Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Posts Tagged ‘Micah Grimes

Press, press…

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Pull.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author for whom you can blame 1,000 sales conference references to “The Tipping Point,” strikes again in the New Yorker with another lengthy article delving into the secrets of innovation and success. And this time, he’s completely full of shit.

I’m not a steady Gladwell reader, but all I know is that “How David Beats Goliath” takes eight web pages to say, with dubious evidence, what Sun Tzu said about 2,500 years earlier in 18 words: “So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.”

My particular youth sports beef comes with Gladwell using as evidence how a supposedly unskilled team of 12-year-old girls from Redwood City, Calif., were shaped into an elite basketball fighting force because their coach used a press defense. He wonders why more teams don’t use it, pointing to example’s of Digger Phelps’ undermanned 1971 Fordham team upsetting a UMass squad featuring Julius Erving, and Rick Pitino’s continued success with a press defense even though his talent is supposedly so thin, Antoine Walker is his only notable pro.

Gladwell might know tipping points, but I’m not sure he’s so wise on basketball strategy. The press works if you have a team that relentlessly practices it, and a team playing against you that doesn’t know it’s coming or doesn’t practice for it. I would guess that 100 percent of the teams Redwood City played never played anyone else with a press defense, and didn’t have a college basketball-playing daughter of a former NFL star helping out in practice.

Plus, the effectiveness of the press goes down the higher level you go. Yeah, a press can work great at the 12-year-old level because most kids’ ballhandling skills aren’t good enough to overcome it. But when Pitino tried that in the NBA, he got hammered. Even on the college level, for every Fordham-over-Dr.-J’s UMass upset with the press, there are 100 teams that try it and watch the ball fly past them for easy layups. Apparently Gladwell also missed how slow and methodical Michigan State bounced Pitino’s Louisville team out of this year’s NCAA tournament.

The rec leagues I’ve coached in (junior high/late elementary coed) limit the press to either a certain point of a game (elementary level) or when you’re down (junior high). By doing so, it prevents a game that gets out of hand either way — either a team never able to inbound the ball, or a pressing team getting blown out. Anyway, why don’t I have them defend the whole court instead of the last 24 feet? Because no one is scoring from 50 feet out. I tell my kids to move out the big people, and except for kids we know can shoot from 16 feet out, give player on the outside a lot of space. Then get the rebound and leak out on the fast break — that’s where a commitment to playing the whole floor worked for the teams I’ve had.

Gladwell misses the point when he fawns on the press defense. You coach based on how the strengths of your players match the weaknesses of others — no argument there. But questioning why everyone doesn’t use the press more is way too simplistic a point. So is Gladwell presenting as fact that Pitino uses the press because he ALWAYS has substandard teams. The current starting lineup of Lawrence North High School would disagree.

Any coach who believes their success is completely tied to his or her own system is delusional — and so are the writers who swallow that line. If you don’t have talent on you team, your precious system goes down the crapper. Anyway, you could make an argument on the flipside — the reason so few NBA successes come out of Pitino’s system is because it doesn’t prepare players for what they’ll be doing in pro ball.

By the way, the Redwood City team Gladwell talks about with girls who hadn’t played, or weren’t terribly talented? I bet they weren’t a bunch of kids who had never touched a ball. I don’t care how many practices they had — if the girls didn’t have some speed or coordination already, the press would have failed in a hurry. And as far as development, this coach could be hurting his kids because as they advance and have to play more halfcourt ball, they’ll have no idea what to do.

Gladwell is a good writer, but I think he’s whiffed here. If Dean Oliver presented evidence to show the best ways to attack a defense, I’d listen more, because at least Oliver, the director of quantitative analysis for the Denver Nuggets, puts together statistical models to prove his points. Gladwell’s message is supposedly that teams should concentrate more on attacking their opponents’ weaknesses, but don’t a lot of coaches do that already?

By the way, even if successful, the press can cause you a lot of headache. Just ask Micah Grimes.

Micah Grimes’ first interview? I don’t think so, Phil Taylor

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Tonight I opened up my Sports Illustrated (yeah, I still get print), and on the back page is a column by Phil Taylor headlined: “Public Enemy Number 100.”

It’s a story about Micah Grimes, the Dallas Covenant High girls basketball coach fired in the wake of worldwide scorn over his team’s 100-0 squeaker over Dallas Academy. No surprise, given the way backlash against backlash tends to grow over time, once everyone has calmed down a little bit, it’s a sympathetic piece in which Grimes is said to have weekly meetings with former players and refuses to sue his school for wrongful termination (though he definitely could).

“If I had it to do over, after halftime I would have asked the other coach if he wanted to end the game,” Taylor quotes Grimes as saying. “If he wanted to keep going, I probably would have suggested we shut off the scoreboard.” (As it was, Grimes tells Taylor he had the Covenant timekeeper keep the clock running after building up a 59-0 halftime lead.)

Whether Grimes is the monster many made him out to be, or whether he was a victim of circumstance, I don’t know. Like 99.9 percent of people (including Barry Horn, the Dallas Morning News reporter who first wrote about the 100-0 game), I wasn’t there.

