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!