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DDS:CB3 Dynasty: Mack Jones- The Hard Way

Started By Wayne23, Apr 11, 2014 06:32 PM

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#1

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DDS:CB3 Mack Jones
(Author's Note: DDS:CB3 continues to go through changes and relatively frequent upgrades. This thread, like Temporary Like Achilles", will be short lived, ending when DDS releases version 1.4.)

They tell me I gotta block out swears. Fine. Expect a lotta block outs.

I had a rough life but I worked hard and I got through everything. Never caught a break neither.

I was born 44 years ago, in 1930. My mother was a street wh*re in Chicago during the Depression. She managed to keep me for a while but when I was eight one of her Johns beat her and me up so bad that we had to be put in the hospital. Well, they reported her to child services and I was taken away from her. That began a series of hellish placements you really don’t want to hear about. The sh*t that happened to me happens to a lotta kids in that situation, prob’ly most of ‘em.

What I had going for me was I was big, wide, and not stupid. I was a bad kid in school but I could do all the work, and bad as I was I usually did it. Even got a lotta As, and just about all the rest Bs except when the teacher was a real a$$h*le. Then I got Ds and Fs cuz f*ck him, or her.

When I was a h.s. freshman in 1944 I played football. I liked hittin’ people a lot but wasn’t all that crazy about the game and the military type stuff involved. Never liked that.

The basketball coach, Spike Martin, was the gym teacher and he had took a likin’ ta me early in the year. He wanted me ta try hoops so I did. I’d never even held a basketball in my hands. Still, Coach Martin didn’t cut me. He taught me- lotsa times keepin’ me for an hour after reg’ler practice. I played strictly j.v. my first year and committed about a foul a minute, but he kept workin’, and stayed positive. He was really the first guy that ever treated me right. I didn’t know how ta handle that. I had learned ta be cautious because sooner or later everybody turned on me, usually beat me up, raped me, or both until I got big enough ta fight 'em off. And hey, if ya can’t handle ugly truth it’s prob’ly best if you don’t read this.

Anyway Coach was smart enough ta never say anythin’ like, “Trust me.” I guess he knew I’d a run away from him if he did. But he never changed, never stopped bein’ patient, never stopped bein’ the best thing in my life. By my soph’more year I was not foulin’ as much but still too much but I was playin’ pretty good D, and reboundin’ even better. I knew how ta get inside position an’ I was so strong nobody could move me outta that position.
I couldn’t shoot an’ never really learned but I could make lay ups, esp. on put backs. Coach worked that for about a million hours. That’s all the scorin’ I needed.

Toward the end of that year I was playin’ a little varsity an’ holdin’ my own. Coach told me at the end of the season that I would be his startin’ varsity PF junior year. I kept my grades up an’ put up with a real a$$h*le history teacher name Trevani. He was a cut off, arrogant squirt, and he had that little man thing where he hated big guys an’ really went after ’em. Back in them days they could get away with that. He even had fist fights with a couple a the big football players. If you was big he hated you. An’ he was quick an’ a good fighter.

I didn’t do nothin’ to set him off an’ when he tried ta get me to, an’ man did he know how, I didn’t go for it, just said, “Yes sir” in my politest voice. I got through the class with nothing’ ugly happenin’. He gave me a C for doin’ A work an’ I just shut up and took it. Coach was helpin’ me stay cool all through this and when the class was over he told me how proud he was of me. That meant a lot even if I couldn’t deal with compliments.

I had found a decent family ta live with in high school. They didn’t really treat me bad at all compared to just about all the others and they told me they wanted ta keep me all the way through h.s. cuz they knew that was a good situation for me. I actu’lly still see them an’ they go to lotsa my games. I’m sure they will again in the new job, I'm glad it's right near 'em, an’ they’ll never pay fer a ticket. So okay maybe I did catch a couple breaks at that.

Junior year I did start at PF an’ I guess I done okay. I was named third team all state even only scorin’ 5.8 a game. I got 9.5 RBs though.

Senior year I done real good, 14.2 RBs, 9.8 points, and made the all state first team. I’ll always keep that trophy in my office.

University of Illinois and some other places scouted me. I got offers for full scholarships from a bunch a schools but I wanted ta stay not so far from Peoria so I went ta U. of Illinois. Plus, the head coach there I liked more than the other head coaches. My grades were good but they wanted me ta take two courses in the summer so I did. They said it would be a big adjustment an’ it was, but varsity athletes had mandatory study hall- I woulda studied anyways, an’ tutors, an’ all a that really helped me a lot. I figgered I’d wind up a gym teacher/coach like Coach Martin if I was lucky.

Oh, my mom. They let me see her from time ta time after they took me away but she had a real tough time. She wound up on heroin, and she died when I was a junior in h.s. But don’t never say nothin’ against her. She was still my mom an’ she loved me- more’n anybody else ever did. She just couldn’t do nothin’ for me cuz her life was so f*cked up. Never a clue who my father was, an’ she didn’t have any other kids so I don’t have a family.

So college was good. I ain’t the friendly type. They made me see head docs all the way through high school an’ they said I had trust issues- no sh*t! I wasn’t unfriendly but I went my own way. I was okay with college roommates but I didn’t hang out with ‘em. I just said, “Don’t give me sh*t I won’t give you sh*t.” It worked out. The last two years I roomed with the startin’ C for the team an’ he was a loner too.

I played a little as a soph, an’ started as a junior an’ senior. Never made any all star teams but I did okay.

I graduated an’ got a job teachin’ P.E. at Morton h.s. back in Peoria. I was way better with kids than grown ups an’ it was good. Stayed 10 years, won a lot a games, had a lot a kids that liked me an’ lots a them confided in me. I always made time. Let’s see, that brings us to 1962 an’ I was 32. That year Coach Jake Snow took me on as his assistant at Chicago. I stayed there for 12 years until I got the job I’m about ta tell ya about.

Oh, girls. Well, there were a few but I didn’t know how ta act an’ nothin’ ever lasted very long. I could never go ta a wh*re, because a my mom, so- well, enough about that. I lived alone all these years. It’s okay. It’s safe an’ it’s easy. I cook a little but mostly eat out, an’ my apartment’s a mess but I seen worse.

Okay, after 5 years at Chicago I was ready ta be a head coach an’ I shoulda been one WAY before now. Maybe because I’m so rough around the edges I didn’t impress nobody in interviews but d*mmit they shoulda seen how good I was with kids an’ how well I knew the game, and how good my references were. I got rejected for over 100 head coaching jobs I applied for.

Finally, in March Peoria fired their coach. I actu’lly got an interview. It was down ta two of us. I got the second interview. I read the next day that the other guy accepted a job at another school. I waited a whole week before Peoria finally called.

The A. D., Harry Bates, said, “Mack, if ya still want the job come on down and sign a contract.”

Great! Sounded like he was sorry. I found out he wanted ta reopen the search but the university said they spent enough. Just hire me. If I didn’t work out they’d dump me after the first year even though I signed for 3, at a salary that seemed huge to me.

It wasn’t, they got me on the cheap, but it was way more than I needed, an’ I knew I’d save most of it. I’m real serious about that. I don’t ever want ta end up a bum. As soon as it makes sense I’ll buy a little house somewhere cuz that’s the way ta have somethin’. I look inta stocks an’ bonds an’ stuff an’ put money there too.

Okay, here I am. I’ll tell it right from day one, May 1.

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#2

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May 1: First order a business is hirin’ assistants. I wanta move quickly and I do. I start with George Kitt who will recruit. He did it at Western Illinois and pretty d*mn well but he wanted to move up. I’m lucky to have him, even though it’s only for a year. He will assist me in my search for the other two assistants.

We catch a break when Joe Pruitt who worked with George at Western Ill. decides he’d like to come here. He’ll scout and George says he was amazing at it, very analytical and saw everythin’.

They help me to find my #3, Kareem Wall, Western Michigan. He’ll be my practice/bench coach and he has decades of experience. I think we made a good start here.

I will spend the month visiting my players. They all live here in Ill., so it won’t be that hard. I wanta meet ’em with their families, let ‘em know what we’re going to be about, what I expect, all a that.

What do I expect? First, hard work- every practice, every game, every study hall, every class. Second, cooperation. This is a team. We help each other. We don’t look for personal glory. We accept our role but it’s okay ta work ta impress the staff and convince ‘em the role should grow. Finally, I’m the boss. The assistants are right below me. You do what we say. If you got a problem you make an appointment ta come see me. You do NOT bring it public, or bring it ta your teammates.

I buy the Gold Midwest and basic National and International scouting reports. That leaves me with more than $50,000 for recruiting which should be plenty.
Not going ta any camps. That’s a luxury for the rich teams.

I failed ta go inta numbers.

Offense 15, Defense 20, Recruit 60, Scout 90 (cuz it don’t ever change), Player Development 20. For a total a 205 outta 500. Reputation is 37.

Philosophy: Rotation 10, Preference 5, Offense boards 8, Offensive pace 6, defensive intensity 5, Defense boards 10, Full court 2, Zone 5.

We play Princeton an’ Triangle about 55-45, man ta man, 2-3 about 50-50. Don’t press much but when we do it’s about 50-50 man and 1-2-1-1.

#3

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June 26: Recruiting. We have eight to fill and that’s a load. We’ll need more guards than bigs. Lookin’ at lotsa guys.

We’re seeing some interest.

