Sunday, October 19, 2008
The Dancing Bear Tries Not To Break the Eggs
How, many of you are probably wondering, can Ben and Dave possibly trump Friday night's magical initiation into the Seton Hall Booster Club? Well, with the very fortitude and conviction that the Donald himself so often relies on, we managed not only to match Friday night's emotional high, but eclipse it all in one, magical day.
This afternoon, Ben and I attended the Bobby Gonzalez Basketball Coaches Clinic. Intended to be an opportunity for local high school coaches to learn drills and game management from a BIG EAST basketball program, many of our new friends from the Booster Club were also in attendance.
To try to recapture this afternoon's events would be impossible; to explain them would take a lifetime. The following excerpts, though brief in stature, is our attempt to at very least scratch the surface in reliving this afternoon.
-After taking a brief tour of the beautiful Seton Hall campus (not our actual intention, the lady at the gate gave us bad directions), Ben and I arrive at Walsh Gymnasium to be greeted with literal skin from Assistant Coach Derm "Skin" Player. Player's handshake was the first of many as we greeted the other attendees, including Danny, Dick, Vinny, Sal and the rest of the gang.
-Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez emerges from his veritable museum of an office and shakes my hand. Awesome.
-As the players warm up from the conference room that overlooks the basketball court, Ben and I ate bagels, drank coffee and watched the entire Seton Hall-Louisville game on a pull-down projector. Again.
-After devouring several bagels and drinking enough coffee to power a small office, Ben and I head downstairs to the court to watch the team start their practice. I start sweating from the bright lights. Ben thinks he is back in 9th grade form and tries to join the layup line. I have to stop him so he doesn't embarrass himself, and more importantly, me.
-Gonzo starts running offensive and defensive drills. Because Herb Pope had to be in Pittsburgh, the team only had 9 players, which makes scrimmaging rather difficult. Assistant Coach Adubato is forced to step in and play the power forward position. One thing is for sure, Dr. Scott Adubato is no Herb Pope. However, Adubato's strength should not be in question as he quickly showed who was in charge during the "Cowboy Drill" where he took unusual pleasure in knocking players to the floor with an oversized, karate foam blocker.
-As the players huddled up to discuss an upcoming drill, we got a glimpse of one of the many differences with this year's team. Spread across the backside of the players' shorts was the word "family." I can only hope the Booster Club purchases similar shorts for us to wear in Puerto Rico.
-As practice progresses, one thing is definitely sure - Gonzo loves recent transfer Keon Lawrence. Praising Keon whenever he can, Gonzo even went as far as to quote Keon's stats from his Big 12 career. At one point, Gonzo actually yelled out to the team, "Keon once put up 25 at Kansas!!!!" We could only hope that SHU hoops radio announcers Gary Cohen and Dave Popkin were taking notes.
-During the more physically demanding drills, it's clear that big man John Garcia is struggling to keep pace. His surgically repaired knees, along with a bit of a weight problem, combine to make John rather tentative running the court. To quote fellow booster club member Dick, "He looks like he's trying not to break the eggs." With this metaphor, Dick earned official title as booster club Poet Laureate.
-After four hours of practice, Gonzo finally calls it quits. By rough estimate, Robert "Stix" Mitchell has dropped his mouthguard on the floor 14 times but, thankfully, only one shot clock was broken, courtesy of a Mike Davis two-handed bank jam.
-While the players head to the locker room to shower and change, Gonzo holds court and fields questions from those in attendance. As he does so, Big Mel Oliver enters the gym to start warming up for his own practice (since Biggie is still not eligible to play, he can not practice with the team). It's estimated that Big Mel weighs in at a clean 350 but his improved footwork has apparently earned him the nickname of "Dancing Bear," a name that conjures images of the Lenape Native Americans who once ruled the lands of South Orange. We should know more about Dancing Bear's eligibility in the upcoming days.
-In direct response to Ben's question, Gonzo announces that he is holding walk-on tryouts. Ben strongly considers quitting his job and enrolling at Seton Hall.
-After taking a tour of the locker room and pretending to watch game tape, we were led back upstairs to the conference room to eat some of New Jersey's finest pizza with the coaching staff. Gonzo gave us a quick tour of his office which rivals only the Basketball Hall of Fame in memorabilia collected.
For roughly seven hours, Ben and I lived out a dream. We met and talked to the entire coaching staff, players and other fanatics just like us. While I would have liked to live the rest of my life in Walsh Gymnasium, I must say I am proud to be a member of this "family."