed for this one...a little prayer too!! After the meeting was concluded at 8:30pm after one hour together...I then sat down alone with Coach Gao (Pancake, the translator also), and asked him if we could make an attainable end-of- season Team Goals list that would allow us to achieve some satisfaction for finishing on a positive...He was curious as to how that may be introduced, and I explained: "since we're basically eliminated from the playoffs we need to rededicate ourselves individually and as a team, meaning that we need to focus on each game by quarter, limiting the opponents to 25 points or less each quarter; reduce our "quarterly" turnovers to no more than 12 per game; that we as a TEAM will value possession of the ball when we have it in our hands and NOT try to create plays when the simple application calls for execution; that we will try to EACH get 3 rebounds or more when we have the opportunity to play; that we put aside our personal goals oriented towards "game bonuses" when we win, to know that winning as a Team is more important than a couple hundred dollars for "winning" individual statistics; and that as a Team everyone succeeds..."...He looked at me, then Pancake and nodded, not saying much but understanding clearly that this "thinking" was beyond anything he ever imagined or considered...Then there was a knock on his door, and Pancake opens it to allow the Owner, Mr. Qu, to enter...Unbeknownst to me at the time, there was this "summit" meeting and he arrived to speak with the Head Coach, and was surprised to see me, but happy also...He asked me to stay, and participate in this meeting if I wouldn't mind...I obliged and we had an hour and a half visit...I basically told him that we have players on this team who are only motivated by their minutes played and statistics that favor their contributions WHEN we win...Right now the team is in conflict (Chinese Team Members) because of their loyalty to the previous GM and former teammate of theirs, SunJun, the Larry Bird of Chinese basketball...Remember when 5 players chose to "strike" when the new GM replaced SunJun? Well, the first thing he did was change the contracts of the players and their bonus structure, setting off a negative reaction 3 days before our first game...So I explain that when a Team 'in season' has off court distractions, such as the media calling for the return of SunJun and the management group and Head Coach to be replaced, well their was a wound that never healed and when we win on occasion it is only a bandaide to the real deep wounds that began in October...I shared with him that this team has 4-5 players who can't play at this level now, and that IF changes aren't made in the offseason with some of them, then he (the Owner) will be having this discussion again with his coach and GM...He asked me what is the biggest problem? I said the chemistry is bad and was BEFORE he bought the rights to the team (an owner doesn't "own" the team, rather "owns" the rights to the team for X amount of years and then it returns to the local government administration)...He narrowed his eyes, and his face changed remarkably because he realized that this American coach that he brought in originally to coach the team was telling him what the Head Coach has been trying to explain to him all season: these players play for themselves NOT for the Team or the Fans...He asked me what could be done now to 'change' this problem, and I said that in America, an NBA Owner and GM would sit down with the team and address the issues face to face, telling what it is that he sees on the court and how bad the results have been at home...All the while Coach Gao is nodding to the translation by Pancake, and I'm thinking to myself, "wow, he understands the need for his presence and leadership at this time..."...He doesn't say anything to my suggestion, other than he was now going to "cancel" a team dinner that he was going to provide tonight for the team...In other words, I "connected" with him, and he was now going to address his "investment" Team at some point before tomorrow night's game...Coach Gao then followed up with the problems between a couple of players that's been ongoing ONCOURT and that talking to them both has not made any impact at all...The owner then pulls out his cellphone to share a text message that he had received from his wife on Sunday night WHILE watching our debacle on national television...Yikes!! Not only is he getting killed by the local Press but now HIS WIFE is giving him methane particles to hear and read!! Wow, now I know this is serious business...After that demonstration of "you think you've got it bad...", the meeting abruptly ends, Mr. Qu, hugs me goodbye and walks out the door...I look at Pancake, whose countenance is like a young man walking in on summit meeting between his Leader and mine...He said later he's never been in this type of translation/situation before...Told him he "done good", go to sleep! Coach Gao says goodnight to me also, and I take a Taxi back to my hotel (the Team stays in a different hotel than the Americans)...Fast forward to Tuesday night's practice: we arrive at our facility and instead of going to the weight room, we head for the dormitories that the players live in for 4-5 months at a time, and there we go into a meeting room...Hmmmm, I say to myself, maybe the GM is meeting with us, as Pancake has NO clue what is going on (he hears very little on the inside), and then a couple of minutes later, here walks in Mr. Qu and Mr. Jiang, GM...Let me tell you this: this Owner "gets it", really, he took the information from the coach and myself and of course the GM and slept on it and now wanted to address his Team...He was magnificent...he spoke from his heart and it was very positive-constructive towards putting the issues behind us and also the indifferences we may have towards one another and all the bad, negative publicity that has been written of late...All he pleaded for was an HONEST effort by all, for their self pride, their family's, the City of Changchun and of course the Fans...What an experience, mostly positive, believe me, please, to witness adversity firsthand in a foreign culture, being on a basketball Staff as an assistant, having a translator speak twice in all things related to everyday basketball life between Americans and the Chinese coaches and players, well it's been intriguing and exciting at the same time...The 'only' downers are two: missing my Family at Christmas time and our inability to play intelligent basketball this season...I'll blog tomorrow's outcome for you...take care...God Bless...Coach tom
December 16, 2007 on the road again for our 2nd of two road games...We play one of the top two teams this afternoon on TV, which means we may get a fair and regulated game decided by skill and execution...Right now, the morale of the team is at its lowest after a disappointing loss to Guandong on Friday night...That followed our loss to the Urumqui team at home on Wednesday...Our team is in total disarray as the "system" of bonuses for minutes played, points scored, rebounds, assists, blocks is all predicated upon our ability to win...We had a 6 point lead vs. Guandong on Friday night, early on in the 2nd quarter, only to succumb to our selfish, individual play on defense...My whole point of defense here with this team in the role that I currently represent is that we communicate and matchup with whomever is nearest the ball, forget about where YOUR MAN is, just matchup...Well we made a couple of substitutions and a couple of players decided when the opportunity arose to "score" on their own, our lead evaporated into a 16-2 run that has us reeling to halftime, down by 11 when it was over...We gave up in a matter of 6 mins. 5...yes 5 3 point shots because we didn't matchup and follow the pre game instructions on our TEAM responsibilities...It was so disappointing to have to sit there with a headache already, from a bad cold I picked up from one of our assistant coaches (and I'll tell you how THAT happen later), and to witness the selfish play of a couple of players whose roles are to execute the offense, NOT create 1 on 1 plays for themselves...The GM, whom I have grown to like alot, was so upset after the game, I even UNDERSTOOD his voice inflections and found myself nodding to every word he spoke to the team in our locker room...He was so discouraged by our selfishness and lack of overall effort when we faced adversity...Let me say this, when grown young men live together in a dormitory environment, coupled with contracts that are laced with individual achievements as well as team when we win, it makes for a less-than-trust team environment that soon erodes any principle elements of respect and trust for one another on and off the court...The subplots that exist on this team are real, folks, and yet when we do rarely pull off a win every other week, it seems that everything is honkeedoree, but in reality, it's just a bandaide to the wound that never heals...Parents, listen to me, please, don't get caught up into productivity with your sons and daughters experience with their teams, as it will become a burden if you ask the following questions: "Why don't you shoot more...? Why doesn't the coach run plays for you...? Why don't you play more...? Why aren't you playing such and such position...?"...All these questions are answers that MOST young aspiring Team Players can't answer because they don't know why, meaning that it will create more doubt in the young person's mind as he/she practices daily and suits up for the competitions...Is it easy for me to say this? Yes, indeed it is, because I'm older than most of the Fathers out there with kids playing middle school and high school basketball today...Your greatest reward and gift to your child in their activity is to always praise their efforts and discipline towards trying to be the best Team Player they can with the skills they are developing at this time...Sorry for the "preaching" here, but I am relearning lessons here, in a faraway land that evokes reflections and observations that must be shared with friends, coaches, players and families...

How I caught the "cold" Round II: Let me put it this way...If I didn't blowdry my hair, yes I do have hair on the "backside" of my scalp, Coach Chiang in the last game filled the "role" perfectly...He's had a bad bad two weeks of coughing, sneezing ect., and I have been trying to avoid him at all costs, except that he sits on the bench next to me and that makes me vulnerable as you can imagine...Anyway, at our last home game, he coughed incessantly, on the back of my head, so much so with velocity, that my hair was actually "blowin in the wind"!! He NEVER covered up once, just turned his head, leaned back and glory, I WAS THE CATCHER!! Needless to say, he's a team player as he passed it on to me and for the last 4 days my voice is many decibels removed from authority on helping the players to get up on the wings and push the ball to the sideline/baseline on dribble drives...I've been drinking so much green tea, I think I will be able to understand every Chinese word spoken to me at the end of this campaign...

Okay, now some good ol "Tomfucious" observations on how our players might get better for next season...First off, I think that if the Chinese players took 5 weeks of TAXI driving school in Changchun City, they would all improve their vision, anticipation and READ situations better than they do now...Meaning, that if you ever want to learn how to drive with the "flow" and then some in traffic everyday, watch how Taxi drivers maneuver and wind thru the most difficult traffic jams known to modern traffic in a large city...I mean it's a wonder of the driving world to sit and TRUST that this driver in a small compact car can NOT get hit, or hit another vehicle on his destination...Our players vision is poor in traffic on the court (one of the main reasons for our turnovers) and their anticipation of switches and THEN reading how they can now pass the ball inside to the Post Player who now has a small man guarding him is another example of poor READing while playing...Just a newell thought here on "how" these players may improve their vision...Visualize this: there are 3 lanes both ways on most of the busy streets, yet because of the thousands of TAXIS on the road, they stretch this number into 5 lanes!! Really...no ONE drives inbetween the dotted lines of a lane...This is the norm in most major cities in China...Now, couple that with bicycles, motorcycles, pedestrians jaywalking and STANDING STILL on these lines means that everyone driving a vehicle MUST shift their direction left to right or vice versa...I've yet to see a pedestrian hit crossing the street illegally here...Note to any Policeman from the US visiting China: You will have nightmares thinking about the number of tickets you could write to anyone at anytime for EVERY DOT (Dept.ofTrans.) violation you observe...When I cross the street "illegally", it's usually because the oncoming cars are 20 secs. from impact upon my crosswalk, and I have a pretty good "first, second, third and sprint step" across the street...So much for off court player development...

I will be blogging my Christmas wishes to everyone tomorrow, so I hope you'll come back and read some more...I gotta go now, my hack is reminding me I NEED some green tea...Best wishes and safe travels to all...Coach tom
December 11, 2007...Yunnan City, southern China...this is a remote area of China that is known as the "Carolina Tobacco Country of China..."...and let me tell you something this city is literally surrounded by farms, every kind of farm you can think of...It's beautiful, but you feel like you're encroaching upon this fertile valley when you look out of the tallest building in the city from the 10th floor of our hotel...Weather is in the 60's...no skeeters got me this time...I came prepared...I finally got "wise" and asked, Pancake, my translator: "is this a warm climate or cold climate we're headed towards...?"...he prepared me well...

On to the game...WOW...that's all I've got to say...WOW...DTate, 6'5" 2G/SF put on an offensive show last night that I've only seen one other time, and that was the 58 points Dale Ellis got vs. Milwuakee at Milwaukee back in the day ('88-'89 I think) in overtime...DTate's performance was beyond spectacular, he sensed early on that they could not match up on his quick first step and acceleration to basket on one dribble...he had 25 at halftime, and that was after he only played 18 of 24 mins. DTate drove and drove and twisted and turned and drew fouls and missed his 5 3's in game, meaning he ONLY missed one shot inside the 3pt. arc...now I don't know about you, but if I'm an NBA scout, GM or Player Personnel Director, I'm all over this kid, as he is demonstrating all too well that he's ready for his "one" shot at the next level...He's a nondescript small college player whose passion for the game supercedes his character and respect of others off the court...He is genuinely one of the best offensive players that I've ever worked with...His defense when he first showed up was an "ad" in the Lost and Found section of a newspaper...He has gotten better every week, and now KNOWS when he is out of position and makes poor judgment fouls: reaching in, off balance jabs at ball on dribbles and forgetting to block out first...BUT...he now looks at me and nods, knowing all too well that I was about to remind him where the "sun don't shine..."...He is by far the best American player in the CBA this season...he is a cross athletically between Wilkins of Seattle, Bowen of San Antone and Raja Bell of Phoenix...yeah, all those athletic combos, but none of the aforementioned have his offensive prowess and know-how to get to the basket and SCORE like DTate...WOW...You want to talk about class, here it is...He's at 68 points with 1:40 to go in game and I mention to our coach that it would be good to take him out of game now, out of respect to SunJun, the former GM who brought me and DTate over here 3 months ago, before he was deposed...You see, SunJun is the only player in the history of the CBA to score 70 points in a game and I really didn't think it was right for DaJuan to break that record when we were up 11 with little time left...The coach actually listened to me, glory, and subbed him out to the sidelines to the smiles and backslaps of his Chinese teammates and next to me on the bench..."D, I told Coach to take you out...out of respect to SunJun, because it's only right that he remains the legend of his country's league...you're only going to be here one season and then a distant memory, SunJun lives here and breathes Chinese basketball..."...DaJuan looked at me, nodded and said "coach, SunJun told me to break his record...I was going to, but then again thought about it and said to myself, nah, I don't need to do that...he gave me my first chance at Pro Ball here and I'm happy for the experience..."...Whew, I said to myself, I'd hate to think that he wanted to score 71 and didn't because I waxed sentimental over a National icon...Get this, our coach PUTS DTate BACK INTO GAME with 45 secs. to play because the other team cut the lead to 8 with that much time left...Tate winks at me and says, "Coach, don't worry, I ain't even goin to be near the ball..." And he wasn't...He now holds the All Time Single Game record for a Foreign Player in the CBA...When he was told that by the GM and Assistant Coach YoYo, DTate was ecstatic...Folks, I gotta tell you something, he's the kind of person, player and teammate you wish you could have your family around, teach and coach and be on his team, respectively...THAT GOOD...Okay, gotta get on 3 hour bus ride to the airport for another 6 hours on a plane, two connections, making it a 12 hours day again...But when you win again on the road, it's pure joy to travel...We now have 4 wins on the road, more than any team in the league presently, or so I'm told...we're two games out of the win column for the last playoff spot with 16 games to go...light a candle...We play at home on Wednesday and again on Friday...if we bring our road mindset to these home games, we'll do just fine...Stay tooned...Hello to Larry Stone, the gentleman who constructed our platforms back in June of this year for the 11' Exposition Game at Hec Ed...Also, best wishes to Dorothy Harshman, who has had a rough go of late, being hospitalized over the last several weeks...she is the wife of Coach Marv...wonderful basketball woman she is...Her son, David, was a coach over last season and did a GREAT job working with Post players, both Junior and Men's level players...Also Shout Outs to Eastside Catholic, Newport High, Mount Si, and Inglemoor HIgh school Varsity and JV teams, AND of course Kentwood, home of Lindsey Moore and Teddi McGuire, two outstanding student athletes on the Girls team there, as well Josh Smith, the 6'9" Post player whose developing skills and careful mentoring from his wonderful parents will make people marvel at this young man's brilliant future...God Bless all...Coach tom

10:30pm, RedBuds Hotel, Changchun City...we made it safely and hungry...you just can't depend on Airport food to be the best meal of the day...so I'm warming up the water to have some good old "Top Ramen"like, but better noodles...Good day...
I know I know, "where the heck have you been, Tom?..."...Let me say this: I don't like to write repetitive accounts on this blog that reflect the myriad ways on how to LOSE a freakin basketball game...I gotta have some "Good Humor Juice" flowin in order to provide y'all with some fun stuff to read and be amused by my ongoing experiences...So, guess what? WE WON!! 109-88 at home vs. a team that beat us by 17 at their place...We had been on a 4 game losing skein and that wasn't a lot of fun, let me tell you...For one, our coach has this incessant behavior that the "more meetings" the better we will play...Wrong...just the opposite...The Chinese players are not easily attentive towards ANY dialogue, good or bad that discusses the game...Why? Mainly because they practice for eight months, then play in the CBA League for 3 and a half months, and MAYBE, just MAYBE two weeks separation from the team and teammates...Get the BIG PICTURE here? Especially when a team is on a multiple game losing streak (4 up to last night's salvation)...How to describe our last two losses before last night's victory: one on the road was an aberration, so much so, I can't even remember the score other than it was ugleeeeeeee to the end, as D Tate, 6'5" G/F got back spasms 3 mins. into the game off the bench and he had already scored 5 points...Imagine a Goodyear blimp getting a large hole in the nose of the craft...yep, it's in deep doo doo as it nosedives down, losing it's helium and power...Losing D Tate is like that with this team...This young player has the God-given skills and discipline, on and off the court to have a "shot" at the League next year...Pat Riley, Don Nelson, Pop in San Antone, PJ and Nate Mac would love this kid's natural talent and skills...He has come so far in his on ball and off ball defense, and yet, still has much room for improvement, BUT WANTS to be told what he's doing wrong, what he should be doing and how can "I get better, Coach" questions...Wow...been a long long time since I've been asked that question...Anyway, our next game is versus the Muslim city team Urumqui (phonetic-based spelling)...This young man is SO eager to improve his game, he wants to come to Seattle in preparation for an NBA tryout next summer...Let's see, that makes 3 of the players from the States who wish to visit me and train for a week at the UW or Seattle U., this is what is called being a "student" of the game: seeking a mentor/teacher that will build one's knowledge and confidence to succeed in any organized environment related to the game...I'm going to have quite a "cast" of characters and players this Spring/Summer...What fun my 'other' students will have when training with these professionals...I can hardly wait for Connor Witt, Richard Woodworth, Jeff Rerucha, Nile Kramer, Ian Gordon, Tanner and Tyson Riley, Lindsey Moore, Teddy McGuire Alyson Stone, Jordan Dalingstad, Josh and J-Mon Smith join my crew from China for our workouts...Man, are we going to have some fun THIS YEAR...my young students here in China are going to be such incredible additions to our workouts, that even Bobby Jones will be excited to join us again, and Ryan Rourke and Eric Sandarin also...Folks, I am having more fun teaching and coaching now than I've ever had before, and you KNOW I always HAVE FUN when I do "my thing" on the floor...Back to the games at hand...so, meetings, dialogues, translations, boredom and mindwanderings aside, we came home to play that Muslim city team, a good one at that, Top 4 in league presently, and Tate is so so for a nod to suit up and play...He received acupuncture from our Team Trainer and STEM hookups (you know, the electric stimulation patches) and was ready to go...We had the game in our hands, literally until we turned the ball over like Santa giving presents at Macy's...EVERY time we turn the ball over in consecutive fashion,I say fashion because our turnovers seem to be a "Runway Model on how to Turn the Ball Over Uniquely...", and we go from being up by 7 with ball to being up only 1 by the end of the 1st. Qtr...18-17...we were playing Defense as a Team so well it was exciting to me to witness and be a part of...UNTIL...we had to initiate our offense at the other end...Our offense at this point in the season is between a "Stillborn Orangutan and baked Cupcakes that come out of the oven flat as a cookie...Got the picture? So, we go into the 2nd Qtr., in a fog that made me wonder if the "energy" drink that these players drink religiously during timeouts, perhaps was spiked with some brown bag MogenDavid, 'cause the only thing that seem to take them out this stupor was the "fog horn" of the scorer's table stopping action to allow a substitution...I gotta interject something here that ALL coaches wish they could do under similar circumstances: call for a Heavenly intervention whereby there is a power outage and the game is delayed OR the scoreboard, clock and the "pea" in the Officials' whistles doesn't work AT ALL, and we retreat to a neutral zone where it doesn't matter whether or not there is light to SEE the players when you speak to them about how bad they are playing on offense out there...If I were taking Rogaine during this campaign, I would NOT be their Poster Generian (newellism word for someone older than 59)!!! I mean, here I am sitting on the bench and thinking about how to change the game completely: you know, have a league where you get POINTS for STOPS on defense and they are worth more than putting the friggin ball through a cylinder...yeah, NOW do you understand the metaphor/analogy of the aforementioned Animal Kingdom and Bakery itesm? Think about it...In wrestling you get points for takedowns, and smooth defensive counters...the same is true for boxing...I know I know, you're wondering now if I've been drinking from the "Brown Bag" to come up with THAT scenario in basketball...This much I know: the next Head Coach job I have, I am going to meet the Electrician, Mechanical Engineer and whoever else that controls the "switch" and tell them if they "see" the same things I do with our team at home, to PLEEEEEEASE pull the plug so we can quietly retire to a dark room and talk about life, Chinese traffic Pac Man, noodles and how cold the weather is outside, THEN talk about why we're here tonight...Hopefully this "mental pause" will resurrect our desires and memory bank to play the game at BOTH ENDS...Just a passing thought...Anyway, on to the rest of the game story here...We go down 7 at half, turned the ball over 11 times already that lead to 12 unanswered fast break points (note: when we turn the ball over, we stand there in disbelief and FROWN...kinda like a 4 yr. old boy whose older brother takes his Fudgesicle away from him and eats it...), not making any valiant/gallant effort in transition to thwart the miscarry on our part...Gimme me another shot from the Brown Bag please...We come out the 2nd half, fired up, forcing the other team into 5 turnovers in 8 possessions...Right?....BUT we in turnover "fashion" provide our own bakery products, all different pastries, but the same freakin TURNOVERS...so we go down 12, take a timeout, get it together, I stay positive about STOPS on defense, and coach is talking about offense, always something different in our sets, never the same...We force two consecutive turnovers, score in transition, and then they miss 3 more shots and now we're only down 3, 54-51 with 6:56 left in the 3rd Qtr...We have BIG MO goin our way at home now, fans are into the game, players are alert, we're playin to win now...and the other team takes a Timeout...So what do we do? Substitute our Point Guard "Pops" out of the game and rotate in a 19yr. old inexperienced PG, whom has not played a minute in 3 weeks, hasn't traveled on the road with us either, and HE is now playing at this point in the game...Gimme the whole damn BROWN BAG now please...I'll put it this way, the STOP sign on Defense became the Ole' "would you like to start your offense on this side of the court or the other Sir...?"...and when this rookie was finally taken out, mercifully I might add, with 4 mins. to play in the 4th Qtr., and the score 88-69, THEM, we all were shocked, founddumbforsure, and discouraged, we could hardly wait to end this death march and go home...err, to our rooms...After the game, the coach never said a word, because HE KNEW what everyone was thinking, and was too embarrassed to say anything...Am I throwing this cat under the bus? Nah, he "jumped" in front of the bus a long time ago...I'm just an attendant in the ambulance making sure the "siren" works as we slowly drive to the Hospital...THEN the next day, nothing is mentioned about the game, BUT there were words about the Journalists stories on our team that the coach spoke incessantly about over and over again: "don't worry about the press...don't listen to what they say (I thought they wrote...), we must overcome our burdens and play better at home, our defense in the 4th Qtr. was not as good as OUR DEFENSE in the first 3 and a half...No foolin Sherlock...Arrrrrrgh...Coach Woods, we HAD STOPS that were right out of your Disruptive Pressure Defense book...you'd a been proud of this collective effort until the 6:56 mark in the 3rd Qtr...

Last night's game: WE WON...WE WON...I know I am repeating myself here, forgive me, it's just that it's been so long since I was able to share with family and friends: "WE WON!!"...Our collective defense and applications at both ends were astonishingly consistent and fun to watch...From start to finish, we played the game the right way...We forced them into 26 turnovers...bad shot selections...and transition hoops for us at the other end...We also had a season HIGH 24 assists...in one game...48 mins...usually we have MAYBE 9-10 assists total...yeah, I know, hard to believe...but true...Now, about this game and a life lesson here for young coaches who read my blogits...There is a "cardinal rule" in universal basketball that all coaches must observe, reserve and preserve...and that is: NEVER EVER take a timeout with under 3mins. to go unless there is an injury, you're just trying to substitute a reserve into the game for a regular, etc., or another game emergency situation otherwise this is considered a "cardinal sin...", but then again, there is no sin in China, right, how would this coach know "sin" in basketball? Anyway, he calls a 20 second timeout, much to my and the other Americans on the floor amazement and question, and proceeds to draw up a PLAY...??? I can't believe it...can YOU?? Play resumes, time runs out, we don't get the shot off and now I am going down towards the Visitors Bench to shake the Foreign coach's hand (we have mutual acquaintances in Belgrade, Serbia, where he's from), and he has this look upon his face that resembles someone who went out the front door to get the morning newspaper and the neighbor's dog dumped a "footlong" on the walkway and he didn't see it...steps barefoot in it...,and says to me: "Coach tom, why did he call a Timeout when you are up 20...doesn't he know that a coach NEVER embarrasses the other team and coach at home doing this...?"...I tell him I don't know, and yes, we shouldn't have done this, I apologize, and then I say "maybe it's because we haven't won in so long and he wanted to keep playing....?...We both laughed at that, hugged and wished one another well...oh for the humor in war between foes...Spirits were lifted once again in our locker room after the game...what a relief it was to see how well we can celebrate our hard fought victories, however few they have been so far...By the way, D Tate had 35 pts. and showed no ill effects of his previous back spasms that kept him less than average the previous two games...He plays with heart and soul, meaning that he plays hurt very well, and our Team Trainer, "Doc", a "Master in Acupuncture", did his professional best to get DT ready for last night's game...I encourage parents of kids in youth sports: check out Dr. Bob Greczanik, Sports Acupuncturist, Bellevue, if your son or daughter EVER has a problem with a sports related injury and the alternative at hand is Anti-inflammatory meds...I am DOWN on kids taking these prescriptions and will go toe to toe with any "Doc" on the so called "merits" of these medications...A child SHOULD NEVER be given a prescription for a sports injury that could affect their organs later, and by that I mean this: 90% of kids today, ages 8-18 do NOT EAT properly, meaning that when they are told to "eat BEFORE taking medication. drink liquids", (water, NOT soda pops), they ignore that on their own (at school, taking meds anyway, maybe NOT even eating lunch prior to time order of prescription)...So, as a Parent, you need to Google anti-inflammatory meds and read up on the post effects of same on the body...I speak from seeing so many former Pro athletes, basketball, football, baseball walk with arthritic conditions now, some in their 40s, others older, all former "under care" of prescribed anti-inflammatory meds...Boy, I know if someone wants to take issue with me here, I'll raise a few eyebrows...good, at least I'm suggesting a positive alternative to orals...

On the road again this morning, December 8, 2007...early morning flight...coaches and players are upbeat, good sign...tired and hungry I'm sure, as they will always sacrifice appetite for more rest...go figure...Anyway, we're headed to Yunnan area (Southern) of China...Short trip: 6 hours on plane, then 3 hours on bus all today and a game tomorrow night, then same return trip home on Monday, and game on Wednesday...Ain't life grand!?!...We beat this team for our first win last month...hopefully we can do it again, as our defense has improved demonstratively since then...Fingers are crossed that our coach will NOT have practice when we get in, rather just a meeting, watch some film, and get some food and rest tonight...usually what he does is has us dress down for a two hour practice, or one hour and weights one hour, then go back for two hours, eat, then have a meeting at 7:30 for an hour, watching film and hearing his dissertation on life as a basketball player in the CBA, then back to our rooms for the night...Monotonous? Nah, nutz, yes...These players need rest #1, not shooting baskets, jumping up and down in a scrimmage full court, or doing a 3 man fast break drill...we need fresh legs...I share this with him regularly and feel like I'm one of the detainees in Guantanamo...deaf ears...If he would just listen to experience now and then, his words of "wisdom" might be received better in the BIG PICTURE...I will say this: George Irvine, Indiana Pacers, Bernie Bickerstaff, Sonics, and Bill Fitch, Nets had more sensitivity towards "reading" players body language and 'LISTENING' to their Trainers, they should all be teaching coaches worldwide with this genuine "feel" for the game and their team...I learned so much from each of them over the years...it's a true gift, and they "had it"...

Okay, battery is low on the laptop, we're about to land in a half hour and I need a break from my fingertip touches...geeeze, I don' know how people with long nails do this so well...I know I promised my "musings" on life as I know it here in China...I will try to enter this tomorrow...in the meantime, hope you enjoyed this latest "catchup" and wish everyone good health, an act of kindness towards someone you don't know, and that your families are well and happy....God Bless...Coach tom

UPDATE on Bus Ride to Yunnan: beautiful Flintstone (at least that what it appears to me to look like) monoliths rising up from the ground like petrified tree trunks...There was one visual that stood out on this sortie, and that was off in the distance was the LARGEST GOLD Buddha that sat upon a hill overlooking the farmland below, with a path that lead from the Temple to this "wonder"...Incredible sight...The three hour ride here was an incredible assortment of new development mixed with old clay/straw one door shanties...I will say this: if the Farmers of China ever decided to NOT farm, this country would be in a world of hurt...Big Time...I mean the land is so red rich soil that you could plant your old kids shoes and they'd probably grow an inch or two in a year!! Anyway, observing couples working together on small plots, hands and knees cushioned by the tender soil, you really appreciate the time, effort and discipline of these quiet people, doing what millions of generations did before them throughout their country...One other notable observation: there were hundreds of white shrines scattered throughout the countryside, very very old, yet you sensed that this was a family tradition, a reminder of the farmer who raised his family and their children also for many years...Quite a sight if you can imagine...the shrines were mostly similar with about a 7' arc with columns and a tombstone...First time I've seen ANY gravesites in China...Did I tell you that you probably won't see Hearses or Mortuaries in any large Chinese city, let alone graveyards... Cremation is a strong belief in their Creation...Practice? NO!!! Coach says to me that we will watch video since the trip was so long (12 hours) and we need rest...He's learning, slowly but surely...Good for him...he's a nice person, no question...Alright, I'm off to bed, watching on Chinese television the Rockets vs. Nets in New Jersey...This Chinese station will televise at least 120 games this season: FREE to the Chinese nation...Guess where the "next" cash cow in the NBA is spawned? You got it...
December 1, 2007...1:15am Saturday morning...the title says it all, the score confirms it: 105-98 or something like that, still can't get a stat sheet...go figure...This loss was NOT because the players didn't play hard or want to win: we were outcoached tonight...I'm being honest as I possibly can be here...We didn't make the necessary adjustments in the 2nd Qtr. like we should have and the outcome was predictable by the end of the 3rd. Qtr...I ain't goin 'there' in regards to Coach Gao...I respect him and believe he wants the best in each player, BUT, his inexperience technically shows in games like these...it's too bad, 'cause we had a chance to make an adjustment...good thing I chew gum to keep my mouth shut after suggestions...