I prob’ly shoulda talked about a coupla things. First I settled right inta a small apartment. In deciding whether ta buy a place right away I thought, no. Get a cheap apartment an’ save for a down payment. I knew I wouldn’t spend hardly any time at home anyways so it didn’t matter. That’s what I did, tiny, cheap place, bought an air conditioner for the bedroom.

My office is in the Peoria Center, where the athletic offices are, an’ where we play an’ practice. The office isn’t big but it’s big enough. There’s a table big enough for staff meetings, my desk, an’ a couch. That’s good cuz I knew I’d sleep here some nights. Turned out ta be lotsa nights so far.

Harry Bates is not a fan but I don’t think he’ll try ta knife me in the back either. He’s a football guy. I’ll need ta fight ta get much from him. All I want right now is ta be included in the process when we make out our schedule.

Later on things will come up where I need him. Hopefully he’ll watch me. If he does he’ll see that I know what I’m doin’, an’ hopefully that will get him on my side.

His secretary, Betty Mills, is the one I see when I need stuff. I am surprised I don’t have at least a shared secretary but I don’t. Football coach has one, full time, nobody else even a part time secretary. Whatever, I got an answering machine. Betty will run off stuff for me. I’ll be okay.

An’ a little more about me. I have exactly two interests outside of college basketball. I am a reader, and I mean a serious reader. I read philosophy, all of the philosophers from the ancient Greeks forward to modern times. I highlight, take notes, read the notes. I really like the effect. It gets me thinking. I read classic literature, all kinds. Some I like, some I don’t but I finish the book either way and here too, I take notes, highlight, think about what I’m reading. More and more I read science. It is the world, the universe, how everything works. I struggle with lots of it, especially the physics, which is my favorite, but it fascinates me.

My second interest is fitness. Even though I eat out too much I’m careful what I eat. I run five miles every day. I am too much of a wide body to run fast so it takes 50 minutes. I do it outdoors if there is any way at all. When the wind chill is too low, it’s raining a real downpour, or the heat is dangerous I use a treadmill. We have plenty here in the Peoria Center. I do my running early in the a.m. I am not a sports fan. College hoops is my only sports interest. It’s also the only thing I watch on TV except the news, and I wish there was a better way to get the news. I read the NY Times and the Christian Science Monitor. They are the most honest newspapers.

I am not religious. It makes no sense to me, and it explains nothing. I don’t care if other people are religious. I DO care when they try to force it on others, esp. children, in any way at all.

August 7: We have a nominee for the Norton Award. Jon Kurl, SG. He’s #50 but I’ll take it!

August 21: We can make offers. And we do.

September 11: Home visits. We’ll visit four of our eight.

September 18: We get two commitments. Eddie Brewer, #35 PF, he was our highest rated, and Colt Frahm, #137 PG, a great ball handler.

And we have a schedule. No tournament but nice and balanced for home vs. road, which I like. Prob’ly a little weak but I want my guys ta have time ta figger things out an’ I’d like ‘em ta have a chance ta win while they’re doin’ that.

September 25: We get another one. Tony Morris, #61, PG. We think he will get minutes next year. We lose one, a PF, but we expected that. We won’t get all of them. As to the rating numbers they will go up and down twice more. We know what we’re looking for and that matters more than the numbers.

October 2: No new commitments.

Today is the first day of practice which is very exciting. The staff meetings have been more and more about well structured practices. I am a strong believer in that. We don’t want a minute wasted. It won’t be. There are all kinds of drills, some for everyone, but at other times guards are at one end, forwards at the other. There are game situation things to practice, we scrimmage, we do lots of conditioning- you name it but it’s organized, it’s timed, and we keep things moving.

October 9: Two more commitments and we lose one. Dave Black, #199 C, and Jay Coop, #290 SG, are in. So we have three guards and two bigs right now, three to go.

October 30: We get another one, Roq Gehr, PG #129 from Brazil. It’s hard ta say with international guys but he looks good. We got just under $20,000 left but it should be plenty.

November 6: We don’t fare too bad with the last rating # change. Still chasin’ a couple recruits and still a good size list.

We got two exhibition games and that will tell us a lot.

An’ it did. A few changes to the lineup and lots of tweaks ta how much time guys will get. This will continue to be monitored and changed.

An’ just like that it’s time ta start the season. We’re excited ta see how we do but I like this team right now.

#4

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Alabama State is here to start our season. It’s hard to know much. Last year they played almost all zone, 2-3 and 1-3-1, so that’s what we’ve been practicing against.

November 15: 55-46. We were never really threatened and led by as much as 20, but it felt like the first game all right. Only 11 TOs, but -6 RBs and too many fouls. Kurl at SG an’ Arms at PF did the most on O. Bill Dish at PG did. Need more from our C, Carl Wats. In practice I thought he’d be big time. Maybe he will but not tonight.
Lots to work on but not a bad first effort.

We go home then road then home then road all the way ‘til January. Off ta Hartford. They got a good C so let’s see if Wats steps up.

Nov. 18: 53-47. Almos’ the same score as las’ time. This time we never led by more than 10 but we mos’ly led. 23 TOs which is awful. We WILL work on that, unacceptable. But +19 RBs and we fouled less. Wats did not get a point but 8 RBs. He was overmatched and their C had 18, 5. Back up, Mark Miln looked better, 6 an’ 8. Too soon ta shake up the lineup but Miln can earn minutes, maybe even the startin’ spot if he keeps it up. Kurl, 13, 7, 1 an’ Arms, 10, 12, 1 had good games again. Dish kicked it away too often, but outplayed the other PG.

Nov. 20: Ranked! #23. I didn’t expect that!

Five recruits came in and signed. PG Tony Morris, #65, did not. Too bad, I was counting on him. When they don’t sign on Nov. 20, unless they’re a Juco, they won’t hit the SAT score and you lose them. But you can’t dump them and can’t offer to anyone else until 1/29. He was my highest rated PG.

Miami of Ohio is in next. PG and SF seem to be their best players. They play man and press a little.

Nov. 22: 67-50. 7 TOs, MUCH better. 17, 5, 4 for Jay Lynn at SF. 15, 6, 1 for Cris Arms at PF, 12, 4, 1 for Jon Kurl at SG, and Dish dished. Post game meeting. We’re making the change at C. Mark Miln has been producing more than Wats so why wait.

At #22 Memphis for maybe the most challenging game on our schedule. A test will be good. They have a very powerful front line, but I think we have the edge in the back court. They play more 2-3 than man.

Nov. 25: 57-45. Great win! We led by as many as 20 after some early back and forth. Miln really rose to the promotion, 9, 7, 2, and outplayed a very good C. 11, 8, 6 for Jay Lynn, 18, 4, 3 for Kurl. Dish played well. Wats got 6 RBs. 18 TOs but +14 RB.

Nov. 27: And somehow we drop out of the top 25? Explain that!

#5

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Next in is 4-1 Malibu, off to a good start. They are strong at PG, SF, C. They play man and press often. If we play well we should be okay.

Nov. 29: 56-64. We just could not make a shot in the first half, 19 points on 23% shooting. We went in down 15, and it was too much ta make up. Only 11 TOs, +5 RBs, fouls even. It was the shooting. It got better in the second but not quite good enough. Miln played well while he was in but got in foul trouble and stayed there. Fouled out in 22 min. Wats was effective in his place though. 8, 5. Kurl shot 1-12. Lynn and Arms did fine. Hate ta lose, esp. at home, but I didn’t figger ta win ‘em all.

Keep workin’. At 4-1 Northern Illinois next. This should be a mismatch. They play 2-3.

Dec. 2: 49-39. Defensive battle. They tried to slow down all the way and it kept them close but we mostly led. Dish was off so his back up, Mark Call got a lotta minutes an’ he responded, 14, 4, 3. We are quick to shake it up, and that can help. 11, 5, 1 for Lynn, 12, 2, 2 for Kurl. Didn’t get as much as we want from PF and C, but we got enough ta win. 14 TOs, but -5 RB.
Again an’ always, keep workin’.

2-4 Charlotte is in. They’re struggling an’ at least on paper we’re better at jus’ about ev’ry position. They play man and press a little. If they’re strong any place it’s inside.

Dec. 6: 62-52. Arms, 14, 8, Lynn, 12, 9, and Kurl, 14, 4, 2 led us. Our two Cs combined for 12, 6, 2. 14 TOs, +9 RB, +6 fouls.

A week between games so we’ll rest legs just a bit and work on some things.

At 2-6 Idaho. Another mismatch on paper but it’s a road game. Never any guarantees there. They play man and don’t press much. Stronger inside than out.

Dec. 13: 71-58. Strong games from all 5 starters. 18 each for Arms an’ Kurl. 14 TOs. In control all the way.

Another week between games then another real challenge.

9-3, #25 Oregon State is here. They are very good outside, particularly at PG and SF. They play man and they don’t press. We been sellin’ out at home an’ that big crowd behind us will help but we gotta play.

Dec. 20: 75-68. A real battle. We pulled away in the last few minutes. 8 TOs, +3 RB, +4 fouls. Huge game for Kurl, 31 an’ 4. 16, 8, 4 for Lynn, 11, 7 for Arms, 9, 5, 2 for Miln. A great way to end the pre-conf. sched. We’re 8-1, way better than I woulda thought.

Dec. 25: Thought we mighta been ranked but no. RPI is 33. Ev’rybody done good with grades. Holidays don’t mean much ta me since I do not have a family and am not religious. I make room for people who do love them ta do their thing though. I know it’s important.

