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A Conversation with Mark Jackson

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 2, 2014

(I rec’d this in an email the day after the Spurs put away the Thunder.)

After last night’s thrilling OT victory by the Spurs (an NTL team if ever there was), I called my good friend Mark Jackson to get his “take” on it.

“John,” he said, “Before the game, I told everybody who would listen and the rest of y’all that if the Spurs were going to beat OKC and advance to the finals, Tim Duncan was going to have to play Tim Duncan basketball. And guess what happened? The game was almost lost and then in OT Tim Duncan started to play Tim Duncan basketball (just like I drew it up) and they won.”

“So, John, do you know why the Spurs won?”

“Because Tim Duncan played Tim Duncan basketball?”

“Right! Anything else?”

“They got it done on both ends of the court?”

“Right!”

Then, I called up legendary NTL coach, Coach B., and asked him what he thought of the game.

“Timmy came to one of our first NTL camps. He was kind of a diamond in the rough. Almost useless in the post. On the first day of camp, I explained to the campers that the ‘great one’s use the glass’. Well, that must’ve stuck with Timmy because on championship Sunday he banked in a couple to help lead his team to victory. I don’t remember much else except he got top ranks for coachability. He was also the first and last to receive an award named after himself.

“Not everyone who goes to NTL camp can expect a hall-of-fame career in the NBA. It’s nice when it happens though.”

John Poplett, shoo-in for NTL Weekend Camp Hall of Fame, Chicago (laced ’em up at NTL Lakeside many an April)

Posted in beautiful basketball, general improvement, notes: college & pro | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A Passion for the Game, A Passion for People

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on November 19, 2013

IMG_5055.JPGIn the pros, I get it; it does not necessarily follow that to absolutely thrive you need to care as much about the people as you do the game. Yes, to build “team” you need trust, and you need some major level of trust to win. (Jordan had to trust Paxson; Bird had to trust DJ, etc.) But, you could be traded at any moment; so could your teammates. There’s that issue of the big contract you are trying to win, and your family, your reputation, your legacy. I think in the pros you are not playing – not loving – the game because of those around you.

College? Maybe a little tighter. You might room together, maybe take some classes together. Spend a year or two or four with the same crew. But is there a commitment to the game that comes directly because of who you will see on the court the next time you go there? College teammates are surely close but the reasons to play are many: yes, your teammates, but also the scholarship, the fans, your parents.

The regular pickup game is another story. Here’s one of those stories:

The Mayor and her people lacing them up.

We see this connection between a passion for the game and a passion for people every time we step on the court at Never Too Late Basketball, whether it be a weekend camp, clinic, or the Play Forever League. There’s a beauty to the game and the recreational player gets to feel that every time he walks onto the court, every time she huddles, every moment shared after the game to talk about, to relive, those moments. It’s a precious thing to play basketball for fun made all the more precious because the essence of this game is to share it – on the court and off – with others.

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Posted in beautiful basketball, general improvement, without the ball | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Harvard’s March Madness Win and the NTL Weekend Camps

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on March 22, 2013

Though I coached at Harvard for seven years, since then I haven’t always been a fan of the team or rooted for them, after all, by not giving me the head coaching job way-back-when, they essentially fired me. (Thereby waiting much, much longer to get to the NCAAs then the should have!!!) But after they gave Tommy Amaker the job, a guy I knew from when he was an assistant at Duke and I at Harvard, I started to warm up to the program again. His top two assistants have run many NTL clinics in Boston the past few years and do a great work. It’s been fun to reconnect.

So, other than liking Amaker and his assistants what made me excited about Harvard’s great win last night? (You did watch it, didn’t you?) Not their mascot; they don’t have one. Not their pep band; they are more like a chamber music ensemble. Nope, it was the way they played and the way they played is exactly what we preach and teach at the Never Too Late Basketball Camps. They won because of strict adherence to fundamentals, the same fundamentals that can help you play better and enjoy the game longer: excellent floor spacing and ball movement on offense; understanding and executing roles and responsibilities and goals on defense. Plus they’ve worked on sills. Plus they shot well, but a big reason they shot well is they shot in rhythm, never forcing a shot or taking a shot they don’t practice. It was beautiful.

After drills and skills and getting players to pay attention to the small stuff during those practice sessions, we run four sets of “coached scrimmages” at the weekend camps. By the time the Sunday morning scrimmage rolls around, we expect to see some of what we saw from Harvard last night: patience; spacing; a willingness to trust teammates and to move the ball; a belief and understanding of what you are trying collectively to accomplish on defense.

Plus we have a cool NBA style Three-Pont Shooting Contest, the winner of which this year will get the “Laurent Rivard Award”! (That kid can shoot!)

Posted in beautiful basketball, defense, general improvement, notes: college & pro, shooting | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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