My rule as a coach is always to respect the ref’s call. Regardless of how atrocious the decision is, it must be respected. The skunks hold the golden whistle. But last Saturday, I broke my rule in an 8th-grade JV basketball game nonetheless. I coach a 7th-grade varsity team with arguably one of the best youth players in the state. But I’m talking about a different squad. I’m dishing on a group of hoopers who isn’t a group of hoopers, but they are. They’re 3-1. And last week, we faced off against the shot-clock operator, the refs, the scorekeeper, and the opposition. Here’s our story.
I coach at probably the most elite private school in Washington. Because I like my job, and our athletic director doesn’t need to know everything that happens on the road. We’ll call the school Techy Young.
But in all seriousness, where I coach is where Seattle’s high society sends their kids. A lot of the families are multi-millionaires. A handful is likely in the billions.
This is much different from my background; the opposition doesn’t know that.
But damn, do I look the part.
I’m 32, white, slim, got nice shoes, and after about 18 years of being utterly awkward around women, they seem to like me now.
So the opposition families usually don’t like me.
But what they don’t know.
Is there probably a lot better off than me from a financial standpoint? I’m 32, white, work at my old high school with at-risk-youth, write, and rent a room and private bathroom out of someone’s house in Seattle.
Instead of a starving artist, I’m a cold coach. I’m probably asking for a heater for Christmas.
But this dichotomy doesn’t matter; they probably see some spoiled rich kid.
Adding to their frustration is that our private school is the only secular institution in the league. Every other school follows the same religious denomination.
We’re genuinely outsiders.
The First Three Quarters
The first three quarters of this matchup were odd. My team jumped out to an early 8-0 lead even with our star point guard arriving late to the game. This, combined with the fact that our best overall player was missing this contest, made this a particularly surprising start.
However, reality soon hit, as the home team swiftly made a run of their own, tying the game midway through the first quarter.
This set up a teeter-totter affair and an opportunity for home-court advantage to play a role in this contest.
Midway through the second, a parent from my sidelines told me, “hey, they forgot to add your basket.”
This is a common occurrence, so I respectfully reminded the shot clock operator to add two points to our total.
But the refs were also starting to feel a bit one-sided.
As the game continued into the third, the shot clock operator forgot to add another one of our free throws.
This time I told him to add our point.
The refs were also starting to feel completely one-sided.
As tensions rose, the best defender on my team fouled out near the end of the third. The scorekeeper never told me he’d gotten a fourth foul—a common courtesy in basketball.
They also continued play, not allowing time for me to get a substitution on the court.
The other team went down and made a basket before I forcefully ran onto the court and explained why the bucket shouldn’t count.
The ref thanked me for reminding him of the rule and then gave me a technical foul because it was my responsibility to substitute the suspended player.
The other team was now up five from the basket that shouldn’t have counted, and they got two foul shots.
The home squad rode this momentum, taking a ten-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Full Court Press
As I wrote in an article last week, 8th Grade JV basketball has some weird rules. One of those rules is that a team cannot full-court press until the fourth quarter.
So down ten, without our star player, and now without our best defender, we had one option. Press.
But my instructions were very specific. I told our players to be mean, physical, and aggressive. If the refs weren’t going to stand up for them, they had to fight for themselves.
And I’ll be the crazy WWE manager that screams outside the ring; they didn’t know that part was coming.
And then my players became dogs.
They quickly cut a ten-point lead to five in two minutes. Then to three a minute later. We were a Stephen Curry away with five minutes left in the game.
As things continued, we couldn’t quite capture the lead, and the other team couldn’t get past halfcourt.
With about one minute left on the clock, someone called a timeout. I don’t remember who.
I drew up a play that completely backfired, but somehow we got the ball back, still down two.
This timeout, I remember distinctly, told our players that “they definitely didn’t run what I drew up before, I’m out of ideas, and to do what they do.”
Our star point guard heard me, and he did what he did. The 4-foot-11, 100 LBS phenom launched a deep one-handed three-pointer that swished through the net.
We were up one, and there was no way in hell the other team was going to score again.
But one problem, we fouled them shooting a halfcourt shot as time expired. The slap could be heard around the gym.
The refs didn’t call it.
I let out one maniacal fist pump and got the heck out of there.