I am settled in pretty well in the community. I know it for a long time so I know the places I like. It was not hard ta adjust. Ev’rything’s good.

#6

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First conf. game at 2-7 Southern Illinois. They’re strugglin’ but losin’ close games. They play man and they press a lot. This one is not ta be taken lightly.

Dec. 27: 55-53. Whew! First real close game I’ve coached an’ we won it. I been wonderin’ how I’d do in this situation. We led mosta the way but they hung right in, never lettin’ it get outta reach. At the end, it was 53-53 an’ we had it with about 10-11 seconds. My guys know what ta do so Dish brought it down, lookin’ for either Kurl or Miln. Arms was havin’ a bad night or we’d a looked for him. With 2-3 left Dish got it ta Kurl who real quick worked through a pick an’ drained a 14 footer at the buzzer. He had 22, 4 an’ 4 but 7 TOs. We’ll talk about that! 8 an’ 5 for Miln, 4 an’ 8 for Wats, so the C position really got it done for us. Dish had 10, 4, 4, 1 TO, a real good game for him. 13 TOs, 10 less fouls than them which was the diff. I’ll take it!

6-4 Wichita State is in. They are big and tough inside. Arms has been strugglin’ a little but I need him ta step up for this one. We think we’re better outside but we better come ta play. The crowds have been great, full house, lotsa noise. Our only loss was at home but they never gave up on us.

Dec. 30: 61-40. Biggest margin a victory yet. 26 an’ 4 for Kurl, 14 for Miln, 9 RBs each for Arms an’ Lynn, Dish was solid, 4, 5, 6. On’y 9 TOs. I’d like to put this one someplace where I can bring it out an’ use it again! Oh, an’ yeah, the crowd was rockin’!

At 7-4, 1-1 Missouri State next. This looks pretty even. They’re strong outside, not so much inside. They play man an’ don’t press less they need ta. We gotta get on the outside shooters tonight.

Jan. 3: Bad news all around, 55-71 is bad enough but on top a that Carl Wats banged up an ankle. Out about a week an’ a half. 21 TOs an’ we didn’t get out on the outside shooters, PG had 23, SG had 18, SF 13. We thought we’d prepared for that but it jus’ didn’t happen. Miln had a good game, 10, 8, 2. Lynn had 14, 4, 1. Arms is still off his game. With Wats out for a couple games we can’t have that.

Home for two, first time we stop alternating home an’ road. Bad news is 4 of last 6 will be on the road.

First in is 9-3, 2-1 Illinois State. We feel like we’re better at 2, 3, 4, about even at PG, an’ not as good at C, esp. with Wats out. Miln will pick up some minutes an’ Carl Able the rest.

Jan. 6: 58-51. Under the circumstances I’ll take it. Back an’ forth for 10-12 min., then we took the lead. Never let it go, but they got it to 1 or 2 a few times, even late. After the last media time out we took over. 28, 4 for Kurl, 11, 5 for Miln, an’ he pretty much matched the other C while he was in there, which unfortunately was on’y 21 minutes due to fouls. Able did okay when we needed him. 5, 9 for Arms, which was better. I’m encouragin’ not yellin’ at him. When it ain’t goin’ good yellin’ just kills any confidence that might be left. It’s jus’ plain dumb.

Next up is Northern Iowa, 2-11, 0-4. Cup cake. Just play our game.

Jan. 10: 68-47. 27, 6, 3 for Kurl who is really feelin’ it lately. 10, 5, 2 for Miln. Dish was the only starter who didn’t play well so he sat. Call did fine in the PG spot. 10 TOs.

We’re in a three way tie for first with Des Moines an’ North Chicago. We ain;t played either of ‘em yet so those games will tell a lot. I like that we’re at 13.4 TOs a game. I’d like 12 better but TOs are above that all through the conf.

Wats will be 100% for our nex' game.

Life is still quiet, basketball, readin’ an’ runnin’ in the mornin’. Quiet is good.

#7

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At 7-7, 1-4 Indiana State. They play man and press a lot. We feel like we’re much stronger at SG an’ PF, an’ our bench is better than theirs. If we stay focused we should be okay but road games can get ya.

Jan. 13: 71-79. We were awful in the first half. Gave up 46 points. We were down as many as 17 but got it ta 12 at the half an’ I thought we had a chance. We got as close as 3 twice, but no closer. We let ‘em shoot 25 threes an’ they made 13. We jus’, again, didn’t get out there. Believe me we’ll be workin’ on that. -12 RB didn’t help either. Jus’ an awful night. 25 for Kurl, an’ Arms had 15 an’ 4. Miln fouled out in 9 min.

Then ta make it worse Greg Herr, who never plays threw a whole pile a sh*t at Cris Arms. Coach Wall saw the whole thing. I brought Herr in an’ read him out big time. Fortunately for him he took responsibility or he woulda been in a world a trouble. He knows it better not happen again. Freakin’ nightmare, the whole day.

Now it’s a five way tie at the top a the conf. Two teams one back.

4-11, 1-5 Evansville is in. Bottom a the conf.

Jan. 17: 65-44. Miln’s best game ever, 18, 6, 2. Kurl had 20, 3, 1, an’ Lynn 16, 7, 1. 9 TOs.

At 9-7, 4-3 North Chicago. We look ta be better at every position an’ we got a better bench. It’s the road so I gotta keep ‘em focused.

Jan. 20: 49-53. Frustratin’ as h*ll! We blew a 15 point lead in the second.

Miln an’ Dish got in big time foul trouble. Wats did good but Call got in foul trouble too an’ I jus’ didn’t have a PG. 10 TOs in the second half an’ that was that. Plus we shot 19% in the second. Wats was the on’y guy who played good, 13, 9, 2. I’ll be bitin’ my own forehead over this one.

9-8, 5-3 Des Moines is in. Tied with us and a couple others one back a Wichita State. They got some strength inside but we are way better outside. Again, jus’ play our game an’ we should be fine.

January 24: 63-46. Close all through the first. I kicked some serious a$$ in the locker room an’ they woke up in the second. We were standin’ around on O in the first. In the second we attacked all the way an’ they got in foul trouble. Lynn had 16, 7, 3. Nobody else put up big numbers but they all contributed. The D was fine, all the way through.

7-11, 5-4 Southern Illinois is in. We won by 2 there. These guys can sneak up on ya. More talent inside than out.

Jan. 27: 76-53. Never a game. 20, 7, 1 for Miln, 17, 3, 3 for Lynn, 14, 9, 1 for Arms. 9 TOs.

TOs down to a d*mn good 12.3!

Jan. 29: Everybody hit the SAT score. I read Morris wrong, he’s a Juco. Lookin’ at a few new recruits because why not?

Jon Kurl is #26 on the Norton List. He deserves it, he’s havin’ a great year. Too bad he’s a senior. Four starters are.

Eight ta play in the conf. sched. an’ we’re in a three way tie for first. One team a game back, two more two games back.

#8

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At 12-7, 7-3 Wichita State. We won by 21 at home but these guys are tough at their place. We gotta stop their inside game. If we can we can beat ‘em.. They play 1-2-2 an’ they’re the on’y ones that do so it’s tough.

Jan. 31: 55-68. Thought this would be a tough one an’ it was. A course 19 TOs made it tougher than it had ta be. 14, 8, 3 for Miln an’ not much from anybody else. Kurl was 4-12. Them bad shootin’ nights happen though. Nothin’ ta do about it.

Keep workin’ we’re on’y one back. Lotsa games left.

13-7, 7-4 Missouri State is in, tied for 2nd with us an’ one other team so it’s a big game. They kicked our butts by 16 at their place. This one will be another battle. We think we’re better at SG an’ got a better bench but after that it’s close at the other spots, an’ PG an’ SF could do us in if we ain’t careful. I need good D tonight.

Feb. 3: 80-68, but on’y cuz we pulled away in the last couple min. It was real close mosta the way. Kurl had 19, 2, 3, an’ Arms had his best game in a LONG time, 22 an’ 9. Dish had 8 dishes, an’ the rest all did their part. Sure enough their PG an’ SF did some damage but not enough an’ they didn’t really get much help. 10 TOs.

Tied with Wichita St. for #1 but the sched. will make it real tough for us to end up at the top.

One a the new recruits looks real good. If we can get him interested we’ll find a scholarship for him.

At 13-8, 6-6 Illinois State. We won by 7 at our place. On paper this should be a war. They play man and press only once in a while. Home court advantage will be tough to overcome. We gotta play our very best.

Feb. 7: 54-63. We were movin’ uphill all night an’ we jus’ couldn’t get over the top. 17 TOs didn’t help. 8 more fouls didn’t either. 26, 7, 3 for Kurl, 12, 5 for Arms, 8 an’ 8 for Miln.

Didn’t hurt us a whole lot. We’re in a four way tie for the lead with five ta play. Two teams one back. What a dog fight. Schedule is still against us though.

At 4-18, 2-11 Northern Iowa. This is a must win. They are the bottom of the conf. Just focus an’ play our game.

Feb. 10: 53-48. It wasn’t pretty but I guess it didn’t need ta be. They went up early, as much as 17. Then we came back, got it ta minus 4 at the half.

Tough part was it wasn’t one guy beatin’ us, it was a little of ev’rythin’. I decided ta go all 2-3 in the second an’ that worked. We held ‘em ta 19. 11 TOs. 16, 7, 2 for Lynn, 11, 9 for Miln, 17 for Kurl. Dish was off an’ he didn’t get much help from the bench but we managed.