Okay, we're on the road again in 4 hours..play Sunday evening, home Monday night, then we have 3 straight home games...hopefully we can begin the 2nd half of the season on a positive...we have 9 games at home this go round...we'll see what happens...Folks, I am feelin this one deep down, only because as coaches we always want to put our players in a position to succeed and NOT fail...we did just the opposite, I'm afraid...hopefully we'll ALL learn from this...you know: "lessons learned is hopefully knowledge gained..."...I want to bring everyone up to speed on the cultural experiences to date, so this weekend will be a treat for all...good stuff atextin your way...Coach tom...
November 30th, Wednesday evening Post Game Thoughts and Whatevers...We lost a really tough one tonight, friends...How tough? 100-99!! On the road in Beijing, no less, and we played our hearts and left it ALL on the court...It was a really tough loss when you consider we went up 3 with the ball,less than 1:50 left in game, and a "phantom" call is made on a reception baseline in front of our bench, "stepped out of bounds before catching pass", was the call on Wong Bo, our best Chinese player and National Team member...Let me tell you this, I watched Wong Bo come from one side of the court to the other and no one was guarding him in their Zone defense on this particular play, and he spots up in the corner, gets a perfect pass from the guard, and squares up (front turns INSIDE the 3 point line), drawing the defense and all of 2 FULL seconds goes off clock on his jab step and then the "whistle blows...Now you gotta let me "vent" here a little bit: this was what is called a "bulldeposit" call if there was ever one to be made...I mean OUT OF NOWHERE was this call made...If they review Officials games here, and I'm not sure they do, this cat is going to lose the "pea" in his whistle 'cause he made that one up...Anyway, we had the ball with 6 seconds to go at halfcourt, and inbound to D Tate, who jab steps and crossover dribbles right by the perimeter defender and I'm thinkin "yeah, he's got a wide open mid range jumper for sure, BUT, instead he takes another dribble and goes for the hoop on a drive, facing 7' Michael Fey, former Washington state (Tacoma, I believe) high school phenom who went to UCLA and got lost in Westwood for 4 years as they went through 2 coaches...So, DT stops, up fakes and there's contact but not enough to draw the foul and his shot gets blocked to another teammate, Cash, who then with .08 on the clock shoots a short corner jumper only to have it hit the side of the basket and the game is over...Now I gotta tell you something, I don't need to run laps around a track, swim for an hour, or ride a stationary bike for 45 mins. to get my "cardio" in order and burn calories...This game tonight took off a comfortable 6,000 I'm sure...It was that exciting...We played defense aggressively and consistently well, made crucial stops when needed and we all were on the same page UNTIL...the new GM comes off the end of the bench early in the 4th qtr. to go off on an Official's call and gets whistled for a "T"...this mind you when we're only down 5...the guy hits 2 FTs then they get the ball out of bounds and proceed to score another field goal meaning that we have given up 4 pts. with NO time off the clock and now down 9 with the ball...THAT hurt obviously, as the outcome of the game indicates...The team to a man and the staff as well, we're disappointed and "knew" that "we wuz robbed..." but they shrugged their shoulders and tell me: "Coach, this is the CBA, these things happen like this..."...All I can say is that the Chinese are a lot better getting over disappointing losses than any high school, college and NBA coach and team I've ever been around...I told the fellas that I was so proud of their "Warrior spirit and best effort tonight, that we played team defense as well as we ever have and that IF we continue to work together and help one another on defense, we will not be disappointed at season's end..."...And I mean that! Okay, we just finished a team dinner...It was very good, nothing distasteful or bitter to complement the feelings we had after a very tough loss...We leave for Changchun City, where I'm living now, in about 5 hours...it's a two hour flight and hopefully we'll NOT have any practice as the fellas don't NEED to get on the court, rather they need REST and RECUPERATION...DT pulled his hammy again, YET PLAYED his "posterior" off like you wouldn't believe...This young man has a chance to perhaps play in the NBA someday, folks, as he continues to improve his overall game at both ends...After reflecting upon his last move in the game with the ball, he honestly felt that he should have "pulled up and taken the jumper, but it was a clear lane to the hoop and I thought I could get there, finish and draw a foul..."...I love his courage and willingness to go strong at the end...He's a cross between Raja Bell of the Suns, and Bruce Bowen of the Spurs...You might hear about him someday as a "unknown" who played overseas and came back to the League...I hope so, he's a wonderful person to work with and I really love his energy...he has NO FEAR whatsoever when he plays...100% full out...my kind of Team Player...

Okay, enuff of that...I'm tired, disappointed but happy with the effort of tonight's game...We played well enough to win...Lessons learned hopefully, is knowledge gained...Good night, blog to y'all soon enough...Thanks for caring and wondering how life is in China...Take care, safe travels to all...Coach tom

November 26, 2007...Monday afternoon...We're all smiling in Beijing...120-99...yes, ONE HUNDRED and 20 points in ONE GAME by the Jilin Northeast Tigers last night...We came out focused and made one huge adjustment on offense that set the tone for the game and eliminated all tentativeness on the part of guard play by having Wong Bo, Power Forward, play Point Forward for us this game...He had an outstanding floor game: 11 points...8 rebounds...8 assists...1 turnover...We had 6 players in double figures with D Tate leading the way with 40 points...and he ONLY had 3 at halftime...go figure...Our team defense was solid as were are decision-making with the ball in the half court...If only we could "bottle" this persona, make a couple of cases, and take the potion hope with us...I had a pregame conversation with our best overall athlete on the team, "Cash", who has been struggling the last two outings...He came to my rooms after our meeting in Coach Gao's room (a gameday ritual usually at 4pm when the contest begins at 7:30pm)...Pancake also was there to translate for the both of us, although Cash understands my "Chinglish" better than most...Anyway, I wanted to find out firsthand what was bothering Cash, and how he felt about his malperformances at home lately...Let me tell you how much I really respect and care for Cash: he is MORE important to this team than anyone else per se, because he can guard 4 positions (sans the opposing Center), and play 3 positions...He also brings an energy and spirit to the team that is lacking for the most part and to me a 'breath of fresh air' when all else seems to go awry when we struggle out there on the floor in close games...So anyway, he tells me thru Pancake that "I was trying to play so well for our fans that I couldn't do anything right..."...Hmmm, THAT sounds familiar doesn't it? How many of you have witnessed your own sons and daughters struggling at home in their sports activity, only to find out later that they were trying to play their hearts out for you...As Cash continued to "release" the burden of thoughts past and perhaps rekindled for tonight's game, I reminded him, that basketball is a team game, meaning that he has no control over his teammates missed shots, lack of rebounding, poor passing and less than perfect effort, that ONLY he has control over his own performance and that "control" is perfect because it is EFFORT...He looked at Pancake translating and then at me and you could see in his eyes and facial expressions that he understood exactly what ol coach tom was sharing with him now...And pffffht just like that he broke out in a smile and thanked me over and over again, saying that he now knows NOT to put the burden of playing perfect as opposed to giving one's best effort...Now, I gotta tell y'all something here, I am on another continent, coaching in China, having a wonderful historical experience and I STILL get goosebumps talking with students of the game...for that I am so appreciative to experience this still...Little steps lead up steep mountain, and I am gaining more and more confidence with my relationship with the players and coaches...

Beijing Observations: This place is awaiting the World, that's for sure...their "theme" mantra for the Olympics in '08 is "One Dream...One World..."...They are definitely preparing highways, buildings and the airport itself for this most epic event in Asia to date...Imagine the World descending upon Beijing and China in general, for the first time...10 out 10 people in the free world are wearing or using some item in their daily lives that has been made, manufactured, worn or used that was made in this country...I will have more on THAT subject soon...it is mind provoking phenomenon that, frankly, has me scratching my head and wondering "if" we're ready for China emerging as "the" country of the future...Trust me, when I lay out the similarities in their approach to Western Civilization, well, you'll get the picture real quick...Okay, I'm a stoppin this blogit, as I am back from a most wonderful team dinner where we had "hot pot" cooked lamb and vegetables...Let me say this: this food is so fresh and unbelievably healthy, it makes you wonder about the paranoia that's been generated to date about their toys ect...Will get back to you tomorrow...

Thanks as always for taking the time to read my blogits and perhaps share them with others...I gotta Big Shout Out for my main man, Larry Stone and Family...This cat's so cool they gotta put the "heat" on during the summer...Also, want to wish Jeff D'Ambrosio the best wishes in his debut as the varsity boys coach at Mt. Si...He will do well there, I believe, because he cares for the kids FIRST and NOT after they get in trouble...see you shortly...Coach tom

November 24, 2007...Saturday morning on a flight to Beijing to play two away games vs. another alphabet and linguists challenge...This I know, I was never an Asian in a previous life because there is an incredible mind discipline that is required to learn Chinese, Japanese and Korean, all languages that I have been fortunate enough to experience listening to, and picking up personal greetings in my coaching career...I say this out of respect for the various cultures that we as human beings occupy on this planet, and with great reverence towards each culture's way of life, from Family, business, holiday, birth, death and of course the celebrations of marriage and New Years, which seem to be their "Times Square" extravaganza that is more traditional than our imbibing "party atmosphere" socials...Get this: the Chinese literally celebrate their new year with family gatherings, friendly gatherings, office gatherings, community gatherings, organizational gatherings and any-kind-of gathering you wish to celebrate in the New Year...and it lasts a couple of WEEKS!!! Now, understanding this, there are two things to keep in mind and remember: they won't do business during this time with anyone, they won't start wars, they won't hurt anybody, and they will be very respectful of others (which they are already for the most part in my observations), meaning that we can rest assured that this fast accelerating culture is on the edge of influencing the standards of living, wealth, capitalism (under more of a socialist rather communist infrastructure>their last General Assembly in October passed resolutions allowing the "freedom of expression of religious beliefs...as long as it is NOT public and without the approval of the provincial government"<, class separation being more and more defined by the large number of educated citizens and the labor forces that are loyal to the country...This I predict: as long as they do nothing to educate children and adults on the hazards of smoking, given the terrible smog issues of these rapid developing business zones in every major city, they will have an epidemic health issue BEYOND anything that the modern world has EVER seen or heard in this century...I would venture to say that at least 8 out 10 men ages 21-60 SMOKE cigarettes!! They smoke on the job, they smoke in their cars, taxis, homes, in public places (even some of the arenas), restaurants, yet there are some venues where it is not allowed but they are in such a minority and isolated that the only benefit would be to the workers themselves who are not exposed to second hand smoking...Get this: there is actually a cigarette filter that is "Vitamin C Enriched" and comes in a pack of 10...It costs about $4 USD, and many OLDER men in their 40s on up, start using this method of smoke-aides...Now I don't know about you, but if they, the Chinese can develop this type of "filter" with Vitamin C blending with the smoke of a cigarette, they gotta be able to come up with a "Smog-free Filter Mask" that has Multiple Vitamins, right? When it hits the market, I'm headin to LA and New Joisey with suitcases full of same...put your orders in early!! Another interesting tidbit on their cigarettes: the peasants smoke cheap cigarettes...the affluent packs that cost between $6-$30 A PACK!! Yes, $30 a pack...The leaf is government owned and operated meaning that money is being made off every pack of cigarette sold in this country...I know that they use these funds for road improvement, social welfare and development of technology and education, but the real issue here is that the monies gained should go towards education and awareness and prevention of smoking, otherwise they will be faced with the catastrophic costs of dealing with major health issues, which I'm sure they are now BUT keeping under wraps...$6-$30 per pack!!! Wow...Okay, enuff of my observations and commentary on Chinese culture from my Irish perspective...on to my basketball trilogies...If I offended anyone with the aforementioned observations, I apologize and hope it helps you understand how important it is to teach our children NOW on the hazards of smoking while there is still time...If they are given the education of vitamins as a necessity for good health and THIINK that smoking with a Vitamin C filter is cool and won't give you cancer...Oh boy, somebody pass out the "smart pills" please...

November 20th, 'our' celebration of Thanksgiving Day in the RedBuds Hotel...Myself, Steve Castleberry, DaJuan Tate and his bride, RaRa, together with Babacar, sat down to our traditional T Day meal after practice...We only had an hour and a half to "enjoy" our dinner together, as we had to catch a cab and go across town to the Chinese players' hotel where we would review a video of our next game, which was last night...Forgive me if I don't expound on the misery of late, suffering through two consecutive home losses when I thought we had turned the corner as a Team on our last road trip...Back to the Chinese Thanksgiving Dinner...the day before I met with the Manager, Andy Zu about seeing whether or not we could have a "special" American traditional dinner prepared for us in the hotel...I asked him kindly if this were not an imposition upon his Chef and staff...He was so excited that we would even consider staying at the hotel to eat there and have the confidence in their Chef to prepare such a meal...He told me to come back after our morning practice and visit with him again, but he saw no problems with the affair...I returned to the hotel and together with C-Berr, we met with Andy and the Executive Chef, who was more than willing and excited to take on this request...I wrote out our menu: COOKED Turkey...Mashed Potatoes...Green Beans...Gravy...Cranberry Sauce (that one was never translated properly as we ended up getting "bolognaise sauce" as the apparent "red" sauce that I was talking about...go figure...), and of course Pumpkin Pie...Folks let me tell you this, the Chef tells me he "found" a Turkey in Changchun and will cook the whole bird for us, "no problem" was the answer always during this brief meeting...I came away and so did C-Berr with the idea that, really, here in China, we will have Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie...Now all we had to do was practice this afternoon and show up for dinner 6 hours later...6:30 pm in the RedBuds Western Restaurant, 2nd floor, table reserved for a party of 5...Here is how the dinner was served: we had salads with thousand island dressing that had a 'kick' to it, and let me tell you: the legumes had no chance to NOT be consumed by this table...Good start so far...Did I mention the fresh sesame' rolls we also asked for? Served...ummm and good...then came the Chef's Special concoction> "Pumpkin Puree Soup", so far so good...and then the main course: each plate had a Matterhorn-sized serving of mashed potatoes, healthy serving of green beans, slices of red Turkey that went halfway up the side of the potato mound, and hot dark gravy...About the "red" Turkey...I'm checking this featherless bird out like the USDA/FDA/ATF agencies as I have never seen a "red" Turkey sliced or slices for that matter in my life...I tell Babacar to "hold on a minute" (he's Muslim) until I find out that this really was a bird they prepared and not a young pig (seriously)...Now you gotta see me trying to speak Chinglish regarding the following questions: 1) "could you ask the Chef to come to the table, please..." Answer: "you want more soup?"...and here I thought I was really making progress after 3 months on this floor in the hotel...2) "No, I need to find out how long the Turkey was cooked for...can you get the Chef for me...? Answer: "Just a moment, please...and out comes the Chef with the Cranberry Sauce ala Bolognaise presentation...3) "Niaho Chef...the soup was delicious...thank you so much...I am curious, is this Turkey or Pork...?" Answer: "This is small special Turkey, found today in Changchun, we soak in special Chinese sauce and cook until meat fall off bones...no pork, special Chinese Turkey..."...Me: "Whew, smiling at Babacar, looking next at C-Berr who has already consumed 3/4 of his plate and also DTate who leveled his mountain of potatoes bypassing "whatever that is I'm not going to let my potatoes get cold..."...and the Chef and his 4 servants looking at me to see if I will NOW eat my "red" Turkey with hot dark gravy on top...Folks, it was "derlicious" as only Pancake can say in his melodic monotone English...I took each bite and looked at all of the attending supervisors, smiling and thumbs upping everyone who made eye contact with me...Fortunately during this brief exchange, there was a Chinese translator seated nearby who overheard my questions and their answers and came to the rescue to interpret the pained responses of the Chef at this time, only then was he beginning to relax when he was able to share this 'special' Chinese recipe with us...All of us finished our dinner well and next came the Pumpkin Pie, and it had lil bit of whipped cream (we each had two slices) and fresh boysenberry jam if we wanted more sweetness to it...Now that was tasty as well...Overall dinner experience, based on a 1-10 scale: ********* count' em, NINE STARS...Trust me, the Chefs in China take GREAT personal pride in their cuisine, from freshness to presentation,meaning that you can't find a 3 or 4 Star restaurant in Changchun that won't have some delicacy that appeals to your Epicurean desires...Before I move on to our Friday night loss by 7 points to a team that again we should have beat, let me say this, what happened at our afternoon practice preceding our "Thanksgiving Dinner" was an incredible scenario...Remember I told you that "expect the unexpected and that way there is no shock and despair...?"...Well, as I suspected, the unexpected happened which C-Berr and myself knew was expected to happen...Pancake tells Steve and myself to "report right away to the Manager's Office, he want to speak to you and Castleberry now, you must hurry...", this coming on the heels of my leading our warmup drill...So, Steve looks at me, I look at him and we both figure, well what the hell maybe we're both going home on the same ticket...Turns out the Manager had a sportswriter in this meeting, imagine Steve Kelley sitting in on a Sam Presti meeting with Sene and an Asst. Coach, and through Pancake's translation wants to know if (1)"do you mind if I smoke..." (of course not, my meter's still "good" for another 20+ years...)...(2) "would you like special Green Tea...Now he's talking, I breathe in the smoke from 2 cigarettes (Team Manager also in this meeting), and there's 4 of us "filtering" out the smoke (you don't open windows in Changchun when it's 26 degrees outside...it's too cold and you might catch a cold before you catch second and third hand smoke cancer), so I figure "cool, at least there are 6 other lungs workin with me here in this meeting that AREN'T smoking...Anyway, the tea table is set, the conversation for the benefit of the sports columnist, who by the way was mute the whole time BUT was watching me with great curiosity and me him as well (geez I'm glad I don't get "graded" for my colloquial liberties here, forgive me Sister Mary Margaret, rest her soul), and the Manager looks at me and says through Pancake: "it has been one month now that we have been together, you have had a chance to eat with me, drink with me and see how I operate, what is your opinion? Do you think I am doing a good job? Tell me..."...oh hell yes, y'all know I'm going to 'milk' that cow right now, and I reply in my most politically and ambassadorially correct way (new Chinglish word created in Changchun by Coach tom, similar in meaning to 'cordially', but a lil more pissazz to the meaning I think), that indeed we have worked well together, you have been positive with the players and supportive of their efforts even under the most trying circumstances and embarrassing losses, and for that it takes a strong leader to do this...I am enjoying the opportunity to help you and Coach Gao and the players with their development and ongoing skills improvement for the success of this season and future seasons...It is unfortunate that we have faltered in the 4th qtrs. of recent games, but I believe as long as we can learn from our errors and continue to play hard and together, we have a chance to turn things around..."...He smiled and thanked me and the Team Manager also acknowledged my comments...Understand this: when I address these people about these kids and Coach Gao, I truly mean every word about their character, spirit and willingness to learn and improve...my only issue is that our "learning curve" is somewhere between New Zealand and Antarctica...That is where I get really bamfuzzled by our losses: "what are we learning here, what can we do differently that will help each us to coach and play more consistently...?...The Manager now moves onto Steve, whose hot tea has become ice tea since he is nervous as you could imagine for the inevitable "we like you a lot...BUT..." comments, exchange, and lo and behold, the Manager fulfills Steve's vision: "we really appreciate everything you have brought to the team, Castleberry, you are a true professional (UNBELIEVABLY TRUE statement there!), the players respect you, the coaches appreciate your efforts and you played very well in the last 4 games, but now, the CBA and Chinese Government, wants many teams who are not playing so well to make changes, and we are going to change you with Babacar...We hope that you would stay and train with us and coach newell to improve your skills and help Babacar with his contributions to the team, and also that you accept our offer of your contract staying the same, and you can travel with team on road trips also..."...Well Steve looks at me and I smile, one because as "sad" as he felt coming in, the same sadness became joy because he earned the respect and right to "stay" with this team because of his spirit and work ethic, meaning that he will help "bang" the other centers in practice: Bear and Babacar...I was so happy with Steve's response because he truly understood right then and there, that it was over for him this season, his first in China, but that he earned the respect of the coaches, teammates and press to warrant an invitation to stay...I then chimed in and said that we would also like to help the Junior team if possible when not in conflict with the Men's team...that too, made a favorable impression upon all that were sitting there, that these two Americans are "unlike" any we have ever encountered professionally with the Jilin Northeast Tigers...I then ask if we may go back to practice as we have an important game tomorrow night and I need to work with Babacar's preparations...They excuse us, and on the way back, Steve and I have a wonderful conversation about how he "earned" this right to stay, when other Americans will not get the benefit of an invitation and return back to the States...Steve is such a GREAT Team Player, I can't begin to tell you...NOTE to Steve's Parents: you have raised a wonderful, honest-to-goodness Son, that you would be so proud of and I know each of you are, but let me tell you, he's special, and I am blessed for having the opportunity to have met him and now to continue developing his skills so he can continue to play professionally...(and by the way, the 'reason' I was invited to the meeting according to Pancake is because I recommended Steve in the first place and spoke so highly of his work ethic and professionalism, and they felt I was like a "father" to Steve while he was here and playing...Sheeet, now I really feel old...Told Steve don't even go there with the "Pops" crap, etc...we both laughed at Pancake's information...

Postgame Loss/Reflections from 2nd in week home loss: I can now relay this reflection as my Advil has kicked in and I don't have a headache anymore thinking about it...Here's our "stat" line the last two home losses: Defensively> we forced 18 turnovers...they shot under 45% on average...but shot above 38% from 3 pt. line...we were outrebounded on average by ONLY two boards...Offensively> we TURNED the ball over on average of 18 times for the two home losses, and then we shot under 40% from 2's and under 16% from 3's...Now my "logic" and less than statistical mindframe tells me that if we force 18 turnovers and are even on the boards that our defense is not doing so bad, right? Right! But then again when WE turn the ball over 18 times, half of which (or more) are unforced>ballhandling, 3 seconds, poor passing etc.), then we have to shoot better than 50% from the 2's area and 45% from the 3's as our FTAs and FTMs are on average 10-12 MORE than opponents...Simple logic I think...shared these thoughts with Coach Gao and he agreed, we need to spend more time in our practices working on execution and taking care of the ball...Technical note here to youth coaches: if your team is turning the ball over regularly, look at your previous week's practice regimen...Did you have any ballhandling drills included in your warmups? Did you practice halfcourt situations with live defense, so players would understand "timing" and execution? Did you emphasize "crisp" passes as a practice discipline so as to carry over to game proficiency? These are all elements that are needed consistencies to be an effective and successful halfcourt team...I refuse to go into anymore detail about Friday's loss...our record right now is 3-8, like a weak April-May-June pitcher's record...Babacar, our new replacement Senegal/American Post player, will help us eventually, but we missed Steve last night for sure...

Upcoming Sunday night game: November 25th...This team we're playing has a couple of pretty good Americans playing for them, Damon King, shooting guard/point guard around 6'2" and a 6'9" athletic PF/C Major Jones...Their record is 4-8 and they have their issues, having lost their last two home games as well...Okay, so I'll let you know how we do in that one...I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and weekend with your Families...I was able to connect with mine via phone today, Friday evening your time, and it was a pure joy to speak with Ashleigh, Brian, their son, Carter, our son Bo, and Elaine...Paigee, our youngest was in Arizona having TDay with her close friend Jackie Calabrese and her family...I was happy to have been able to connect with all of them over the last two days...To all who sent me wishes and updates, thanks so much as always, for taking the time out of your busy family lives to share with me what's happening in yours...God Bless, safe travels and I do miss all of the "weekenders" whose season gets underway next week, I believe...Coach tom

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

November 17, 2007...Saturday afternoon...on the road again, in the deep south east of China for the next two hours...Where are we headed? Hmmm, good question...I know it has X's-I's-Gs in the name of the airport we arrived, but couldn't for the life of me pronounce literately the name...sorry, hope you understand the perils of traveling in a foreign country and the language has characters not letters for the most part and this makes translation difficult...Now to the exciting part of this trip again...We won...we won..we won again...This time out it was versus the #1 team in the League: Bayi Red Star Army Team (kind of like the Military Academy Stateside), and the reigning Champions...They're considered the Celtics of the CBA, and have the most players on the National Team, 6, which I thought was 4 until I heard differently this morning...Where to begin: we were as focused as I've ever seen us before a game, really, and that "sign" to any basketball coach is a positive read on his/her team...Our pregame meeting at the hotel 2 hours prior to our departure for the gym was really good...Coach Gao had Coach YoYo read a story a true story about a young girl who needed eye surgery and the family could not afford the operation, so the little girl started collecting bottles, plastics and other recyclables on her own and began to help "save" for the operation along with her parents...Little did the girl realize that her mother was terribly ill and passed away a couple of years later, never complaining and still working up to the end to help pay for her daughter's medical attention...Well, it ended up that the Mother took her money to the hospital with her and asked the doctor to please apply it to her daughter's needs and not her own if he would be so kind...The doctor was so moved by this he gathered other colleagues and shared this incredible story of love and sacrifice with them, and soon there was a "fund" for this girl's operation after her mother passed away and soon her surgery was successfully completed...So Coach Gao goes on to tell the team that "I know this has nothing to do with you and basketball at this time, but I want you to know how important it is to never take anything for granted, to understand and accept adversity as a life lesson and to know that there are people out there who care for others when it seems there isn't..."...Well, I gotta tell you something, he was so passionate with his explanation of "why" he had the story read, that I really thought I knew what the essence of the whole story was..."caring for one another even when you are in pain yourself..."...The players were non-responsive like most basketball players when a coach speaks to them, yet their body language spoke otherwise as they looked at one another and nodded, passive in verbiage, but "knowing" that this game was going to be special...I sensed that also and when it was my turn to speak at the end, I kept it simple and stated: "Don't be surprised by winning this game tonight...anticipate it, visualize the feeling that you came in ready to meet the challenge, both physically and fundamentally and left victorious...."...The other two coaches also spoke of the tradition of the Red Army team and how teams allowed them to intimidate them and that had more to do with their mystique than anything...

Game Time: The Bayi arena is small in comparison to NBA arenas and conveniences, trust me...in fact, there are very few basketball arenas in China that could match the venues in both D-1 and NBA markets...It'll be interesting to "see" how the NBA plans to "capitalize" on this market someday...and they will, trust me...This is the first road venue where I actually saw a lot of kids with parents...it's noticeable because it caught me by surprise too...The ages of the kids with parents and other peers was between 4 and 15, boys and girls...Of course this is the reigning Champion and perhaps the other teams are not a "model" of success that parents want their children to watch elsewhere...I don't know but it is somewhat of a phenomena...

Game Recap> Jilin NE Tigers 86 and Bayi 77: Steve C-Berr came out in the first qtr. and established right away that he was going to go right at Wong Zhi Zhi, former NBA 1st round player with the Clippers and then Dallas...He's about 6'10", left handed, shoots the 3 as well as anyone skilled that's left open and is about as aggressive as porcupine with no quills...Steve got into this guy's comfort zone early and set the tone for us, no question...He plays with great spirit and heart, and under a lot of pressure for this game and the next two, as the new GM brought in the former Post player here from a year ago, to "try out" in practice vs. Steve, as the deadline for making changes comes up at the end of the month...Think about this: EVERY WEEK we've had some type of distraction going on, and now this to start our road trip (I found out the day of our second game vs. Shanghai and was told to tell Steve "not to worry...it's only a tryout..."), and Steve who is one of the hardest working players I've ever had the pleasure of teaching and working with, has this "anchor" upon his shoulders going into that game and the next 4...so what does he do: goes out and gets 30 points and 14 boards and LEADS us over Shanghai...then last night, the "try out" player arrives in the morning goes through shootaround with us and then sits behind our bench as Steve is given the "nod" to start...I had no idea that Coach Gao was going to start him as this was the first time Steve would have started for the team under this coach...So as Steve is getting ready to go on the court, he gets a pep talk from his newest close friend and fellow American teammate D Tate and then I catch him on the way to Center Jump...Hey Steve! Yeah Coach..."go out there and have fun..."...That's all I said to him...And did he ever...he outplayed their "superstar" and we won...hmmm, that means that with Steve in the lineup playing 30 mins. or more we're 2-0 and he's averaging 23pts. and 11 boards...Now I'm wonderin "how" are they going to justify changing players IF Steve continues to have success in the Post and the team keeps winning? Good question, Tom, I'm sure they don't want you to ask that...Okay, I'll speak up when asked, and I know I'll be asked...We led after one qtr. 26-24...down 4 at half 47-43, then up by 8 at the end of 3, I believe (I'm still waiting for the stat sheet after ANY freakin game...), and then the basketball angels from Jilin traveling with us, guided our perimeter 3's like you wouldn't believe, thus eliminating any discrepancy of calls and issues with the Officials because how can you call something that isn't there when the ball goes in the basket...we were up at one point by 17 with 6 mins. to go, and then got lazy in our halfcourt closeouts, allowing back to back 3's and giving them life with 4 something to play...Coach Gao took a timeout and we regrouped and I was ready to strangle Wong Bo, our team leader and minutes per game leader, over 45 or 48 mins. average...I know, I feel the same as you do: "Why?"...it's a Chinese 'thing' here for coaches to play National Team players as many minutes as possible, thinking that they will get the benefit of calls etc...Dr. Naismith I am sorry to inform you, the translation of "your" game was misquoted in 10,000 different characters in this country, thus the reason for "strange" things that represent basketball now in China...I am hoping to convince Coach Gao, to rest Wong Bo in the last 1:30 of each of the first 3 qtrs. and then he gets another two minutes at the break and is refreshed...right now, he's a liability on defense in the 2nd half as far as I'm concerned when we need stops...He knows this and apologizes, now I have to convince Coach Gao...I think he'll listen to my logic...hope so for our team's sake...