However, I will take issue with one part of Taylor’s column: “Grimes tells you this is the first interview he has given since the Jan. 13 rout.”

WRONG!

Me, myself and I had the first interview with Micah Grimes, Phil Taylor! Perhaps Mr. Grimes fails to remember this scintillating, hard-hitting email interview conducted Jan. 26:

“Mr. Grimes, my name is Bob Cook, and I write a blog called Your Kid’s Not Going Pro. I know this is a difficult time, but I wonder if you don’t mind chatting with me about the Dallas Academy game and its aftermath. Thanks.”

Hi Bob, I’m going to decline an interview for now. I really appreciate your willingness to show my side of the story, but this whole thing is a little bit overwhelming right now, and I would like to let things die down. Thanks again.

Sincerely,
Micah

Um, OK, it wasn’t quite as detailed an interview as Phil Taylor got. But I asked a question, and got a response, so that counts!

Updates on Micah Grimes and Jason Stinson

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Or Micahee Grimes and Jasonee Stinson, to keep up with my Nancy Grace-like obsession.

In descending order:

— Jason Stinson pleaded not guilty to reckless homicide charges at a Louisville court today. He was released without bond. No shock, at least not to me, Stinson’s lawyers say they will explore Max Gilpin’s medical history, though they did not say anything about his parents’ confirmation that he had taken creatine and was taking Adderall. Max Gilpin’s parents, already in a lot of pain, are going to go through even more when they see attorneys and expert witnesses argue that what killed him was not merely running in the heat, but dehydration and other side effects from his medications related to intense exercise. It’s going to get ugly, but then again, it always does.

— I sent an email to Covenant School girls basketball coach, er, ex-coach, Micah Grimes Sunday night to see if he wanted to do an interview about his team’s infamous 100-zero game over the now world-famous Dallas Academy. I got a response from him tonight:

Hi Bob, I’m going to decline an interview for now. I really appreciate your willingness to show my side of the story, but this whole thing is a little bit overwhelming right now, and I would like to let things die down. Thanks again.

Sincerely,
Micah

No surprise, given he’s generally turned everyone else down for an interview.

Micah Grimes gets fired

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My guess is, the next step in the Dallas Academy saga is Grimes suing Covenant of Dallas, where he coached until today. From the Dallas Morning News:

The Covenant School fired its girls’ basketball coach Sunday, the same day he distributed an e-mail and posted on a Web site that he disagreed with the school’s headmaster as well as the school’s chairman of the board, who have publicly apologized for Covenant’s 100-0 victory over Dallas Academy.

Kyle Queal, Covenant’s head of school, said former coach Micah Grimes “now only represents himself.” Queal said he could not answer if the firing was a direct result of his e-mail and posting.

Grimes’ e-mail and posting said, “In response to the statement posted on The Covenant School Web site, I do not agree with the apology or the notion that the Covenant School girls’ basketball team should feel embarrassed or ashamed,” Micah Grimes wrote in an email sent to The Dallas Morning News. “We played the game as it was meant to be played. My values and my beliefs would not allow me to run up the score on any opponent, and it will not allow me to apologize for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.”

(I’m looking for the personal web site. I will link to it once I find it. Here it is.)

So let’s review what turned an otherwise nondescript small, private high school girls’ basketball game into the latest referendum to where you stand on sportsmanship, youth athletics and what it means to be an American.

Jan. 13: Covenant School of Dallas beats Dallas Academy 100-0.

Jan. 22: The Dallas Morning News posts a story about the game, which gets almost instantaneous reaction from keyboard tappers around the world such as myself. Later that day, Covenant posts a note offering to forfeit the game. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban invites the Academy team to American Airlines Arena for an NBA game.

(NOTE: I emailed Morning News reporter Barry Horn tonight about how he was tipped off to this story. He said he read his paper’s own box score the morning after the game and made calls when he got back to work that Monday, Jan. 19. Horn doesn’t cover high school sports, but he “had seen Dallas Academy play this season and I had seen Covenant in the past.” He added, “I have always contended that the best stories in the newspaper come out of the agate or the briefs.” Oh yeah.)

Jan. 24: Covenant coach Micah Grimes sends an email and posts to a web site (not Covenant’s) that he disagrees with his school’s decision. Later that day, Covenant fires him.

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I’ll bet you were expecting a picture of Donald Trump.

Grimes seemed to know the guillotine was about to drop. From the Morning News:

Grimes did not immediately respond to repeated email requests for an interview. But his email and Web site post concluded, “I believe in the lessons that sports teach us. Competition builds character, and teaches us to value selflessness, hard work, and perseverance. As a coach, I have instilled in my girls these values. So if I loose my job over these statements, I will walk away with my integrity.”

Not if you spell “lose” with two o’s, you won’t.

Grimes, until Jan. 22 an unknown coach at an unknown school, is now an international lighting rod. (Horn noted in the story on Grimes’ firing that the original story got 665,000 page views, “an enormous number for a story on a local private school girls’ basketball game.” The previous quote was an example of extreme fucking understatement.) Either you support Grimes because, hey, what can you do when your team is that much better, or you want to tar and feather him for apparently keeping a press defense on for most of the game, thus allowing many, many backcourt steals and easy layups.