Three tied for first an’ two one game back of us three.

#9

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12-11, 6-8 Indiana State is in. They beat us by 8 there. We feel like we’re way better than them. Play our game an’ we’ll be okay.

Feb. 14: 76-66. Another one of those close almost all the way games where we pulled away at the end. All that conditioning seems ta be workin’. We got our legs at the end. 9 TOs. 25, 5 for Kurl, 12, 7 for Kebu Ablew who usually doesn’t play much. I put him in, he was feelin’ it so I gave him minutes. Miln was in foul trouble all night so I needed another body.

Three left tied for first, ev’rybody else two or more back so it’s startin’ ta decide itself.

At 9-15, 6-9 Evansville. Another road game we gotta an’ should win. Beat ‘em by 21 at our place.

Feb. 17: 67-51. Big win! Same story as the last few, close for at least 30 minutes then we pulled away. 15 TOs hurt but we forced 21. +9 RB. 21, 4, 2 for our go to guy Kurl, 16 for Miln, 9, 6, 2 for Wats. At about 7 min. left we went on a 15-3 run ta break it open.

Down ta two of us, Missouri State is the other one.

Bracket Breaker next, Wright State, 15-9, 6-7, here. We should beat ‘em but tell the truth I’d rather not play this game. Rather save the legs for the last two conf. games. Oh well.

Feb. 19: 80-63. We never trailed. 24, 8, 4 for Kurl but all five looked good. 9 TOs.

Last home game an’ senior night. 13-13, 8-8 North Chicago. Lost by 4 in a very frustratin’ game there. Control their PG an’ we win. He’s the key.

Feb. 21: 68-58. This team gives us trouble. Kurl had 34, huge! 8 an’ 8 for Arms. We controlled the PG in the second an’ that did it for us.

We are tied for first, can’t be worse than second.

We finish on the road vs. a tough Des Moines team, 15-12, 10-7. We won by 17 at our place but we ain’t kiddin’ ourself. We do feel we’re way better in the back court an’ about as good up front but home court will help them a lot.

Feb. 24: 63-78. We gave up an’ unbelievable 51 in the first half. I had no words at halftime. They made shots but we didn’t get out on the shooter. When we did they got it inside an’ beat us there. As bad as we looked all year. 2nd was better but it was too late.

Enough said. Jus’ work ta get ready for the conf. tourney.

21-7, 12-6. RPI #32.

Nick Jones, C, #111, signed. One to go unless we find ways to free up something after the season ends, which is a possibility.

We got about a week ta prepare. We’ll rest legs for 2-3 days then get back ta reg’ler practice.

#10

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Southern Illinois, 11-17, 8-20 won their play in to they play us in the round a eight. We beat ‘em by 2 then by 23. Jus’ play our game an; we’ll be fine. I remind my guys that it’s March. If ya lose ya don’t get ta play the next round.

March 7: No danger, 80-56. It was never a game. 22, 7, 7 for Kurl, 22, 3,3 for Lynn. 7 guys played a lot an' they all played well.

16-12, 9-9 Indiana State is in the semis. We lost by eight there, won by 10 at our place. Again, we think we’re better an’ if we play smart we’ll be okay.

March 8: 69-62. Lotsa lead changes but we came on at the end again. No big games for anybody but ev’rybody pitched in. 10 TOs, +17 RB, they had 10 more fouls.

It sets up the title match with #1 Missouri State. We lost by 16 there then won by 12 at our place. They play a tight man but rarely press. They’re tough outside. We can win this thing but we gotta play.

March 9: 50-57. 10 lead changes, 8 ties. This time we didn’t get it at the end. Kurl fouled out with 4 min. left an’ us up by 4, an’ Dish had 4 so he had ta be careful. We lost it at the line, they took 9 more free throws an’ made 10 more. I was yippin; at the refs all night. Didn’t get T’d up but it was close a few times. Mighta been better if I had.

I gotta say we’re in the big dance, maybe a 9 or 10 seed. Coulda been a 6, 7 or 8 if we’da won.

Wait an’ see.

#11

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March 12: Today’s the day. Play in game? PLAY IN GAME!!! I can’t believe it. RPI is 31! 16-12 New Brunswick. P*SSED!!!

March 14: 69-55. We were not about to lose this one. They stayed with us but we led almost all the way and in the last 10 min. whenever they got close we stretched out the lead. 29, 8, 4 for Kurl, 15, 3, 6 for Lynn.

#5 North Carolina State from the tough ACC. They went 22-9, 11-7, lost in the 2nd round. Very tough outside.

March 17: 69-68 in my first OT game as a coach. Great win! They took an early 11 point lead and were up 8 at the half. 6 threes did it. We got out on the three in the second and they made only two of them. But we were down 5 with 45 seconds left. Lynn got a back door lay up and we managed a steal with 22 left. We worked it and Kurl banged the three at the buzzer to send it to OT.

Dish fouled out in the first min. of OT. The whole 5 minutes was defensive. Nobody scored until 1:22 left when they got a 2. We matched it, they got another one with the shot clock running down. It was our ball, down 2, 14 sec. left. Ev’rybody knew it was gonna be Kurl. I wanted a three and that’s what he took. It went in with 1.7 left. They threw up a prayer but it wasn’t close. 24, 2, 3 for Kurl with 6 threes. 15 for Dish before he fouled out. 18, 3, 6 for Lynn. 8,3 for Wats. 14 TOs but they had 18. -16 RB. But we did what we had ta do an’ we get ta play again!

26-5, 4 seed Milwaukee is next. On paper we got a shot. They’re better at C, maybe better at PG, but we’re better ev’ry place else. They play a tough man an’ they got weapons, but startin’ PF is out with a broken ankle an' they ain't been as good in the last five games since he left. We gotta play disciplined an’ smart but we can do this.

March 19: 67-65, OT again! WOOOOO!!!!! Back an’ forth from beginnin’ ta en’. Dish fouled out again, but this time on’y played 18 min. Mark Call had some trouble but he never panicked an’ he hung in. They got a buzzer beater at the end a regulation ta send it ta OT an’ nobody could score. I mean really. They got the first hoop with 59 sec. left. We came down quick cuz I wanted a shot before the 35 sec. mark so wed get the ball again. Kurl, who else, hit a 15 footer ta tie it with 40 sec. left. They held, shot with 9 sec. left an’ missed. Miln got the board, shot it out ta Call who threw to Kurl who hit a 16 footer with a hand in his face. They had 2.3 but couldn’t get a good shot off. 24 TOs but +11 RBs.

Stick that play in in yer butts committee. We’re in the Sweet Sixteen!

26-8.

The dream prob’ly ends here, we play #1 seed Louisville, 32-3, #5 RPI, but who cares? Look how far we got! On paper they’re better ev’rywhere except PF. They play a very tight man. They score more outside an’ they’re real good with the ball. Front line is good but not great.

March 24: 61-78. They were just better. We stayed in it mosta the way but they were too good. 24, 9, 1 for Kurl in his last game. 21, 4, 4 for Lynn in his last game.

What a year! 26-9. I never woulda figgered that.

April 1: Final Four, two #1 seeds, a #2 an’ a #3. No. Carolina vs. Michigan for the title.

Brad Graham, #71 PG signs. Tony Iven is the on’y one unsigned, #102, PG.

April 3: Michigan wins in a BIG upset.

#12

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April 4: Awards: Jon Kurl got conf. POY. Well deserved. An’ Mark Miln got Freshman OY. I got the Coach award an’ it feels great. Take THAT all you schools that wouldn’t hire me. Kurl on 1st team, Lynn and Arms on second. We did good!

April 9: Met our goals went from Team Prestige of 41 ta 49. Real good!

My #s go up: Off.- 20, Def.- 27, Recruit- 70, Scout- 90, Player Dev.- 26. Reputation- 42.

No job offers. Didn’t expect any. Wouldn’t a taken any.

April 16: I gotta hire a new staff.

I get some really good assistants. #1, my recruiter will be Len Wood. Len is 65, retired, had been for five years. He came to some games, we got friendly. He recruited for Ohio State and was world class. He finally admitted that he missed it and was itching to get back in. He was my first call and we came to terms for a five year deal. He said we’d see if he made the whole five but I’ll take what I can get.

#2, Ed Allen, was a similar case. 63, retired for 2 years, missed it like crazy. Len led me to Ed, who will be my scout. He did that for Illinois and was regarded as top flight. Ed signed for three years.

#3 is 43 year old Joey Broer. He’s been the bench/practice coach at Duquesne and was ready for a move up. This is lateral but up in that we’re a bigger, better school. I think I have a great staff here. Joey signed for two years with the understanding that if he gets a chance to become a #2 or #1 he will go with my support.

Tony Iven signs.

And we sign Jim Barn, #156, PF.

April 23: I’m asking for budget money. We sold out almost every game after a few years of low attendance. I want a piece of that. We get $10,000. I’ll take it. An’ that’s it for my first season as a head coach. Don’t see how it coulda been better!

#13

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May 1: I didn’t take a day off. Why would I?

We buy the Midwest Gold and the National and International Basic scouting reports.

June 5: In the transfer market. Looking for guards an’ findin’ bigs. We strike out. No big deal.

June 26: It begins. We need guards. 4 scholarships, I want ta go 3 an’ 1 big.
Jon Kurl got picked #55 in the draft. I think he’ll make it an’ be considered a steal later on.

Looking at 25 to start, mostly guards.

