the REAL words of the AAU in Mass
On this Memorial Day (as every other), there will be many laughs, hugs, cheers, tip-ins, wins, etc...
We, as basketball people, have often looked at this weekend as an extended tournament weekend. Another day to play games! Maybe bracket play doesn't start til Monday! Yes, Monday comes out of our mouths. Yet Monday isn't MONDAY. It's Memorial Day. The day of "The Fallen."
We tip-off on Friday evening (or Saturday) for those who know the scheduler. We play all weekend like it's the start of the summer. How long between games? STOP.
Let's go back to tip-off because we forgot "The Fallen." The reason we can tip-off. For those who paid the ultimiate sacrifice, their tip-off was "sign me up", "The Red Coats are coming", "Slavery should be abolished", "Freedom has been attacked!." That was their tip-off.
War is never easy. We use the tern "Go to War" many times in athletic terms but today, just for one day, let us not. War often means someone will sacrifice his or her life for the betterment of us who play a game Dr. Naismith invented at my alma-mater. They sacrificed so that, this game would be invented. They sacrificed so that this game could be integrated. They sacrificed so that we can argue who is the best player of all-time or which team is the best of all-time.
The men and women who suited up, laced their boots to step on "the floor", played offense and defense, needed to have awareness, listened and followed coaching without asking "how many points do I have." They just wanted to win. Win for country. Win so that we can agree or disagree on all sorts of issues. Win so that freedom is not only in the mind but on paper, in actions, and in laws but in our hearts.
We as basketball people love team players. The kid who would dive on the floor for a lose ball, the kids who makes an extra pass so that you can take a lead, the kid who does the "intangibles" to make a team succeed. INTANGIBLES?
As we go through the weekend, the word intangible comes closer to my mind. When I attach intangible to this weekend, I run myself into the word impalpable "difficult for the mind to grasp readily or easily." I cannot, and I've tried, to understand one soul who gave their life so that I could coach, live, teach, be a parent, or anything else which I've done. While, I can't fully grasp it, I know the lives lost gave ME the opportunity to live in freedom but, I do know, I owe them my thoughts and prayers, I owe their families my gratitude, and I owe my country observance.
We, as the United States of America, have been blessed. I don't know of any other country so open to others. It's because of the unselfish play of so many. Yes, unselfish play. We all love those kids who do that on the court. "The Fallen" did it so that "Irish CAN apply", that the "Holocaust" would end, that Ellis Island meant give me your ALL and we will accept them and so on.
Like basketball games/ tournaments, Wars have endings. We know who won and who lost. Their is usually a celebration. In basektball it's who wins. In War, most of the time, the celebration is that it's over.
Veterans will often be very adamant about their views on Memorial Day. It's NOT Veterans Day. They survived. One veteran scolded me when I said "Thank you" on Memorial Day. He said, "Memorial Day is about those who didn't come home!" I said "Sorry DAD."
I think of it in basketball terms, you tip-off with X amount of players. You "go to war" with your opponent. You lose players to fouls. You win or lose. Then, you go shake hands. We, because of those who gave their lives, have all of our players to walk through and shake hands. Not true for what Memorial Day is about. Those men and women didn't get to revel in victory. Those men and women didn't get to see tge final score. Those men and women didn't get to play next weekend. Those men and women sacrificed so that I can coach a game.
So, let today be unlike any other tournament day. Remember, pray, thank, be silent, lay flowers, whatever it is treat it dfferently.
God Bless all those who sacrificed so that I could be me.
by John Kottori
Over the years, I've had many conversations with Leo Papile of BABC. I should say the creator, the face, the driving force etc... of the most successful youth basketball club in the history of New England AAU.
Often our conversations are about where AAU basketball is headed, the mom and pop teams that disappear as quick as they enter the scene, the good guys in AAU, or the push for more teams playing REAL AAU basketball. Very seldom do our conversations consist of the success of BABC.
