Manu Ginobili is an often disrespected player; Ginobili was awkward, bald, and a champion all-in-one. His style was completely his own, but he’s arguably the most critical piece to the San Antonio Spurs 2000’s championship runs. He reminds me a lot of the 8th Grade JV basketball team I coach. We do things our own way, look goofy, and maybe just maybe, we’ll get some wins in the process. We’ve played two games so far this season, and we’re 1-1. Here’s the story of one of those.
I got a haircut, shaved, and started up my 2008 Hyundai Sonata; it was game day.
As head coach, I’m expected to be thirty minutes early to all games, and I was cutting it close.
After hitting two red lights and stopping at the local Starbucks for some peppermint tea, of course there were two people in front of me; I was ready to go.
I fired up the engine, new starter and all, and drove across snow-encrusted Seattle, arriving at my game 28 minutes before tip.
Upon arriving, I realized something odd. I only had one player from my team in the gym. Schools had been closed intermittently in Seattle that week, and I didn’t know if my players thought the game had been canceled.
So after rushing around the city like a squirrel with my head cut off, I realized I probably should’ve sent an email verifying the game was still on.
As the clock ticked to ten minutes, I had three players arrive. As it ticked down to five, I had four. But four players aren’t enough to play a basketball game.
With one minute left on the clock and 60 seconds away from forfeit, our star player Arthur walked through the door. Three others followed him.
The First Three Quarters
The first three quarters of the game felt like a teeter-totter.
The opposing team jumped to an early four-point lead behind two layups by their star player. Number eight could ball.
After seeing what ocho could do, I adjusted, placing our best defender on him.
This, combined with a few strong attacks toward the rim, allowed our team to tie up the game by the end of the first quarter.
Throughout the second quarter, the matchup stayed close. However, in the third, we were able to pull ahead with savage defense and a few key buckets by Arthur.
We took a five-point lead into the fourth.
The Fourth Quarter
8th Grade JV basketball has weird rules. One of those rules is that teams can’t full-court press until the final quarter.
The opposing coach did not know this rule, but I did. After a meeting between the opposing coach, the referee, and myself, we decided we could press. The bald-headed 50-year-old man did not prefer being corrected by a 32-year-old dude with hair. Rivalry on.
But maybe I shouldn’t have said anything because the veteran coach applied an awesome press that changed the game’s momentum.
With four minutes left in the fourth, my team was only up by three points, but we were getting outplayed.
This same trend continued until there were two minutes left in the contest.
But then the universe took over.
After a wild sequence of my team still not beating the press, we inbounded the ball up three. Then what happened next was middle school JV basketball at its greatest.
After receiving the inbound pass, a player on my team proceeded to throw the ball in our hoop. A comfortable three-point lead evaporated to one.
It also hurt our momentum, which allowed the other team to make another layup, and we suddenly found ourselves losing by a point with 50 seconds left.
Earlier in the week, during practice, I assigned roles to players. For example, I told one player to attack the hoop, another to shoot the long ball, and our post to dominate the boards.
But then I came to a player named Bob. I did not know how to coach Bob. I told Bob to be Bob.
He reminded me of Ginobili, a player who looks ugly, can do a bit of nothing, and a bit of everything simultaneously.
But someone who I felt I should trust.
Back to the game, with about 50 seconds left, Bob found the ball in his hands at the top of the key. He immediately threw a Shawn Marion-Esque jump shot that somehow banked off the back of the glass and through the net.
We were up two, but the game was over.
Our vicious defense was getting Ginob the dub, and that’s exactly what we proceeded to do.
I don’t know what it was, I don’t know how we won, and I don’t know how he made that shot.
But I do know it was a hell of a Saturday afternoon. And I’m grateful to be coaching 8th grade JV basketball.