Aug. 7: Still working the recruits. We’ve dropped quite a few, added some new ones.

Aug. 21: Today we can offer. And we do, to three PGs and an SF.

Sept. 18: Mike White, PG #253 commits.

And we have a schedule. We’re going to the Alaskan Classic. We’ve bumped up the sched. a bit.

Sept. 25: We got two more, Neil Wait, #124 SF, and Erik Walt, #234 PG. One more to go.

Oct. 2: Our last recruit commits, Erik James, #617 right now, PG.

First day a practice.

Nov. 6: Final ratings changes.

Two exhibitions this week. The season sure got here fast!

Lotsa changes ta the lineup based on the 2 games, way more than usual.

An’ we’re ready ta start the 2nd season!

#14

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Bronx is in ta start the season. We know they play man an’ press some, an’ they run a balanced O. The rest we’ll find out by playin’ ‘em.

Nov. 14: 68-56. They have one terrific Point. He hit us for 30. Nobody else did anything for them though. Our PG, Tony Morr, had 17, 5, 7, so we didn’t get hurt bad at the position. Ed Brel at C had 18 an’ 8, Nick Jode at PF 12, 9 an’ Dave Black at Sf 12, 8. Didn’t get much from SG or bench. 5 TOs, +5 RBs, 12 less fouls. We were pretty much in control mosta the way. A good start.

It was Wednesday afternoon an’ I was runnin’ a little low on readin’ material. There’s a used book store on campus I really like, “Old Friends” it’s called. Nothin’ but used books, mostly paperbacks, and some comics an’ stuff, but a real good selection of what I like. Classic literature, philosophy. Some science, but I go to the school library for that cuz ya really gotta get the newest stuff. Anyway, I always just look through the shelfs, wind up with a heaping armload a stuff, go pay for it an’ leave. Not this time.

“Coach, you are a man of few words.”

“Ma’am?”

“You’re one of our best customers, in here often. You buy great reading material. But I can’t get more than a ‘Thanks’ out of you.”

“I’m a quiet guy outside a the gym, ma’am.”

“Lucy…. Lucy Rhodes.”

“Hi. Mack Jones.”

“Um, I knew that. Everyone on campus does.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Lucy.”

“Hm?”

“Call me Lucy.”

“Um, I’m really not any good at this…”

“Try.”

“Hm?”

“Just try. Look, we both love books. We actually like a lot of the same kinds of books. I like basketball. We could be friends.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Try harder.”

“Look. I’m really-”

“Coach, come on. You are the lonesomest looking guy in the world, I swear. Gotta be somebody in there. I’d love to try to get to know who it is. Wouldn’t you like to have someone to discuss all of these fascinating books with?”

“… Well…”

“You WOULD! I can tell. You hunger for that. You probably take notes, have internal discussions, spend time mulling it all over. But something’s missing. The human element. The other perspective. The point of view that expands your own.”

“I…”

“Tell me I’m wrong.”

“What?”

“Tell me you don’t want to discuss these books with anyone.”

“That’s not exactly so, but I’m no good-”

“So what?”

“Well it would be-”

“No. Coach, let’s have coffee. Let’s decide on a book we both love, let’s decide to discuss it over coffee.”

“I…”

“Am I so ugly you don’t want to be seen with me?”

“NO! You’re real pret-… no ma’am. You sure ain’t ugly.”

“Well? What have you got to lose? My part timer is due in any minute. Let’s have coffee.”

And I’ll be d*mned but we did. Lucy… Man. I felt like the biggest a$$h*le on the planet. Tongue tied. No idea what to say. We talked about Moby Dick, which happens to be maybe my all time favorite novel, an’ one she said she really loved. We talked, well, she talked about themes. I could barely grunt an’ nod. She stayed with it, asked me good questions, eventually questions I got comfortable enough ta answer. Seems kinda stupid in a way, but we really got inta the themes, an’ I kinda lost track a bein’ stupid an’ we had a great discussion. When I happened ta look at the clock I saw we’d been at it for more than two hours an’ I was late for a meetin’.

“Okay Coach, I’ll let you go. But only if you tell me when we can do this again.”

I got shy again but she made a time and a place, Sunday evening after my practice, same coffee place.

“I won’t call it a date because you’ll run away and never come back.”

Boy was she right! She got up, thanked me, smiled, an’ kissed me on the cheek. I was stunned. Almost couldn’t get up and walk back ta the gym.

That night I was up mosta the night replayin’ it an’ thinkin’ about her. She’s 29 she said, about 5’3” and slim, maybe 110. Great big brown eyes an’ long brown hair. Great smile. No idea what ta do about this. I want ta see Lucy again so bad it hurts but I am scared sh*tless. I never even been on a date- well maybe this afternoon was, sorta. See what happens, I guess but it’s weird.

At 0-1 Coastal Carolina. On paper this is no contest but it’s a road game. They play man.

Nov. 17: 66-68. We blew a 13 point lead. We shoulda won this one. Ed Brel fouled out late an’ that hurt. He had 7, 9, 2 but he was containin’ their C.

The sub couldn’t an’ the C got the last two baskets for them. On the other hand Jim Barr had 16 an’ 5 fillin’ in. I guess we’re still findin’ ourselves but I hate ta lose a game we shoulda won.

Nov. 20: All four recruits sign so we’re all set with recruitin’ unless we free somethin’ up real late. Len Wood did great.

After practice I made my way ta the coffee shop. Lucy wasn’t there. I almost panicked but I saw I was early. I just sat at a table, didn’t get a coffee or anything. Said I was waitin' for someone an’ they left me alone. She came in about ten minutes late.

“Hi Coach. You tell me you’re new at this. The rule is the guy gets there on time and the girl shows up late. Don’t panic, that’s just the way it works.”

No clue what to say but I somehow managed to nod.

“So, Ahab? Queequeg? The whale?”

And we were off. We had sandwiches an’ coffee, an’ then more coffee, an’ then still more coffee. They finally kicked us out at 10:00.

The conversation was great an’ I think I almos’ relaxed a couple a times.

“Walk me home?”

“... Sure.”

We continued the discussion on the walk. I don’t know if it was 20 degrees or 120.

“Come in for a minute? I’d say coffee but I think we’ve had enough of that!”

I did go in. We sat and talked some more and then she surprised- shocked me. She simply leaned over and kissed me, drawing me into a hug. Wow!

“I know girls aren’t supposed to do that but I think if I wait for you to do it we’ll both be in a nursing home.”

I nodded, then paused with I guess a quizzical look. She laughed and then kissed me again. She then snuggled inside my arm, real close.

“I like you, Coach. You are 100% genuine. There aren’t many out there like that.”

I nodded.

“You’re supposed to say you like me too,,, if you do.”

“Oh yeah! I mean, I do… I do like you, Lucy.”

“I’m glad.”

Then we snuggled a little more.

“Okay, Coach. I need to open the store at 7:30 and it’s almost midnight.
When will I see you again?”

We worked that out an’ I got another kiss. I walked home real confused but real happy.

On the road to 0-2 Georgia State. They play man an’ press just about all the time but they aren’t too good. We need a win here after last game.

Nov. 21: 63-60. 13 lead changes, 9 ties. I think we’re better than we been playin’. Hope so anyways. We finally woke up with about 6 min. left an’ we took charge from then on but we never led by more than 4. 16, 3, 2 for PG Morr, 12, 5 for PF Jode, 10, 6, 2 for C Brel but foul trouble again, most ev’rybody else too. 12, 5, 1 for Jim Barr, our first big off the bench. Coach’s meetin’ on the plane to see if we can get him more minutes.

We decide on equal minutes among Black, Jode an’ Barr at SF an’ PF. Let’s see what happens. Barr’s minutes jump from about 12 ta about 28 per game. The other two go down from about 36 ta about 28.

Home for two days then off ta Alaska for the Classic. I see Lucy twice. I’m confused, awkward, prob’ly stupid, but she seems ta like me. She laughs when I get too dumb but it don’t feel like laughin’ at me, it’s kind an’ even… I don’t know, carin’ I guess. Scared ta death but I ain’t gonna let myself run away.

#15

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We’re the #6 seed in a 8 team tourney. We play 1-1 Iowa, the #3. On paper we look pretty even. They play man, don’t press much. They do almos’ all their scorin’ outside an’ they’re not that great on the boards. PG can handle the ball but the rest are sloppy. If we play better than we been we can win this one.

Nov. 25: 74-65. Tony Morr had a great game, 24, 3, 5. 19, 8, 2 for Ed Brel. Black, Jode an’ Barr did what I wanted ‘em ta do at 3 an’ 4 an’ they did it about equal. 13, 4 for Fram. +10 RB an’ they committed 16 more fouls than us.

Next is #12 in the country NC State, 4-0. They have two big time players, PG an’ C. Not much else but they ain’t needed much else. If we can keep them two guys reasonable we got a shot but it won’t be easy. They play 3-2 which we don’t see much so that can be confusin’ too, but there’s ways ta beat that D an’ we know ‘em. Let’s see what happens.

Nov. 26: 75-79. D*mn! We played real good against a REAL good team. 16 lead changes, 9 ties, nobody ever led by more than 8, an’ it was tied with 1:02 lef’. Morr fouled out then an’ they sunk both free throws. We came down an’ couldn’t get a good look. Settled for a bad shot, they rebounded, we fouled, they made both. We got it again but missed a three an’ that was that.