Out of all the conversations, I cannot recall a time when he used "I" to make a point, suggest something, give advice, or talk about competition. Even when (and he has done this every time) he calls me from Florida in July with his first words being, "chalk another one up for New England, we just won the AAU National Title" does he use "I". Never once have I heard how "he" made a move to win a game. Never once have I heard him talk about how "he" convinced a kid to play for the team instead of himself. Never have I heard him say "I got that kid a scholarship." Never have I heard him talk about the NBA players being there because of what "he" did.
It's interesting because most of those in AAU think "Leo Papile" the moment you say BABC. Perception is one thing. Reality is another. This is never more evident then when the BABC won their 100th NEAAU title during the Super Regionals recently.
This wasn't just any old 100th win. It was the 100th title which brought the BABC program an AAU National Bid, a "one of kind" championship, a get checked-in to make sure you're legal, play real basketball rules with no running time or some other "quick we got another 10 games on this court today" type of win.
It didn't surprise me when Leo sent me comments on this win. This is what he sent to me when asked:
First one was June '80 at Shelburne (Community Center) vs Maine 19u. Qualifier for Junior Mens National in Jacksonville. Ewing (yes Patrick) road his bike down Mass Ave to the game!
Appreciation to all our soldiers that served on 8th, frosh, sophs, juniors, and senior teams! In 1980 NEAAU began Boys BBALL.
We have a lot of "high profile" events today. We can't forget the 8am empty gym- 3 games in a day history. It's who we are!
Lot's of programs talk about who they think they are. In NEAAU, it's simple. Register legal age/grade, players-send fee, and find out who you really are!
Real players compete 24-7-365. No stage too big and No stage too SMALL.
Thank you NEAAU for providing our guys that stage.
We all chase the dream of having success in whatever our own passion dictates.
We all chase winning that title which means more than t-shirt, a trophy, or a picture with a banner.
THE BABC chases themselves because, Leo says "WE", "US", "OUR", and never "I."
by John Kottori
This weekend brings about many things for AAU Basketball in Massachusetts. The Final Four will take place alongside the 17u/11th Grade State Tournament. The Final Four is rather new to the State Tournament in comparision to it's total history. It is has become such a great basketball event for those who aspire, those who put in the hard work, played as a team, and survived tough competition.
For me, it's allows me to measure the "what I did right" and "what I need to do better" for the advancement of this game. This year has had many things which remind me of the past, make me look at the future, and enjoy the Final Four.
I often hear from coaches, parents, and referees "this game isn't played like it use to be" or "players don't pass the ball like they use to." Every basketball junkie loves the movie "Hoosiers." Coaches have it in their heads "how many times are we going to pass the ball before we shoot?" We love that movie because it's what every coach wishes he/she could be- stand by your principles and just coach the game. As a graduate of Springfield College, I understand this games beginning. As a student there, I was often in awe of the fact of being on the campus where it all started. Naismith followed principles instilled in him by parents and a world which demanded respect for the correct way to do things. Many of us in coaching had likeminded role models who were able to teach the game instead of trying to teach the ego. As a student of the game, I have listened to the great people in basketball. My mentor, Don Cushing is a basketball legend in Central Massachusetts. Not many have the court at the High School they coached at named after them- he does. As he would tell you, his proudest part of that gym is the banner which list how many MIAA Sportsmanship Awards his teams earned. Joe Day who is a legend in Boston made the game simple for me- "everything in basketball is about two things- footwork and spacing." The good coaches of today still have the "old" mentality of respecting the game, teaching the athlete, and sticking to his/her principles.
Yeah, I'm a new era coach with old principles. At 45, I was able to see the conversion of "just run because you did something wrong" to "if we run it's because you need it athletically." This is why it is so important for the NEW basketball minds to understand things from the old will make you a better teacher, better coach, and hopefully, a better person.