Lockeroom Aftermath: Wow, talk about happy "campers"...this group was so elated and excited for the outcome, I was caught up into as well, coughing all the while as we all hugged and bumped chests and NODDED, similar to that aforementioned "nod" in our pregame meeting...eerie, yet real, I know there are coaches out there who at one time or another have had a similar experience, winning a game that you weren't suppose to...Isn't it a sense of satisfaction to and your staff to know that your preparations and focus on team prepared them for that moment in the lockeroom after the contest? I really think so...

We are in Xingtai, Fujian area of South China...going to play vs. a really quick and fast uptempo team as I stated before...their name is SBS or Fujian team...As I said before well coached by J Prada, former assistant coach with Paul Westhead at Loyola University, los Angeles...Paul by the way, is the former WNBA Head Coach of the Phoenix Mercury, 2007 Champions of the WNBA...he is currently on the staff as PJ Carlesimo's assistant...I mention this because Paul will introduce a progressive style of uptempo offense that will have teams wondering who to guard, switch and help out by the time the mid season rolls around...the Sonics might be losing now, but trust me, between PJ and Paul, you've got a couple of really sound basketball minds with a young team that will be exciting to watch develop...My personal thoughts on losing the Sonics: it's a terrible shame that a storied franchise such as this one, with all the wonderful stories over the years and characters who wore the Green and Gold when their careers began or ended here will be lost stories of old, I'm afraid, because there is a generation of young people who will miss out on the historical influence of the Sonics to the communities at large...I think of all the people, current and past who represented the Sonics on the floor, off the court, over the phones, in public relations, on playground events supporting youth sports and education, and more importantly the "model" they gave to young aspirants, captivated by the aura of gifted athletes who once were a part of this special community known as the Northwest...I still find it hard to read and believe that Mr. Bennett will indeed abandon this locale in the end...

Okay, I'm coughing again, so I gotta get some needed rest and take some medicine, a concoction of honey and bear liver extract and something else that they won't tell me, but it seems to be working better than NyQuil at this point...How's it taste? Hmmm, let me try it again here and I'll tell you...Imagine honey mixed with silly puddy, you know the kind that your kids use to play with and eat too, and we all thought that they would die or get sick doing so...and they didn't...so we tasted a little bit ourselves and could NOT figure out for the life of us WHY would they eat THIS!?!..yeah, that baaaaaaaad...arghhh!! Take care, have a great weekend, and those kids out there that I've been fortunate to train over the last 4-5 years who are now "licensed" to drive and are reading my blogs: DRIVE safely, drive with care and more importantly drive with a purpose (visualize where you're going, how your getting there in traffic and KNOWING that there might be jam somewhere along the way, so relax, the Pizza won't go cold and your friends will still be there...)...God Bless...Coach tom

November 15, 2007...airborne on way to play the #1 team, Bayi Red Star Army...We played as well as I have ever seen us play as a T-E-A-M...and on the long road no less...What was the "spark" for this happy occasion? For sure the Team meeting the night before where Coach Gao and his Staff, plus the GM, shared their soulful thoughts with the Team, and it must have had a positive effect, 'cause we got busy in this game...The score was 112-105, I believe...still waiting to get a copy of the stats...Player of the Game: Steve "C-Berr" Castleberry, our "Footer" who played the game of his life: 30 pts., 14 rebounds, 4 blocks and a smile from here to Hawaii...for the first time we were finally able to get Steve the ball on the post where he dominated with his Post moves to the basket...He only shot 1 FT in 36 mins., missing that attempt on the back end of a 3 pt. play...Man was he "money" last night...What was the key? Spider Monkey, former "Advanced Turnover Extraordinaire" graduate, who entered the game last night when we were down 16-4...Our offense in motion is like watching paint dry...yeah, really boring and interesting at the same time...guess that's what's called an oxymoron...needless to say, we struggle when our perimeter shots chip paint off the rim, and we don't run lanes for transition baskets...I made a suggestion to Coach Gao that we needed to get Pops (28 yr. old vet, only one married with child) out of there as he is too tentative and trying to protect the ball as opposed to getting us into the offense...Enter Spider...right away he picks up the tempo and makes a couple of assists and we're right back in the game...Enter Steve and he gets a lob pass for a dunk off a beautiful play by Spider Monkey...and then another no look pass in the paint to Steve and folks, it's a beauty to watch unfold here: Steve has finally found a "soulmate" on the floor on his team that actually PASSES the ball to him when he's open...This 3 mins. in the 1st qtr. when Steve and Spider are hooking up is giving us (coaches) a whole new insight to our problems of previous games: we don't use our Post player well at all...until NOW...anyway, the rest of the game was fun to watch evolve as the "team" came together well and played to their levels well...to the end...We got the "stops" on defense when needed down the stretch and rebounded the shots that we needed possessions on and the end result gave us the victory...still waitin on the stats...

Next game preparations: this is a solid Chinese team in that they have Wang Zhe Zhe, formerly of the Mavericks and Nuggets, I believe and one of the best perimeter shooters in the league...He goes about 6'9", left handed and appears on film that he's never taken the ball out bounds, meaning he's a shooter FIRST and FOREMOST and we'll have to respect that matchup early and LONG...I am going to suggest to Coach Gao that we play a Box (push sideline/baseline) and Diamond, which is a 1-2-1 with pressure ball matchup up top vs. Point and "see" how they adjust...I don't like zones , never have, mainly because it is the WORSE defensive rebounding position in basketball...too easy for players NOT to block someone out and anticipate the rebound instead of "assuming" teammate will get it...know what I mean...But in this application/proposal from me to Coach Gao and other coaches, I would like to see how we could disrupt their "normal" expectations of having Zhe Zhe touch the ball early in the qtr. and letting him get goin from downtown...We'll see if my translator Pancake can convey my thoughts and suggestions here...If not, we'll just have to be more alert on picking the ball up early, covering the lanes on pass entries and of course blocking out and rebounding on missed perimeter shots...

Reflections on being sick in China: I came down with a sniffaloffagus cold yesterday, and felt it coming on after the game on Sunday night...I think it was a carryover of being on a bus with 16 people for 8 straight hours and no FRESH air and a lot of sneezing and coughing going on behind me, which means the "airborne" particles will surely make its way towards my "jet intakes" (nostrils) and provide me with an opportunity to be sick later...True to form, that's what happened and now I feel like old Chevy (I had a '55 Bel Air back in the day) trying to "turn over" early in the cold mornings, you remember those days, right? Arrrrohn....arrrrrohn....arrrrohn...and finally there was enough "juice" left over to get it going, but it was really hard to get it cranking like it should...That's the way my morning started with the hackin and coughin and seemingly endless backfires before I finally felt human again and could stand upright and walk around in my hotel room stepping East and West...Man, every country I've been too that has blessed me with their "dormant" bugs, are all uniquely different in their manifestations and my body's acceptance of these foreign ills...As an example, when I played professionally for two years in Belgium they had a "resident" bug called "Le Grippe"...now let me tell you something about THAT bug...it's stealth, has no antidotes to speak of, just the reminder from the Belgies that "Le Grippe very bad and YOU will get it too...then it will pass..."...I scoffed at these testimonials at first until I got "The GRIP"...Aptly named, I might add, as it literally takes a hold on your body's nervous system and you really feel like you can't move...at all...anytime...wait'll you hear my 'prescription' from the then team's President's wife, Paula...she made me WAIT two days while I was laid up, and then brought over a bottle of Cabernet, cheap one I might add, poured the whole bottle into a soup pan, added some sugar, warmed it up, short of boil, and proceeded to have me DRINK the whole freakin pan!!! I was dehydrated as it was, so any liquid would quench the thirst and it did, let me tell you...She then told me to put on heavy sweat pants, sweat shirt with a tee under that, wool thick socks, add another blanket and go lay down on the bed and go to sleep until tomorrow..."and you will feel so much better...promise..." were her embedded words to my memory bank as reflect now...to this day, I do not recall anything that happened during that sleep sequence, but I DO remember the next morning when I awakened...I was soaking wet, beads of perspiration still dripping down my face, I had broken the fever, and now it was time to get up and take a shower and see how I felt after that...Folks, I was as good as a newborn puppy...all happy and giddy, no hangover, no fever, no cough, no stuffiness, I wuz healed by a "wives remedies"...remember those? I haven't forgotten that "prescription" and on occasion have seriously thought about implementing it again...But now NyQuil has replaced Caberet Sauvignon, and that stuff really KNOCKS you out prior, during and after one's sleep sequence...Good thing I brought 3 bottles of NyQuil to China...just in case...and the "case" happened...guess you can tell I might be still out of it by how quickly I digressed from the original thought behind this story on "getting sick in China..."...What do they do here? Well, let's see, we've had 8 players get sick so far and they go to hospital and get IVs for and hour and half or so, and then go to bed...not sure what's in the IV but it must work 'cause the fellas be back on the floor the next morning...

Okay, hope everyone understands that we're on a 3 game road trip, the second one coming up on Friday vs. the #1 team in League...we're fortunately going to have 3 practices before we play them, which is terrific, although the players to a man would disagree, but it gives us a chance to prepare a "game plan/strategy" towards their strengths, which is perimeter shooting and transition fast break opportunities...Will "blogit" tomorrow for you guys as your encouraging comments and pursuit of "more newell, more..." has inspired me to be diligent in bringing into my life here in China...Big Shout Outs to all the kids who put in timeless hours on improving their skills and game this past summer...Know this: you will be happy to experience a tryout with your team KNOWING that you worked your tail off JUST FOR THIS MOMENT...don't worry about your missed shots, turnovers and any other negative imagination that you visualize prior to the experience, just go out and demonstrate you BEST EFFORT and everything else will take care of itself...God Bless, take care good people and thanks so much for caring...Coach tom

November 12, 2007...10am...on a connecting flight to Shanghai...we play tomorrow night...guess I'll learn what "Shanghaid" means after hearing it for so many years growing up and watching John Wayne movies back in the black and white TV daze...

How to describe my current mental state and feelings for the game of basketball right now....hmmm, if Dr. Naismith and his current North American disciples could watch our "team" defense right now, and be asked how to describe it, here's what I'm sure the collective observations would be: "They remind me of 5 men visually impaired, hearing impaired, mute, and playing with no limbs..."...Translated: 5 guys with no vision, can't hear or talk and have no arms...Considering the maneless condition of my scalp, I believe that some pharmaceutical company, rivaling Rogaine, should retain my services as a spokesperson to see if in fact a coach of my pedigree CAN indeed grow back hair that has recently been pulled out...the way I'm headed (no pun intended), there's a good chance that the healthy "crop" on my chest is next for pulling out...I have never in my basketball life been so challenged as a coach to convey the simplistic fundamental values of team defense before and during a season...if my brain cells are being replaced, rejuvenated or invigorated by this experience then Dr. Timothy Leary missed the "boat" when he chose to seek outside means of wanting to hallucinate...I can make copies of our now 1-5 team that would be just as effective...Abe Lemmons, former U of Texas men's basketball coach, now deceased, was one of the most gifted humorists to ever represent professional coaches, and about right now, his humor would be a antidote for the poison that ails me at this time...Those who know me well, know that I'm a pretty positive person, one who sees the positive in ALL things related to players learning and playing this game, and humor is always one of my "finer" elements when enhancing one's level of concentration and/or learning abilities...

Game summaries to date...we have lost 2 straight after winning our 2nd game at home by 6pts...in overtime...uglee, but victorious...the next game was on the road in Dalian and we got run out of the gym early and late...We weren't ready to play mentally, and this team, Jilin Tigers are very "soft" when it comes to being aggressive...I don't like to talk about our weaknesses per se, but all the "spots" I had mentioned in previous early pre season practices and exhibition games is still "current" and doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon...which means we're in trouble...Why do the players continually falter? I believe it comes from their lack of education beyond high school and being in a system 11 and half months out of the year, training, lifting weights BUT NOT developing good habits and eliminating the bad ones...Our team has 13 active players right now...11 of the 13 are single child in a mom and dad environment growing up, meaning "spoiled" to this day...You have to remember, China has in place a "rule" that you may not have more than 2 children, and if the first born is a boy, they STOP procreating for the most part...Why? Because they have MORE females than males...they've allowed families who have 2 boys to have 3 children in the next generation or something like that...Anyway, back to the gist of my observations here regarding our players and their predictable tendencies and bad habits...They can do NO WRONG in the eyes of their parents, meaning any criticism, positive or negative will get the same reaction: "So what...?"...This is and will continue to be the downfall of progress here in China basketball: the lack of accountability for individual mistakes and bad habits that carry over onto the court in competitions...There are over 300 million playing basketball in China right now, all ages, all various skill levels, yet very little "teaching" really as opposed to the repetitions of fundamentals and the explanation of "why" we do this drill and for what purpose...I guess that's what boggles my mind the most with the players, not only on our team but watching film of opponents: they play with no purpose...more on this subject as the season progresses...

So, we lose and travel back in the Fog from Outer Limits, and then again on Sunday...After being down by 15 points at halftime, we storm back to take a lead only to go BLANK from the field and mentally on defense...It was the same ol script from Grounhog Day: same time in game, 4th qtr., same scenario, leaving a shooter to help out a teammate WHO DOESN'T NEED HELP, and watching the open shooter knock down a 3 time and again...Deliberate mistakes? Yeah, good question, as I thought the same to myself...I think Coach Gao is realizing also, that we have certain players who give great Karoke lip service but their actions speak louder...He's finally accepting my recommendations to emphasize accountability on defense and NOT be enamored with a player who shoots and makes 1-5 from the 3 pt. area on our team...Simply amazing logic and wonderment to me, folks...

Team Meeting last night: we have more team meetings than any Senate Subcommittee, trust me...I think I really understand Chinese better now, because Coach Gao keeps repeating the same message over and over again...so the words are becoming familiar "tones" to me...Coach Gao is such a great person and teacher, it's a shame these players don't buy into him...He really wants them each to succeed, yet we still have dissident elements who are making their choice to be selfish and it is hurting the team...hence, the reason for meetings...I was asked to speak up and I chose to ask the players if any of them have actually "asked" their coaches what they could do to help the team play better...and if they had asked a teammate what they could do to help them also...Y'all shoulda seen the heads drop and eyes down, head still, while the words from Pancake's (translator) mouth reverberated in their ears...I had 3 players approach me when I was coaching the team earlier in the preseason: 2 Americans and Wong Bo...team leader...Evidently my words went right to the heart of the other coaches and the GM that was there as they all repeated what I shared as something that was very true and so important for our future successes: How can we help one another to succeed as a team...? Guess I'm good for another week here...still have two bags packed and a couple of boxes full to send home via DHL when the "time" comes...I am a realist folks, and even though my presence here is a positive, the economics will soon "kick in" and this owner will "cut" his losses...been there and experienced that already...not a lot of fun...When they start gettin funny with the money, that's when it's time to check flight schedules and have a really nice "last supper" before morning departure the next day...So far, they've been "late" 15 days last month and 10 days this month...but then again we won on "day 5" of due date...I'm enjoying the teaching and helping the coaches with a model that I've learned from my mentors of past years, and it's fun to watch the growth and concurrence of things I suggest or teach on the floor...I'm still waiting for a copy of the stats though...Strange, have yet to "get one" even though I've asked for one...Coach Woods would go cyberballistic if he didn't have stats to evaluate effort and overall performance of the team after each game...It's like I'm a passenger in a car and I sense that one of the "tires" is flat, and mention that we should check the "pressure" to make sure it doesn't go flat...Still awaitin that "rest stop check..."...Okay, gotta run, we play in two hours in Shanghai against a younger team than ours whose record is 2-5...we have a "shot" at this team as they are predictable "passers", meaning they could work for Western Union delivering telegrams...The other tendency they have is "waiting" around watching the Americans do their thing one on one, meaning their spacing is poor which allows one person to guard two on defense and means we can actually HELP a teammate in our rotations IF we remember to do such...I'm looking for some Green Tea that will enhance the "recall" cells of our players' brains...Later, thanks for your patience during a difficult 3 weeks here, trying to blog and adjust to new role...Hope the tryouts go well for the kids I've trained this past summer and hope that everyone is going to experience a successful season...Best to all and I will have an update again tomorrow...Coach tom

Post Game Reflections: October 31, 2007...We gave up 105 points and scored 93, I think...one thing I have learned over the years, and perhaps a weakness, is I never remember the final score of a game we lose, just the "plays" that were horrific and lead to our demise...Such was the case this evening...Holee Bat Droppings!! We came out fired up, went ahead early by 5 in first quarter, take out the "proverbial" gun and shoot ourselves not once but twice in the quarter to go down 8 because we didn't close out on the wings with our hands up...Note to Coach Woods: for the life of the me, I have reminded starters, and pleaded with reserves to "Closeout with TRACE HAND UP on BALL push base..."...They PUSH base really well but the "hand up" sequence is missing in translation somewhere, trust me...I am going to make them ALL take the gum out of their mouths to see if that helps any...2nd Qtr. we have completely gone from Dr. Jekyll now into a metamorphosis that is eerily familiar to a personality that I've experienced before with this team, and "new" to Coach Gao...We are in deep "doo-doo", as we go down by double digits at the end of two...Hyde has made his way into our locker room now and the "look" upon each player's face tells the story: "oh oh, we're going to get beat again BAADDDDLY!! Coach Gao shares his thoughts first, which is really good, because I was about to speak in "tongues" that Pancake would have a difficult time translating...Keep in mind, I am a very positive teacher/coach, but if you EVER play for me and quit on the court because of the following: "I was fouled...I was more open than his shot taken...I got pushed...I shot an air ball...I shouldn't come out the game...I don't like playing with him...etc.", guess what? Don't even bother participating in any training programs or tryout programs that I might be associated with because you will receive the "wrath" and "rebuke" of a teacher/coach that will be worse than any "curfew" you may have ever missed for your parent(s)...Catch my drift here?...Back to Coach Gao's thoughts at halftime...He praised their efforts and said we must do a better job on our closeouts and not worry about the Officials when there is no call...He then defers to me...Here's my best recollection of "Patton-Newell" halftime reflection: "you want to play, you want to score, you want the bonuses and you want the glory YET there is NOT ONE PLAYER here who is thinking about the team and WHAT the TEAM needs when you play...You come off the bench, you want an opportunity to play and show the coach you can contribute, yet you do nothing for the team, your defense is awful, you don't talk, you forget everything about our pre game reminders and you give up on plays on defense...This team we're playing is NOT BETTER THAN US, wake up, be a man, be pissed off to the point that you do something better for the team this half, don't believe that you can't beat this team, YOU CAN..."...Then I went to the Men's Room where it was cooler and the beads of perspiration on a wrinkled forehead dried quickly and I relieved myself, literally,of my feelings at the moment...and the 3rd qtr. was about to begin...We came out physically and that's all I can say about the 2nd half...it was not a "treat" to have to sit there and watch, believe me...I have to confess here, I am sending this blogit belatedly (November 8th) as I now am just getting "back" to normal on a schedule and available broadband hookup in my own city and hotel...I've missed "you" and this...forgive me, I'm still adjusting to cultural differences and technology availability or not...More to follow...in fact we actually "won" our first game on Sunday, Nov. 2...From Jeers to Cheers...Whoopee...Coach tom

October 31, 2007, Wednesday morning, 5:30am...Hmmm, where to begin...First off, upon our safe arrival on China Southern airlines, which by the way, I have to completely endorse as an incredible service airlines, extremely professional and safety first conscious from takeoff to landing...Plus, flying Boeing makes ANY and ALL travels here worth commenting on, I think...Back to the "blogit" story of the day...We arrive to our hotel: XinJiang Overseas Chinese Hotel around 9pm on Monday night...as we enter the lobby, I thought it was a convention of "Been Ladens" as you would not have believed the large number of Middle Eastern gentlemen converged on this hotel as we walked into the lobby...The looks "we", meaning Steve C-Berre, DT, and myself got as waited patiently for our room keys, well let's it put it this way: imagine Pit Bulls in a yard that can't bark, yet they look at you like they would love to "bite" your head off if they could...and maybe they're "thinking" about it later...all the while, we say nothing to one another (me, Steve and DT, but WE know what they're thinking as they look upon us), and wait for the key and trip to our "team" floor and rooms...Folks, I gotta tell you something, I have pretty good instincts, and my Irish intuition here, sensed some real "bad" characters at this hotel and even in this city, and I'll tell why later...The room is supposedly a "3 Star" accommodation...Obviously, the person who rates "Stars" in this city, only ever received ONE STAR as a young student in school, 'cause that's ALL this place could muster in my opinion...It smelled of cigarettes, the bathroom was an interesting "addon" development, that gave you the impression of a "to be continued..." at some point...this century...

Dinner at a terrific restaurant next to the hotel...Remember I mentioned how it was expessed to us to "take food with us", because there are no good restaurants and the hotel food is not so good, also?" Well, that is FAR from the truth...I joined Head Coach Gao and Asst. Coach Chiang to this Muslim Restaurant (20 yards from our hotel), and let me tell you something: FANTABULOUS!! Coach Gao ordered a dish called "Chiao Mian Pian", a pasta enriched with some spices and vegetables with lamb pieces that was delicious...plus, I had ordered 3 lamb kabobs that were excellent also...So, I went to Pancake afterwards and told him: "Pancake, you were wrong: there is excellent food in this city as the coaches and myself had a wonderful meal together..."...He was shocked to hear this, and then heard from the other players that they too had enjoyed a really good dinner...I am learning to NOT trust the "opinions" of the people who leave their own confines and travel to another locale...They're not always correct in their assessments...Good lesson to learn...Anyway, this Muslim city is a "stopover" for many Middle Easterners, Lord knows where they are going, but I will tell you this: DO NOT TRAVEL TO THIS PART OF CHINA at this time or anytime, as the "spirit" one would sense here is very dangerous...I believe that there ARE certain undesirable characters residing here under the 'guise' of their religion and beliefs, until...yes, UNTIL??? This notion/sense I had was confirmed when Coach Gao addressed the team before practice yesterday, and told the team to be very careful, NOT to leave the hotel alone, and never leave without asking the coaches first...THEN he addressed us, the Americans..."there are terrorists living here, and they are dangerous people, so please be careful...do not go somewhere without us being around...these visitors are not nice people..."...Well, you can imagine the "look" C-Berre and DT gave me and the goose bumps my scalp expressed when I heard this translation...Now, I understood "why" we had an armed security guard on our floor and the other 11 floors did not...and this "security" guard was military and his relief dressed in sport coat and tie...I decided that my "room with a view" was probably not a good location, and changed with Coach Gao, mainly because on our floor there were several Middle Easterners staying next to me the next before and were loud and louder until about 3:30am...I decided that there was no way I would stay in that room another night...Coach Gao, what a guy, offered his room in exchange...I gladly accepted...slept like a puppy last night...

We play tonight versus Xin Jiang, who won their first game at home `105-102...they have a former NBA Chinese player on their team, Bateer, who is 33 and still playing, slowly, but effectively at his size 7'2" 290lbs. in this league...They also have two Americans, one from the U of Oregon, David Jackson, whom I've known over the last several years and enjoyed working with him one summer when he transferred from U of Utah to the Ducks back in the summer of '99...He's an outstanding shooter and scorer as a 2 Guard...He should do well in this league...The other American, Brandon Cole, is 6'9", and works hard as well...should be a good matchup...Last night, I forgot to mention, we watched the replay of our first game and then had a team meeting afterwards...it was a great revelation and meeting trust me...Coach Gao is such a good person and teacher...He mentioned to the players about my concerns before the game with the distractions and then the money on the table before we went out, and said it was also 'his' first time ever to see something like that by an owner...but didn't realize how it may have affected our concentration like I suggested...I was asked to say something after we watched the film and he spoke about the statistics and his thoughts on the game, and I deferred to the other coaches...then when the coaches finished, Coach Gao opened up the floor and wanted input from the players, which in my opinion is ALWAYS recommended when players are distracted and/or not playing with a clear mind....Several players spoke and spoke well, including the two American players, both of whom saw on film that they indeed could have played much better than they did...This was a GREAT meeting...then all of a sudden, Coach Gao WANTS ME to conclude the meeting with my "final" thoughts...He asked me TWICE to please share what I think...So, here's what I said: "Basketball is a game of mistakes and the key to success is not making the same mistake twice, whether on offense of defense...The "next" thing I shared is that when you play professional basketball there two measures of reflection that help players and teams understand what they must continue to improve upon: one is video, it tells no lies, it shows all the mistakes, all the great plays and some of the not-so-great plays of a game...the other is the post game statistics, as they record minutes played, efficiency or not, and more importantly "what" you each can do to improve upon in the next game.." Then I finished my two cents worth with this: you are only recognized by your best effort game in game out...the great thing about basketball is that YOU CAN play better the next time out BECAUSE you have control over this very important aspect of your game and the team's performance overall...With that coached smiled, thanked me and we were gone...Quite an experience I am having now, folks, this is a GREAT collection of young basketball players and experienced coaches that I am truly grateful for the opportunity to learn from and hopefully contribute towards the season's success...Will let you know how we did later vs. Xin Jiang...

Shootaround this morning...11am-12pm...ran into DJax and Brandon...DJax said that it's been difficult in transition here, as he stays close to his room (hotel), and doesn't go out at night in this city...I cannot imagine two American citizens, athletes as that, staying very long in this city, knowing that there are people who despise our country and its democracy...I ain't one to discuss politics, mind you, and those of you who know me well, never venture into that area of conversation with me, which I respect and appreciate very much...BUT...I will say this, hearing a fellow Patriot share with us (DT and myself) his genuine concern for his safety and what he's heard about the "visitors" here in this city, it makes you wonder every time you step out into the public spectrum, either socially or professionally...Told David to be "strong, be vigilant and make them respect you by your play and the respect you have for the game...you are an ambassador now, accept the challenge..."...He smiled and said "I hear you coach, I hear you...I'll be alright..."...Both players said that the team is not "together" at all...they have a lot of internal issues between coach and players, and it's like something new everyday...DT looked at me and I to him, and we just smiled to ourselves, because he HAS NO IDEA what we've experienced over the last two weeks...Good shootaround, players were alert and active and shot well...we'll see if that carries over tonight...By the way, the owner and GM made the trip, arriving late last night, staying at a different hotel...one that HAS several "Stars"...hah...Stay tooned...Less I forget, a 'huge' shout out to my friend "Big D" and the Hawaiian Eye, Mike M, as they did a marvelous job preparing me for the "unexpected" cultural awakenings and to be carefully aware...I have done both...

October 29, 2007...Monday morning, 5:30am...We lost our first game last night, but that was really NOT the surprise of the evening...The OWNER of the team was...we're in the locker room and he wanted to address the team, so the Head Coach spoke, then the other two assistants and it was my turn, but, the owner took precedence over me and I kept quiet until he finished...Mr. Qu comes in with two young female assistants, carrying a Red Velour cover over a tray...they put the tray on top of the table in the middle of the room and he begins to give us a "pep" talk, talking about being like a soldier in a war, not giving up, playing hard every play, etc...Now I'm looking at the "Dissident 7" (sans Abbie Hoffman) and they're not even looking at him at all...He then concludes the meeting with "You will get big bonuses, big rewards for your victory tonight, JUST LOOK...." And with that he uncovers over 10K of Chinese Yuan on this silver tray...Now, folks, I gotta tell you something here, I've been around the world in pro basketball, and this is the FIRST time I've ever had anyone bring in money to "try" to motivate a professional team to victory...The only players who marveled at the tray were the Americans, dumbfounded by the translator's words and also what they were seeing, as I was totally shocked as well, and then I looked at the last 3 players who held out until yesterday afternoon, and they didn't give it much notice whatsoever...The reason for the strike: the new GM tore up the just agreed upon contracts with the players by the old GM and basically told the Chinese players that they would "get their bonuses and many more when the team wins..."...Good People, I KNEW right then and there we would NOT win this game as the players body language told the 'true' story of not caring, only playing because of family and friends, etc...Well, I was right...we stunk up the place...it was awful...the "3" played horrible and without their points and experience we had no shot...The locker room afterwards was quiet until after the new coach and GM left the room and then the players loosened up, like they never lost the game...It was the most surreal experience I've ever seen in my basketball lifetime, believe me...Anyway, I am preparing now for our road trip that takes us all week to the road for the next two games...Muslim cities...will try to connect with you from there...the weather "switch" has been turned on to C-O-L-D now, and I sure am glad, Bo, my son, gave me his winter hat to wear now...it'll protect what few strands up top I have left...