24, 2, 3 for Fram, 19, 4, 4 for Morr. Mark Call had 17 at back up guard. They were tough inside an’ that was the diff. -7 RB, an’ we made 9 more fouls. But change one or two little things an’ it coulda been different. Nobody hates ta lose more than me but this one encourages me. I think we’re getting’ better an’ WILL get better.

On’y good thing is we’re back home a day early an’ I spen’ part of it with Lucy.

4-0 Chicago is in. Their PG sets ev’rythin’ up. Control him ya control them. An’ I think Tony Morr is better than that guy anyways. We’re bigger an’ better inside too. They really ain’t played anybody.

This is our first home game since Lucy an’ me started seein’ each other. She’ll be at the game with my ticket, in the front row across the way. Right near my old foster family- the good one that comes to most ev’ry game. I called an’ told ‘em that the girl on the aisle was Lucy. They was pretty amazed an’ actually excited to meet her. Hope they get along. An’ I really hope we win. I want Lucy ta see me at my best. I still don’t believe this or even much trust it but I sure do like it when I ain’t too scared ta.

Nov. 28: 82-74. We had a big first half, 43. On’y up 12 at the break but felt like we were in charge. I was right an’ Morr was ownin’ their PG, an’ that continued in the 2nd. We got it ta 14 then they chipped away, got as close as 2 three times, once with the ball. Then we pulled back out by 11 an’ it was over. 25 for Morr, 15, 9, 4 for Brel, 13, 10, 2 for Black, 12, 3, 3 for Fram. Nice ta beat an undefeated team!

After the game the four of us went out for coffee but it wasn’t for long cuz after a game I’m tied up for a long time so by the time I got free it was pretty late. We said next weekend afternoon game we’d all have dinner after an’ that feels so weird an’ so good I got no idea what ta do with it.

The Black, Jode, Barr combo at SF an’ PF is workin’ out real good. Feels like I always got fresh legs an’ their numbers are all about the same. Brel is a force inside an’ I know one a the other three can spell him when he needs it an’ we don’t really lose much. Mark Call is playin’ real good at back up guard. I’d like ta get him a few more minutes, maybe for Fram, but it’s still in the thinkin’ about it stage.

3-1 Alabama is in. They got a real good back court but I think we should kill ‘em inside. So good D an’ get out on the outside shooters. They play man an’ press once in a while. On’y good team they played was Texas what killed ‘em. Again, it’s real simple. Don’t let the PG an’ the SG beat us. Lucy an’ my family will be here again.

Dec. 1: 76-74 OT. We blew a 12 point lead in the 2nd, came back ta go up 4, an’ they got the last 4 in regulation to send it ta OT. OT was amazin’. We got a 2, they got a 3. We got a 3, they got a 2. We got a 2, they got a 2. We got a 3, they got a 3. We got two free throws, they got a 2 with 4.9 left. Morr brought it down ta half court an’ somehow looped a pass over the D ta Brel who laid it in with .6 left for the win. I seen the replay about a dozen times now an’ I still do not know how he got that pass to Brel. Most amazin’ thing I ever seen on a basketball court.

20, 8 for Brel, 19, 6 for Black, 8, 12 for Jode, 10, 7 for Barr. I knew we hadta do it inside an’ all 4 bigs really came through. Our back court got outscored 13-37 but the big guys made up for it. -3 TOs, +9 RBs, they got 24 fouls we got 11. So we won at the line but still, we won inside cuz the bigs took the free throws- 12-13 for Brel. Great win. Felt like a million bucks cuz we beat a real good team.

Lucy won’t come to my place. She says it smells like feet. She knew how ta fix it though.

“Can you afford two pairs of sneakers?”

“Sure. Why?”

“Your feet stink to high heaven. The secret is, and I really do need you to remember this, is you get two pairs of shoes. The ones you’re wearing now are worn out and that’s bad for your feet and your back. Tomorrow go buy two new pairs. Go late in the day. Throw these out. Now listen. You alternate. Wear one pair one day, the other pair the next. Do it that way every single day and bring both pair on the road. The shoes air out on the off day and your feet and shoes won’t stink.”

How do people get to know stuff like that. I did it right away, a course. She still won’t come ta my place cuz she says the smell will take forever ta leave, an’ she don’t like my clutter. Okay, so we go to hers. It’s nice. Neat, tidy, books ev’rywhere but not in a messy way.

Her cat, Tail, likes me. Jumps in my lap when I sit. I never had a pet, foster kids don’t. If she had a dog that wouldn’t be good. I had a family that had a mean dog an’ they… never mind but it wasn’t good for me. I like the cat.

Lucy knows a lot about my background. I never told her the real bad stuff an’ I won’t, but she knows that too somehow, you know, in general. She’s the smartest person I ever knew. Figures things out like it was a book an’ she already read it.

What do we do? Well we still talk books. We got past Moby Dick a while ago now but ya never run outta books. She likes science as much as me an’ agrees that ya gotta get most of it from the library. We jus' each got a copy a somethin’, read an’ discussed it tagether. I love that. We go out ta eat or cook tagether- well she cooks an’ I chop stuff up, hand her stuff, clean up after. It’s fun. We go ta a movie once in a while but we both like books better. We go ta music concerts an’ theater. I mean I ain’t got a lot a time for goin’ out an’ we might do it once a week except dinner maybe three times, or lunch, or even once in a while breakfast but not usually. An’ yeah, if it sounds like I’m there ev’ry free minute, it’s cuz I am. I know, I met her on’y like three weeks ago but we don’t care about that. Oh, an’ the lovey dovey stuff? You ain’t gonna hear about that so just forget it.

We're 5-2. Goin' good!

#16

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At 2-3 Wright State. On paper this one’s close but lookin’ at tape with Ed I think we’re about even inside but way deeper, an’ better outside. Still, it’s a road game. They play man.

Dec. 6: 72-82. Ugh. Their bench beat ours an’ that was the diff. Didn’t see that comin’. It really wasn’t that close in the 2nd. 24, 8 for Brel, 24, 1, 4 for Fram. Morr was in foul trouble all night an’ on’y played 21 min. Mark Call did not have it replacin’ him. We got beat BAD at PG. The big diff was threes.
We didn’t get out on the shooter, esp. the PG, an’ they got 10 threes.

Back ta work. Always somethin’ ta fix. We’re a way better team than we were in this game, an’ I gotta convince my guys a that.

Carl Wats isn’t playin’ much this year but he hurt his back. Out about a week.

We got a week between games. That’s great for two reasons: 1. Time ta work on the stuff that didn’t work last game. 2. More time with Lucy.

3-5 Idaho is in. They play man an’ don’t press much. They played 2 good teams an’ it wasn’t pretty.

Dec. 13: 64-41. We took charge early an’ stayed in charge. 18, 5 for Brel, 14, 5 for Morr, 10, 2, 9 for Fram with some great dishes, 8, 6 for Barr, 7, 5 for both Jode an’ Black. 10 TOs (They had 24), 11 less fouls.

Another week between games.

“Okay, you’re a guy so you need to listen again. Christmas-”

“I ain’t religious. I don’t celebrate-”

“Okay, you’re a guy so you need to listen again.”

So I shut up and listened.

“Okay. It’s Dec. 14. You have given not a single thought to what you’re going to get me for Christmas.”

She could tell by the way I was squirming that she was right.

“Girls like pretty things. That scares the h*ll out of guys and they feel like they have no clue and they’ll screw it up.”

Another squirm.

“Here’s what you do. Don’t worry about clothing sizes and stuff. You need to know the colors I like, which you don’t. You need to know my ears are pierced, which you probably don’t. You need to know I love necklaces, bracelets, ear rings, which you don’t. You need to remember all of that. You need to get me three presents- not 23, not one, three. One, ear rings, pretty ones. Ask the girl at the jewelry counter- after I tell you about my colors, which I’m about to do. Listen and remember. I like soft earth tones, pastel greens, golds, browns, tans- soft. Not Crayola green. Got it?”

I nodded, working hard to put it in memory.

"If you just say ‘earth tones, pastels’ she’ll do the rest. Next you go to the sweater section. You tell the girl I’m 5’3” 112. I like, what?”

“Uh… pastels, earth tones.”

“Good boy! She’ll get a sweater I love. Now the hard part because you are NOT allowed to get help with this. Books- a bunch, anywhere from 3 to 10 but no more than that. You have to do this part alone because you can. You know what I love. I want some of them to be books you love too. We’ve talked about some of those that I want to read but haven’t. Then we’ve talked about the books I like that you don’t. I want a few of those too, because that will show me that you really care about me- which I know you do. Can you handle it?”


“… I guess so.”

“Okay. If you wait until December 24 you’ll frig it up and I’ll be really disappointed. Don’t do that. You’re home for a few more days. Do it before you go back on the road. We’ll have dinner here on the 25th and we’ll exchange gifts and it will be the most fun we’ve had together. So don’t frig it up, Mack.”

She said that last part real soft an’ vulnerable like an’ it just melted me. Then she kissed me.

I went out the next day. She was right about the jewelry an’ sweater. But I got two sweaters, two pairs of ear rings an’ a bracelet. I sure didn’t pick any of it out though. Them sales girls are the best! The books I had ta think about. I started a list. The last day before the road game I went ta the best book store in town an’ I bought a dozen books. Eight of ‘em were things we talked about that I read but she hadn’t an’ wanted to. The hard part was the other four but I wracked my brains an’ remembered the authors she liked that I didn’t cuz they weren’t real serious an' I only read serious stuff. When I was at her place I had snooped so I knew what she didn’t have. The four I got she don’t have. I think it’ll be okay. For a crazy, stupid minute I stopped an’ thought about a ring… you know what kind. Then I came ta my senses. WAY too soon. But yeah, that’s how I’m thinkin’.

