Just five days after my second operation and there I was preparing for an away game, however the feel and the mood was very different. Having been driven to the game we arrived somewhat later than I would have liked. The venue was very busy and access to changing rooms and the chance to deliver a pre-game talk were soon snuffed out. With just a few minutes before tip I was left being mothered by the players and restricted to two aluminium crutches as the unique characteristics to my coach identity. None of it felt right. It was not the pre-game preparation I wanted.
We were never going to lose, this was a top of the table versus bottom of the table clash. The question I posed to the players was a simple one, could we execute our game plan and remain faithful to who we were. Having spent the last three months talking about ‘togetherness’, decision-making and leadership I was hoping we could pull it all together and ‘run’. ‘Run’ as in run our ‘stuff, our three times ‘8 second’ offence, our basket orientated defence, ‘Home-Ball-Man’, 2+1 off of the line of the ball, establish good ‘Help’ positions, defend the ‘Gaps’ and restrict the opposition to one shot. Offensively we had very little, I had opted to focus on doing a few things well as oppose to attempting to fill our offensive locker with lots of options, ‘wrinkles’, ‘twist’ and ‘progressions’. Not that I knew a lot, in fact, I would consider my offensive knowledge to be the least impressive. I can show you a horns set, a basic motion or floppy set, and I know what a flex cut is. Can I identify them in the opposition? Not at pace, it takes some doing. I have always focused on what we are doing and attempted to promote doing it well, forcing the opposition to make strategic alterations. I think I get away with it at this level of competition, however, I am confident that I would be exposed at any elevated level of play. Anyway, the short of it was, we were more focused on scoring as opposing to executing and progressing our team play.
Being on crutches was unpleasant to say the least! I was constantly asked if I was okay, it felt like a very vulnerable state to be in and one that did not allow me to coach. It was almost as though I had been tied to a chair, I felt disengaged and disconnected from the game, the game plan and from the players. I kept trying to be my normal coach self but it just didn’t feel right. I sat back and allowed the players to take over. There was plenty of togetherness, contribution from the bench and on-court effort. unfortunately, our play was inefficient, we must have put up three times as much as we made. We missed from every distance, and at times with dramatic effect. We were missing assignments, getting beat off the dribble and generally being outplayed in all of the small areas of the game. This being said, we did manage to run the floor with zeal and score from open court attacks at the basket. All of which was great for the moment, but none of this would get us past the top three teams in the league. We just couldn’t get our spacing right, our movement was slow and ineffective. We got close to ‘wing dribble’ but could not see the next move and the next move from that. Everything was a result of individual play with very little in the way of team baskets.
We finished the game with a 55-point victory but it felt like we had lost. Our execution was poor, we demonstrated no discipline and many of the players had not managed to bring their ‘sunday best’ to a ‘Tuesday afternoon scrimmage’. What felt worse was the fact that I wouldn’t be going to practice on Monday. I couldn’t have the conversation with them. I would not be able to task them with evaluating their play and identifying areas that they felt needed improving upon. I was restricted to home, to ‘sick’ status based on my lack of mobility. I don’t think I have felt this unprepared yet this season. We didn’t have another game this year, we had two more practices and then the Christmas break. What concerned me was the lack of time we would spend together, the ‘repetitions’ we would not engage with and the questions we would not ask ourselves between now and the next game.