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Posts Tagged ‘Tommy Amaker’

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 »

College Hoops In Beantown, 12/10/08

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on December 11, 2008

Northeastern vs Harvard. A low-major collegiate basketball game. A drizzly Wednesday night. Why was Bob Ryan there? Why were we there? I asked someone who Ryan talked to for most of the half-time, “What’s Bob Ryan doing here?” Turns out he considered Bryant at BC – “interesting because of the Timmy O’Shea  thing (local product, played and assistant coached at BC) but not going to be a game”. Thought about Yale at BU – “not going to be a game; Yale (2-6) is off to a bad start this year – ehhhh”.  So, as it was for Commissioner Ryan it was for me and my wife and a couple basketball friends, a nice little crosstown collegiate basketball battle. A phone call to get the tickets, a quick drive and an easy park to see what promised (and proved) to be a very interesting game between two teams that really, really wanted to win.

The Northeastern Huskies came in 4-4 including an impressive win at Providence. The Crimson, meanwhile, were presenting evidence stating that the long road back to respectability was about to begin, 4-2. A good effort at Colorado and two road wins gave that notion credence. Northeastern is coached by long-time BC Assistant, Bill Coen, and Harvard, of course, by the big-time, big-name, Dukie Tommy Amaker; a couple of guys looking to build (in Amaker’s case) or resurrect (in Coen’s) programs. Northeastern is led by a nice scoring junior two-guard named Matt Janning who scored his 1000th point last night. (Fourth quickest to do so in illustrious Northeastern Basketball history.) They also have some nice big rebounders. Harvard is blending new talent (four frosh saw considerable time, two of who were pivotal actors) with some talent left over from the Frank Sullivan regime, primarily their leading scorer, Jeremy Lin (he of the undeniable first step) and a guy who looks like he’s in an Amaker doghouse, the previously effective, and de facto team leader point guard, Drew Housman.

Harvard played man-to-man the whole game and, surprisingly, never pressured the Huskies in the backcourt. Northeastern mixed defenses up by going 3-2 (3-2 match?) with mostly man-to-man. They spaced most of the Harvard perimeter players in the halfcourt. Offensively, Harvard ran lots of screens and some nice pin downs for shooters resulting in clutch baskets. Lin went strong to the hoop whenever he wanted. (The thought occurred to me that some offensive schemes that created more space and movement for Lin’s drives would be nice.) Freshman, Keith Wright, once toughened, will be a very nice player; had a couple nice left-hand finishes. Likewise, Max Kenyi, gave the impression through his hard work on defense on Janning and fearless forays to the hoop, that he has All-Ivy written all over him.

Seesaw game. Harvard dropped three three-pointers in the last 90 secs or so to force OT. Big Kenyi deflection/steal late got them the ball for the last three. End of OT saw Nkem Ojougboh of NU drop a two footer in over the rim to force the second extra frame with 2.7 seconds left. The 2nd OT had Northeastern get second chance points, take advantage of foul situation and they made their free throws. There was only one dunk in the game: Lin on a baseline drive. It was one of those nice surprise-you sort of dunks. Got the 343 fans’ attention.

Faces in the crowd: David Lang, 6’6″ redhead out of Darien CT who started a bunch of games for us in the late 80s. Had a sweet up-and-under move; Harry Parker, the John Wooden of college crew; Tom Mannix, outstanding guard for The Crimson in the late 70s, early 80s; Fran Connolly, big-time (Elite Eight of the NCAAs) referee and my former landlord who, early in his career did a bunch of our games; we never mentioned to anyone that I lived in the same house as him (and we never got calls from ’em!); Charlie Diehl, former assigner of officials when I was coaching. (Once called the Harvard AD on me, saying I was “out-of-control” with the officials; I was.) The aforementioned Bob Ryan, true basketball historian. My favorite columns of his are the ones from The Olympics.

Posted in notes: college & pro | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Cut From the Team at Harvard

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on September 30, 2008

There’s a dust-up going on at Harvard concerning the basketball staff cutting five of the previous coaching regime’s recruits. Since it may have impacted some players’ thoughts on possibly transferring, hoping to play elsewhere, to them and their families, it probably runs a little deeper than that.

Coaches have the right to cut players, to deny them an opportunity to play or even to be on the team. The ability to make those sort of decisions is part of the confidence that an athletic department and athletic director and university bestows upon a coach when they hire that coach. Now, most Division I schools don’t even have tryouts, and if they do have them, they are pretty much pro-forma, i.e., a bit of a charade. Still, when we had them when I was at Harvard (’85-’91), though it felt like it was costing you a day of practice, it was an interesting exercise and often brought with it a touch of angst or uneasiness. Could you make a place on the roster for someone you did not recruit, thereby displacing someone you did recruit, and to whom, presumably, you had more allegiance? Not always so easy and at times you can make mistakes, or moves you regret.

So, a couple years after we cut a player, a move that drew letters to the editor in The Harvard Crimsom, I’m sitting in a gym at The College of St. Rose in Albany, NY watching an AAU team from that area practice. I was there checking out Greg Koubek (who later went on to four Final Four appearances with Duke) and Brendan O’Sullivan (who eventually starred at Dartmouth) both players with the necessary grades and basketball acumen to have helped us. The only other coach in the gym was Terry Holland, then head coach at Virginia; he was there keeping an eye out on Koubek. Since there was no one else in the gym to talk to, I sidled over to Holland, introduced myself, and he to me. We chatted, then, upon hearing that I was at Harvard, he, citing the one thought he could have possibly had that related to Harvard Basketball (I mean, here’s a two-time ACC Coach of the Year and we were, well, Harvard Hoops), asked me “what ever happened to _ _ _ _ _ _, we had him at our summer camp a few years back and in the staff games, he gave Ralph Sampson fits”. My (and I’m pretty sure I must have half-mumbled this, way-y-y under my breath) reply? “Oh, we cut him.” Holland, thinking for a second, no doubt conjuring up what he imagined an approximation of what he guessed Harvard’s record to be the previous season (6-20), figuratively, if not literally, scratched his head.

Maybe it was a mistake, maybe it wasn’t. We had the tryouts, we weighed the factors that all coaches of good conscience could and should apply: style of play, offseason commitment to program, perceived chemistry with other players and coaches, development potential, was-it-a-good-fit?, etc. I don’t recall whether there was direct communication with that player or other players who, over the years, expected to make the team and didn’t. I hope we did. The point is (and I have no idea what happened most recently at Harvard, other than what I read in the NY Times which – guaranteed – is not the whole story): it seems to me that in this matter, as in so many, difficult as it may be, communication, transparency, accountability and careful consideration of what’s best for the player and the team are, at minimum, required of the coaching staff. As coaches require commitment from players, players and families should have clear communication from coaches. After all, rightly or wrongly, based in reality or not, being a part of a college basketball team, once denied, is a cut that can really hurt.

Posted in notes: college & pro | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

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