The Big Kid and Basketball Part XIX … Here comes his Dad

[Continued from The Big Kid and Basketball Part XVIII … Most Assuredly a Win]

“Darian, come here. We have three minutes left in the game. We are down five points. I want you to run the ‘3’. Do you know the ‘3’?”

“No, Coach.”

My mind started racing. “I want to get Darian back into the game but he doesn’t know the play. I only have a few seconds to decide what to do. I don’t want to mishandle this situation. If I put him in and we run the play that I believe will best position the team to win he won’t know what to do. I don’t have time to instruct him on the play. He has missed a number of practices. I want all my players to have equal playing time. The ’10’ could work but not as well as the ‘3’.

Yes, so many thoughts firing all at once.

“Darian, take a seat. I will talk to you after the game. Mickey T! You are in. Tell Tommy to run the ‘3’”

“Okay, Coach.”

As Mickey runs across the court I am still thinking about Darian. “Did I embarrass him? Did I hurt his feelings? What else could I do? If I played him and either ran the ‘3’, the play he doesn’t know, or the ’10’, the play that is less effective, wouldn’t each harm the team?”

And as I am still processing my conversation with Darian … play on the court continues.

David inbounds the ball to Tommy. Tommy runs through the screen set by Mickey T. Mickey then rolls toward the hoop as designed but the defense makes a nice switch so that he is now covered. The defense swarms as Tommy drives the lane and as they double-team him he makes a “no-look” behind the back pass to Ricky who has driven the baseline.

Ricky gathers the rock with two hands and then goes up strong with his right.

“Score!” Coach Sampras yells.

“And a foul!” Coach Norgaard adds.

We are now down three points with just over two minutes to go and Ricky is at the line.

“Tommy! When Ricky hits I want you to press using the ‘5’. Got it? The ‘5’. Full court press. Get the steal. Get that ball back. Got it?” I call out to Tommy who is playing the point and leading the team brilliantly.

“Got it, Coach.” Tommy responds.

Ricky hits his free throw. We are now down two.

And Tommy yells so that even his grandparents on Cape Cod can hear, “FIVE! FIVE! FIVE!”

The team sets up the press.

“Yes!” I think.

And seeing it the coach of the other team calls … “Time out!”

“Bring it in!” I call out. And then, “Every one up off the bench too.”

And as the fighting five on the court run over to the huddle I am still thinking about Darian.

“Okay, same five are still in,” I say to the team.

The snake has worked well and everyone has had equal playing time, except for Darian now.

“Okay. Team, we got them thinking. This time we are not going to press.”

I then continue, “We have two minutes left. We are down two.” And then turning to Coach Sampras, “What is our foul situation?”

“We are in the penalty. But no one is at risk of fouling out. The closest are Tommy, Dean and David. Each with three.”

“Thanks, Coach.” I respond.

And then focusing back on the team, “I want Tommy and Jimmy to harass the ball handlers about three-quarters of the way up the court. Rest of the team back on D shutting down the lane. I am not too concerned about a foul as they have not been great from the line. That said, Tommy and Jimmy force the ball handler to the sidelines.”

And then turning to Dean and looking him directly in the eyes, “Dean, you watch and play free safety. If the ball handler is forced to the right sideline I want you ready to intercept the long pass to that same side. And same thing on the left sideline. Understood?”

“Got it, Coach.”

“David, no middle. Understood?”

“Yes, Coach.”

“We got this. Tommy …”

“Gorham on Three!”

I love when he does this.

“One! Two! Three! … GORHAM!!” The entire team yells.

Back on the court the other team in-bounds the ball under their own basket.

With our press disengaged they appear surprised.

“Let’s go, T!” I hear Doc yell from the stands.

Tommy and Jimmy double the point guard just before half court and force him to the right sideline with their great footwork and teamwork.

And just after he crosses half court they trap him.

“Yes!” I hear from somewhere behind me.

As they do I see Dean begin creeping over toward the right sideline ready for the intercept if in fact the pass is thrown that way.

“There it is!” I think as the point guard, under duress due to the defensive pressure, jumps into the air and tries to launch a pass down the sideline a la Mark Sanchez.

(Sorry Jets fans.)

“Go Dean!” I hear Coach Sampras call out as Dean plays the pass perfectly and times his leap to make the interception.

“Perfect!” I think as I watch Dean not only intercept the ball but also pass the ball to Mickey prior to landing out of bounds and in the stands himself.

“Great play, Dean!” Coach Norgaard yells.

As the ball gets to Mickey a defender tries to snatch it away from him. But for years Mickey has been our “rip it” guy and here again he rips the ball away from the defense and makes a solid pass to Tommy.

We now have just over one minute left in the game and are still down two points.

“Set up! 3! 3!” Tommy takes charge on the court and calls the three again.

Mickey comes up and sets a hard pick for Tommy who then frees himself by running through the pick just as he has been coached.

Mickey rolls to the hoop perfectly keeping himself facing the ball the entire time.

As the defense collapses onto Tommy he dishes the ball to Mickey who is now wide open in the paint.