Postscript on Game #1: we made 5 turnovers, unforced, in 1st qr. and still only down 1 point...We started all Chinese players in the beginning, same as the other team, as you're only allowed to play the Americans 3 out of 4 qtrs. total, and only one player can play one qtr. alone, meaning that we would play DaJuan Tate, 6'5 G/F in the 2nd and save Steve C-Berr for the 2nd half...It didn't matter, as we seem to go through periodic mental lapses that I've seen before with this group when I was the Head Coach, and now the new "Dragon", has his own firsthand experience...I tried to understand his substitution patterns with the Chinese players, and it was difficult in the first half...Stretch, our 6'6" SG/SF, lanky, scrappy (most improved player out of camp in my mind), didn't get a minute in the first half let alone the game it turned out...Coach Gao, chose to start a player, Tiger, who sprained his ankle a week ago and has been hobbling on it ever since, and that was a disaster as he couldn't guard lamp post let alone a gate WITH a good ankle...He alone gave up 4 3's in the game, and could not run a lane in transition, thus making our "attack" 4 vs. 5 whenever he was on the court...Cash, our "money" man, who really plays hard in practice and makes things happen, never got out of the dressing room, as he was MIA also...This I learned from the game: you have prime time players and those who are matinee attendees, and we got some matinee attendees...I really feel for Coach Gao, and expressed the same to him after the game, sharing with him that our team distractions so close to the season's start is not an easy issue to overcome and expect optimum performances by the team in general...I also told him that we need to keep the offense simple, and not change or go into so many plays, as our guards do not do a good job of getting into the offense anyway...I will find out today if my words were accepted, as Pancake called me to tell that the coach "he feel you, coach, he know what you say..."...Best way to surmise the experience: we were as sharp as a paring knife trying to "slice" a balloon...Yeah, that bad...Overall, our defense in the half court wasn't as bad as our closeouts in transition, meaning the same players who were delinquent in matching up during the exhibitions, manifested the same "spots" again...I was so upset within, I swore I was going to take away their chopsticks...really frustrating...Coach Woods KNOWS exactly what I'm venting here about right now...take care, good people, have a safe, happy week...

Reflections about the "return" of the "Dissident 7"...On Saturday morning, at the team's hotel, we watched a video tape of the team we were going to play on Sunday...Now mind you, I had asked for this tape and the rest of the games from last season when I first arrived...The Supreme Commander at the time, remember him? Well, he had the "key" to the cabinet for such and only gave me 8 of 32 games, and none of the first two opponents...I tried so hard and continually pleaded with Pancake to "get these now, please, we need them for preparation..."...To no avail, did my request ever get fulfilled...So enter the new "Dragon", who asked me if I had any tapes...told the new Coach, that "no", couldn't get anyone to help me there...Turns out the asst. GM who was fired took the key with him and there is a law in China that says you cannot access someone else's file cabinet without their permission, so in other words NO TAPES...fortunately, the day before, on Friday we were able to finally get a copy of one game of our first opponent, Zhe Jiang, and watched it, minus our 3 top players, Cannon, team captain, Wong Bo, best team player and leader on team, and Spider Monkey, solidarity "brother" to the team's leaders...So we're watching this tape, unedited, just a TV feed, and I'm trying to read the tendencies of the players who we'll face on Sunday, especially their 7'2" Post player, Samake, who has been on this team two years now and is long and longer...Anyway, the "mood" of the brood was indicative of whether or not we were going to "play" competitively or not, as it was a somber collection of what was suppose to be an exciting time: the beginning of a new season...Shucks, I was fired up, and have been for the season's start until the Dissident 7 held out...We finished watching the video after 3 qtrs. and then return to our hotel, (Americans stay in a different hotel than the players...??), and wait until later in the afternoon for our final practice before the game...The Dissident 7 minus 4 have now joined us, and it was a relief to have those 3 back on the floor, but there was "still" something lingering between them and the rest of the team...Unbelievable...We got through the session, went over matchups and crossed fingers and toes that we would really "play" a game the next day...This was the reflection of the day before...

I will try to blog once we're settled into the Muslim area of North central China, close to Mongolia...I hope and pray that the plane has no problems getting there...evidently, the "trip" is just that: a trip...Best to all, Coach tom

October 26, 2007, Friday morning, and the drama continues here in Changchun City with the Jilin Tigers team...Just got a call from Steve Castleberry, one of the two Americans on team, who received a call from Pancake (yeah, I know, I "use" to get the calls first as Head Coach, now I get a player calling me with the info...), saying that "practice may be cancelled as the GM is meeting with the players privately and that I will call you if there will be practice this morning..."...Now THAT is a classic story in itself, in that the Chinese players have more "private" meetings than any team I've ever heard, even more than the Bronx Bombers in the Reggie Jax days of old...I mean, c'mon, are we a "team" or 10 players, two Chinese coaches and THEN the Americans? Needless to say, I have no particular reaction to this, other than I think we better win the first game at home or some of these players may be on their way to somewhere colder than what's expected here this Winter...It's really interesting, my non-reaction to this scenario right now, considering I would have been very upset if still the Head Coach and these meetings were to take place without me (one of which DID happen and I expressed to Pancake that in the future I would like to be included in these "special" meetings with Chinese players, "to learn and observe" their reactions, body language to what is being said to them by a non team person...He said that this is the way the CBA is, foreigners are not included in "special" Chinese players meetings...I then informed Pancake that there is NOT ONE NBA foreigner today that would be excluded from a "team" meeting...EVER!! That "team" means just that: TEAM...He said to me at that time: "I feel you Coach...I feel you..."...Imagine my reaction to that expression from a Chinese translator...Guess he's watched a number of HBO movies over the years...

So, as I sit here pondering today's delay, I only wonder about our "new" Head Coach, Gao...I really like this coach...He is a teacher, and a very good one...He is positive with the players, yet will speak with a voice inflection that needs no translation and my concurrence with his reaction to a not-so-smart play...He also suffers from Diabetes at the age of 43...He told me that he injects himself with insulin daily and has to be careful of what he eats and drinks...I gotta tell you, as coaches we do "suffer" some physical abnormalities that GMs have no clue about unless they too played the game and coached as well...What a non-player GM doesn't realize is that we really love our jobs, preparing practice plans daily, making notes on certain opponents tendencies when we're looking at film; thinking about words of wisdom and humor to inspire players, both individually and as a team, and of course the challenge of being technically prepared for the competitions...Once you have this adrenaline "flow" in your veins as a former player, you never lose it as a teacher and coach, trust me...I had to share the aforementioned because I worked for a GM back in the day who was so caught up in himself that he really never "got it" when it came to the people who worked with him, for him and the Club...especially when people busted their humps everyday for the "team"...he was more into making "money" for himself than what the people did to represent the team in the community for parents, kids and coaches...This "quirk" finally caught up to him, and he learned a hard lesson, but I guess he's happy because he's got "his" money in the bank after all these years...God Bless him...

Just got a call from Pancake...practice is "on"..gotta run...will complete later...

Post Practice Reflections: the "cuckoo's nest" is still intact, folks, as what I'm about to share with you now is hard to believe...I've never been one to seek vindication and/or understanding in my many years of coaching both domestically and internationally, but the issues that follow this team are quite extraordinary to say the least...When I got on the bus, I noticed that we had fewer players than the full contingent of 16 members plus Team Mgr., Asst. Coach YoYo (just returned from the U of Memphis visit with other CBA asst. coaches), Head Coach and Trainer, plus Pancake...I sit next to the Head Coach and he greets me well and I say "Ola" which is Chinese for "okay"...in Greek "okay" is pronounced "okala"...language is really intriguing to me as I make my way around the globe...back to the "Light Bus" story...so we now are not making our way to the Auditorium this morning, but going to our normal practice facility, and I don't ask why, I just go along for the "ride", as there is no need to know what is going on, they'll tell me if they choose to, otherwise they'll keep their "personal" issues to themselves...Once we arrived to the gym, Pancake catches up to me and says: "Coach, you must keep this to yourself, but we have 7 players who are on "strike"...I said they're what? "They are on strike...the substitute players, plus team captains are not happy with management about all the changes and especially their contracts and chose to "strike" this morning before we got on the bus...Do you understand this word "strike"?"...I replied of course, a strike occurs when employees are upset with management over their work conditions and wages...I then ask him if Coach knew anything about this, and he said "no", as everyone was to be on the bus at 8:30am to go to the Auditorium for practice...He was shocked and hurt by this situation at this time and "do you feel me, Coach" question at the end of his sentence...Wow, talk about the "nest" that's been built so far this early season, and now this...Now, I knew "why" I am here still, to help this young coach and young team, get through the muck that has evolved over the last couple of weeks...I ask Pancake to join me in conversation with Coach Gao, as I wish to let him know that I "feel" for him now in this current issue with the team, and if there is anything I can do to help him, please don't hesitate to ask me, as I shared that my experiences in the NBA also had players "hold out" over contract issues, only never two days before the first game...He tells Pancake that he appreciates my feelings and that there are no "secrets" with me, that together we understand what we must do to prepare the team and try to be successful, and thank you for staying with me and the team this season..."...Dang, I got one of those emotional "flushes" one experiences when you least expect your behavior to react to such words...As I said before: I like this young coach very much...he is wise and secure in who he is and what he represents professionally...I predict that someday he will become the Chinese National Coach...he's got that kind of pedigree in him...And I'll be rooting for him all the way too, when that opportunity arises for him...It'll probably be several years out, but when it inevitably happens, you "heard and read it" here first!! Okay, so now we have practice this afternoon (supposedly the "strike" is over) around 11:30pm your time on Thursday and 2:30pm our time...And we're headed to the Auditorium...I will describe the archaic "space" known as their arena...It was built by the Russians in 1951 and the asbestos ceiling tiles are STILL intact...Yesterday afternoon's practice was at this Auditorium, our first in this facility...Now, you gotta visualize this: we walk onto the floor, and at both ends of the court are suspended 60'x20' color banners of each player on the team!! And across the floor as you look up towards the last row (this place seats 4500 max) there is the most incredible "sheet" nylon poster of the team, unlike anything I have ever seen before: no seams, no overlays, an incredible 60'x200' suspended wall covering...on the opposite side wall is the another one, without pictures, just Chinese character writings, stating the following: "If we win we will love you...if we lose we will love you...but if you do not give your best effort we not love you"...Now that is what I call true "fan appreciation" for the love of the game, as it is indeed a game of "best effort" and always has been...And this theme compliments my basketball summer program: Best Effort Camps and Clinics, both programs "free" to kids and volunteer youth coaches...Back to the "relic" stage about to be opened again for business in two days...The floor is slick, no not slick, it's a smooth as my bald head, little traction...it's cold, as the only "heat"is radiated behind the benches for games, hah, who says Red Auerbach's tactics in the Old Garden didn't originate from this facility...I am going to get the "Stick It Pad" you see teams use today when they get ready to check into the game...That will really help us and our defensive positions also...I'm going to make sure that it's kept on our side of the court, and if the opponents choose to "step and wipe" on it during a FT attempt or side out play, that's fine...I gotta believe that the materials and item itself is made in China, no? Anyway, it's better than it was last season, according to Pancake and a couple of players...Chubby Checker would have had no problemos teaching the "Twist" on this floor, trust me...One end of the court has a basket that is probably 91/2 feet as the rim is bent down somewhat...I brought it to the attention of YoYo, and he said it will be corrected by game time...The seats on the bench are recycled cafeteria plastics seats (remember those in high school) and let me tell you this: they're dirty beyond grime...I took a tissue and got it wet and wiped one of the seats and the tissue was beyond dark brown, it was just plain dark...Well, glad I went through this exercise as I am bringing a washcloth to wipe down my seat on the bench EVERY GAME...I gotst me some new threads and definitely don't want to have to get it cleaned after ONE game, right? We ended up scrimmaging for two quarters and then did some conditioning drills after that...It was an eery experience to me, as the players were extremely "quiet" and almost starstruck by the nylon images suspended at both ends of the court...I watched as each of them looked at themselves and marveled in their own way to this feature and honor...Fortunately, the coaches are not included in this display...Good thing, I probably would have looked like a "poster child" for the Fuji Film Blimp, remember that dirigible? We got through the scrimmage and practice without injuries and that was a GREAT sign and sigh of relief for the coach...

My take on the "strike" issue with the "Unlucky Seven"? The level of importance to doing things the right way when it comes to administering a professional basketball team is way way low, definitely NOT a priority, as you can probably imagine by now...What will happen to the players who chose to do this? No idea, but I would think there must be some concessions by management if they are to enter the season with a team intact...Fingers crossed here, for sure...Will let you know what Wang Bo says to me about this whole thing...Guess who I ran into for the first time in two weeks? SunJun, the old GM, the Larry Bird of China basketball, at our hotel and going to a private dining room with a couple of his friends...He sees Steve C-Berr and myself and comes over and shakes our hands and I give him a hug and ask him how he is doing and all, knowing full well he doesn't speak a lick of English, so I do what I do best, "sign language" fishing pole and card playing and he gives me a "thumbs up" on both with laughter and a huge smile...Little did I realize this "wizard" knew well in advance what was about to go "down" the next day...the "strike"...Anyway, his "signing" to me was that he would call me soon...not sure if that'll happen, but wanted him to know that I am his friend and miss him...Nice moment in Changchun City...

I keep getting asked about my diet and eating habits...Let's put it this way, I munch on a breakfast bar in the morning, which I am going to need some more sent this way soon, and have my Green Tea, having "weaned" myself from coffee grounds...For lunch, please don't go "oh no, not YOU tom!!" when I tell you where I eat lunch 3-4X a week: McDonald's...Yep...Fish Sandwich...4 pieces of fried wings and thighs and Not-so-French Fries and a large sweetened Ice Tea...The fish sandwich is not bad, as it is the only mayonaised based additives I've found in China...But, I am going to stop this "visit" also, taking the first step today and not accompanying Steve C-Berr to MacDs...I have dinner on occasion in the Western style dining room, which is a terrific covered buffet...The names of some of the dishes are as entertaining as any Chaucer tale, believe me...I will have a list of the titles of some of these offerings and we will both have a chuckle together...Classic!! How are my sleeping habits now? Really good...Drs. Pepto and Pismo (Pizzmo, use your imagination on that one...) have taken a "leave of absence" from my daily, weekly, monthly life at this time, thank God, and I sleep undisturbed by the churning, burning machinations of my stomach...I really enjoy watching the old black and white movies produced by Chinese directors...these classics depict a story of oppression by the Japanese over many years and how this rule and order shaped the country into what they are today: farmers, working laborers, teachers and intellectuals, all independent of one another but ever so sensitive to their cultural ties towards communism...As I said before, their standards and operations, both civic and militarily don't scare me or bother me as much as our dependence globally upon their resources for manufacturing goods, at the expense of cheap labor...The need for equal rights when it comes to a salary structure is something that will be the greatest challenge and achievement this country could ever experience, in my opinion, and that doesn't mean much here...This city is well maintained and kept clean, for the most part...other parts of the city have structural and plumbing necessities, that I am not sure will ever get the attention it demands until their currency comes in line with the Euro and Dollar...Imagine this: One US dollar equals 7.50 Yuan...One US Dollar in Russia equals 25 Rubles...3 Chinese Yuans equals ONE Russian Ruble...and yet this country has over 9 Trillion Dollars in their coffers...No wonder we "mint" currency as often as we do, it would be too easy today to counterfeit our dollars...Right now, in China, they have a HUGE issue of counterfeit currency affecting the common folks...Everytime I use Chinese Yuan to pay for something they always inspect it first, to check for counterfeit...Street vendors evidently are the "preyed-upon" victims here in China, as their lives are one without a proper education nor the advantage of news information, thus relying on visits from Police and other civil servants who have to communicate and investigate their business transactions and get descriptions, etc...Okay, I'm tired now, and my fingertips feel like a pianist's after a couple of hours practicing "new" notes he's created for music...Less I forget, Papasan Pete Newell and my younger brother, Roger, live together in Rancho Sante Fe, California, where the firestorm raged for days this past week, and had to evacuate their townhome on Monday morning...For awhile there, we had no idea where they relocated to in SD, but finally got information yesterday that they were safe from harm's way...I spoke with Papasan this morning, afternoon his time, and he was quite talkative, sharing with me how upset that he couldn't have come back two days earlier as the fire didn't get "that close" to us...He was more worried about his personal effects in his home and some guys sneaking into the development and stealing items from him and his neighbors...Nothing to report there, all household effects in order and no imminent danger from the fire at this time...He did bemoan the fact that "can you imagine this, I had to pay $175 per night to sleep in a hotel!! I mean, for what? The water is the same, the soap hasn't changed, the bed wasn't that good, and they charge you $175..."...Told him he'd probably be able to get a writeoff since he was displaced and all...He liked hearing that part...by the way, he's 92 strong years old...haha...Shout outs again to C-Berr's Moms, Barbara, sorry my blogging hasn't been as steady as your desire to read what's happening in Changchun...hope this update helps you...You got a wonderful son in Steve...He's a GREAT young man, and you should be so proud...He works his tail off everyday, and tries to improve his game at both ends of the court...I realize now that he has never really been taught Post Play in his young basketball career...He's making remarkable strides, taking his game up a "notch"...Shout out to my family, especially Bo, who is prepping for the GMAT Test to enter grad school for business...Shout out to Big D, hope his trip to the fair ways of the Oregon coast was fun and relaxing, and the last shoutouts to Greg Witt his family, and Larry Stone, the "Stoneman" who built the platforms for our exposition game last June...remember that event? The 11' hoop game? Still think about that event often...I'm hoping my Eastside Catholic Crusaders will have a great post season in football this year, as they have an excellent teacher/coach/model in Bill Marsh and his staff...Blessings to all, thanks for sending me your emails and support thoughts...I love them all...Coach tom

Thursday evening, October 18, 2007...8:11pm...Just when you think life is a puzzle, you find out why there is a night and a day...a yen/yang...bad/evil...rich/poor...happy/sad...rain/sunshine...crazy/sane...to be or not to be...THAT is the question here...whew!!

This morning, I received a telephone call from, Pancake, my esteemed translator whom I have adopted already...I nicknamed him a long time ago, "Shortstack", because he is all of 4'8" tall, and the most incredible young person I've met, besides the players on the team...Talk about someone who "sees" no evil...speaks no evil...and hears no evil, Pancake is "da man"...no question about it...So, back to this morning...he calls about an hour before we normally leave for the gym and practice each morning...He tells me that: "My Coach tom, this is Pancake, the new General Manager wants you to lead the practice this morning and he will meet with you this afternoon, okay...thank you..."...I said to Pancake: "Whoa Nellie...slow down, he wants me to "WHAT?"..."please lead practice this morning as he would like to meet you this afternoon before afternoon practice..."...I started laughing and Pancake says, "Coach, why do you laugh?"...I tell him that he informed me last night that I am no longer the Head Coach and will be replaced by Coach Gao, former Head Coach of the Jilin Tigers in '03 when they finished in the Top 3, and haven't been back since to Playoffs...Pancake then said, "Coach, this is China, we do things differently here, I know, but this is what I was asked to translate and tell you his wishes..."...I said, no problem, Pancake, I am professional and will do what is asked of me until I am not asked anymore...

Practice: so, I get to our van and there is Steve Castleberry and DaJuan sitting in the van to wait for me, along with the Asst. coach, the new one, Coach Chong...So, I get in and tell the two Americans what is going down this morning and that I am coaching the last practice today...They both were shaking their heads and wondering what in the world is going on...Keep in mind, that I chose to invite them both the night before to my visit with Pancake, as I wanted them to experience how to accept bad news and react to it, as opposed to panicking and going off...It was a great experience for them to learn from, one that will eventually happen in their own professional lives...So we arrive safely, "Dale" was in quiet, almost cautionary driving consciousness, which is scary in itself, BUT we never heard a "honk" from any opposing drivers...Once inside the gym, I prepare the practice plan, which I ended up changing anyway, only because of a surprised guest who showed up unexpectedly...I bring the team together before we start, as I always do, and tell them that this experience as their Head Coach over the last several weeks has been the most wonderful teaching/coaching experience I've ever had the pleasure to represent...I also compared this "sudden" change and displacement by the new GM as something that was inevitable since I had not met him personally and therefore did not know his intentions, but expected same...We had a tremendous practice session, Folks, let me tell you...As we were warming up, there was a gentleman sitting on our sideline bench, observing quietly, unsuspecting to say the least, and I ask Pancake who this person was...He replies and tells me quietly: "It's our new Head Coach..."...I immediately go over and introduce myself to this gentleman, and ask him if he would like to meet the team and take over practice...He quietly replied, "no thank you" and asked if I would please just go through my practice sessions so I can observe these players for the first time...I then said "if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask me, Coach..."...He thanked me and then I went to work...What happened over the next 2 hours was an incredible exhibition of effort and hard work like you wouldn't believe...the players busted their prime flanks like you wouldn't believe...wow...then towards the last 30 mins. of practice, I always work on our presses (2) so we continue to develop "read/react" tendencies that will happen once we implement the tactic in a game...So, here we are working hard, and I decide to go over and explain to the new Head Coach what we're doing now, and how I will use various combinations to help our alignment etc...Here is where I "flew" over the Cuckoo's Nest: he tells me, "Coach Newell, this is a very good press you have designed and I think we should cooperate together and work with the players this season..."...Now I am confused, on the one hand, I hear from Pancake that the GM is going to "make me happy back to the USA" and now from this new Head Coach, that he "likes" me and my defensive tactics...AND wants me to teach him about the game this season...Now, this is where it really goes freakee deakee on me: I've been asked by the new coach to stay and my translator, Pancake, is going nutzo as he is confused by the offer and what he knows in the front office...I tell him that he is not the one to worry and be distracted, nor am I...I told Pancake that this is the crazy world of amateur sports and don't forget it...

Post Practice Partum: after saying goodbye and thank you to the players, I hugged each one and told them how much respect I have for them because of their effort over the last several weeks...As I was leaving a couple of players got teary eyed and thanked me again, privately...One was Stretch, the most improved player on the team, according to Pancake...the other was DaSen, 19 yr. old who works so hard in practice at both ends of the court, and yet goes into a deep deep funk IF he misses more shots than he takes...They both thanked me for being their teacher...Now I am getting emotional, good thing I was wearing my sunglasses at the time...It was then that I had an epiphany about what I was really here to do: and that was to teach...teach the proper fundamentals and of course the disciplines necessary to succeed in life...Pancake informs me after practice that I will receive a phone call regarding the meeting time and place with GM and owner...It's established and now I am prepared from a quiet sleepless night, to meet with the "powers that be..."...So, everything is seemingly in order, and now I await my "fate" from the owner and GM this earlier afternoon...I get a call from Pancake: "Coach, this is Pancake, ( I know I know), and the owner tells me that he will meet with you and the new GM to discuss your future..."...Hmmm, I ponder to myself, intrigued by the comment and translation that we've just received, and figure my interest in this meeting is gaining Big Mo (momentum), and I better get "ready"...Believe me, my bags were packed and I was ready-teddy to leave Changchun City until I heard an unbelievable "plea" from the owner and request from the new GM: "Coach tom, you have been very professional and have worked very hard with this team, and I appreciate all you try to do for me and Jilin Tigers...I made decision last week to change position of SunJun, GM to become VP of my management group, and bring in the former GM of Jilin Tigers...SunJun did not accept this offer to stay and learn about the business side of this club, and chose to resign...I was sad for this to happen...he is a very great person...now, I am hoping that you remember in Hawaii when I first met you, that I asked you to be my Head Coach here in Changchun...Now, I ask you to please stay and help our new Head Coach and GM bring the Jilin Tigers to the Top Division again in the CBA...The new GM has something to say to you, now..."Coach tom, I heard many good things about you and your teachings from the players and people who watch team practice...you have much experience and this team has little, but we can build a strong team together...Coach Gao came to me after watching your practice this morning and wishes for you to be his top assistant and help to be successful with the Jilin Tigers team this season...we honor your contract, and ask you to consider how you may help Coach Gao and the team...would you consider this offer?"...I told them both that I was brought here by both the owner and SunJun, to help teach this young team proper fundamentals and rid them of bad habits as well as improve their defensive understanding...I am confident that the foundation has been established, that similar to an architect, I am happy to present the team to the new GM and Head Coach so they may add their finishing touches as they see fit...yes, I will be happy to help the Jilin Tigers as their top assistant coach...thank you..."...Well, folks you shoulda seen the smile on the owner's face and his excitement with this news...he says that I am the 4th person in the "boat" that can help pull an oar and make the boat go faster..."...I was getting ready to ask Pancake "where" the boat was going, but knew it wasn't the right time...We all shook hands, and I went back to my room and called Dajuan Tate, one of our two American players, and said: "yo, I ain't leavin which means I still get to teach you how to play 1 on 1 defense and helpside defense!!"...D was ecstatic, to say the least...So were the players an hour later who saw me and wondered why I was back after saying goodbye...They all were happy to hear that I accepted the offer to help with Coach Gao, and Wang Bo was more than happy, knowing that I was going to continue to help him develop his footwork and game...

My first practice as assistant coach: it went well, I think...I wasn't ranting and barking on defensive reminders, settling in on observing and listening to the new coach's Chinese voice inflections...He is very clear in his words and explanations, as myself too, only his "style" is less exhorting...I like to use humor a lot and poor Pancake has the hardest time knowing the difference between a joke and reality...I now am absolved from ever having to make him labor over my musings...and reflections...The practice was a hard working session and the players did not disappoint the coach at all...He had the players broken down into two courts, I had the "Bigs" and the other assistant had the guards...It was a good session for me, as I got to bang the doo doo out of the bigs with a Pad that is used for that purpose...I love hittin "C-Berr" (Steve Castleberry) with the Pad, one because he LOVES contact and really does a great job with his balance, pivot-to-the-basket move, and sets a perfect model for the other players to execute...I love this kid as he really sets the tone for work ethic on this team along with Cash and Wong Bo...We did a 3 on 2 fastbreak/defensive combo drill and fortunately, no one got hurt...That drill is one of the most overrated full court drills in basketball, trust me...I seldom have seen at ANY level two defenders waiting in the paint to challenge 3 lane players in transition and something good come out of it...in fact, I have seen and experienced first hand, 3 NBA team implement this drill and watch several players get hurt and then we would have to take a break and move on to something else...Seriously, next basketball game you watch, mark down on paper the number of transition plays where 2 players on defense are standing and then reacting once the ball gets inside the 3 pt. line...seldom if at all...I love combo drills, trust me, but only if they lead to conditioning and skill development that carries over into games...

Postscript after "flyby" : I'm fine, nothing has changed per se, other than I am not the HC anymore, which I have/had no control over anyway...Now, I get to continue with my work, even more defined now, as I can connect individually with each player's skills, whereas as a Head Coach, you don't have that luxury as you wish you might have...So now I have to unpack my freakin bags, hang clothes in the closet and get excited again that I can wear my new "threads" this season...whoopeedoo!! I will be sure to send a pic of this nice suit I got last week...One day at a time now, I guess...I'll just do whatever I can to help this team back to respectability...been there done that, and it's an easy role for me to fulfill...Less I forget: here's to a BIG SHOUTOUT to C-Berr's Moms, Barb, who loves to read this "blogit' of mine or should I say she takes two advils and THEN reads it...hah...hi to all, thanks for your support and reactions of late...you guys are the best...also huge "props" to my family who have learned through the international years with me, to expect the unexpected, and that it truly "is what it is and you roll with it one way or another..."...Dang these callouses (sp) were just about "healed" from my Greek and Japan experiences...no, I am happy where I am, although I miss my family and grandson, Carter and his family as well as my friends in Seattle...Hey Larry Stoneman, thanx for your email, Brother...you too, Big D...and of course the Jorgs...much love and peace in your daily lives, Coach tom

October 17, 2007, 8:45pm, Wednesday...Well, what I suspected or intuitively "knew" from reading the outside behavior of this new owner, the new GM has sent Pancake with a "short stack" to inform me that he (new GM) is bringing in his own coach from 4 years ago, a Chinese coach, that finished 3rd out of 15 teams at the time...I have not heard a word from the owner since he introduced the "new" assistant coach last week, unbeknownst to me and the old GM, SunJun...I have a meeting tomorrow with the new GM and we're going to have a discussion regarding my contract and whether or not I will continue to be involved with the team on a consulting basis or other position...We'll see what they have contrived for this meeting and disposition...Folks, I be fine, no worries here, I have made tremendous strides with each player in their understanding of the game and improved their skills so that "someone" else can reap the harvest later...I can honestly say, "I was truly professional and brought "it" every day...the players will hear me without seeing me when they make a mistake on defense...now that is something to behold for services rendered in my book...Pancake was very upset and yet I let him down gently, saying that he must remember that he too will face some day where an owner or GM will say goodbye, thank you, and you have no control over that decision...So, it is important to remember those players, people in the office and others who helped you be successful and always remain loyal to them...that is professional...Poor fella, his GM and Asst. GM are gone, his Team Leader also, 3 people that taught him many lessons about the business of Chinese basketball, all gone...He was like a kite in the wind without string, I really felt for him...Upon reflection, I have no regrets and animosities towards anyone or anything here, just disappointment in the lack of organization, structure in scheduling, and of course in how they "don't" communicate between coach and management if you're a foreigner...Been there before, so nothing new from that end, just a small quizzical shake of the head and a smile to myself, muttering: "this is a 'new' one for sure, 10 days before the season begins...wow..."...Word is, this new GM has already brought in new sponsors...Evidently, I was in the newspapers here, pictures and all with the speculation that the old coach who was with the new GM was coming back and together they would bring back the pride and success of Jilin Northeast Tigers...Will follow up tomorrow on the outcome of meeting with GM...Have a great day...Coach tom...