Today's game is so much different than say, 25 years ago. In 2015, we are in awe about MVP's, Letter of Intents, scoring averages, being highlighted in some recruiting report, or just being held up like and idol on twitter. Basketball has changed with the times. Maybe it's a good thing. I often feel conflicted because, I liked watching JoJo White and Tiny Archibald play unselfishly. I also can't lie by telling I would say no to the next LeBron or Kobe who wished to play on my team. I talked with some younger coaches during the State Tournament which prompted me to tweet about them specifically. These are NEW era coaches who seem to have things in perspective. Principles before wins. I hope as the New game progresses, these COACHES will stick around and continue their path. The greater hope is more join in their mindset of teaching the player not the ego.
The Final Four
So, what does the old and the new have to do with the Final Four? A comment made on March 1, 2000 by Rick Pitino applies (even though he probably didn't intend it to). It was the "walking through the door" speech which, for me, actually spoke to the change in basketball more than the change of the Celtics. In it he said in part, "Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans. Kevin McHale is not walking through that door, and Robert Parish is not walking through that door. And if you expect them to walk through that door, they're going to be gray and old. What we are is young, exciting, hard-working, and we're going to improve. People don't realize that, and as soon as they realize those three guys are not coming through that door, the better this town will be for all of us because there are young guys in that (locker) room playing their (bleep) off... The only thing we can do is work hard." If you take those words and apply them to the way basketball has progressed, you might say "the Bird, McHale, and Parrish type of player aren't going to grace the floor again." We see more "trash talk" nowadays, we see more one-on-one take it by yourself play, and we see the I'm better than this team. Did Bird, McHale, and Parrish believe they were better than the Lakers? Or Sixers? Yes, but they always had in their minds they needed to prepare harder than their counterparts to win Championships.
This weekend we will witness the teams who have earned their spot in the Final Four. You don't get to this point of the AAU season without working and preparing. Even though the game has changed (to the chagrin of some Johnny Most fans), they still know this is still the best game. So coaches and players, the faster "you realize" that all you need to do is teach/play, stay within your principles and work your (bleep) off, the quicker success will come to you. There are no new fancy ways to teach this game. The old teachings will always lead to new success in the Final Four.
by Rick Gorman
Part 2 - FOR COACHES
It is my strong belief that you must identify roles. I don't think it actually takes too long so don't drag it out. You know your personnel after coaching them for a period of time. Don't complicate it! You are driving the bus so don't act like the GPS is on the fritz. You know what you want to accomplish on the offensive and defensive end. You are proven coaches, don't be afraid to be clear, honest and committed to putting people in the roles even if that means the player, their parents and their handlers don't like it. Be communicative to the player on what you want and need especially if the role is drastically different than what you first thought it would be or what it was before. I love coaches at all levels that can find ways to include players and build roles but most of all I love the ones that can get those players to take ownership and buy into those roles. For the sake of the game, for the sake of basketball development, for the sake of shaping young men for the game of life don't be afraid to define clear roles. In the end your team will play better and you will love the WE over ME culture you have developed.
Coaches please keep the following in mind in identify roles or seats on the bus
Embrace a player who will change his whole game for the sake of the teams' mission. Tell these guys you appreciate them and love them because I promise you, you will miss them dearly when they leave your program. They will be the players you use as examples the rest of your coaching career.
Keep in mind guys that embrace certain roles don't always get the worthy praise from media types who only look at how many points one scores; so make sure those guys get the plugs sometimes even more than the headliners.
Communicate your needs clearly to your players because remember in the end they are still just kids.
The player earns a right to get on the bus, you may have to decide what seat they need to sit in
Don't be afraid to remind your players who do embrace their role, then try to do too much that they need to do what they do best. Always want players to improve their game but in the end they need them to do their job
Coaches that have young players that feel the pressure that they need to be playing NOW must talk to guys about buying in and earning minutes and roles. You must give them the opportunity to grow within your program
Be honest if you have no real plans for the player communicate this to the player instead of misleading him. Kids want honesty and they want the truth, parents not so much!