Mickey doesn’t catch the ball cleanly and is a bit off balance as he tries to put the shot up quickly.

The ball hits backboard and then clangs off the rim.

“Rebound!” I think, as Dean, who has gotten back into the play after extricating himself from the sidelines after the steal, comes out of nowhere to sky over the defensive players under the boards, grab the ball and put it back up.

“Score! We tied the game!” Coach Sampras yells as the ball goes through the net.

“Great play, Team!” I call out.

And then I add, “Time out!”

In the huddle, “Team, they have twenty seconds to try to win this game in regulation time. That is not going to happen. This is our game. And we are going to win it right now.”

As I say this I am still thinking about Darian, “Should I put him in?”

But I choose not to. I decide to keep the continuity on the court.

I continue, “They are going to try to get the ball to number 4, their best ball handler and quickest player.”

God how I appreciate Coach Sampras’ scouting reports.

“We are not going to let them. We are pressing. Jimmy and Dean you are doubling number 4. Tommy you have their other guard, number 8.”

Turning to Mickey T., “Mickey T, you are on ball. I want to see you harass, harass, harass. Arms up and waving frantically. Do not give him a clear passing angle of any kind. You can do it. Understand?”

“Yes, Coach.”

“Ricky, you have the midcourt. You are now our strong safety. Our Ronnie Lott (but without the hitting). If they try to throw to midcourt you will pick it off. And David, you are playing prevent defense. Anything past Ricky is yours. Both of you watch their quarterback’s eyes. He is throwing it to where he is looking.”

As I said previously, I played football back in the day. Hopefully my mixing of sports lingo does not confuse.

“Understand, boys?”

“Yes, Coach.”

“Tommy …”

“Gorham on Three!”

Yes, I do so love when he does this.

“One! Two! Three! … GORHAM!!” The entire team yells.

Our team sets up.

Mickey is frantically jumping and waving his arms.

The double team is frustrating number 4.

Tommy is fronting number 8 so that the only pass that would work is a lob … and Barry is all ready for that.

“Timeout!” The other coach yells out as he throws his scorebook on the floor.

“Yes!” I say out loud. And then, “Bring it in!”

“Okay, team. That was perfect. Absolutely perfect. So here is what we are going to do now…”

I pause as I look into the eyes of each of these warriors. The players on the bench right now who got us to this point and these five on the court. Each of them warriors.

And then I see Darian and I look into his eyes.

And my heart begins to break a little.

“But I can’t let the team down,” I think. “Focus!” I say to myself.

“We are going to … breathe. When you go back on the court you will do the exact same thing you just did. We are not changing. They are changing for us. We are not changing for them. This is our game and we are winning it right here. So as they strategize and come up with a new way to try to get the ball in … just breathe and enjoy this moment. Being in this huddle as a team with this excitement … this is heaven. Enjoy this moment.”

And for those few minutes we did. We simply stood together in a circle and breathed in the moment. Cherishing it.

“Let’s go Gorham.” The ref called out to me as the other team begins to make its way back on the court …

“Tommy …”

“Gorham on Three!”

Yup, every time, I love it.

“One! Two! Three! … GORHAM!!” The entire team yells.

And then we set up just as before.

I notice they have switched out quarterbacks, but Mickey has him covered.

“No worries,” I think to myself.

“Balls in.” I think as the referee hands the ball to the other team.

They have five seconds to get the ball in play and then another eight seconds to get it past half court.

I begin to count in my head, “One, two, three …”

Balls not in. No passing lanes are available.

Number 4 then tries to split the double team and run a fly a la Randy Moss. (Yes, I played football).

With one second left out of his five, their new QB decides to throw the ball deep toward number 4.

“Yes! Just what we wanted,” I think.

Here comes both Ricky and Barry. Barry fronts number 4 and Ricky seeing the pass is coming in short (due to the pressure applied by Mickey T) jumps in front of the pass and intercepts the ball.

“Yes!” I yell … along with everyone else on our sidelines.

I think quickly and opt to not call a timeout.

The pressure we applied has well-positioned three of our players in the front court.

Ricky collects himself. And as he does David sets a pick on number 4 to prevent a steal.

Jimmy then sets a screen for Tommy so he can go to the ball.

“That’s our Superman. Way to play selflessly, Jimmy!” I think.

Seeing Tommy break free, Ricky fires a chest pass to T who without looking (at least it looked that way to me) fires a baseball throw to Dean who has V cut his way away from the defense and is now driving toward the hoop.

The clock is ticking down. Five, Four, Three, …

The pass hits Dean in the hands and in stride. And all in one motion he lays the ball softly off the glass and into the hoop as time expires.

“We Win! We Win!” I hear our team chant as our players rush off the bench to celebrate with the five on the court.

“We Win! We Win!” I hear our fans in the stands saying over and over.

“Yes!” I say in my head as I look up at the scoreboard and see that it is official. “Game over. We win.”

And yet … and yet, I don’t feel much like celebrating. “Where is Darian?” I wonder.

“Pete, have you seen Darian?”

“No. Not since the game ended. But here comes his Dad.”


Next “The Big Kid and Basketball Part XX … the Fleeting Moments



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