October 17, 2007, Wednesday afternoon, 3:20pm Changchun City...12:20am, Seattle...We had light practice this morning for an hour and fifteen minutes, going through shooting drills on the baseline and implementing the drop step upon reception, then open up into a jumper...They did really well, some having never thought about doing footwork like that on overplays...I try to implement teaching in our shooting drills that will help them understand "read-react-attack" in their nominal offensive moves...The one player who really excelled with this was Wang Bo, Co-Captain and the leader of this team...He really listens well, and reminds me of Eduardo Najera, Denver Nuggets player, small forward who "brings it" everyday in practice and game...Such is the "style" of Wang Bo...He would not embarrass himself whatsoever in an NBA Rookie Free Agent Camp...Hope that happens for him in his career...Then we went through our scenarios when the opposing Point Guard breaks down our "Face" Press...the last couple of scrimmages we had some major non-communication issues and left shooters open as the Guard made his way into the paint...It appears that when the ball goes up, the players sometimes suffer from convenient amnesia...Kinda like back in the day, you learn how to dance to the Watusi and Slauson and then the Prom comes around and you go blank and get exposed really baaaaaad for your non-dance skills and more importantly: rhythm...

Our guys go through the "motions" really well and then suffer momentary "blankouts" when matching up on defense in the halfcourt...It's okay, though, because we have time to walk through this, talk about it and correct the miscues on rotations...After this practice we went to the indoor track for some minor interval running, which turned out to be a good "cardio" exercise, as the Training/Conditioning coach called in and said that something came up and he could not make the session...No problem, I told Pancake, the Captains and myself will come up with something to get our wheels moving and break a sweat and call it a day...This afternoon, we have no practice, as this has been the custom for the last 2 years...I don't want to "break" tradition, so I pull my "rubberwristband" and adjust to the custom...Good morning workout, for sure...Remember the "Bird flyover on a quiet tranquil beach?"...Stay tooned...

Wednesday afternoon, after returning to my room, I receive a phone call from Joe Guan, Chinese national, who helped me initially with my transition upon arrival from the US to Beijing and on to Changchun...Joe tells me that he has some news for me, but wanted to know if I had "heard" anything first...Now, I gotta tell you about Joe, he is a great person, and a good friend, but way way too negative and paranoid for me...Joe tells me that the papers in Beijing have announced that Jilin Tigers will name the former coach of Jilin from 2003 as the new Head Coach, and "what are you going to do..?"...I tell Joe, that #1, I don't worry about speculation from the Press, and if that is what the owner chooses to do, that is his prerogative and I have no control over that...He says, "but you must prepare...."...I tell him, "Joe, I was hired by the owner to coach the Jilin Tigers back in mid late August...I am the Head Coach until I am not...he owes me for 3 months guarantee and if he is crazy enough to let the "Larry Bird" of China basketball go, then he can do the same with me...it's that simple..."...Then Joe goes, why react like this, you must prepare to accept new position if new Head Coach chooses to keep you..."...I laughed and said, 'Joe, you're not listening to me: I am the Head Coach until I am not...I was hired to be the Head Coach and that is my position...if the new GM wishes to bring in his own Coach and the owner allows him to do this, then I have nothing to say, BUT will comment on it later..."...Well, Joe is beside himself now, he can't understand why I am so reluctant to accept this change...He doesn't know me very well, obviously...I told him that I don't listen to gossip from the press and speculation about what "ifs", and that is all we have to discuss here...then I asked him how his family was etc...I think Joe is a very nice person, and I really like him alot, but don't really think he understands "life" as a professional coach...he was once an assistant coach for a couple of years awhile back and hasn't coached since...He may be a little gunshy, plus he is not a teacher nor does he understand the game technically as I thought he did...But I really like him as a person...As of 3:45pm, I am still the Head Coach of the Jilin Tigers...I have asked for Pancake to call me and await his call...I hope to have the owner meet me at the Hotel so we can visit and discuss all that has gone on professionally the last 5 days...I really like this owner, and felt pretty good whenever I saw him, but then again, I'm an American and see positive in all people and things, or I try to...

What's my next move, you wonder? Well, I've packed my bags about 95% of the way, and if need be, can be on my way back IF that is what happens or goes down here...What a shame...we haven't even played our first game and already they've changed the "Larry Bird" of China basketball, SunJun, and his Asst. GM, the Supreme Commander, ( I gotta tell you, I felt vindicated somewhat when I heard he tried to pull a power trip on the new owner, and the owner didn't back down...)...10 days before our first game...Shucks, I just went out last week and bought my first suit since high school and a beautiful black blazer (first since '02) and a pair of black dress shoes, also a "first" since '96, and was really looking forward to opening night...Guess I'll "save" it for a Xmas social or something that requires black tie...wait, I don't own a black tie...I just have WWF (World Wildlife Foundation) ties that I love to wear when coaching...they're oldie but awfully goodies...Now I know that there are parents out there who are excited about this "latest" development, and I can understand why: tryouts are around the corner and they would love for me to get back into the gym on the Eastside and commence once again the training we had this past Spring and Summer...So, I will meditate heavily tonight, and have a couple of GandTs, and figure out the scenarios that may occur and how I will react to them...First off, I will make sure that whoever informs me of the 'change' understands that I have a contract with the owner and team and it will be honored professionally...If they decide that they wish for me to continue as an Assistant, then we will do a "new" contract for more money and I will consider that option AFTER I sit down with the new Head Coach and hear his words through Pancake...IF that is one of the scenarios...Another scenario could be this: they want me to coach the team BUT also want this coach as my Co Head Coach...Would I do that? I would consider that as an option, we still would be 4 coaches less than Coach Ed Pepple's staff!! Hah! Now you may wonder if I have "already" had a GandT session downstairs, and I can honestly tell you, no, I have great peace of mind and a quiet heart with the speculative news from Joe Guan and his newspaper readings...My "meter" is working well, it's strong and a lot of great "teaching" years ahead, trust me, so this would not be a setback at all, just another "entry" in my basketball journals...

By the way, I received an Official Invitation to direct the first ever Education and Sport Symposium/Workshop in Vladivostok, Russia, after the season here concludes...I made friendships with the President of the Club and his assistant, Victor Egupov, on the last evening of our stay in their city three weeks ago...It was then that I shared with them about the Best Effort Camps and Clinics module that we have introduced in Seattle and Oregon over the last several years, as well as other countries that I have been fortunate enough to visit...The Russian Government in Education and Sports Development in conjunction with the U S Consulate in Vladivostok, Russia, have invited yours truly to be the headliner for this inaugural event, sometime in mid February when the season concludes...I am ecstatic to have this invitation for introducing a training, teaching model to the volunteer youth coaches and other coaches in basketball there...This is what has inspired me all these years, from my first experience as a Player/Coach in Belgium, just out of college in '71 for two years, and never forgetting working in small Belgie villages, no heat, poor lighting and kids so excited to have an American teach them the game...This is my way of being an Ambassador to the game worldwide, and I am blessed beyond words for each experience, trust me...Well, I'll "blogit" tomorrow sometime, unless I hear otherwise earlier...Take care, buckle up, stay warm and give your kids a hug before they leave for school...Coach tom

Saturday morning, 8:45am, we're getting ready for our 9am practice...all players are accounted for and this will be the 2nd Saturday in a row that we scrimmage 4 quarters, 10 minutes apiece, 2 Officials on hand, 24 second clock, we got it goin on this AM...We warm up for a half hour, I have two teams, one Red Jersey, the other Black Jersey, and the Black Jersey team is comprised of the players who will contribute the most time and productivity along with 3 other players from the Red team, which includes Steve Castleberry, our 7'er out of Rider University...Our offense is behind our defense in my opinion but closing in fast as we scrimmage at least two quarters a practice during this past week...Our conditioning is probably around 90% right now, with two weeks away from Official Tipoff to the CBA season...The Black Team scored 106 points, four less than what I asked them to come up at halftime when they had 54...We have finally "bought in" to the early offense known as "Denver"...I've used this for many years now, having learned it from breaking down former Nuggets Coach Doug Moe's offense when they led the league in scoring for several years...In my opinion, I have NEVER seen a more simple, uptempo transition attack offense after made or miss baskets in basketball, with the exception of Paul Westhead's Early Offense...Doug Moe may never get into the Hall of Fame, folks, but let me tell you something, he "knows" offensive basketball better than any coach I've ever seen or learned from to date...Our defense had some outstanding "stops" and transition layups off our disruptive pressure system (thanks to Coach Ernie Woods philosophy) and I actually got "goosebumps" several times just watching them prey upon the wing drives by the Red team only to be thwarted by the Black Team's "weakside" rotation and trap or recovery once the dribble was picked up...Did I mention that our new assistant coach was not present at this practice this morning...? Neither was SunJun...which REALLY concerned me AND Pancake, as it meant something "was wrong...but what...?" as Pancake would ask me...Scrimmage was over, teams praised for their effort and reminded to always finish the game the "right way" and not disrespect it by not playing hard to the end no matter what the score is...We had a couple of minutes at the end when several players chose to go half speed and that "caught" my attention in a hurry, but I waited until we finished play...They "got" the message clearly...

Afternoon Session: Weight lifting and light running on indoor track...2:30pm to 4:00pm...We gathered as a team, including the novel appearance of our new assistant coach, and received word from the Team Leader, Happy, that SunJun was "fired" this morning by the new owner and that he wishes the team great success and he will speak to the team on Monday..."..."Splaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat"...

The players immediately went into a catatonic stare, not looking at anyone, anything or anywhere, minds transfixed away from their immediate surroundings, impacted by a language I don't understand yet, their expressions told me that Pancake was about to tell myself, Dajuan and Steve, that SunJun was fired and gone from the team...Poor Pancake, he understood only one leader in his young life as a worker "bee" in the Jilin Tigers team, and that was SunJun, his idol as a young boy growing up and watching him on television...It was SunJun who gave him his opportunity to become a translator last season...For Pancake, today was the most "sad day I ever know in my life, Coachtom...I cannot reach my leader, and I want to go home and be with my family now..."...He asked me what he should do, and I told him that he needed to take time for himself tomorrow and write a letter to SunJun thanking him for his trust and confidence and the opportunity to learn and work under him these last three years..."...Pancake said what will the team do now, and I told him we do our jobs to the best of our abilities until we don't have a job anymore...All one can do is be himself/herself and know that their work was honest, and they gave their best effort...I'm not sure if Pancake believes in "Tomfucious Says"...Oh, less I forget, the owner of this team has not paid the two Americans nor myself when it was due on the 1st of Oct...Pancake says he spoke to the owner and he said he "thought his accountant had made arrangements already..."...Monday is suppose to be the "magic" day...Why do I keep thinking that this assistant coach is being put in "place" by the owner before the season starts...Hmmm, it is what it is, and will be what it will be and that will be that...redundancy in this particular case is acceptable Mrs. Ellsworth (6th Grade English teacher back in the day...)...

Assistant Coach exchange at this afternoon's practice: I am here to assist you, Coach, only to assist you, I was approached by the owner, and he likes you...This according to Pancake...We'll find out if I'm his "American Idol" this Monday...Why Monday? Because he will "owe" both Americans and myself two payments...You see, folks, I have been in this situation a couple of times before on two different continents and nothing surprises me anymore at this time on my "meter"...We'll see, my "gut" feeling is that the owner will honor his contract with me until he doesn't...

Does missing two payments qualify as "until he doesn't?"...not sure, we haven't even played a game yet that counts...Oh, by the way, he also fired the Asst. GM, the Supreme Commander, the night before...evidently the Supreme Commander tried to "pull" rank on him about something and the owner wouldn't have it and basically told him "adios"...or something to that effect...this, according to Pancake...

Stay tooned...I am fine...worried? No...surprised...?...for sure...am I packing my bags? No...will I? No...Why? Because "if" this owner were to change coaches now, he would have done it already and he knows that he would really be bringing "bad" karma upon himself BEFORE the season even begins...And yes, my disappointment in all of this is knowing that I won't be able to work with SunJun...He is a wonderful person, people, and the team he has put together is a GREAT talent base of young players with a couple of veterans that could make us the surprise of the league...Keep me in your meditative thoughts, and if any of the parents out there of kids who I train are "hoping" I come back early, thanks, but I would really like to finish what I started...God Bless America...and each of you...Coach tom

October 12, 2007...Friday morning...Practice has begun, it's about 9:30am, we've been at it for 30 mins. now...So, let me digress, transgress or regress, your choice here friends...Hmmm, how do I set up the visual here...?

An idyllic Caribbean Beach in the West Indies, no one around you, everything is quiet,except for the intermittent sound "waves" rolling ashore... blue skies above, no clouds on the horizon, just the sails of passing yachts...and you're thinking to yourself: "this is great, quiet, no phone calls, no interruptions, tranquility has no ending at this point laying on the sand...eyes closed, it's too good to be true...and then all of a sudden: splaaaat (similar to an egg yolk being turned over by a 8 year old on a frying pan)...I raise up, eyes open only to see the tailfeathers of the only freakin BIRD in the sky...AND "it" FOUND ME...

Back to practice and the pending mental pause that interrupted our practice plan...I was "summoned" to the sideline during a Wing Release/Denial/Backcut Defensive Drill (and we were really doing well with this sequence, mind you), and here was the owner, with an older gentleman alongside of him, no SunJun, GM of team, the fella who is the "Larry Bird" of China basketball, absent from this summons, and my translator Pancake, who has this look upon his face, similar to my look when my first "meal" in Russia two weeks ago was Russian Chinese Food...Anyway, the owner me wants to "meet" the new Assistant Coach that he has hired to help me, since the young assistant coach is currently in Memphis with 15 other CBA (Chinese Basketball Coaches) observing the U of Memphis Men's Basketball program at the invitation of Coach John Calipari, Men's coach there...So, for the last week I have been working well with the team, making unbelievable headway with all the players and excited about our progress, and just like the scenario on the aforementioned beach, I am introduced without any prior knowledge from the GM that we were adding a "coach" to the staff...Our owner then asks to address the team and now introduces same to the players and they too had that same "Splaaat" look upon their faces when the owner was through explaining who this person was...Now, keep in mind, I wear a rubber band on my left wrist to "remind" me always that in basketball one has to be flexible and make adjustments at any time...this was an "any time" episode that called for me to stay focused and get through our practice to the end...I figured the new assistant would be sitting on the sideline watching and taking notes, and after we broke from a short water break, he was gone...I mean, I was looking for him: he was wearing Army Fatigue pants with dress shoes, a vest covering a long sleeve shirt and a smile that indicated he needed to change the filter cigarettes he smokes because it was having a negative effect on the enamel of his teeth...and he was gone...I asked Pancake where he was, and he said he didn't know...Our two American players asked me if the new assistant coach was going to watch the rest of practice, and I said your guess is as good as mine...The beach scene "wipe" after the "splaaat" obviously ruined the rest of the practice...We struggled for the next hour and a half, and my hopes and wishes for a "safe" practice was met with just that: no one got hurt...Before practice, I always meet with the team and review what we're going to focus on in practice and tell them how hard we must work and help one another improve, and this morning's pre-practice meeting was concluded with a 'surprise' from me: "how many of you would like to go swimming this afternoon?"...you should have seen the smiles and heard the laughter when it was translated...I "knew" then, that my "beach" day was about to be perfect, especially after the first four weeks of transition and new skills learning these players have experienced to date...After practice, I asked Pancake to call SunJun, so I could find out what was going on and why he didn't fill me in on this visit and addition...Pancake said that SunJun "he apologize, he sorry but did not know himself that new assistant was put in place and he will see you tomorrow morning at practice (Saturday)..."...Hmmm, I said to myself, "that is NOT a good sign, the GM, the most popular basketball person in China "knows nothing about this owner's move...", where I come from (NBA-wise), that sends me a non verbal message that all is not right in Shangra La...and I was to be right about that "feeling" later...

Swimming Pool Practice: we had a BLAST!! The players were so excited and had so much fun in the pool with one another, I wish I had a camera to record the smiles and fun that was had by all...First off, this indoor pool had two pools, one Olympic size pool and the other a half-size Olympic 6' deep surround pool that we used...We "warmed" up with some leg stretching, then some 4 step sprints with interval 4 step walks, then we did a 4 man "weave" with a bathing cap and believe me when I tell you how much fun they had with that set...I ended up having a contest with 4 teams, having them go down and back with the winning time getting four Gatorades...Gosh, you should have seen how each team was being cheered on by the other...It WAS a Kodak moment and for an hour and a half no one remembered what had transpired earlier in the morning...oh yeah, didn't see the assistant coach in a swim suit either...he was AWOL...not sure where he was...no one asked either...less I forget, I was not in the pool in my Speedo as the other players were, including Pancake...Man oh man, did we have a blast...My "next" surprise will be a bowling party with Pizza Hut pizzas next Friday night...we'll also have teams then...I'll fill you in on that "if" there are no "other" changes in order...by the way, our season starts officially October 28th, at home...I'll include the schedule to our website...it is a shortened season this year in the CBA because of the Olympics coming to China in '08 and the CBA wants their National Team Players training in preparation for this event...So that means it will be over in late Feb. if the Playoffs go our way...My next blog will cover Saturday and the "rest of the story..." Part II...Coach tom

Wednesday, October 4...Team Picture Day...and the day that Spider "graduated" from Pastry School to Technical School...

As a coach of any team, any sport, any time, you always hope and wish that talented players on your roster play the game with a sense of maturity and discipline that complements their athleticism, all the time not knowing "if" the light will ever take effect...Ladies and Gentlemen, my former students/players, fellow colleagues, I wish to tell you that a miracle has indeed happened!! Spider Monkey (his chosen nickname from many years ago) has "arrived"...He approached me today and through the wonderful translation of Pancake, my Chinese national translator, Spider sat down next to me, very closely, and with his hands and eyes (making direct contact with me) apologized 3 times about his lack of respect for what we were trying to do as a Team, and again for not taking the game seriously as he should and would I please accept his apology and help him be a better basketball TEAM player...Wow!! Now, those of you who 'know' me, know that I probably got goose bumps, felt like a tear or two well up, and just thanked God for the prayers being answered regarding this young man's plight on our team...My discipline, encouragement and constant reminders to eliminate the bad, lazy habits on defense (reaching in on the ballhandler, getting beat over the top because of a lack of push point discipline that should have carried over from practice to games), was now established in this young man's mind and he completed this confession by explaining that "I believe we will be in the Top 3 in the CBA and I want to be part of that, coach..."...I told him that I really like him as a person and that he is fun to be around UNTIL he steps on the court or in the locker room and then he continues to act "like you're 15 years old and NOT 25, soon-to-be 26...that for us to contend for any success, we need you as a capable Point/Guard/Leader and I want to help you become the best Team Player you've ever been this season..."...He said "thank you" and I reciprocated the same, and then shook his hand and hugged him before his peers...It was that act alone that I will reflect and say later "the defining moment" of acceptance as coach of this team...It was a wonderful, contrite gesture, that, honestly, I have had the experience before coaching in the NBA and working with high school and college players who at one time or another made the game "personal" and chose not to accept discipline as element to personal and team success...

Will follow this up with today's practices...This morning's, Thursday, was a wonderful session, and I am just a gigglebug right now, because the "light" is on in our gym now and for a coach in a dark tunnel a week ago, it's mighty fine and fun to see the path before us...clearer that is...Coach tom

Ouch!! Korea 72-China 66...2 pt. shooting percentage 64%...3 pt. shooting percentage 24% (8-34)...We were 8-16...they were 18-27...We had a 14 point lead at one point in the 1st Qtr. and played Team Defense the best we've attempted so far...it was fun to watch the players react, they were active, their hands were in the ready position for deflections, we "pounced" on their overdribbles...UNTIL, we fell apart at the offensive end...My philosophy with this team to date is "value" possession, take any OPEN shot you have, but IF it continues to fall short, then we must move closer to the hoop, either by a foot or two or DRIVE...we did neither, but I am not worried nor upset with the outcome...Remember: lessons taught/learned is knowledge gained (hopefully)...So far, I have "baptized" each player into the "fire" of playing solid Team defense and verbally reminding them of such at all times...It is becoming so apparent to me and THEM, they are beginning to realize where they forgot to rotate and where they ended up not being in a help rotation position because they were ball watching...That mistake and acknowledgement by the offenders...err, defenders is accountability in its infancy and man oh man is it fun to watch them look at me after the mistake, nod and THEN make the correct defensive stop on the next possession...Now those are the "small" steps were making to my delight, and theirs of course, because they don't hear me shouting out reminders: "Hand in the lane...Push Up, contact deny...switch out with a hand in the lane...keep him on the sideline, no overtop penetration...The Koreans to their experiential credit and coaching staff, remained steady in their attack offensively, finally going inside on our perimeter switches and our inability to keep pressure on the ball with our active hands, plus NOT slip fronting the Post ups by their bigs, thus allowing a mismatch 1 on 1 advantage that favored them in the end...We haven't had enough practice time to learn how to implement a "GO" situation on Double Downs vs. playing behind the Post on isolations, BUT we will...Overall, I was EXTREMELY happy with the application and effort...Even Hic Cup overcame his "burpees" and played under control and learned from his mistakes at both ends...He didn't pass once behind his back for an entry pass to the Wing...nor did he overdribble and drive baseline to nowhere...Told him so, also...The one person that was finally "baptized" into our new philosophy tonight was one of our Team Captains: Cannon...He "chose" to not fulfill his responsibility on defense when his shot wasn't dropping from the 3 area, didn't make the effort on a turnover when he got trapped and threw it away, not once, but twice, and THEN chose to "demand" the ball in the last 2 mins. when we were down 6 pts. and the point guard called out a "team" play...Now, this was a "Kodak" moment because DT who was the "point" with the ball and was trying to run the correct play at the time told him to "go" and Cannon begged for the ball, forgetting the last time he posted up they sent 2 players down to triple team him and he still forced the misguided shot...To make matters "perfect" for me and his teammates what he didn't "do" next was provide me a wonderful opportunity to show him the bench, probably the first time in his CBA career anyone has EVER done that to him before...it was...Glory!! So he comes out, Cash (backup Big Forward) in, and "our" Captain goes over to the bench, pouting, upset and proceeds to kick one of the chairs over, I watch this not saying a word, and so happy to see this emotion come out, a reaction that his teammates "see" and realize that "Coach newell" really doesn't play favorites, he benched our Captain because he didn't play Team basketball..."...Now, I learned this move from Coach Phil Jackson, early in his Bulls career when he chose to go to "someone" else for the last second shot out of a timeout, that being Toni Kukoc over Scottie Pippen...It was an ugly well publicized "act" of demarcation and "team" defining moment...The play worked for Toni, Scottie sulked, pouted BUT overcame his personal reaction and momentary mental lapse on the bench when he spoke out to Phil and then to the Press, only to be humbled soon after and the rest of the story is that he went on to win another Championship with Michael and will undoubtedly be enshrined into the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts...I remembered well "that" lesson taught/learned for future knowledge gained...and now, several thousand miles and many years later, I have the opportunity to apply it early in our relationship as the Coach and he as the incumbent "captain"...After the game, I had few comments other than "we're getting closer, and Cannon, you will learn that we operate as a team and that is #1 in all that we do at both ends...We will learn together, practice together, play together, and be successful or not together...our goals are simple, attainable but difficult to achieve if we don;t have all the players on the same page...When I accepted this position, I had heard all the stories abot how difficult it was to "get" the Chinese players to "change" their ways, habits and way they play the game...well, I disagree, I am slowly affecting how they understand what hasn't been taught, something Pete Newell has always espoused: "teach the 'why' to you players and that will lead them to a new awareness and respect for the game..."...He is so right, especially with this team right now...We have players who are "buying" in and speaking up, not just sitting back, waiting for someone else to say something...Believe me, this has nothing to with power or authority here, it has everything to do with how can we be better in a very short time than we were last year (11th Place out of 16)...Any "power" to be recognized, will be the team's resolve to collectively play the game as "one"...therein "lies" the power...I can hardly wat for our next full practice, so we can get into Traps: full court and half...I am really blessed to have had the experiences of learning under Bob Kloppenburg and my present day confidante and "DoJo", Ernie Woods...Together, they have provided me with the foundation and applications that have inspired my present day confidence in teaching Disruptive Pressure Defense...go online at Hooptactics and learn the simple templates for introducing DPD at any level...I'm tired, encouraged and looking forward to or next "Lab" session...thanks for taking the time to read my "blogits", hope you enjoy what I am experiencing to date...Coach tom

**Sorry for the delay on the Korean game and being offline the last 2 days...it was difficult to get to the hotel where they have WI-FI setup, and with our team's practice schedule and "other" venue visits, it was not to be...We are now back in China, arriving early this afternoon on Tuesday...I am really excited for our team's progress...We had an outstanding practice yesterday, Monday, Oct. 1st in Russia...We were able to really get into some excellent part method teachings, where I like to use combination Offense/Defense scenarios and skills that will help improve our "reads" on both ends of the floor...We have several players who dribble the ball like they lost a contact lens...slowly we're breaking those habits...Last night the Russian delegation for the tournament invited me to join them and the Supreme Commander, Asst. Team Manager, at their table in the Chinese Restaurant where we had our meals...The Team President/Owner and his Assistant, Victor were very gracious hosts...This tournament was well organized and the people were extremely helpful and kind...After we exchanged stories about basketball life in America and where I've been in this world, they both were extremely intrigued by my Grass Roots training program for youth coaches...So much so, that I have an "open" invitation to return to conduct one week's clinics for their coaches in Vladivostok...I am excited for the opportunity to share the "game" with a foreign country, all in the name of global peace and awareness...I AM blessed!! Okay, I'm tired, need some rest, as we have our "team" pictures tomorrow morning at 8:15am...Was told to "bring" everything that was given to me in a box that had the Jilin Tigers gear...Guess they're going to "shoot" several different shots with sponsor gear, etc...And let me tell you something: this gear is dynomite!!! I'll get a shot of this "parka" that they gave me and the players on the team...It took up half the box...Now I know why I was told 'not' to bring any winter clothes: they won't help!! But this parka, I think, was designed for the Sherpas, so I'm in good feathers as they say...have a great week...Coach t

Let's see...we're known as the Jilin Fighting Tigers, once proud team that competed for Championships one era, but through time and age, has fallen dramatically over the last 3 years...After our 3rd Preseason game, I now know why...After the 1st Qtr. we were down 30-16, missed 5 FTs, 2 layups and only gave up 4 points on transition layups...I was happy with the effort, not so happy with our Captain's defensive effort and consistency...Time and again he allowed 1st pass entry and would wave to me as though he "knew" he was suppose to be "up" and contact deny...The reason for his consistent mistakes here is simple: he has only practiced 4 hours total time out of 23 hours total team time, which is really difficult to learn how to trust your teammates "help" defense when you haven't been through the repetitions like them...This was his first game back...He's 6'7" goes about 230 and is strong, although when I took him out in the 1st Qtr. to give him a blow, he quickly reminded me that he is a "3" and not a "4" (the man I had him match up against was ONLY 6'9" and maybe 240lbs., playing the "3" for the Russians...), and I replied: "Cannon, YOU ARE PLAYING against the "3" on the Russian team..."...He then realized that he ol coach here was NOT going to allow him to get out of playing man to man vs. a bigger, stronger opponent at the same position, that he was going to have to ADJUST, as were his teammates doing right now also...I started our 2/3 player, DuJuan Tate at the Point, experimenting and seeing how he matched up vs. their pressure and his ability to get the team into any type of Early Offense or set plays...He didn't do too badly, as he ran several sets very well and for the most part I was surprised at how he handled playing against another American on the Russian team (J.R. Brewer, from Ohio), who was their Point guard...Steve Castleberry was once again a formidable presence inside, getting bumped, banged and mugged by the Rooskees both ends, but he never complained once, and just played...I really like this kid, my type of Post...We gotta figure out how to get him the ball better though in the early part of our offense as we break down too quickly and look him off once we see pressure...That's my job and we'll learn how to implement the "drop step" for Post Passing vs. pressure on the Wings when our Post players have established position for advantage...Between Qtrs. I reminded the players that we must "match" their physicality and stay strong, don't back down, they're hitting us with forearms and "crosschecks" like the Aussies did a week ago and we adjusted well, same thing tonight: make the adjustment...don't keep pushing down, step aside, pivot, use your footwork and balance to offset the physical disruption...Let's see, we went down 19 with 8 mins. to go and then we started playing defense the way we practiced...we forced a shot clock violation; we switched on all Side Pros (Pick/Rolls); we forced bad passes to the Post ups in lane, we were realizing that our Disruptive Pressure Defense in the Halfcourt WAS INDEED working...It was fun to watch, because it made us score in transition, set up our Offense quicker as the Rooskees were getting upset with one another and before you knew it, we were only down 4 with the ball, under 2 mins. left in the 2nd Qtr. and then we force a really bad 3 point shot from Tiger, that had about as much chance of going in as a Josh Brown field goal from 70 yds...That one shot was the shot that stood out more than any other the rest of the game, because to a man, each player looked at him like "why"...and it was that momentary "mental pause" that allowed the Rooskees to get the long rebound and transition for a layup and foul at the other end...down 7 under 1:20 left in Qtr...DuJuan Tate calls "5 Down" which is a double high 4/5 pick outside the 3 point area, spotting up a shooter in the corner and giving DT a chance to take his man 1 on1 coming off the 2nd High Post pick...He came off well, but had his head down on the dribble drive and didn't notice that X4 Defender was switching out on him and ready to trap or block his shot...Our screener, Wong Bo, slipped down the middle wide open and DT missed him and ended up going up for a contested layup that was blocked off him out of bounds...Lesson learned by DT on that play as he looked at me, motioned like he should have passed, and we both nodded in agreement...I love lessons learned by students of the game...saves timeouts during the game, no? Anyway, the first half ends and we're down 47-42, we missed 8 FTs, gave up 16 Offensive Rebounds, and turned the ball over 10 times...I am pleased with the effort as again we showed resiliency and courage on a foreign court, their Officials and fans and we competed to the end of the half...

