Watching the girls basketball team get trounced on Friday night was a particularly painful experience for me.
While I’m sure it was no less painful an experience for the squad of girls who dedicated themselves to a sport for the season, I felt physically ill as I watched ball after ball after ball sail out of bounds, or find its way into the hands of a Philomath defender for a seemingly unlimited supply of turnovers.
I’ve never had this particular physical reaction to any BHHS sports team’s victory or loss. Even when the boys team won the state title back in 2009, I wasn’t affected to the extreme that I was Friday night.
I’m not part of the team; I’ve never felt I had the right to feel extreme jubilation when the teams were successful, nor abundant pain when they lost, but I felt like throwing up during this game.
Typically there is a great story to be found when a team is down by so much, some kind of redeeming value in the loss, and this team had some of that built in, what with their trip to Gill last year and then the loss of players through injury, displacement and poor choices.
This team had all of that, but the saving grace on Friday night didn’t come from the athletes, it came from the coach, Chris Schofield.
Following the game, I watched him extend a hand to each of the girls who were part of the team – both metaphorically and literally.
To the seniors on the team, it was a hand of consolation; a hug, a pat on the shoulder and some private words spoken so quietly that only the recipient could hear, eliciting smiles and tears, and smiles again.
What else can a coach do for those who have seen the final game of their season – and possibly their lives – come and go in such undeserving fashion?
For the underclassmen on the team it was a little different type of hand. It was a hand offered to help bring the girls on board with his “program.”
Every great coach in history has a “program.”
Phil Jackson, record holder for most NBA titles held by a coach has a “program.”
Granted, Jackson had extremely talented players to draw upon, but his “program” is what eventually led to wins, because talent alone is not enough to claim championships.
(Just look at the star-laden Miami Heat from the 2010-2011 season. Their coach, Erik Spoelstra, has three of arguably the best players in the NBA and they couldn’t get it done when it counted.)
Red Auerbach, the coach Jackson surpassed for the championship record, had a different “program,” but it revolutionized basketball when he began coaching in the 1940s.
I’m not saying that Schofield is in the same league as Jackson or Auerbach – or maybe I am, I don’t know – but he does have one thing that all great coaches have – a “program.”
And I’m not using Schofield as an example in exclusion of the other coaches at Brookings-Harbor High, because they’ve all got “programs,” his example was just observable and recent.
A coach can be great without being successful though, and the difference between the two is players who are willing to come on board and get with the “program.”
They don’t have to be great players, they don’t have to be the number one pick in the draft, but they have to be willing to whole-heartedly commit to whatever it is the coach asks them to do.
A well-coached team with mediocre talent who are willing to subscribe to sound theory is going to win more games than a poorly-coached team with a star or two who refuse to listen.
Auerbach asked his team to out-hustle their opponents and introduced the fast break as a viable part of standard offense.
His “program” took the Boston Celtics to eight straight championships.
Jackson utilized the triangle offense, a zen-type mentality and the talent of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant for the duration of his career.
He rode his “program” to six championships rings with the Chicago Bulls and five with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Schofield demands hustle and an ability to run opponents into the ground and has introduced a pressure defense with no rival in league play.
His “program” took a girls team from a losing season to an appearance at the state tournament in an extremely short amount of time.
Those accomplishments don’t happen without a “program” and players willing to come aboard and execute.
As Schofield held out his hand to the freshmen, sophomores and juniors in that classroom on Friday night, he was asking them to believe in his “program.”
He was asking them to commit.
All that’s left for next season is to see if the team gets on board.