Be clear on your teams' mission, embrace to them that guys have to be over themselves and they need to buy into what the teams' goals are. If they can't, they can't be here
Use examples of guys playing at the highest level because they bought into a role. Who would not love to have a rebounder like TRISTAN THOMPSON on their team. Who wouldn't love having an energy guy like PADDY MILLS or MATT DELLAVEDOVA on his team or a guy that moves without the ball like JJ REDDICK. Help them buy into a role
Enjoy your role player in the PRESENT. Respect and enjoy them because in the craziness of a season time flies and that for me is why saying goodbye to guys that have embraced a role is so hard. It's not the superstar who are more about themselves that I still think about; it's the players that without question changed who they were and wanted to be to follow the team and your goal for a successful run
Proven statistic!, the players that we are talking about are the ones that you wouldn't mind your daughter dating and they tend to be your wives favorite players
Lastly coaching at any level is at times a thankless job, remember why you decided to coach and tune out the noise. Have confidence in your plan and have confidence in delivering the plan
Yours in Hoop
by Rick Gorman
Part 1 - FOR PLAYERS
We now live in a day and age of basketball where the requirement from players and parents is instant gratification. The unrealistic self-evaluations along with the people in the players' ears has created a culture where everyone wants to be the guy. These players believe that they have earned the right to do what they think they should be able to do on the court because their parent/handler has told them they are too good. Getting players to buy into a specific role even after the coach has carved out role for them is frustrating to watch. Too many players believe that scoring the ball is the only thing that gets recognized by THE REAL people that matter, and this leads to some so called prospects being totally exposed. You want to get on the floor and contribute find a role and embrace it. This past weekend I saw a team with good high school players beat a team comprised of good high school players trying to do too much and two scholarship level players who thought their mere presence would push the team to victory. The team that beat them (handily by the way) with no scholarship level players, embraced roles, shared the ball, spaced the floor, defended like crazy and of course made shots. The losing team blamed each other, the reffing along with a myriad of excuses that was both comical and sad to watch. They played me over we but the biggest concern I have is the unwillingness that they and similar players have in refusing to man up and look in the mirror and do some realistic self evaluation. The following are some thoughts for players to help find a way to get on the floor and stay on the floor
Players Keep in Mind the Following:
Trust your coaches evaluation of where you fit; not the opinions of handlers, parents and please never listen to the guy eating at your lunch table
Best way to get minutes is to do the things others refuse to do: Be a grinder, defend better than anyone, be a tenacious rebounder, be able to run an offense and be the smartest guy on the floor, get on the floor for loose balls
Understand how special it is to be part of something and have a role. TRUST ME as years go by being part of something WILL BE more special than you regurgitating your stats on a bar stool at the local pub
Some Statistics are overrated, don't worry about statistics. Make an impact on the game. I never trust stats, I look at the impact a player has on the game that will never end up on the stat page. I value hockey assists more than assists, I value who can hit foul shots at the end of the game, I value rebound stats and assist to turnover ratio and I get excited to see someone take a charge more than a failed dunk attempt
Embrace WE over ME every day of the week. Find a way to help your team win
Know WHO YOU ARE and DO YOUR JOB! It doesn't mean you don't work on trying to improve every facet of your game but DO WHAT YOU DO BEST and when you get better you will do more
Communicate with your coach that you want a role. Listen to what he has to say.
Look at your team and find out what is missing that you could embrace
Rome was not built in a day. The really good players will play right away, the others will or should fight and scratch to find a way on to the floor
Be a supportive teammate and a joy to coach and have around the team
Repeat after me! Your coaches don't have it out for you! Coaches' job is to win and shape fine young men. Help the coach by being whatever he needs you to be
Watch the San Antonio Spurs more than the New York Knicks. Model your game after the unselfishness of Tim Duncan instead of Carmello Anthony. Do the math 5 rings to 0 rings
Be mentally strong or find another interest
Trust the right people then trust the process - This is not rocket science. Like finding a good mechanic when you find the right person you will see immediate progress. Last thing you need in your life is another used car salesman
Stay Hungry and Stay Humble
Don't make excuses, FIND A WAY!
NEXT WEEK PART 2 - THINGS FOR COACHES TO KEEP IN MIND IN BUILDING, ACCEPTING, EMBRACING AND THRIVING IN A ROLE THAT EMPHASIZES WE OVER ME