My "reflections" at halftime: "I am really happy with our effort, fellas...we stayed together despite being down by 23 in the 2nd Qtr., and found a way to fight our way back into this game...We NEED to make immediate adjustments, however on our Defensive Rebounding...Our frontline is NOT anticipating the rebounds, expecting someone else to go get it, and Steve is not going to get every rebound...we talked about their size and strength inside and allowed them to get 2nd and 3rd shot opportunities after playing so well on the perimeter...WE MUST BLOCK OUT FIRST and THEN REBOUND...our sets are developing, so be more patient with your shot selection, please...we can get any shot we want, they are ball watching on the weakside..."...Then the Asst. Coach, YoYo spoke, and he repeated what he said before the game: "We must not allow them to push us around on the Offensive Boards...the stats say they have 16 rebounds on Offense...that means we are not doing a good job blocking out...they will continue to go to the Offensive Boards this half...we must be stronger...and rebound..."...I was happy to hear my assistant coach say these things, because up to this point I wasn't sure if he was ever going to say anything of substance to "awaken" this team's mistakes..."Lessons learned is knowledge gained..."...tnewellism... So, I draw up an option play out of our "5" play figuring the Rooskees would be ready to Jump out and try to Trap DT on it in the 2nd half, and I was going to counter that thinking quickly...I had Steve come out a little further and Wong Bo higher meaning all DT had to do was come off the first screen with a crossover dribble between legs, wraparound dribble and take off down the middle for a clean dunk/layup...It sounded good, looked good too on the whiteboard, and even when we saw it again before taking the floor the start of the 3rd Qtr...NOTICE TO ALL BASKETBALL PLAYERS READING MY BLOG: "If a Coach draws up an Option Play for you to FOLLOW...then PLEASE follow his/her directions to a "T", as HE/SHE KNOWS better what the defense is doing than you do at any given point in a game...Back to beginning of 3rd Qtr.: Rooskees ball, we "trap" their Pick Roll right out of the box and have the first possession in hand to start the Qtr...PERFECT setup...or so I thought...DT comes down, leftside with his opponent in a loose defensive position and not forcing DT one way or the other, which means a perfect setup for "centering" the screen with the crossover dribble and changing speeds going down middle for layup/dunk...DT does the opposite: because the defender is "loose" he thinks that he can shake and bake him on the leftside without using screen and spin to basket...WRONG decision...as soon as he overdribbled on one side of the court, the X5 Defender on Steve showed help/trap presence and collapsed on DT when he spun and blocked his shot, starting a fastbreak going the other way, layup AND foul and now we're down 8 with less than 40 seconds gone in Qtr...That hurt...DT looks at me, sees my disappointment in his "choice" and not following directions, and comes over and says "didn't I have him beat on the left side though...?"...I then asked him if he ever saw the X5 show help presence when he started his dribble drive and then spin? He said, nah, Coach, I didn't...was he there all the time? "Yep...ALWAYS run the play that the coach has confidence in you doing, otherwise he may never run a "special" for you again..."...I think this was a "lesson learned..." indeed for DT...and the other players as well...

As for the rest of the 3rd Qtr. and game itself...let's put it this way...by the end of the game, I "know" where the mothballed "Sputniks" were put after the clinic the Rooskees put on us following DT's back to back turnovers and their layup transition plays off a block shot and steal from a bad decision pass after DT left his feet and no where to go with ball...We were outscored 54-3 second half and "all" the "spots" on this "Tiger" showed up very well for me and the team to see and experienced...I now know why, Sun Jun, former National Team player, most respected Chinese National Player, even ahead of Yao Ming, hired me as his coach...I think he saw the movie "Helen Keller" with Anne Bancroft, as a kid, and thought maybe I could be Helen Keller to his team this season...Whew, when I put in "Pops" (29 year old player on team who is married and with a 2 year old son), the game was so fast around him it wasn't fair to him, so I moved him over to the 2G and brought in Hip Hop (he "chose" that name because he LOVES AND1 mixtapes...I have since renamed him "Hic Cup", cause that's the only 'hop' to his game that makes any sense to me as a Point Guard...Keep in mind, that we practice passing every day in the halfcourt...we establish all Triangle positions and make all the passes that would considered normal and fundamental when initiating an offense...Hic Cup comes in and the first pass he enters to the Wing is a behind the back direct pass to DT, who was so shocked to receive it and the Rooskee guarding him so shocked to see it, that for a nano-second, the game floor FROZE like, "why?", when you could have passed a two handed chest pass...More to come...I leave him in for 5 mins. in the 3rd Qtr., believing the aberrations I'm about to experience firsthand will erase immediately once the ball gets out of our end of the court...WRONG...He drove 4 times baseline with the ball, no where to go (we have NO PLAYS designed for this "move" at all), and steps on the line twice...gets his reverse layup blocked off his head by a 7'er AND leaves his feet to make a perfect pass to the opposing Center who steps in front of our Center for another turnover...Cyanide anyone? Now I know that the reason Rogaine is such a popular hair loss drug is because coaches all over the world use it more than any other subject...Don't let anybody ever tell you that the most "important" player on the team is the Center...It's the lead guard, the point guard, hands down...Magic, Dumars, Wade, Kerr, Paxson, Parker, Mo Cheeks...you go back in college and pros and the Point Guard has been the key element to any team's success and identity...and the hair "extensions" of most coaches and their careers...So, we give up 101 points...score 73...total forced turnovers vs. the Rooskees> 19...we had 18...probably 11 of which were unforced...They had over 26 O Bds. to our 16 total...We shot as a team 40%, they shot 49%...We missed 15 FTs...they went 24-28...we 15-30...Most disappointing reflection from game: "Calling for Spider Monkey (his actual chosen nickname) to go into game with 4 mins. left, mop up time (keep in mind, I told players that I am experimenting and looking for players who can "fill roles" in various positions, and to "be ready..."...Well, like most teams, you always have those players who believe they are better than the players playing ahead of them, and that they deserve to play based upon "previous" experience, not merit or work ethic...Back to Spider, he stands up slowly, taking his time to get his tearaway pants off, top (mind you, I am watching my watch...45 sec. and counting), then walks slowly to the scorer's table never once looking at me OR the Table for substitution...Keep in mind, his body language at the age of 25 is similar to a 14 yr. old with And1 individual thoughts of greatness and no quotient for the team game, pouting and reluctantly going into the game at this time...lessons learned and hopefully knowledge gained...not sure if the Spider Monkey is "game" for any lessons learned from me or his teammates...Once into the game, he immediately plays his opponent wrong, after being taught the proper mechanics of 3/4 deny, full front on deep post ups by taller opponent, and literally both arms "grabs" the opponent's arm to hold him IN FRONT OF THE OFFICIAL...I didn't have to say a word, as his teammates, Chinese let him know about it...progress: communication and peer pressure is slowly coming around...The next 2 mins. of his defense reminded me of someone in a big room with music playing, no lights, trying to find a young lady to dance with...yeah, that bad...Everything that we established as Team Defensive Rules, he chose the opposite, and in fact, played similar to the type of defense that led the team to an 11th Place finish last year...Larry Brown and "Pop" would need acupuncture on their grossly inflamed tongues if they had this type of "experienced" point guard to manage...Wow...So, I have a Pops, a Hic Cup and a Pastry Chef as my backcourt to work with over the next 4 weeks in preparation for the CBA season...I ordered candles for my room to "light" every night before I go to sleep...

Team Meeting after Breakfast, Saturday morning: Much to my chagrin, and disappointment, the Asst. 'Team Manager took it upon himself to decide NOT to practice today, this morning after breakfast, which means we have no "walkthru" in preparation for the Korean team LG that we play at 5pm, Russian time...I pull my rubberband, and say we will then have a team meeting and "air" out the areas that we need to address with this team...It was a terrific team meeting...I spoke and shared about our Positives in the game overall and then the Negatives from a team standpoint, from not communicating on switches, to not trapping when we were in a trap situation, to not getting back on defense when we were down by 20+ in the 2nd half (no excuse EVER for not hustling in ANY GAME or TIME and SCORE left on clock)...After I spoke, I asked the Asst. Coach to say what was on his mind, and he was terrific...He reflected upon how similar behavior happened last season also, players were not happy having to come off the bench, sitting there complaining and then when given the chance, not ready to help the team...I was so proud of YoYo, the asst. coach, saying this, as he was really embarrassed to see two players act this way towards the end of the game, yet remembering my prediction at the start of the 3rd Qtr. that indeed we would have players put into the game who will NOT respond, nor be happy in that role...He asked me how I "knew"...Told him I learned from some great mentors, Bernie Bickerstaff, Bill Fitch, Ernie Woods and Tex Winter, as well as Pete Newell and Coach K...He probably never heard of most of them, but he knew now what a "mentor" is in basketball..."lessons taught lead to knowledge learned..."...After YoYo spoke, I asked DT and Steve to share with us their thoughts on what they've exerienced so far...Both were very honest and terrific with their candid reflections...DT said it best: "Hey, I was like Spider, I didn't want any coach telling me how to play basketball as a Team Player and how to play Team Defense, I didn't like coming off the bench, or being benched, but I finally "learned" that IF I wanted to play, start and contribute, I needed to listen to the coach and do what he says...or we wouldn't be successful...I learned late, after high school, and have been winning ever since...this is my job, this is all I am responsible for, showing up for work and doing the best job with my effort that I can..."...Steve also was "open" and said, "I was a late bloomer, didn't really have much success early with basketball and then because I was so tall, realized how hard I had to work and keep training to improve my skills and abilities to become better as a team player and that has been my key to have this job..."...I was hopeful that Pancake translated this well enough so that each player understood exactly what came from their teammates hearts and experiences in this game...I was so proud of Steve and DT...so proud...told them both also of same...Next, I asked one of the two team captains, Cannon, if he had anything to say and he shook his head no...then I asked Wong Bo if he had anything to say, hoping in my heart that someone with "kahonees" would step up here and speak freely...Lo and behold, GLORY, Wong Bo did have something to share: "I respect our two American teammates and how they say how they had to work hard to reach success and how they come to our team to help us get better and win in the CBA and how coach tom is teaching us to be better team players, we are lucky to have these Americans want to be a part of our team, and we should be willing to accept whatever the role the coach tells us to accept and work hard like he asks us to do everyday, it is our job...we have conflicts that happened last season between us, not with the foreign players or coaches, but between us, and that is why we were in 11th place and have not been well in 3 years...until we put aside our conflicts within, we will not be successful, we must accept our roles and play to the best of our abilities..." Wow, I said to myself...thanked him, and then went to "Pops" and asked him if he had anything to say...This WAS and IS one of my better moves since arriving to coach this team: "I am one of the older players, and I would like to know that in these last two years of my CBA career, I could be on a winning team here, as it would make me proud to remember my career at the end as being successful, so I please hope that we can work together and you help me to achieve my dream..."...Well, ol coach here waxed sentimental, and ended up getting goose bumps and almost had a "Vermielisque" type of emotion happen...It was THAT inspirational...So, that was the gist of our meeting...

Pregame vs. Korean LG Team: They are a good team, well disciplined, excellent guard play, and one of the best pure shooters I have ever seen and coached against in my career...He played on the National Team vs. Japan in the Jones Cup 2000 when I was the Men's National Coach of Japan...He remembered me, and of course I ALWAYS remember a shooter...They will come at us hard, trap full court (yea!!) and throw a Zone at us, which we haven't faced yet...So, again, we are ready to have "lessons taught/learned...knowledge gained (hopefully)..."...Will file a Post Game report...

Post Game Scouting Report on 19 yr. old 7'2" Russian Post player...He didn't play much against us but when he did, he went right at Steve and banged pretty well and scored on a great pick roll, finished and drew an and one on the play...Before the game, I met the Russian Post Coach, former asst. National Coach Mikhail who is 6'10" himself, still looks like he could get double double but is in his 40's now, and complimented him on his teaching skills with the Post players on his team...He was so appreciative of me taking the time to actually say something like that BEFORE they put a "Sputnik" where the sun don't shine on us...Told him to keep working with his upper body strength and balance...He says he's a hard worker, doesn't "yet know" how good he could be...Told him something that my Dad said many times over the years, "Post players take more time to develop solid Post Move skills because they do not get the same opportunities to "touch" the ball as Wings or Guards, so you must me patient with their development..."...He knew of Pete Newell and the Big Man's Camp...and thanked me for sharing that with him...Coach tom

Friday Morning..."Dreamescape I"...Did I mention that this room has 3 Stars...UNTIL, you sleep on the bed, and then you quickly realize that, "this must be owned by the same group, because the bed, although being double, would remind anyone of a sleepover on "Shag" carpet...yes, THAT hard again...My gluttonous maxim us, yes after all of these years, I have developed my anatomy with great respect to the many epicurean delights that have shaped my latter years now), it doesn't even provide the necessary cushion for a comfortable sleep...Friday nights in a beachfront hotel that has over 200 rooms...oh yeah, not a real quiet evening to say the least...what to do: TV in a hotel room in Russia, now that's a novel idea for sleep, no? So, I turn on the TV and my controller doesn't work so I operate it by hand, bringing back memories of yesteryear when I would do the same when my Mom or Dad were not around and I wanted to "switch channels", later to be replaced with "channel surfing", until they returned to watch their program...I decide on an interesting program that features incredible accident scenes from where else? You guessed it: the good old USA...They show not-so-very-smart adults showing kids how to do something when in fact someone gets hurt; also including footage of "supervised" children hurting themselves as well...It's not America's Funniest Videos by any means, it's America's Hurting Themselves Videos...ouch!!

Can't sleep as my "sinuses" are acting up in this room...Let me see, how do I describe the "aroma" of this clean (it is really) room: think back when the boys locker room smelled like socks and jocks hangin on hooks and the heat's been on over the weekend before PE Class on Monday morning...yep, so many wonderful memories of yesteryears I am experiencing...hope the "old" guys like me out there can relate...if not, take a whiff of your shoes sometimes, tennis, walking or most worn pair of dress shoes...you'll get the "whiff" my visualsh here...err, aromas...

Walkthru Practice this Morning: Wow, talk about a sleepy head group!! We got up for breakfast at 7:45am (players prefer to awakened from a dead sleep and go right to breakfast...that is their custom)...Did I ever get an eyeful from that breakfast...good thing this wasn't an AAU team getting ready for 4 games in one day or 3...we'd a miss the first game completely...We arrive 15 mins. early (I told you the Asst. Team Mgr. would come around...) and that gave us "extra" time to get loose, shoot at both ends of basket, and then go thru our defensive alignment (NOT MATCHUPS) and finish with our Offensive sets, simple, both ends of court, including Zone Attack, Blue Hi Stack attack, and then complete the session with FTs...We were exactly 1 hr. and 10 mins...Most efficient effort of time executed I have ever experienced with a team at any level...It was fun and even the Asst. Coach, YoYo goes "Coach, that was good practice..."...Now we prepare for the game tonight...I told the players before Walkthru not to "pack" a parachute by complaining about being tired, not loose, hungry, etc., ect., rather, PACK your parachute now, knowing that you'll probably make mistakes, shoot airballs, miss layups, get fouled, get knocked down, have terrible officiating, but it's okay, you still get to play and finish the game on your feet...don't quit, visualize yourself being on defense, rotating to help your teammate from the weakside...getting up in the passing lanes early with a STOP SIGN (Palm of hand extended in the Passer's line of vision)...I took the two capts. aside before practice and shared with them how important it was for them to be more vocal in practice WITH ME towards their younger teammates, that I should not always have to be the voice to correct everyone nor should the asst. coach...But to quietly take the player(s) aside and explain "why" coach keeps reminding him NOT to make the SAME mistake...So, I am looking forward to how we withstand a number of things going against us right now: being visitors...hostile crowd...their Officials...their physicality compared to ours...the non calls at both ends of floor...and me NOT taking a Timeout to correct on floor mistakes...This is how a team will learn to trust one another and communicate towards supporting each other through adversity...we'll see how the lessons are taught and learned tonight...early, I'm sure...I am not concerned at all with scores in preseason games as much as I am with our overall effort and working together at both ends...That to me is the key to our training and repetitions: can we build on our mistakes into corrections...can we understand our trust carries over into communicating positively with one another or not...Will file a Post Game Notes vs. Russia tomorrow...Ciao...Coach tom

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

WEDNESDAY: Niaho...or should I day "DobraeUtruk" (good morning)...We are in Vladivostok, Russia, it's Wednesday morning, just finished having breakfast...errr, if you want to call it that...The host team Spartak-Primoyore "found" a Mandarin-style Chinese Restaurant for the team to have their meals...We ate there last night after arriving around 5pm to our hotel...About the hotel...hmm, should wait a little longer for that description...Back to this morning...I received a call from Pancake my translator, at 9:00am informing me that we are leaving at 9:15 for breakfast, and we will eat on the first floor...This will have made 4, count'em folks, 4X we changed the schedule for todays breakfast and practice...So, I took it upon myself to find out "why" the schedule changed so much in the last 12 hours...Get ready for this one: "Coach, the Asst. Team Manager (a person who is traveling with the team for this trip), he makes all arrangements for schedule, when we eat and what we do...", so says Pancake...I ask to meet with him and the assistant coach and Pancake before we sit down to breakfast...I inquire through the translator as to why so many changes and if I may have the schedule in hand so we can prepare our players properly for the practices and games...Pancake tells me that the Asst. Team Manager (keep in mind, the person who hired me was Sun Jun, former star National Team player and the owner, another really good person), are NOT with the team, but this person is...Now, we must keep in mind that this asst. team manager is in his mid-50's, and was a military officer in the Red Army, which means that HE on this trip MAKES all decisions for everything...I then ask if it would be possible for him to give me a schedule for the practice times that I WAS ASKED to submit to Pancake on Sunday night in Changchun City, which was then FAXed to the Russian hosts for tournament...When we arrived yesterday, our host "Illya", nice young college student, who speaks English, Russian and Mandarin Chinese, tells me on the 45 min. bus ride from the airport to downtown Vladivostok, that "Coach, we received your schedule and we have made arrangements for your practice times and when you leave hotel..."...I was a "happy" camper up to this point, that meant, no surprises until this morning's "summit" meeting with the ex-Red Army Officer...Now, good people, I am an American "species" meaning: I have "RED" blood, a "WHITE" tongue, and "BLUE" veins, meaning that when someone who I have met only once at the airport to pick me up and my translator, Joe Guan, a week ago, and have never seen him at a practice or meeting with Sun Jun, myself, Pancake and YoYo, asst. coach, TELL ME, that "you listen, I make schedule for team the way I want schedule...all changes go through me, you only coach team in gym when I say you coach...this isn't USA this is Red China..." Hmmm, I thought to my "politically correct" self, he is sooooooo right, I AM A PROUD AMERICAN who will always be vigilant as a former Navy Veteran who loves his country dearly and will defend its democracy until I can't move a limb, I will smile at this man, nod, keep him close to me, and win him over with respect and my court demeanor when I do my job daily, and let my model speak for itself...Little did I know that he scheduled "sightseeing" on this trip as well, meaning that we had practice this morning and then went on a tour of the city, meaning 25mins. in the bus stuck in traffic, then walk another 200 steps to the military museum which was interesting from a historical part until you realize that the weapons decommissioned now were outpost weapons protecting the port city from enemy attack...Inside this high elaborate bunker was the museum itself of Vladivostok's history...Wow, is all I can say...the weapons from over 200 years ago were in this museum...no pictures allowed...I saw an 8' flintlock from over 200 years ago...really...remarkable...I guess if this weapon took out the lead horse or leader first, then their enemy would retreat...I mean it had to take all of 5mins. to reload this thing...Back to the Asst. Team Manager...I have made the decision to be polite but he has definitely established the "lines" of where authority is with me, folks...The difference between him and Sun Jun is the North Pole and a Waikiki Beach, respectively...I will be respectful but cautious until I return to our city...I love our freedom as an American citizen, and I love our structure and organization when it comes to communication and basketball applications...A coach "knows" his players, and knows them well, and in this case, my "read" on the players is that the last thing they want to do is "sightsee", being on their legs, walking up steps and visiting places while waiting in traffic on average 20 mins. before we go to next venue...

Our "Bussey" in Vladivostok, today...Let's say this, the lines on his face and the wrinkled expression upon his countenance tells a story in itself...He is quiet and as "ripe" as a Walla Walla Onion during harvest time...yes, THAT RIPE...The tour bus we are on has an interpreter by the name of Kevin...he is probably 25-26 years old...speaks 3 languages like Illya did the day before...we also have on this bus, at least a dozen flys, out of type of formation, looking for anything to land upon and rest, otherwise they circle like Seattle's flys the day of garbage pickup and have become somewhat annoying unless you're into seeing how quick your hand is in capturing one...We just finished our 2nd "visit" to a tour site...The Asst. Team Manager is now very tired and I think embarrassed as he is leaning over, with eyes closed NAPPING...me, I am deep down LOVIN every minute of his actions right now...he blew it, and his schedule too...Fingers are crossed about our game day schedule...yes, he has tentatively PLANNED for us to go on another tour away from the hotel on our GAME DAY...I asked why? And was told again, "that's not a question for you to ask...the team manager makes the decisions what we do, you only coach on the court..."...Beatles Soundtrack is goin on in my mind right now: "Mother Mary speak to me, there will be an answer...Let it be..."...To my good friend Dave Burroughs, he KNOWS where I'm comin from on THAT verse...as does Hawaiian "eye"...Mike M...Okay, I'm cool now, feelin good, ready to write some "other" feel good experiences right now...

Hotel Vladivostok...I don't think Harrison Ford stayed here when they shot Hunt for Red October a few years back...On a scale of 5 Stars, I don't have any ink for "fill" to mark this star down...and if I could? Imagine the furthest star away from the naked eye, a "spec" would be appropriate...The bed reminded me of my "bunk bed" mattress when I was at my first camp as a kid many summers ago...and the pillows? Not sure that any feathers ever made into this casing...I am in room 739, next to Pancake and Doc, the team trainer, great person by the way...always smiling...players love him, respect him and so do the American players...Anyway, I look out my room window across the street and see a 22 story high rise building under what seems to appear as construction...again...as the top 8 floors were torched last month in a fire and wiped out the railings, windows etc...I was told no one died because it was not yet completed...funny, I thought I the residue of smoke on our floor when we first got off the elevator...and I was right...outside our hotel entrance, as I was waiting for the rest of the team, I looked up at our building and lo and behold, there was a room that had caught fire LAST WEEK and burned the room completely, plus wiped out the room ABOVE this floor (6th FLOOR)...keep in mind the floors are wood...1/4" carpet or Miniature Golf thickness and as green, and now I'm thinking 2 buildings, fire history, very interesting...indeed...THEN when we went to our sightseeing after lunch today, I asked Kevin, the translator, what happened to the modern building next to ours, that is closed down..."It had a fire...last year maybe..."...3 buildings, 3 fires...I'm thinking where is the Fire Exit on my floor? Will let you know my 'exit' strategy next...My posterior needs an adjustment right now...the shocks are wiped out on this bus and the cushion I have developed over the last 25 years is "wearing" thin...and here I thought I it was more of a "Rhino's" derriere...I have to keep reminding myself that this is a GA "blogit"...

Okay, wait'll you hear this one...Pancake, my wonderful "new" friend translator, whom I really love dearly, takes me aside and tells me that the Team Manager feels so bad that this "Asst. Manager" talks so much...He doesn't know why he is acting the way he is and apologizes...Well, let me tell you something, I immediately had a "summit" with the Team Manager NOT the Asst. and told him how much I respected the fact that he came to every practice, asked me questions and I felt HE was the extension of Sun Jun, the GM who hired me...He agreed and said how much he liked me as a coach and person...This was refreshing and reaffirming to me, as I "knew" that the Asst. Team Manager had his own agenda, up to this point...Let's say this: I am learning slowly, that there is a hierarchy, and I must "adjust" to it, which I am slowly understanding daily and applying great patience as a virtue also...

Dinner tonight: Duran and Steve approached me and concurred that we "didn't" need to eat Russian Chinese again at the same restaurant...So we stayed in the lobby together, as I did not want to disrespect the Players and others by sitting at the table and NOT eat dinner with them...Guess what? Yep, the ASS. Team Mgr. decided to sit down with me and discuss "why" I chose not to go to dinner...Frankly speaking, I really wasn't interested in walking a half mile back to the hotel up a couple of steep hills on loose rock...I was polite, and told him that out of respect for the players and others we did not want to disrespect anyone by sitting at the table and not eat anything...He said that "they" will prepare Western Style food for us tomorrow...I said thank you...looked away at Pancake, who now "knows" Coach tom and his disdain for this particular person, and said: "it is okay, Coach, our Chinese players do NOT like this food either..."...Oh great, I say to myself, the players themselves KNOW the difference between "their" homeland food as well as we do with our American Takeout Chinese food...

So, ol tommyboy here, puts on his thinking cap, and decides, hmmm, we need to find some good food...And to much surprise and delight, several CPOs from our beloved USN, walk into the hotel and see the three Americans sitting in the lobby and immediately say hello to us...We in turn were also happy to speak to other Americans besides ourselves and I was proud to even have the pleasure of meeting our Patriots at sea...It turns out that there are two ships in Port here and they will be leaving on Friday morning, heading off the wild blue yonder...Anyway, I asked them if they had found any good restaurants, and guess what? They had...a 100 year old establishment, less than 300 yds. from our hotel, no less, and they said the magic words to all of us: "Oh yeah, we had RIBS and mashed potatoes...", I said: "No, can't be...here? Are you sure it was ribs and taters?" The Chief Petty Officer said: "Oh yeah, we ate well..."...Of course I HAD to get that address and location, which I did as they had a guide who was with them give me the name and I took it from there...or so I thought, until the Ass. Team Mgr. did not want the two American players to leave with me...(to the Asst. Team Manager's credit, he was only looking out for me, as it is his responsibility representing the People's Republic AND the team, that nothing happens to me, such as abduction, assault, etc., as this was the first time any of the players or people from Changchun City had visited this Russian city)...So, I stood up, asked Kevin to "lead" me and took Pancake with me, told Steve and Dujuan I'd be back with some good food to make you happy...And I did return 20 mins. later...Didn't get ribs as the 6 CPOs took BOTH sides of the steer and all that was left were steaks...which I ordered along with Mashed potatoes and Steve and I had curly fries that were really good...not much salt, fresh and tasty...We definitely had a GREAT DINNER upon my return...Kevin, the Russian-Chinese-English translator was so helpful, I can't begin to tell you...We became newest best friends...His fiance' who gave us a ride back to hotel, was very impressive as well, as it turns out, she is a Russian lawyer...She went to law school for 5 years...Kevin is working on getting me some real nice "Moscow-this" pair of custom made shoes while I'm here...Let me tell you something: this style is something else...he and a friend came up with it, and it is da bomb!! I will take a couple of pictures for you and send them along...The leather is smooth and the style is unique, and anyone that knows how I "dress" for me to say anything fashionable is a shock in itself...

Tomorrow, Thursday, we will have practice in the afternoon and move from this "smokey" top restaurant into a closer-to-the-water establishment...can't wait to see if it makes "1 Star" at least...I will say this: many buildings in this city have been started, but like Greece, never completed...not sure why, but it is noticeable...Less I forget, on the way in from the airport yesterday, I actually saw more birds, different variety (even some black crows like we have) flying around...really interesting...I guess that Asian flu epidemic was in fact REAL...

You'll love this one: I went into the hotel bar and asked the bartender if he spoke English...he replied "no"...I ask him if he has a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, to which he says he drives a "Honda"...it was then I knew I may not get my enjoyable G and T...I ask him again if he has G and T, and he pulls up Gordon's...let me say this about Gordon's: if you have a lead-base paint brush that won't clean with thinner...TRY Gordon's as it will definitely "clean" anything that needs cleaning...so I tried the "Tonic" and imagined it was Bombay Sapphire along for the ride...and he told me he "drives" a Honda...I need to work on my Russian...no doubt...If I had Larry Stone with me now, Alyson Stone's father, I am sure he would have "found" Bombay Sapphire for me...

The Korean team in the tournament is staying here also...just found out the Japanese pulled out at the last minute, meaning that it is only vs. 2 teams instead of 3...Whatever, I am looking forward to experimenting again with our lineup and defensive attack...Back to the Koreans...met the two Americans that play for them, one from Iowa and the other from Jacksonville, Fla...nice fellows...it turns out that the Asst. Coach of team, Rick Ross, is from Carolina and pledges allegiance to both Duke and Wolfpack AND the Blue...never met chameleon in college basketball before...really nice fella, and I hope to visit with him again during the tournament...I have many friends in Korean basketball now, so it was fun to meet some of them again who remember me...