Last pre-conf. game. At #20 Arkansas, 8-2. They’re 2-2 vs. ranked teams. This will be a real challenge. They have the best back court we’ve seen. They play man and press all night long, an’ they’re good at it. PG is awesome with the ball and SG lights it up. We can rebound with them but stopping the guards will be real tough.

Dec. 19: 63-61! WOOOO!!! Their startin’ back court outscored ours- 24-22. What a job I got from Fram an’ esp. Tony Morr! 17, 4, 2 for Tony. HUGE game for Ed Brel, 16, 11. Barr, Black an’ Jode did great, nice an’ steady. -3 TOs which I will take against that team, +2 RB. Ev’rythin’ was pretty even. It came down ta one possession like it does in this kinda game, an’ Morr made it look like he was gonna go ta Brel like ev’rybody in the place thought. Instead he went right ta the hole an’ put in a turn aroun’ lay up over a dazed PF who reacted too late. It was beautiful! And it was the WIN! Biggest win since las’ year’s NCAA tourney.

We wind up pre-conf. at 7-3.

XMas was magic. We went to my foster family’s for lunch an’ that was nice. There was presents. Then we headed for Lucy’s an’ cooked dinner. Lots of it was started or cooked up the night before or that mornin’ but we had a leg a lamb, my favorite. That had cooked all day while we were gone but it needed ta be seasoned a little more than it already was, an’ finished. Lucy also baked a blueberry pie, another big favorite.

When dinner was ready Lucy changed from casual cookin' clothes ta a little black dress that made her look so good I swear I almost fainted. After we ate we took a little walk ta digest. There was a real light snow an’ it was jus’ beautiful. Then came the presents. She got me some “Coach clothes.” Said I looked like a unmade bed on the sidelines, an’ that hadta change. Don’t know what she spent but she got three outfits. She made me try ‘em on an’ they all fit jus’ right. She got me a bunch a books. All stuff I really want to read.

“Okay. Mack. Impress me!”

I actually think I did. She loved the jewelry an’ put on a pair a the ear rings an’ the bracelet right away an’ with a big smile. I think she liked the sweaters even more. And I got the books exactly right. I did somethin’ silly an’ got a present for Tails, an’ Lucy jus’ loved that. This mighta been the best day a my life.

#17

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An’ we fly out late that night ta start conf. play at 2-7 Northern Iowa. On paper this is no contest but that’s never true with a road game.

Dec. 26: 72-48. They stayed with us for about 23 min., then we went on a 27-5 run. 23, 6, 8 for Morr, a huge game. 12, 12 for Brel. 11 each for Black and Fram, 8, 5, 1 for Barr.

5-5, 1-0 Des Moines is here. They play man. SG is their player but I don’t think they can stay with us.

Dec. 29: 70-50. And again, they stayed with us through the early going in the 2nd and we went on a run and put it away. 16 each for Fram and Morr, 13, 9, 4 for Brel. 7, 11 for Jode, 11, 3 for Barr, 7, 7, 2 for Black. We are hitting on all cylinders right now. Six guys playing just the way I want them to. I’d like a little more from back up guard Mark Call and we’re pushing to get it.

It’s so great to see Lucy in the stands for these games.

We went out to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Nothing fancy and we were at Lucy’s place by 10:30. We don’t drink so we wanted to be inside before the drunks started driving around. We actually watched a silly little movie on TV. It was a comedy and we laughed. Happy 1976!

At 5-6, 1-1 Missouri State next. They play man. Stronger at guard than inside. If we play we’ll be okay but again, it’s a road game.

Jan. 2: 62-51. We got out to a great start an’ it was never really as close as the final score. 12, 10 for Brel who jus’ seems ta be there ev’ry game, 13, 5, 3 for Fram, 12, 4, 1 for Black, 13, 3, 2 for Barr. We’re in a groove. Hope we stay there.

6-7, 0-3 Evansville is here. This should not be pretty, esp. lookin’ at the two inside games.

Jan. 5: 74-53. 19, 8 for Brel, 17, 3, 1 for Black, 13, 2, 5 but 7 TOs for Morr, 12, 7, 2 for Barr.

Barr is outplayin’ Jode but we’re reluctant ta break up a winnin’ combo. Wait and see for a while I guess.

Colt Fram hurt his calf but it don’t look bad. Day ta day.

11-3, 4-0.

“Mack, not that I’m surprised but you’ve never asked about my birthday.”

“Oh crap! I didn’t miss it, did I?”

She laughed. “No, silly. It’s February 19.”

“Thank goodness!”

“So, I turn 30.”

“I don’t need help this time. I know what ta do.”

“I like that! A quick learner.”

“Well, you made it easy for me an’ I wrote it all down an’ put it in a file.”

She laughed again.

“So no hints? No ideas?”

“Well… Should I?”

“You are getting smarter by the day.”

“Don’t know ‘bout that.”

“I want a vacation.”

“Lucy, I can’t take a vacation durin’ the season! You know that.”

“I do know that. But we can book one, take it that last week of April when everything slows down for a little bit.”

“I been meanin’ ta talk about that.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah…”

“Well?”

“Don’t know how ta say it…”

“Just say it, Mack.”

“Well… I don’t know that this will happen, prob’ly won’t this year, but likely next…”

“Go on.”

“Well… you know I wanta end up at a place like Michigan State, Connecticut, Stanford, Oregon, Michigan- big time school.”

“Yes, I know that. You think it could happen this soon.”

“No, but I think there’s gonna be one move before that one, ta a school in a bigger conference, a school where I can get more visibility.”

“Yes, I know you’re ambitious and I think it’s great. Not a doubt you can be successful all the way to the top.”

“Well… before you came along it was easy, but now…”

“Oh, how sweet!”

“I wouldn’t leave without you, Lucy.”

She gave me a big hug. Still in the hug she said, "It’s too soon, Mack. It hasn’t even been two months.”

“I don’t care how long it’s been-”

“Slow down, cowboy. Slow down. Let’s see what happens in April. That’s when the offer would come, right?”

“Yeah but I ain’t-”

“Stop!”

“Don’t you ever think about… us, I mean… the future…?”

“As a matter of fact that line of thought has crossed my mind.” She smiled. “But I push it away. It’s too soon.”

“I think about it all the time.”

“Good. But I’m the sensible one. We’re doing great- really, really great. Let’s keep that going. Long term will take care of itself.”

“Okay, but I ain’t leavin’ without you.”

“Peoria will be happy to hear that. They won’t want to lose you. Now about my birthday.”

“Where do ya wanta go? I’l take ya anywhere at all.”

“Good! How’s the moon?”

“Silly.”

“Just like a five day cruise. I like the ocean and there certainly isn’t one anywhere near here.”

“Done. I’ll get on it right away.”

“Oh, it would be okay if you got me just one or two little things for my actual
birthday too.”

“I knew that, Lucy. I told you. You already taught me about that stuff.”

“And people say there’s no hope for the male of the species!”

#18

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At 6-7, 2-2 Southern Illinois. They have a monster in the middle at C but not a lot else.

Jan. 9: 66-60. They scored the last 8 so it wasn’t as close as it seemed. Quiet kind of a game. We weren’t the force we’ve been in the last few. 16, 4 for Black, 13, 6, 3 for Brel, 12, 3, 1 for Barr.

2 game lead after 5. That’s kinda amazin’!

4-10, 3-2 Indiana State is here. They’ve played way better in conf. than before. Strong at SG and C. They play man.

Jan. 12: 75-64. 40-22 at the half. It was never a contest. 18-5 for Brel, 15, 5, 2 for Barr, 14, 2, 4 for Morr, 11 each fro Fram an’ Black.

8 game win streak! 13.0 TOs per game. + 5.5 RBs.

At 9-7, 3-3 Illinois State. This could be our first in conf. challenge. These guys can play some, esp. at home. Strong pretty much ev’rywhere except PF and not much bench. They play man and they press some. Lost their startin’ PF ta grades an' that hurt ‘em. Not good with the ball. Still, they find a way.

Jan. 16: 65-50. This one did not start well. Down as many as 10 in the first, 6 at the half. We gave up open look after open look in the first. At the half I read the riot act, put in some defensive changes and we held them to 13 points in the 2nd half. 18, 9 for Jode, 14, 5, 3 for Fram, 12, 6 for Barr, 10, 5 for Black. I suppose a bit of a challenge is a good thing but better was the way they followed instructions in the 2nd half.

This is a two game swing and the longest I’ve been away from Lucy since we met. Only five days but it feels like forever. At 8-8, 5-2 Wichita State next, the only team still within two games of us. They’re good at C, not bad at PG, SG. Play 1-2-2, which we don’t see a lot. They’ve won 4 in a row an’ 5 of 6. Job one is stop the C. After that, disrupt the flow of their O and get some steals.

Jan. 19: 66-65. H*ll of a game from start ta finish. No one ever led by more than 7. They got Ed Brel in early foul trouble an’ he never got out of it. He’s our best so that really made it tough. He played on’y 19 min., with 2 an’ 7.

Nobody in our front line played that well. But our guards did, 19, 6, 5 for Fram an’ 26 for Morr, includin’ the winner, a three from 30 feet at the buzzer.