However, as President Obama would say, ahhhhh, let’s be clear here. No matter what Covenant says, Micah Grimes was not fired for running up the score. If so, he would have been fired after running over Waxahachie Prep 77-27, or crushing Irving North Hills 71-19. I’m guessing Terrell’s coach wasn’t fired after beating Covenant 79-33.

That the score had the potential to be 100-0 was not shocking, given that Waxahachie Prep had beaten Dallas Academy 66-4. Dallas Academy’s other losses, at least the ones I know of, were 66-4 and 49-7. (The team had two games scheduled between Covenant and Grimes’ firing, and I’m looking for those scores.) Should those coaches have been fired, too?

Girls basketball at the high school level, nearly four decades into Title IX, is still an area chock-full of blowouts, because some schools seem to have the funding or wherewithal to take it seriously, while others for some reason do not. Of course, nobody had nice, round numbers like 100 and 0 in their scores, so those other stompings aren’t newsworthy.

Also, that Dallas Academy is a school for special-needs students figures into that mix, too. Although lost in translation was that the school is not a special-education school in the way you usually think of it; it’s for kids with learning disabilities such as ADD and dyslexia, and it has had legitimate athletic success in other sports. Comparing the beatdown to Matt Dillon running down retarded kids in “There’s Something About Mary,” as a Chicago radio talk show host I once taught at Columbia College did on the air Friday, was not accurate, and made the school and coach look worse than they would have otherwise, which is an accomplishment. (By the way, in Grimes’ rebuttal on his own site, flightbasketball.com, he quotes an unidentified players on his team: “I have ADD and ADHD. There is nothing that separates me from anyone on the Dallas Academy girls team, so there is nothing that should separate the value of our sides.”)

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Carmen, is this revenge on me because I made you cover dance?

I’m not faulting Horn for his stories. I’m faulting Covenant for folding so quickly and obviously. If the administration thought Grimes was a good man when his team won 77-27, why was he a bad man at 100-0? Oh yeah, because the school’s good name was being slagged all around the world. I don’t know Grimes, and I don’t know whether he was trying to run it up. However, I don’t blame him for going down fighting. If Grimes hasn’t found a lawyer already, I’m sure one (or many) is finding him.

Forgive us our 100 trespasses

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Update on The Blowout of Blowouts:

The Covenant School in Dallas has posted a statement on its Web site feeling contrition for its 100-0 girls basketball pasting of Dallas Academy.

The Covenant School, its board and administrators, regrets the incident of January 13 and the outcome of the game with the Dallas Academy Varsity Girls Basketball team. It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. This clearly does not reflect a Christ-like and honorable approach to competition. We humbly apologize for our actions and seek the forgiveness of Dallas Academy, TAPPS and our community. The school and its representatives in no way support or condone the running up of a score against any team in any sport for any reason. The school’s board members, Head of School Kyle Queal and Athletic Director Brice Helton have acted to ensure that such an unfortunate incident can never happen again.

Covenant school officials have met with and personally apologized to Dallas Academy Headmaster Jim Richardson and Athletic Director Jeremy Civello and wish to extend their highest praise to each member of the Dallas Academy Varsity Girls Basketball team for their strength, composure and fortitude in a game in which they clearly emerged the winner. Accordingly, The Covenant School has contacted TAPPS and is submitting a formal request to forfeit the game recognizing that a victory without honor is a great loss.

Kyle Queal
Head of School

Todd Doshier
Board Chair

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Catholic Church Supply should say the Act of Contrition for charging $24 for 100 of these cards.

If indeed the Internet scuttlebutt was correct and coach Micah Grimes kept playing a press defense for most of the game, then Covenant should be apologizing. Blowouts happen, but when it’s 59-0 at halftime it’s not stretching to say you can call off the dogs. (Also to clarify: Dallas Academy specializes in kids with learning disabilities, but it’s for the likes of ADD and dyslexia. It’s not a Special Olympics team.)

But if Covenant was so ashamed at Grimes’ alleged conduct, it should have apologized the day after the game — not nine days later, after the blowout attracted national publicity. . Given Covenant had won many other games of the 77-27 variety, perhaps the school could have said something to Grimes previously about avoiding any rub-it-in-your-face conduct before playing a team that hadn’t won a game in four years. And offering a forfeit? That’s just patronizing.

As usual in this story, the classiest person involved is Dallas Academy athletic director and girls basketball coach Jeremy Civello. From today’s Dallas Morning News:

… Civello said his school accepted the “heartfelt” apology delivered by Covenant’s head of school, Kyle Queal, and athletic director Brice Helton.

Civello said the girls’ team, which hasn’t won a game in his four years there, doesn’t want to be credited with a victory it didn’t earn on the court.

“Covenant has a great team,” Civello said. “We wish them all the best for the rest of the season. We don’t think what happened is a reflection on those girls in any way.

“There are a lot of good people at that school. We hope this blows over.”

Win or lose, if your kids get one coach like Jeremy Civello in their lives, consider yourself fortunate.