Man oh man, did I tell you how GOOOOOOOOD that steak was...I only ate one of two pieces and split the second one between Dujuan and Steve...they need it more than I do...One thing I have learned from coaching overseas: if you can keep your American players happy and aggressive, you will have happy times ahead...if not..."the party's over"...simple philosophy, but so true...The kids I teach in Bellevue at Eastside Catholic, know me well, and that is a given when it comes to making them happy to train and take their games up a notch...

I'm tired, bushed, fatigued and ready to hit the pillow-with-no-feathers prop with my head...The fellas across the road, building an endless building, start early, around 6ish...I gotta get up same time, blow dry my hair, and go down to the lil restaurant and get a double espresso...YES, I found my first machine in Asia...I am so excited...I love Green Tea, but when my toes started looking green, I decided a lil coffee bean wouldn't hurt me right now...

Hope you enjoy my "blogits" as much as I enjoy reflecting upon my days and time here...If you don't, that's okay too, just leave the page, it's that simple, you won't hurt my feelings one way or another...For those who "do" enjoy my ramblings and what nots, thanks for allowing me to share what's happening over here...It really helps me "get" through the doldrums...And I really enjoy sharing with you about my team and their uniquely different personalities...Coach tom

*Post Script on Asst. Team Manager: everything's cool...We have a mutual respect admiration society developing after he tried to "help" with our passing drills and couldn't keep up with the speed of the players running to run out for a fast break layup...I think it was then that he "knew" that my job indeed was one of teaching things the right way and structure...we have been smiling since...I have no animosity towards him at all...He greets me and I to him...I will win him over by the end of the trip...Shoot, I'm even thinkin of buyin him a "shot" of something, out of respect...

Post Game Notes from the night before...We lost this exhibition 98-86...arena full (4,000)...Floor: one could hear "brakes" all night as players were changing directions left to right, very easily...

Not a Happy Camper was I during this game as the Aussies decided to demonstrate continuous "cross check blocks" in this "friendly" game and our players, with the exception of the Americans and a couple of the People's players, wilted...sank...resigned...use your imagination here...What exactly is a "cross check block" you ask? It's between a Hockey check (with pads on across the mid section/shoulders) and Football Block, the kind that Mr. Jones from the Hawks applies on Sundays so well...I LOVED it, I have to tell you, mainly because I wanted to see how we would react to the Officials on the road NOT calling fouls; stopping in their tracks and looking at the Refs as though something SHOULD have been called here; backing down; not blocking out on weakside and going to the boards strong for missed shots and so on...I mean as a new coach this is what you live for: exhibition games, new teams, unforeseen attitudes towards adversity and most of all their "hearts" for competition or not, when "down" and failing miserably...I never worry about the score in a game, I am only concerned about how hard the players are playing, effort-wise, and of course if they're playing together...We are young, inexperienced in the backcourt and last night was the epitome' of what my job is cut out to entail: teaching the guards how to lead a team into their offense and putting pressure on the ball at all times...Before I get into the gist of my Post Game notes here, let me qualify one thing for those of you who are gleaning technical information from this "blogit": I don't call Timeouts...I learned from my father and of course John Wooden and Tex Winter and Marv Harshman, that WHEN you call the first timeout, it gives the players an excuse to complain to one another IF things are going south in a hurry and really, when you think about it, it gives the other team the "sense" that you're in trouble when you take the timeout...Now I know there are two lines being drawn here and this is open to debate, which I welcome, but I think you need to understand "what" I'm trying to teach this "new" team of mine, with 2 new Americans on the roster and a foreign coach...You see, I told them on the first day of practice that we would NOT call timeouts in a game UNLESS it was at the end of the game and we needed to get the right players in and set up a special play...It was explained daily that our "work in the laboratory" aka, gym, was where we "take" all of our timeouts to "correct" a problem on the court, as we will "know" to a man where we need to make adjustments and do so...Last night we were down early in the game, like 12 to 1, giving up 6 points off turnovers and transition plays on missed shots...I stood up and said nothing, thus reminding them that we will not panic on the road, we will not take a timeout to correct a team problem and that we will communicate together as to what we need to do to get on track again...It was a great lesson as we realized that the ball needed to go inside to our "footer" (7' Steve Castleberry) and let him make plays for us, passing and post moves...He did just that and we got fouled a couple of times moving without the ball and receiving a pass and going strong to the basket...Now we're only down 12-6, no panic timeout, I'm calm, reminding the defense to "get up contact deny in the lanes halfcourt"...you should hear my Chinese...then the wheels come off again, our Pastry Chef, Spider, took it upon himself to go one on one, miss the layup, then take a 3 ball, then get his posterior embarrassingly beat bad by Sedale Threatt Jr. on an And1 move, and forgetting quickly what his responsibilities were in leading the team at the point...I mercifully substituted him with our 29 yr. old "Pops" (my nickname for him because he is the only player married on team with a child, and the second oldest), and right away we had stability in the backcourt on offense...The only problem was Pops tried to Pushpoint Threatt to the sideline with the ball and that didn't happen as Threatt made the ball appear as though it was made by Samsonite, 'cause he had a handle on it that went right to left very well and very quick to the Officials eyes, but not to mine...So we had to "help" contain Threatt and many great lessons were experienced in the applications of rotations and helpside defense...Again, no timeout, and they had to work it out on the court...Now you might say that's a copout or "how could you leave them like that...?"...well, when you've learned how to swim and you accidentally fall into the deep end, your instincts should kick in at that moment, anxiety aside, and you begin to swim...It's the same in basketball, you must learn how to communicate through repetition of team drills and exercise, and when you do it will be easy to recognize when the situation arises in a game...So, when our players faced this scenario (by the way, we practiced this very situation for an hour and half last practice before the games commenced), we looked but didn't read and react or rotate properly...Fouls occurred and players looked at me, and I motioned to my lips, and they ALL to a man, nodded...it was a "lesson" learned without worrying about whose mistake it was and the running score...which at the time was up to an Aussie 16 point lead...and then by 23 at the end of 2 qtrs...What disappointed me the most in the first half? Our Pastry Chef, Spider...He just doesn't "get it", and yet he was making progress in practice to the point where I really began to think (there's that dangerous word for me again), that he was...This I know about players and habits: they're like spots on a leopard: they don't change...For him to "crossover" to a more defined position, that will improve his skills and his teams', it will be a work in progress...let's put it this way: the Bakery was open in the first half and our Chef did a great job presenting his "works"...Overall my displeasure was more from a reactionary point of view than negative vibes...We watched teammates shoot from the perimeter, and then NOT anticipate the offensive board nor rotate quickly enough back on defense...Of the 60 points we gave up in the first half, we had 16 turnovers, shot around 32% from the field and acted like ushers at a Harry Potter Premiere showing: "Come right in and go wherever you wish..."...

Halftime Address...or Exhortation 101 Verse 1 Game II...

I told them there were no excuses for NOT making transition on defense and picking up the ball early and ready to defend the penetration in the half court...I explained that when I make substitutions, it is for the purpose to develop a "core" unit of players who WE can depend upon when the season officially starts, and that this physical game is a "cupcake" compared to the NBA and Euro games overseas...I told them that when a team gets physical like that early, it is a sign that they are tired and don't want to move their feet and SEE if the Officials will or not make the personal foul calls...The Officials didn't (again I was so happy they didn't) and we gave up, quit, stopped competing, always expecting the Official to stop play and make things right, as the Aussies went the other way for a layup...I also explained that when you sit on the bench and you're given an opportunity to help your team out of their misery, you must begin by playing defense and following the rules of weakside help and rotations...Then at the end I had one of my better attention getters: I got passionate for them and explained how important it was to "fight back" and knock a few of those opponents on their derrieres now and then, to block out better by bending your knees and keeping your hands up for anticipating the rebounds, but most of all talk on defense to help one another not to complain about something after the fact...this rolled over into me addressing our oldest veteran player of 32yrs. of age, and in his second year with the Club...His nickname is Chuck, and he plays the role of the "Mummy" better than Boris Karloff ever did (ahh, kids, he was an old time scary movie actor...good one too)...Anyways, ol Chuck got two opportunities to get into the game in the first half and it was not pretty...Here he is a veteran, not a starter ever in the CBA before, and he is not executing anything at either end of the court with any effort whatsoever...Fortunately, we made a little run and the Aussies took a timeout and I spoke directly to him about "needing" his leadership...his response: "the Officials are not calling anything..."...I made an indelible imprint on my bball MB (memory bank) to be sure to address that comment at halftime...I did...here is how it went: "Chuck, I am not going to play you one minute in the second half...you have been given two opportunities to help your team off the bench and in both cases your effort was lacking in comparison to your teammates...In fact, Chuck, I need you to go see Doc (our trainer) and ask him to take your pulse, because IF you have one, you need to get to the hospital and get an IV going so you can stay alive, 'cause right now you are playing like you have NO PULSE...Do you understand me, Chuck?" He just nodded, and looked at me...I then proceeded to raise my voice to the team and challenge each of their manhood with this simple reminder: "You are a Jilin Tiger..play like a Tiger...play with heart and passion...play with the spirit that has made this team famous for competition in the CBA, don't quit, compete...." And with that we went out and believe it or not did just that: we kicked back and began competing with the Aussies physical play...it was a work in progress watching this metamorphosis take place and realizing all too well that we would probably not sustain it, but it didn't matter, I "learned" that they do in fact listen, they do in fact have pride and that they do care about competing and representing the name Jilin Tigers...the 'only' player who failed in his redux: you guessed it: The Chef...

We lost by 12, gained some admirable respect amongst ourselves as teammates and coaches and held our heads high...I was positive with them after the game and told them that "if" this is the way we can compete on the road when we face adversity and NOT forget the rules on defense, then we'll be happy to man when the Championship season is completed...

One note on the Aussies...They really did come out and literally "kick" our behinds like we stole their Foster's Lager...I was taken aback somewhat, but "knew" this was their way of covering their fatigue and I welcomed the opportunity to "see and learn" from our players reactions or non...

We're off tomorrow morning and then hit it again in the afternoon from 3-5pm...I have to leave immediately afterwards with DuJuan and Steve and Joe Guan our translator for a drive to Beijing to get a Visa for the trip to Russia on Tuesday for the tournament coming up there...Evidently, the Russians don't care that we are working in China with a certification, they want to meet us personally...I am not real "keen" on driving again at night in China, folks, so I might bite the bullet on this one and go by air...The reason for leaving tomorrow night, is so that we will be at the Embassy to meet the Consular and get the Visa and return immediately following the visit there...Sometimes, planning goes a long way in preparation...

Will "blogit" when we get to Russia...

Special Note to Doug Strauss and Family: I am so sorry to read, where Gloria, your gift from God, passed peacefully yesterday...Please know my prayers and hope for you and your Family's comfort at this time are in my thoughts...

Coach tom

Niaho...okay, I'm on the road again, early Saturday morning, 7ish and working on this "blogit"...It's a quiet, less traveled road on this day than it was on Friday morning, meaning not many people are working this early OR just getting a late start...Afterall, they ALL work and have jobs to do, somewhere, sometime, anywhere, anytime...That's the People's way of life here, I'm learning daily...

Bussey's "concerto avec horns" has been a rude "awakening" to some animals and their passengers this morning, trust me: I never knew donkeys could turn their heads around that quickly when hearing the blast from afar or nearby...still no birds in sight...we've crossed two main rivers now and it has dawned on me why the fish they call "delicacies" are pure as the River is brown...Guess I won't be trying "that" delicacy while I'm here...Back to the road again...Bussey is beginning to "warm up" again, as he has matched beeps to my last 60 letters...Why? We're passing through small hamlets right now and it's busy with kids, bikes and cycles...small tractors too...I cannot imagine what this road must have looked like 20 years ago: dirt, mudholes, stuck trucks, no bikes, cars, but the mule drawn carts were able to make their way...did I ever metion to you about the "springs" on this bus? Let's see, try to imagine an old spring mattress and the rhythmic sound it would make as the wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round...Parents would understand my metaphor there, I'm sure...The traffic is really building up fast now, it's 9:30 am and tour buses are the rage opposite Bussey's lane...he is NOT a happy Driver right now, as he is very limited in his ability to pass anyone except walkers...Hope there isn't 6 degrees of Irish in his DNA right now...we're due for a "Rest Area" stop soon...as players behind me are awake again and that means they're restless...let's see how long it takes before he stops...We passed through a larger "hamlet" and this town was a bustling, let me tell you...we crawled through the center as this is where the highway runs, and to the right and left were merchants selling their wares and vegetables and animals and anything else that is edible and can be consumed, worn or shared...It was an unbelievable sight, and pictures will follow...And yet, it "flowed", people not once afraid nor intimidated by the traffic moving snakelike around the them...I didn't hear one horn tone for the two minutes it took to break on through to the other side (oh yeah, Jim Morrison is ringin in my mindtrack right now!!)...I see this, I marvel at it and yet for the life of me, as I asked my assistant coach, YoYo, "this is amazing, people go about their business and so does the traffic, respectfully, YET we can't even run a fast break right let alone play defense...why is that? He started to laugh as did so many others when it was translated...It is kind of funny when you think about it...It's 9:25 and the players are getting antsy...my guess is that we'll be stopping in 20 mins...just a guess...Late notice: Steve and DuJuan (my two Americans) say that we are at 496 beeps and counting....WE STOPPED...it's 9:28am...I was wrong...we still have 2 and a half hours to go based upon the "slow" moving traffic...Bussey got off the bus again to smoke 3 cigarettes...EVERY male (except the players) seems to smoke...it's an amazing scene...talk about addictive behavior...it's in living color here for sure...

We made it back safely, it's around 11:45am...all's good...I was very tired and happy to get back to my room and relax a bit...Watched Jerry McGuire on Star Movies in English on my TV...also have HBO too, as well as ESPN, but they don't show my favorite Fall Sports: College Football on Saturday and NFL on Sunday...Talk about "withdrawals"...if anybody out there knows how I can get online live video stream of the Dawgs, Hawks, Sonics, Seattle U, SPU hoops, PLEEZE let me know, then I can enjoy my Green Tea, watch and listen to my favorite NW teams...

Sunday morning, 6:30am...up and at'em...we have practice this afternoon, so I am working off the notes from previous two games that we will have to address in practice...No big deal, just little technical on court reviews, whereby I put the players in a game "freeze frame" and ask each on offense what they "see", then do the same on "defense"...I learned this a long time ago from Bernie Bickerstaff when we coached in Seattle together and along with Bob Kloppenburg, who was the defensive coach, we, as a team understood where the mistake(s) we're made...Then we warmed up and stretched...I like it because it gives me a chance to help them recall exactly the play(s) we failed to execute properly, and in this case, on our disruptive pressure defense that I employ with our team...This defensive philosophy was learned by me through my mentor on defense, Coach Ernie Woods, Hall of Fame Washington State Community College Basketball order...He has been the most positive and influential colleague I have ever had the pleasure of sharing ideas and strategies with to date...He has a website called Hooptactics.com or you can go online to cybersportsusa.com and link to his site that he has with Coach Bob Kloppenburg...It is the BEST basketball resource "channel" any coach at any level could ever imagine available at this time on the internet...Coaches: go to it...you won't believe how easy it is to read and learn about yourself and your team...

Hope everyone has a great weekend...it's clear and sunny today...glory...Oh, less I forget...last night at the hotel restaurant where I ate dinner, the music in the background was "Joy to the World..." NOT by Three Dog Night Either...it was an instrumental strings only rendition...then "Winter Wonderland" was next...I cracked up...guess they're reminding me early to get my presents now for home to send in October? They 'know' me well...I am the worse letter writer, Xmas present organizer and doer than one could imagine...I usually wait until the last two days of Christmas...BUT...I knew in my mind what I want to get for the family, just don't want to deal with the crowds...been that way all my life...Stay "tooned", I'll share with you again the "latest" music to eat "Burnt to Egg Plant" by...Coach tom

Tom Newell reports from China, coaching the Jilin Northeast Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association. This is his first podcast describing his experiences with his new team, Chinese people, and culture.

Well, where to begin...I spent the better part of two hours trying to retrieve the previous reflections and had to rewrite the first part of it, as my Word skills and saving wires got crossed and there was no Jay Arnold (my wonderful Co-Director along with Coach Guy Perry of FSLT) around to "save" me, let alone my document...That really bummed me out, to say the least, but I stayed with it and finished a pretty good "blogit"...haven't heard that word, so I guess I'll use it for now...

Bus Ride: my guy, the Bussey is one dynamic creature of God...He is so brave, I couldn't believe the cars, people, carts, dump trucks, buses and whatever else that was in front of him this morning, that he passed...I had sit in my "this is where Head Coach sit..." seat, which I now call "Headache Coach" seat...anyway, back to Bussey, he's about 40 years old, short, great smile and I mean no fear...I hadn't noticed how tall he was until this morning when he got off the bus first at another "rest stop" and noticed that he had "bowed legs"...which meant that indeed he does "have" Brass ones, for adults who understand me here...

Our trip was not going to allow me to close my eyes for a minute as he played something in "B-minor" (remember the 5,000 beeps he used the day before?) the entire 4 and a half hours to this North Eastern city...we're not far from the North Korean border, and yes, it's safe, I did not see one mushroom cloud from afar on this clear and beautiful day in Baishan...The redevelopment that is going on in cities like this one is a sight to behold, new high rises for people wanting to move into the city with their lives...interesting contrast: beautiful countryside, acres and acres of grapes, corn, rice fields and sunflowers at season's end, yet the tranquility and peace of mind removed from urban life beckons their children today and NOT their parents...which means that in 25 years, China will be faced with a crisis related to where do we find the workers for the fields? Mark it down...it's coming sooner than you think...I counted 14 cranes in this 200.000 city, and I'm not talking of the Whooping variety at all here...The infrastructure of apartment buildings mostly is outlined by these icons as reminders of progress where having electricity 50 years ago was difficult to predict...Baishan, check it out...

Along the way: I saw one bird fly across the street so fast, not high, but figured it had a better chance to 'live' flying low than high, I guess...As we approached Baishan, I could not believe the large and I mean large NUMBER of Lady Bugs that became an abstract work of art on our Bussey's windshield...Seriously, I've never seen so many Lady Bugs in my life...coupled with some large moths also, you know, yellow in pastel hues they were across the glass...then after about 10 mins. of making our way through their maze, they were gone, none to be seen and in 5 mins. we were in the city limits...Now, good people, we've all driven I-5 and dotted our windshields with some interesting bugs, I'm sure, but let me tell you something here, imagine having a 60"x12foot window absorbing impact objects at 60mph in the mountains...I shoulda taken picture...tomorrow for sure...

Arrival and Lunch: well, my stomach was calm and Dr. Pepto's advice carried over well this morning before I left on this trip as I had nothing to eat or drink...so I felt I could "try" the boiled broccoli and French fries, not a lot, but enough to give me something to down...There was however one problem that occurred that I am sure WON'T happen again as long as I am coach...We, meaning myself, DuJuan and Steve, two Americans on team with me, were put into private room with our translator, Joe Guan, actually my personal assistant that has been great and so helpful to me this past week...That really bothered me completely, as I did not like us being separated from the team, and Joe says that usually that's the custom here, the Chinese players eat in one room and the Americans eat in the other...I told him never again...we're a team, we practice together, play together, travel together, win together, lose together and we will EAT together...He totally agreed with me and passed this on to the Asst. Coach, YoYo for me, and Pancake, the other translator...I think it was also a 'way' for them to get out of a short "meeting" after eating to listen to my thoughts on what we need to focus upon tonight in the game...So, I get them all at 5:00, when they sit down again and "snack" on something before the game...I'll take 10 mins. and go over some adjustments that we'll make based upon the replay of the game I finished watching on our trip up here...I only had to watch 2 qtrs., otherwise, my "plyos" would be kickin in again and I didn't want Bussey to stop along the road at a "Rest Area" for MY needs...Post game will follow tomorrow...

Hope y'all enjoy my adventures, I'm having a great experience and want to share it with friends and family when I can...Coach tom

Niaho...as in Kneehow as in "hello, how are you, good day"...Everyone greets one another this way all the time...It's the same everywhere except NYC, where "if" you say hello to someone or greet someone you don't know, it's like "Whadya want, Buddy...?"...So, I'll take the universal languages of international greetings, from Guatemala to Venezuela to St. Kitts and the Grenadines to Korea to Japan to Belgium and France to "Howzit, Brah" in Hawaii, to "what up" in Hip Hop to here, Niaho...

The Bus Ride north...Okay, first off, please forgive me for losing the name of the city we were just in last night...I wrote it down and of course it's somewhere but nowhere to be found, just yet...We traveled Northwest though for about 2 and a half hours, leaving the worse smog conditions I've ever experienced in Changchun city...We ended up seeing the outline of the sun faintly about an hour outside Changchun...Along the scenic route to this NE city, which is close to the Mongolian region and noticeably more Third World in the rural areas than what I had seen in the city proper...

The accident along the way...Let's say this, our driver is one smart fella, as he allowed an ambulance to pass him as we made our way North on the well paved highway...You see, he doesn't like anyone to pass him, cross the street in front of his bus OR sneak onto the main street from a side road...This I know, after 5,000 beep beeps and one BIG BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP, he knows how to get people's attention in a hurry...This bus drives like a Taxi to him and he demonstrates it very well...Of course, my favorite seat on any team bus has always been the second one behind the first on the passenger side, at least if there is a problem I have the cushion of two seats in front of me to protect me, right? So, my seat on this trip was occupied by two press people and now I am sitting behind the driver who is hoping that I think he drives as well as any player I have on the basketball court...He's got a point, he drives a 40' bus, and I have guys that drive 40' with their heads down, at least he has the "good habit" of keeping his head up when driving...ooops, the accident story...brace yourself for this one...Imagine going between Ft. Lewis and Vancouver, Wa., and sharing the road, two lanes (they make 4 lanes out of two here...amazing phenomena) only, with the following traffic: motorcycles (prevalent in the rural areas, in fact #1 mode of transportation), slow moving 3 wheel cars with 4 people or agriculture in the bed of the truck, tractors, donkey-drawn carts, two wheel long bed variety, bicycles and of course the "lucky" pedestrian who dares to cross the highway at anytime, day or night...So, keeping this all in mind, and the ambulance passing us in a hurry, we come across a highway North accident about 2 miles up, slowing traffic and allowing our driver to "think" of a way to get around this traffic...He does!! He slows down and begins to cross inbetween the median opening and travel North on the southbound lanes...Little did I realize that we would all meet Buddha, Ghandi, Jesus and Elvis together FROM China, that's the "hot" flash of the day I experienced at that moment...BUT, about 200 yds. down the road, other vehicles were beginning to do the same thing, taking HIS lead and before you knew it, without any Police around, we're taking up two lanes on very fast highway with all sorts of characters and equipment with wheels and feet and hooves, making our way North...We came across a terrible scene that had us slowing down to a nail's pace, as we observed 3 people on the highway, laying unconscious and people gathered around them but not touching them...One of the victims was put on a stretcher, only 1 ambulance was there as well as one State Police car and two policemen, who were NOT ABOUT TO ADDRESS any traffic issues at this time...The vehicles involved as it appeared when we drove by: Late model Toyota Sedan, obviously the fastest of the other crash party, a Taxi, a motorcycle and a pedestrian...Both sides of the street were occupied by locals wondering who was their friend that was hit and who was on the motorcycle as well...Needless to say, the traffic "flowed" right on by and no one came to a complete stop while this was all taking place on the highway, blocking both NW lanes...Now you know that would NEVER happen in Tacoma along the auto row area of I-5, right? You know, let the masses figure out a way to keep the traffic flowing, slowing both N/S lanes in the south lane direction...anyway, it was something to behold...The excursion and noticeable things along the way:

a) didn't see one bird until about an hour and a half away from Changchun...didn't see any animals either, but did see chickens coming in and out of houses along the way...

b) noticed an incredible agricultural spread of cornfields...and I mean incredible...Imagine Nebraska doubled times over...

c) Rest Area: that's misnomer for sure...The Bus stopped at a gas station along the highway, not choosing to go on the property of the gas station, so several players in our party could use their services, or so I thought...Instead of walking towards the gas station and their facilities, they wandered off to an open out house, about 20' long, no doors, no windows, just an overhang (in case it rains) to do their business...I'm looking at this and thinking to myself, "Tom, can you imagine Xavier McDaniel and Tom Chambers getting off the team bus on a road trip and "this" is what they have to use to relieve themselves...?" ...Now you know how I'm thinking "I've seen it all..."...UNTIL, a few minutes later, another bus pulls in behind us and lets off about 30 people to use the same facilities, except this time there are 3 women who are also in the mix...now I'm really confused...they walk around to the other side of the "troth" and there was a wall divider so separate the two sides, thank GOD, and proceed to do their "thing"...well, there are still about 20 men who decide the young trees behind the troth "looks good to me..." would be the easiest way to relieve themselves so they each took a tree...now imagine this...these "young" trees were much taller than the other trees 50 yds. beyond the troth area, meaning that the "organics" that was conveniently fertilizing them was indeed enhancing their natural growth...

We arrived at our "day" hotel, checked in and then had lunch...

Lunch with the Team: I have been very careful of late to partake in the fine cuisine of China's fine dining since my "blender" has been acting up lately...

The setup for our meals is something to behold...Traditional asian sitdown lunch and dinners, has you occupying a table that seats 12 or more people and has a glass tabletop on turntable that features all the food we'll be able to enjoy...Well, I knew better, and yet I had been really careful to date, and thought to myself (which in my case is dangerous: thinking to myself...), "hmmm, I haven't tried that before", and it "looked" good, but Dr. Pismo, yes he lives here in China with his close friend Pepto, told me to "just look...don't taste...yet"...I relented to the wise "instructions" prescribed and had to try a couple of vegetable dishes that were cooked, and trust me tasted very very good...until about 8 hrs. later and then I heard Dr. Pepto telling me the same thing...I gotta listen to that tandem and their instructions while I'm here, otherwise the plyometrics I am exercising right now for the last 3 days getting up and running, sitting down and getting up, well it's really a new way to get into "shape" if you're not into the South Beach Diet...?

Pregame Notes and Postgame Musings:

Pregame was a reunion of sorts, as I ran into a former Sonic Veterans Camp player from 20 years ago, Andrew Gaze, the Head Coach of the Australian Team we're playing these two days. He has a group of augmented players from Down Under, all having the appearance of Aussie Football players, rugged, cut and obviously they don't eat a lot of vegetables and noodles. Andrew has been coaching Down Under since his retirement from the NBL (Aussie League) several years ago, and is the second Aussie to have an NBA Championship ring as a former NBA player. The trivia question is: who was the first? Anyways, we had a great visit, and he is really excited for his former coach P J Carlesimo becoming the new Sonics coach. PJ was Andrew's coach at Seton Hall, AND was an all Big East performer back in the day. Coach Gaze has another Seattle Sonics connection on his touring team also, Sedale Threatt, Jr. He looks like Sedale and has the same quick step and shot release like his father, who by the way, is a Regional Representative for And1 gear in Australia. Andrew says Sedale also has been coaching a little bit with an National Basketball League team Down Under as well. It was great to visit with Andrew as the last time I saw him was 20 years ago, saying goodbye at Western Washington University as we wrapped up our exhibition season there versus the Kings when I was assisting the Sonics back in the day.

The Great Floor: hmmm, how do I describe this floor? Let's see, Dancing Stars would love it...Fred Astaire would have lived another 20 years moving left to right on it, and Gene Kelley would have made a sequel to "Dancing in the Rain..."...That being said, I think you have a "picture" of what we were going to try to do RUNNING and moving our feet left to right on defense as I had asked ALL of our players to do in this game BEFORE we stepped on the floor...The play of all plays: one of our two American players was filling a lane downcourt, just like I asked and got a fast break pass from the guard behind him, he catches the ball, turns drives to the basket and as he does so his feet slide out from under him, landing bottomsides up with the ball and he SHOOTS it, almost making the shot, but unfortunately was called for sliding...err...traveling...Everyone in attendance and on both benches realized how ridiculous it was to even try to play this game, yet I never heard one player from our team or the other complain ONCE...No excuses, Andrew and myself were the only ones who complained before and after the "floor exercise"...

Game Notes: we lost 97-83...Great effort considering circumstances, lotsa unforced turnovers, Spider is forcing me to help him write a letter of recommendation to the Culinary People's School for Exceptional Pastry Dishes Specializing in Turnovers...I told him I'm going to "wait" a little bit before drafting THAT letter for him...He made a pass on a play to open the 3rd qtr. that was "money", and I mean "M-O-N-E-Y", as we have this pick-the-picker play (screener gets a screen next) which was wide open for the first picker and I draw it up for Spider and his teammates...Well, just like it was drawn up with lines and dashes, the only thing I FORGOT to remind Spider to do TODAY was "pass the ball with TWO HANDS not off the dribble with one...", he has short memory syndrome from day to day operations, which in his culinary field will work well, as Turnovers spoil after one day "freshness"...The play evolves and Wang Bo, our BF, is wide open, and Spider's eyes become as large as Marty Feldman's and he passes off the dribble...the pass "hit" a wide open Policeman under the basket who was smiling fondly at a "dance and cheer at a timeout only" young lady next to him...The policeman recovered, fans "cheered" for him and if you saw the look on my face at that moment TOWARDS Spider, you know I was wishing I had a Blackberry that would take dictation and convert to Windows Word for his Resume'...He did however come back to redeem himself mightily as he ran the same play again and passed this time with both hands and we scored and his teammates "smiled" at me...they KNEW as I did, Spider finally "got it", and that's my Spider story for this game...Less I forget, the "music man" for this game was wonderful...he entertained us with John Denver's "Country Road" and Elton John's "Welcome back Yellow Brick Road..." to some Hawaiian string music that was quite relaxing...The crowd: about 4,000...They had a good time, laughed a lot at our sliding when coming to a "jump stop"...Coaches Wooden and Newell would both be at their wits end during a game like this, as nothing prepares a coach for how to help his players to NOT SLIDE when coming to a stop with or without the ball...