We had 12 TOs. Not bad but they had 5! We made 4 more fouls. But we were +10 on the boards, mostly because a 7 by Barr an’ 6 by little used Carl Wats. Wouldn’t want ta go through this kinda game ev’ry day but the fans sure got their money’s worth!

3 game lead after 8, which is weird, but we’re in great position.

It was great ta get back home ta Lucy. Tail missed me too, an’ rubbed against me, followed me ev’rywhere I went. Pretty funny.

5-12, 4-4 North Chicago is here. They play man. SG isn’t bad an’ C an’ PG are next best. They turn it over a lot.

Jan. 23: 79-60. They jumped on us early, went up 12. We whittled it ta 2 at the half. I went in feelin’ like the worst was over an’ we’d take control. We did, right away. Barr went wild with 25, 6, 2. 16, 4 for Brel, 11, 3, 3 for Fram an’ ev’rybody else chipped in. 9 TOs.

11 straight, most of ‘em easy. 16-3, 9-0. RPI #26.

#19

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6-12, 4-5 Northern Iowa is here. Beat ‘em by 24 there so… They play 2-3. Not that many teams play zone any more but we practice against it every day.

Jan. 26: 58-42. We fell behind early again. That ain’t a habit I want us getting’ inta. Down 13, 3 at the half. One a these nights we won’t be able ta get back in it. Held ‘em ta 15 in the 2nd half ta win easy. 18 for Fram, 17 for Morr. 11 TOs.

We been getting’ so much ink in Peoria an’ really in most a Illinois. Long winnin’ streak, big wins, dominatin’ most games. I feel like somebody’s always got a microphone or a notepad in my face lately. The home crowds have been jammed in, standing room, an’ LOUD! Lots a fun right now.

Jan. 29: SAT scores are in an’ ev’rybody hit the score.

4 game lead with 8 ta play.

At 7-12, 3-7 Des Moines. We beat ‘em by 20 at our place. Lost the las’ 5. Strong at 2 an’ 5. They play man. Again, play our game an’ we’ll be fine but remember we’re on the road.

Jan. 30: 65-72. I suppose the streak had ta end someplace. We were pretty flat tonight. 8 fouls more than them, 13 less RBs. Stood aroun’ on D. We had 5 in double figures but ya gotta RB an’ ya gotta play D.
We’ll work on it in practice. No panic jus’ work.

I did most a the birthday shoppin’ already. Booked a 5 day cruise hoppin' aroun' in the islands in the Atlantic. Bought her what I think is a real nice handbag. She’s got about 3 or 4 but she likes ‘em an’ I think this one’s her style. Got turquoise earrings, or that’s what the lady said, an’ a pin, necklace an’ bracelet ta match. An’ books a course. Still one or two more books ta buy but that’s it.

We worked hard in practice- not physically cuz by this time a year ya really don’t wanta do that. The long season takes a toll. But we worked mentally hard. Gettin' guys ta focus on some little stuff they been lettin’ slide. Joey an’ me spent a lot a time figgerin’ what ta work on an’ how ta structure practices. I think it’ll pay off. He's a great assistant. All three are.

11-9, 7-4 Missouri State is in, one a two teams 3 games back. Beat ‘em by 11 there. They play man and they ain’t bad at the guard positions.

Feb. 2: 67-59. Close for a long time. We finally opened it up real late but we had ta work all the way. 18, 4, 1 for Barr. 11 TOs.

Lead back ta 4 games.

Feb. 5: Ranked, finally. #24, RPI #24. Frankly it’s a h*ll of a thrill to have my team ranked for the first time in my coaching career.

If I can free up any roster space there are guys I‘d love to recruit. That won’t happen ‘til we play our last game, if then.

At 9-13, 3-9 Evansville, last in the conf. We won by 21 at our place. Their starting C is hurt.

Feb. 6: 71-59. Down at the half again. Never down more than 5 and it was 3 then. 17 for Morr, 15, 4 for Fram, 11, 9 for Brel, 11, 6, 2 for Barr.

We make the change. Barr will start, Jode will sit. Not huge changes in PT but I want Barr in there in clutch situations.

Lucy and I are, in some ways settling in to patterns. In other ways we try to avoid that. I spend all of my free time there, and manufacture free time. I think it helps my coaching. Having another focus keeps me fresher in some ways. When I was all but one dimensional I may have been too tightly focused. Stepping away, having hoops off my mind now and then may be a really good thing. It feels that way.

Lucy and I laugh. I am more relaxed now. Not exactly confident but definitely relaxed. I just love being with her, doing things with her. Our book discussions remain a huge part of our relationship but there are so many other things. We run together. She's a runner too. My ten minute miles are about the pace she ran so that works out. I’ve told about cooking together. We play cribbage. We watch the occasional movie. She watches hoops games with me- I need to do that. She occasionally asks a really good question about something in the game and that can lead me to insights I may have otherwise missed. We eat out, do some shopping together, spoil Tail. All kinds of things. Oh, and yeah, we do some of that lovey dovey stuff I won’t tell you about.

#20

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9-13, 5-8 Southern Illinois is in. We won by only 6 there. They have a real good C. They play man an’ press a lot.

Feb. 9: 74-52. We pretty much led all the way. All 5 starters in doubles an’ Jode had 9, 5, 2. 9 TOs.

5 game lead with 4 to play so we clinched. 20-4, 13-1.

At 8-15, 7-7 Indiana State next. Beat ‘em by on’y 11 at our place. They play man an’ they press a lot. We got better players but their SG an’ C give us fits las’ time so we can’t take this for granted. It might be hard ta get the guys up when they know the conf. is a wrap but if I see lack of focus, lack of hustle, guys will sit AN’ they’ll get a ear full!

Feb. 13: 66-74. Not happy! We were passive on D. They were mad bombers, chuckin’ up 27 threes. Too many were uncontested so 12 went in an’ that was the diff. I sat people an’ wound up with the end a the bench in. Practice will NOT be pleasant for a while. This sh*t will NOT continue! 19, 10 for Brel who played hard.

We won by 15 there. Practice has been very physical in short bursts. I DEMAND total focus and total hustle for a few minutes at a time in drills designed to get guys out on shooters, fight through picks, work to get open on O an’ stuff like that. I get their tongues draggin’ then give ‘em a break.

Jus’ enough to make the point, to teach what I want. Not enough ta kill their legs. They are getting’ my message. We will WORK.

14-11, 8-7 Illinois State is in.

Feb. 16: 69-51. That’s more like it. Held ‘em ta 19 in the 1st half. 22, 9, 3 for Brel. 15, 5 for Barr. 19, 3, 2 for Fram. 8 TOs.

12.4 TOs per game, right where I want it.

Bracket Breaker with 15-11 Valparaiso here. It’s a Sunday 1:00 game so plenty a time for birthday stuff later. Val play man an’ they don’t press much. We think we got more talent but they got guys who can play.

Feb. 19: 67-60. Slow start an’ down as many as 13, 6 at the half. Can’t seem ta permanently fix the slow start thing. We climbed the hill all night an’ really on’y took charge real late. The 7 point margin was our biggest lead an’ a three in the last minute got it there. So it was close. 21, 7 for Barr who has really responded ta startin’. Three guys with 9, two with 7, one with 5 so real balance. 5 TOs which is kinda amazin’. Still want more energy. It’s a long season though. I guess there’s bound ta be lulls. BUT, post season is right aroun’ the corner now.

Great birthday. The four of us went ta dinner at a real nice place. Then my foster parents went home an’ me an’ Lucy went ta her place. She loved all the gifts, maybe the handbag the most an’ that really pleased me since I had took a big chance with that. I gotta say it. I flat out love this woman. It’s been three months, four days an’ the happiest time a my life.

Back ta back games on back ta back days. At least they’re both at home.

2nd place Wichita State, 12-14, 9-7 is in. Won by 1 point there. They play that annoyin’ 1-2-2. We need ta get ta the key. That’s the weak spot in that D. Ya can shoot open 12-15 footers all night if ya move the ball there real quick. Their 1, 2 an’ 5 had good nights against us last time. We gotta stop at least 2 of the three.

Feb. 20: 60-54. These guys are plain tough. Nobody ever led by more than 8 an’ we never led by more than 6 an’ that was on’y at the end when we hit a three. We hadta battle for ev’rything. They did not let Brel score. He had 2. 9 RBs though. They beat us inside. Our guards saved us. 16 for Morr, 14 for Fram an’ 12 for Mark Call from the bench. He picked the right night for it. +5 TOs but -11 RB. I mean they beat us up inside. That don’t happen often to our front line. None of our 4 had a good game. It’s a win. W’ell prob’ly play these guys in the tourney title game.

We close it out at 10-16, 9-8, 2nd place (with two other teams) North Chicago. We won by 19 at home. They’re good at SG an’ not bad at all at C an’ PG. This is no gimme, we’re gonna need ta work.

Feb. 23: 71-77. I did not wanta go inta the post season with a loss. D*mn!

They hammered us the whole 1st half. I was so p*ssed I didn’t dare say much. We went in down 17 an’ it was too much. We didn’t rebound an’ we didn’t play enough D. Barr was great on O, 25, 9. Brel had 16, 4, 2. But again, ya gotta play D. I didn’t say a word after the game. We usually have a brief team meeting. I had Joey tell ‘em ta hit the showers, didn’t even say that myself. Hope it sent a message cuz from now on ya lose ya go home.




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