02 April 2017


by Andy Weddington
Sunday, 02 April 2017

Uneasy lies the head that craves the crown. Howard E. Koch

Last evening I watched as a couple of UNC Tarheels, seasoned basketball players, missed critical free throws at the end of the Final Four semifinal game against the University of Oregon's Ducks. 

But not even the Tarheels could submarine their fate. More on that momentarily.

As mentioned in previous commentary, I have followed college basketball since the mid-60s. Growing up in North Carolina, it was the ACC. I favored the Heels. But hated none. NC State, Duke, Wake Forest, South Carolina (too bad they fell to Gonzaga), et al. Great basketball! 

The free throws trouble last night brought back a memory.

At this point in the season, the matter of poor free throw shooting has nothing to do with the mechanics of shooting. 

It is head work. Simple as that. Staying calm. Not being overwhelmed by the moment. 

Is that possible of young men in their late teens and early 20s?


It's called coaching. 

The memory that came flooding back was a phrase from a coach. And it was confidently spoken from coach to players 26 years ago during an NCAA Tourney game.

Not surprisingly, it was an ACC coach. 

Coach K (Krzyzewski), the brilliant leader of the Duke Blue Devils, said to his team, during a timeout with mere seconds left in a tight game, to one of his stars, "After Christian makes these free throws, ...".  

He made them. 

And more drama followed. 

Duke beat UNLV.






At this point it's not more shooting work at the line.

It's head work.

And that is the head coach's job - before, during, and after the game(s).

Say the right things. 

Say the simple things. 

Sit and watch the game (don't pace the sidelines yelling instructions) and lead with as few words as possible. That is, set an example of calm. 

Make those words count - as in points; teaching and scoreboard.

Now back to fate ...

I heard a commentator say before last night's game that a win would be UNC's Head Coach Roy Williams 99th NCAA Tourney victory. 

His 100th comes Monday night. 



Call it what you will but it's already been scripted by Highest Authority (remember, He made the sky Carolina Blue). 

And there's nothing anyone can do about it - even poor free throw shooting Tarheels (which will not be repeated Monday - because Coach Williams is already tending to the head work). 

Not even an American playwright and screenwriter, say Howard E. Koch (1901-1995), could supersede Monday night's script. 

Nonetheless, Gonzaga is not going to concede. They're, with craving, in Phoenix to play.  

Though not for craving but coaching, the Tarheels easily win the crown! 


Jijm Bathurst said...

Andy, no truer words have been spoken. Calm demeanor, speak in positive terms, assume the positive. Though I am lambasted by most of my Marine friends, my bride and I are women basketball fans. That happened when we lived 20 miles east of Knoxville during HER reign. Yes, I speak of the Summitt, Pat herself. Her alone brought women basketball to the scene. I was gifted by friends as a birthday present to be a guest coach at a game against the Lady Vols' chief rival, Vandy. Was in the locker room at half time when the Ladies were down by double digits. In SHE walked. Silence, pin drop silence. She walked around looking at each of her charges face to face, like a seasoned DI. Finally, with a calm (not one of her normal traits) demeanor merely said, "OK, we have had our fun, they have had theirs, we've let them feel good about themselves, now let's go out there and do what we do -- win games. This is OUR house, we do not lose to Vandy in our house!" They won by double digits

Jijm Bathurst said...

Another necessary comment from a women's basket ball fan. The other night the great UConn was playing Mississippi State in the a semi final four game. Coming in UConn was on a 111 game roll. South Carolina had already clinched a place for the final. This was to determine who would play them tonight at 1900. Twelve seconds left in OT, score tied, the shortest player on the court, listed at 5'5" is said to be no taller than 5'2", stopped UConn from making an easy lay up. Rebound Mississippi State. With time running out the itty bitty point guard raced down the court dribbled a few, and shot from just inside the three point circle. As the ball entered the hoop, the backboard lite up. What a camera shot. The UConn reign was over. But more important to the discussion was the interview with UConn coach Geno, whom I have always respected. He was asked what did you say to your team in the locker room? Calmly, he thought for a few and said, "Do you realize how many teams we have sent to their locker room feeling as you do right now? We did it 111 times over the past three years. What we did was not normal, what you are experiencing right now with tears in your eyes is normal. Throughout your life, you will experience what you feel right now. There will be many disappointments in your life, so get used to it. You have no reason to feel ashamed, we did something that was not normal." Wow, he is now at the top of my list of heroes. What a great thing to say to those girls, some of whom have never experienced a loss in their lives (HS or college). Great words Geno!

A Colonel of Truth said...

Jim, thank you for two germane, terrific comments. I'd not heard that as to what the UConn coach said to his players. That is as good as leadership and sportsmanship gets. No wonder they won 111 consecutive games.