Post Game Musings: I spoke to the players and expressed how pleased I was with their effort, each player, considering the adverse playing floor...I told them that do have to do a much better job communicating on defense and helping weakside like we have practiced to this point...That the reason for exhibition games prior to the regular season is to make sure we learn from our mistakes and make the necessary adjustments during these type of games so we can be better prepared when it counts...My translators were wonderful again...I love Pancake (Shortstack) and Joe Guan, both excellent people in their assigned tasks of helping me with my words in English presented in context to the People's players...We gathered our things and went back to the hotel to eat again, I didn't, choosing to stay on the bus and rehash in my mind points of the game that needed to be addressed today before we hit the floor again...An hour later, we're on the road again, and I put away my book of the week, "Coach" edited by Andrew Blauner...what a GREAT compilation of stories by writers who reflect upon their sports mentors who influenced their lives at an early age...forever...this book was a gift to me before I left Seattle, by Coach Lee Larson, my close friend from Happy Valley, Oregon, just outside Clackamas, Oregon, east of Portland...Coach Lee is one of those rare birds in life you meet along your life journeys, who really cares about kids, parents and the world, and has used basketball as one of his many mediums for helping others universally...This book has been a wonderful read...Parents: get it!! Read it and share with your sons and daughters, I guarantee you will enjoy each page turn to the end...

 

Today is Friday, 5:00am China, five hours sleep, we leave in two hours for a six hour bus ride (by the way, our driver is really good, Kasey Kahne has nothing over him...)...Dr. Pepto gave me some more "additives" and I reread his and Dr. Pismo's directions...They don't want to "see" me tomorrow, so I guess I will be reading my book and drinking lotsa of green tea ( I LOVE green tea)...We should be a little better prepared for what we experienced from the Aussies and their two Americans (Threatt and a young fella from a small Iowa school playing down there)...I plan to "add" a high post release for our point guards to help them get into the offense quicker and allow our "footer" Steve Castleberry to be the passer from the top of the key, that's to start the game with...We play 4 Qtrs., 12 mins. each, 6 personals, 24 second clock (if they have one, otherwise they count down in Chinese and ring a bell courtside...we got 3 shot clock "favors" during the game, as the Aussies don't know Chinese very well...) BUT only 2 Officials...

Take care all...a special "shoutout" to my family and friends and kids whom I have been blessed to learn from over the years when teaching them new skills about this wonderful game as I have experienced it in my life to date...

Coach tom...
September 17...5:30am...Niaho...well ol Coach tom here in Changchun City, China, been here close to a week now, IF you consider that I left on Sunday night last week on a redeye from SeaTac to Dulles (yes, I DID take geography in high school) to Beijing and then on to Changchun City, five hours after arriving in Beijing on Tuesday afternoon...Total Flight Time: 18 hours!!  I think NASA should give me some Wings or some commendation for being in "space" so long...The reason I ended up going East to go to China was simple: I was rescheduled because ol coach here FORGOT his debit cards/license but NOT his Passport...Word to the wise: when one wakes up at 5am to prepare for travel at 9:30, plus, IF you make that mistake and someone from your family returns to the airport, don't forget the Security Check and how long that takes when there is problem ahead of you in line...first thing one should do is PACK POCKETS FIRST with essential items, NOT two packs of GUM, tom, thinking that you have your money, cards and ID...

Anyway, I am staying in a beautiful hotel, The RedBuds, in Changchun City, China...It is a two hour flight from Beijing...It is in the NE part of China, in the Jilin province and there are two million people that live and work in this city...The smog has NOT been an issue since arriving...I've seen stars and 80 degree weather a couple of days, and it is humid from day to day...

Traffic: this is one of the "9 Wonders of the World"...it is for sure a phenomena for me to experience daily how so many cars continually move AND pedestrians cross the streets anywhere on a block as the traffic somehow, someway weaves, winds and turns itself away from contact and keeps flowing...AMAZING...simply AMAZING...They find a way to make it work...and it does...There aren't very many motorcycles on the streets as they are "fair" game and as each day passes on my way to practice, I realize why...Evidently, the story on motorcycles goes like this: when they issued licenses for motorcycles 15 years ago, there was a rush to get them...those people are now DEAD!! Bicycles? A few on campuses but not on streets per se...The have tri-cycle vendors who work the streets as well and that is something to behold, A Kodak moment for sure...There's no way this "flow" would happen in Seattle as the "force" of traffic cops would retire due to carpal tunnel syndrome from writing so many tickets for moving violations, infractions, jay walking, wrong way, and driving without your lights on at night...The reason: "why drive with lights on..the streetlights show you the way..."  Makes perfect sense to me until the jaywalker gets hit by a black automobile going 60 in a 30mph area...

Food:  Wow...where to start...let's see, breakfast...This hotel serves the best hot dish trays (covered) that one could ever imagine...It's like a Sunday brunch setup every morning here...My favorite: "Burn to Egg Plant", aka EggPlant...It is to die for, folks, you would not believe how GOOD it really is...I eat it like someone who eats Wheaties and Corn Pops each morning...along with fresh Mango and Grape juice...The noodles are fresh made...I've been eating so much celery, cauliflower, green beans etc., I think I was a rabbit in another life!!!  Dinner experience: the owner of this team took myself and the other two Americans (players on my team, we're allowed 2 per team) to dinner...I was asked by the waitress how I liked my "steak" cooked, figuring she was asking everyone else also what and how they liked theirs (owner, GM and translators)...I said "medium well, please"...Let's see that was last Thursday...I am still politely "chewing" on my first bite...

The Team: hmmm, where to start...Let's see, I have last year's starting point guard, whose nickname is "Spyder", and that's scary in itself, as I have never in all my years of playing and coaching, not once did I ever have a Spyder as a "lead guard" on my teams...He is a cross between Brent Barry (arms and legs only) and a future Bakery Chef, specializing in Turnovers...He speaks a little English and I think he understands a whole lot more now since I've arrived, as he is beginning to slow down and "see" the floor better...I hope so for his team's sake...I have a Beatle ("I love John Lennon, Coach"), that's his English nickname, and a HipHop (his nickname) as my backup guards, but rapidly moving ahead of Spyder as I type...The size of the latter two are 6'2" Beatle, and 5'8" Hip Hop...They both really are quick and LISTEN to what I am saying and teaching about Guard Play...Between those 3 players, I feel real confident about our Pressure Defenses in the backcourt...My frontline has a Cannon (his nickname) , a Handsome Tiger (true, but I just call him Tiger), Cash Money ('cause he's money with his shot), a Wang Bo (wong bow, his natural name), YoYo, my 6'7" assistant coach and of course Pancake, my bench translator, all of 5'5" height...I already nicknamed him "Shortstack"...The other players, 6, have nicknames but not English because they don't play much acording to the players...yet...I am excited about our roster, coupled with DuJuan Tate, 6'4" American, and 7' Steve Castleberry, former Sixers veterans camp '06 player...We will run so much, Immodium will be taken on game days...The training regimen they undergo now by the strength and conditioning coach is really professional and efficient in application...I'm really impressed with the structure and discipline...The players ALL work very hard and WANT to learn...The most challenging part of my job will be breaking bad habits: dribbling with their heads down...not passing the ball ahead (I have a ball that I took some air out of...solved that quickly)...and patience with their decision making...They LOOK and then react, they will learn the difference between LOOKING and READING...right now their "reactions" are leading into turnovers on offense...Our Defensive lessons each day so far begin with learning HOW to SPELL Defense in English, so they understand how important that aspect of my philosophy is for our team's success this season...

Transition: I am really blessed to have a friend of the United States Basketball Academy, Joe Kwan, helping me at this time...He is a resident of Beijing, and helps out at the USBA in Oregon each year for several weeks during the winter months...He has been my principle translator and without him, I'd be like swan with no feathers on a cold lake...The jet lag never really hit me, as I was so excited to get on the floor and get to work...Those of you who "know" me, know that that is where I am the most happiest: on the floor teaching and watching skills develop...The challenge here for me will NOT be the games, rather the basketball culture of how THEY do things, in preparation for contests, habits, both on court and off, and more importantly the understanding of having a teacher of the game in their midst...So far so good...but...it is THIER league, their country, their way, their beliefs, their understandings or not, and of course their trust of me OR not...hopefully we're building on that...I believe so, as the players come up to me individually and greet me...The first two days, not so...so I guess I am making progress slowly...My humor is still intact on the floor...Instead of saying :"That pass was like a duck on opening day...I say that "Pass is like a Peking Duck that fell to floor from oven..."  My translators look at me, shake their head and start laughing out loud before they translate...I seem to stop practice for a half minute so the translators can gather themselves over my sayings...

Upcoming Games and Travel: September 20th and 21st we have "friendly" exhibition games outside the city a couple of hours each way...so we'll see how we travel on back to back games...Then, we go to Russia for 8 days...yes, 8 days, for a tournament, an international one at that, with several teams from other Euro countries, etc...That should be interesting...we're small by Euro and Russian standards, which I don't understand since they have a couple of hundred Post players in China training between the ages of 16-25...Told my GM to see if we can "borrow" a couple for this season...Our tallest player is the 7' American, then we drop down to 6'8"...yikes...

Postscript: I apologize for being so late with this initial blog after arriving, so hopefully I can begin sharing with all who care to hear about ol coach tom in China...Take care, drive safely and the next time you do Chinese, ask for "Burn to Egg Plant", I guarantee you'll love it!!!   Coach tom

The Team Party

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An end of the season party is an important event to celebrate the season and acknowledge effort and commitment to the team.

 

A team mom or dad usually organizes the party at a restaurant or a home with a potluck of sorts. All parents are asked to contribute monies toward coach's gifts and awards, payable at the party (The person who paid up front fro everything should send an email reminder about the gifts and to bring a check or cash).

 

As a coach, you must take the lead on scheduling events at the party and act as the master of ceremonies. Ahead of time, you should prepare your comments, reflecting upon the season, highlight and short segments about each player. Using a 3 x 5 card for each is a good way to be organized.

 

A proven way to start things off is to welcome everyone to the party, letting all know what will transpire and when.

 

Begin with getting the food out of the way. Serve the kids first. It will take them longer to eat because they will be engaged socializing with their teammates.

 

1)      Announce you will be starting your comments in 5 minutes.

2)      Begin your speaking segment thanking all who helped put on the party, assisted with scorekeeping during the year, communication, getting awards together, etc. Then thank your assistant coaches for giving their time to the effort.

3)      Reflect upon the season. The things the team improved on collectively, memories from the season that you believe are worth sharing and savoring. Quoting well known coaches or players to highlight your thoughts works well.

4)      Comments on the players. Keep them brief. Focus on effort and attitude, and how each improved throughout the year, perhaps recalling a moment in a game or practice that stands out in your mind. Also mention what you feel each  player should do to improve their skills for next year.

5)      Most important: It is time to make each player feel important. Eye contact... And  when you call each player up to receive his award, shake hands and thank them for playing on the team.

6)      Close your comments about your love of being in the gym with the kids, and how grateful you are that the parents have put their faith in you to the share the game with their children.

 

You can choose to give individual awards. At younger ages, you might wish to shy away from giving an MVP award. I suggest if you desire to hand out individual awards: Hustle award, Defense award, Passing award, Attitude award, or Captain award, signifying the player who gives the most to his teammates and makes basketball plays.

 

Scoring is what everyone wants to do, but giving awards for other aspects of the game may inspire your players to think more about other phases of the game, instead of scoring. More often than not, scoring is the result of someone on your team putting you in the position to score a basket.

 

Trophies vs. Certificates

 

I don't understand "trophy-mania", where every player gets a trophy. I believe it sends the wrong message to kids. Michael Jordan never received trophies for participating. And that's exactly what kids at the youth sport level are doing: participating. Jordan earned them for helping to win Championships and for significant achievements on the basketball court. Kids in youth sports haven't accomplished anything to earn a trophy. By giving trophies to players for participating, it creates a sense of entitlement.

 

Trophies are earned by Champions.

 

Would you give a trophy to your child for going to school? Would your boss give a trophy for showing up to work?

 

Trophies will get lost in your child's room, so much so, they won't remember why they received it in the first place... And when they do, I guarantee the meaningless pieces of plastic will be among the initial items thrown out when they look back at their athletic participation. I suggest crafting personalized certificates for your players, with a quote or a slogan on them... Something they can read. Something that inspires them to pause to reflect...

 

Pride is in participating, not in the false sense of entitlement that trophies create.

 

jinlin-s.gifOkay, maybe not just yet am I in Changchun City, Jilin Province or Northeast China...I am really excited to be able to share with the FamilySportsLifeToday.com network about my upcoming experiences abroad...This would not be possible had it not been for my esteemed partner and friend Jay Arnold...What an amazing individual he is to FSLT and me personally...He is responsible for setting me up with a laptop computer with all the necessary ingredients to function properly on a daily basis while I'm online and reaching out to the world on my coaching experiences in China...

So, here is what I envision good people: y'all will have the opportunity to connect with Coach tom during your upcoming tryouts and season and ask me questions and suggestions in preparation so each of you can be prepared to give your Best Effort each day and know that you did indeed "leave it on the floor" when it's all said and done...For your parents: PLEASE allow the kids breathing room during tryouts and practices leading up to competitions this season...your greatest support is not in the number of questions you ask, rather it's in the consistency of your positive reinforcement towards their Best Effort and complimenting this always, win or lose...Trust me, when you praise effort in youth sports it's always remembered more than the points that were or not scored in game...Think about it: remember when you were a soccer player and played for 3 years or more and never scored a goal, but you could always remember the coaches and parents who always gave you praise for your effort after every game...If this is too difficult to do in basketball, may I suggest that you try it ONCE, that's all, and then ask your son or daughter what they thought of your reaction or praises...Just a thought that I hope is for naught...

Remember: your best practice and game is ALWAYS your next practice and game...Why? Because YOU have control over your Best Effort, and in there lies the true secret of becoming the best Team Player: your Best Effort!!!

Coach tom

Thank you to all that attended at supported the important work of Northwest Harvest. - tn

Northwest Harvest is a Washington original, begun here in 1967, and still the only hunger relief agency distributing food statewide for free to about 300 member food banks and meal programs. Northwest Harvest is privately supported and independently operated. They receive all their food and funds from you: individuals, businesses, corporations and foundations, not from the government or a parent organization.

In an interview today on KUOW's Weekday, sportswriter Frank Deford discusses his new novel The Entitled: A Tale of Modern Baseball.

He discusses how young athletes "gain a sense of entitlement, because it comes so early to them...  At an early age, people are giving them things, people are cheating for them.  They come to understand this is part of the package of being good.  There are now lists of the best 8th grade basketball players in the country.  It's so ridiculous, it goes without saying.  It starts at that exceptionally early age." 

This sets the stage for athletes and celebrities that feel even more entitled and expect everything, including the book's main character Jay Alcazar.

Listen at www.kuow.org or click here.

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From the June 25th Issue:

The ratings for the Spurs' NBA Finals sweep suggest otherwise, but former NBA assistant coach Tom Newell beleives there are people who want to watch fundamentally sound, team-based basketball.  That's why last Saturday in Seattle, Newell staged a game with rims raised to 11 feet.  The idea:  Foot-higher baskets would cut down on dunking and three-pointers, leading to more passing.  Says Newell, who called in 20 college and overseas players.  "The game has been distorted so players don't use skills other than jumping."

 

Without the following people providing support and volunteer help, the "For the Love of the Game" event would not have been possible. Thank you for being a part of history.

Mr. Scott Rerucha, The Legacy Group, President, Title Sponsor

Mr. Pat Leonard, Qwizdom, inc. Coordinator, Support Sponsor

K&G Investments, Support Sponsor

Mr. Jon Wise, New Balance Shoes and Apparel

Mr. Alden "Audie" Foote, Graphic Artist and Design Coordinator

Mr. Daniel Jahn, End Zone Athletics, Strength and Conditioning Coach

Mr. Dave Burroughs, Security Director/Advisor

ShowRoomLabor.com, "Caretakers of the Game" Plaque, Mr. Nick Beerman, Proprietor

Mr. Larry Stone, Coordinator of Platform Construction for Elevated Basket Stanchions

Mr. Bob Llewellyn, Spalding Basketballs "Project 11" Commemorative Balls

Metropolitan Grill, Gift Certificate for Event

Jak's Steak House, Alki, Gift Certificate for Event

Mr. Kevin Regan, Quality Business Systems, Inc.

Mr. Marty Hillis and the GREAT TEAM at The Ram, U Village

Silver Cloud Hotel, U Village

Watertown Inn, Seattle

Coach Joe Callero, Seattle University

Coach Jeff Hironaka, Seattle Pacific University

Mr. Chip Lydum, Facilities Director, University of Washington

University of Washington Event Management Staff, Facilities Staff

Coach Brett Brungaard, Strength and Conditioning Coach, UW

Ms. Jennifer Radcliffe, ATC, UW

Mr. Brandon Miller, UW Team Manager and Scorer

Mr. Bryce Currie, Volunteer Assistant

Mr. Greg Peters, Student Athlete, Northwest University, Kirkland

Mrs. Jan Jorg, Volunteer

Mr. David Hallingstad, Volunteer

Mr. David Spear, Volunteer Photographer/Coordinator Extraordinaire

Coach Ernie Woods, CybersportsUSA, Statistical Data for Event

Mr. Todd Kozinka, Planet-Hoops.com, DVCoach Analysis for Event

The "One and Only" venerable, Smitty from Athletic Supply

Mr. Al Cox, Al Cox Signs

Mr. Dan Vetras, Talisma, Support Sponsor

Coach Marv Harshman, Hall of Fame UW Coach

Coach Lorenzo Romar, UW Men's Coach

Coach Tia Jackson, UW Women's Coach

Mr. Frank Smoll, PhD, Sports Psychologist, UW

Mr. Ron Smith, PhD, Sports Psychologist, UW

Coach Stan Morrison, Athletics Director, UC Riverside

Mr. Jeff Compher, Senior Athletics Director, UW

Mr. Bill Hogan, Seattle U., Athletics Director

Mr. Tom Box, Seattle Pacific University, Athletics Director

Charles E. Robertson, Senior Lecturer, Emeritus, Physicist

Coach Billy Rodgers, Sonics-Storm Community Relations Director

Ms. Karen Bryant, Sonics-Storm, Senior Vice President

Coach Bob Hill, Consultant to Event

Coach Pete Newell, Consultant to Event

Coach Bill Fitch, Consultant to Event

Mr. Jim Fisher, Actor, playing Dr. James Naismith

Mr. Shane Johnson, J & R Woodworking, Co-builder of Platforms

Mr. Terry Sayers, Foundation to Finish, Co-builder of Platforms

Mr. Scott Takeda, sirkit.com, Video Producer

Ms. Diondra Perry, Production Assistant

Mr. L.T. Arnold, First Aid / EMT

Bob Schmitt, Oppenheimer & Co., Bellevue

FSN: Bill Kcazaraba, Tim McQuillan, Jon Bradford, Pat Brown

KJR SportsRadio 950: Rich Moore, DickFain

Seanboy Perry, Director of Towel Boys under baskets

Patrick Hillis, Team Attendant

Northwest Harvest Food Bank: Darla Weideman and Staff

Special thanks to Coach Newell's "step up" student athlete volunteers who made this even possible.

Seattle Times sports columnist Jerry Brewer analyzes the "For the Love of the Game" exposition...

To be a purist now, you have to be a futurist. To show people the right way, you have to accept they'll first consider it wrong.

Newell scared the dunks right out of basketball with his higher rims, and it was boring at first glance. To be honest, it was boring at second and third and fourth glance, too. But after thinking it over, the purpose of this day outshined my pre-programmed beliefs.

Players who had practiced together for about 10 hours were sharing the ball. Fans were cheering passes. Big men were getting the ball during an exhibition game! It took only one hand to count the number of bad shots.

Yes, the dunk was missed. At halftime, I was hoping Nate Robinson and Josh Smith would magically appear and put on an impromptu dunk contest at 11 feet. It didn't happen. Oh, well. At least players weren't tossing up foolish fadeaway jumpers all game.

"If you did see any fadeaways, they were short," joked forward Ryan Rourke, a Bothell native who scored 11 points.

When asked if the height of the goal made the players take better shots, Rourke said: "You don't second guess yourself as you take shots, but it's in the back of your mind. You're more focused on getting good looks. I don't think players were shooting the ball just to shoot it."

It's weird watching 6-foot-8 players not be able to elevate and dunk. You start thinking it's gimmick basketball. But upon reflection, you realize the game was never meant for great athletes to cheat it.

That's the problem with United States hoops right now. The U.S. doesn't thrive in international competition, even with NBA stars, because it values individual brilliance over crafty team play.

For the last few years, those who love American basketball have pondered one question: How do we change?

Read the full story here and additional commentary in Jerry's blog.  Jerry originally started to write his column about how he missed the dunk.  He eventually concluded "I really think raising the goal to 11-feet is a good idea that I'd like to see more of."

Bob Condotta's article in Sunday's Seattle Times article complained about the lack of drama of the game, but does discuss the quick adjustment required to the raised rim...

[UW Men's Basketball Coach Lorenzo] Romar was curious enough to shoot around himself for a while and said, "If you practice long enough, it's not that big of a change. You could adjust to it if you are a shooter. If you are not a shooter, it's going to become more evident that you are not a shooter.

"I think the shots around the basket require more of an adjustment. People say it takes the athlete out of the game, but I disagree. I think if you are an athlete, you are still going to be faster and quicker to the ball than other guys."

The game's stats yielded some mixed results. Newell said he thought the rule changes would mean more passing and teamwork to get the ball inside.

Former Husky Brandon Burmeister, a member of the Black team, said that did indeed occur. "There was more of an emphasis to get it in there," he said.

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"It's definitely been an interesting experience," Burmeister said. "I think we'd have to see some NBA players test it out over a longer period of time. I think if you experiment with them, it would be a better gauge if this is the right thing to do."

Read the full article here...

From the Everett Herald...

SEATTLE - Can an extra foot save basketball?   Tom Newell thinks so.

Newell, a former NBA and WNBA assistant coach, doesn't like what he sees happening to the game he loves, which explains why on Saturday a game was being played at Hec Edmundson Pavilion with the hoops raised from 10 to 11 feet.

"We're in a crisis situation right now in North America with basketball," said Newell, the son of Hall of Fame coach Pete Newell. "It's not a fun game to watch, I don't think."

Newell's answer was to stage a game, dubbed "For the Love of the Game," with modified rules that would put an emphasis on team play and fundamentals.

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The game, which was played mostly by former college players, was not radically different from a normal basketball game, but it did produce a lot of what Newell was hoping for.

"I really enjoyed watching my team play today because they played the correct way," said former UCLA coach Jim Harrick, who coached the Gold team. "They shared the ball, they passed the ball, they hit the open man, they got good open looks at the basket."

Harrick, who wears all the basketball credibility he'll ever need on his left hand in the form of the NCAA championship ring he won at UCLA in 1995, thinks an 11-foot hoop is worth considering.

"Every year I've ever been in the game, guys have gotten bigger, faster and stronger," he said. "I don't see them lengthening or widening the floor. The logical thing is to raise the basket. I don't think that high school and college will do that, but I think this will open the professional league's eyes to the point where they may experiment with it and give it some serious thought."

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"I thought it was awesome," said the Gold team's Brayden Billbe, a 6-foot-10 forward who played at Mercer Island High School and American University. "We hadn't played together before and everyone was out there passing the ball and getting open shots. No one was trying to show off for the cameras. I loved it, I absolutely loved it."

Billbe, who finished with a game-high 20 points and 14 rebounds, might want to consider campaigning for the 11-foot hoop to become more common.

"I'm definitely for it," he said.

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During the game, fans used hand held devices made by Quizdom to answer questions that appeared on the jumbotron.

Of the approximately 850 participants, 65 percent said the NBA should raise the hoops to 11 feet, and 68 percent said men's college and professional basketball should consider moving the basket up.

"This will happen again, I will predict that," said Newell. "I think this experiment will happen again."

Sunday's Tacoma News Tribune says that the "11-foot rim eliminates dunks, puts emphasis on fundamentals..."

Tom Newell took a step forward in spreading his gospel of a return to basketball fundamentals Saturday afternoon at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

Newell - a former NBA assistant and son of former big-man coach Pete Newell - organized a basketball exhibition game played with 11-foot rims by current and former college players to focus on what Newell considers an erosion of fundamentals.

He believes the modern emphasis on dunking and outside shooting has resulted in basketball straying from the way the game's inventor, James Naismith, intended it to be.

"We are in a crisis situation in North America right now with basketball," Newell said. "It's not a fun game to watch, I don't think. ... I really think television has diluted the value of the game."

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Newell hopes the exhibition sparks renewed interest in taking a serious look at raising the hoops.

Seattle Pacific graduate and Enumclaw native Ton Binetti said it's still basketball.

"I think as a whole the game of basketball is an athletic game, and it's still going to favor the more athletic player," Binetti said. "But I think at 11 feet it's a much more skilled game, especially for the big men."

Read the full story here...

supersonics.com reports on "For the Love of the Game"...

 If Tom Newell is right, fans got a look at the future of the NBA yesterday at Hec Edmuson Pavilion on the UW campus.

Under the guidance of the former Sonics assistant coach, two teams of former college players, mostly with Seattle ties, played a game of basketball. That wasn't unusual. The rules were, most noticeably because both baskets were raised an additional foot off the floor to 11 feet. In addition, the three-point line did not kick in until the fourth quarter, and dunks were strictly banned - not that they would have been common with the 11-foot hoop.

To Jim Harrick, who coached the victorious Gold Team to a 90-60 blowout win over Yakama Sun Kings Coach Paul Woolpert's Black Team, the results were what Newell and company were hoping for: A purer brand of basketball that emphasized team play over one-on-one action.

"I think the game was played the way the game is supposed to be played," said Harrick, who coached UCLA to the 1995 NCAA Championship in Seattle and now is coaching in the NBA Development League. "I liked the way my team played today."

For the most part, that the basket had been raised would not have been obvious to an onlooker unfamiliar with the purpose of the exposition (so called by Newell instead of an exhibition because his intent was to prove a point about the game). Players, who Newell estimated had 8-10 hours of practice working with the 11-foot hoops, were for the most part able to adapt to the height. There were more misses short of the basket than usual - especially once fatigue began to become a factor - but few airballs.

"I really was impressed with the overall success adapting and adjusting," said Newell.

"I don't think with a higher rim the game changed that much," added Harrick. 

Read the full article here...

Note to the  Sonics and Storm:  From our interactive voting at the game, 72% of fans said it was "important" or "very important" to them to have professional basketball in Seattle.

The below article was published nationwide describing the "For the Love of the Game" basketball exhibition with 11-foot hoops.  You might have seen it on ESPN, Yahoo Sports, MSN, or your local newspaper.

SEATTLE (AP) -- Brayden Billbe caught the pass on the block. He drop-stepped and turned to dunk, just as he usually would.

Nope, not this time. Not with the basket a foot higher.

"All of a sudden, I'm like, 'Oh, no.' So I flip it up there and it rolls off the rim," Billbe said. "I felt like an idiot."

There were a few of those moments on Saturday during an exhibition basketball game featuring 11-foot rims. Organized by former NBA assistant Tom Newell -- son of former coach and acclaimed big-man instructor Pete Newell -- the exhibition surely won't be remembered for the quality of play, but perhaps for sparking a change.

"I think this will open the professional league's eyes, where they may experiment with it, give it a serious look," said Jim Harrick, the former UCLA coach who was coaching one of the teams.

For the record, Saturday's exhibition ended with a 90-60 victory for the "gold" team. Billbe, a 6-foot-11 center who played at American University, scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.

But the goal for Newell was to examine how the game was different with the taller rims. Was there more passing and spacing? Was teamwork at more of a premium and less of a focus on individual play? Was a challenge presented to the players, all of which had some college experience, and could they adapt?

The answer seemed to be a resounding yes.

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Full article is available here.

In Michael Hiestand's column on June 15th, he proposes some ideas for TV.  He also mentions "For the Love of the Game" which mentions the Qwizdom interactive remotes available to observers.

If you think 21st-century basketball has outgrown the 10-foot height of the baskets, you don't have to just imagine how raising baskets would change play. Saturday, you'll see it.

Ex-college players will square off in Seattle in an exhibition using 11-foot rims that will be carried live on Fox Sports Northwest, a regional cable network in about 3.2 million TV households, as well as online on familysportslifetoday.com.

Fan response will be instantaneous. About 1,000 fans on hand at the University of Washington's arena will be asked 65 questions during the game -- "Do you miss dunks?" -- and will answer via handheld devices. Online, viewers can also answer the questions. The results will be flashed immediately on FSN and online.

The game was organized by Tom Newell, who helped coach NBA teams, on the theory that raised rims might elevate play.