Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 | 2:05 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer recount their experience coaching the Las Vegas All-Star team against Findlay Prep in basketball and move on to football talk in the 11th Prep Sports Now of the year.
Pity the man who was coaching a group of Southern Nevada basketball standouts in an exhibition game against national power Findlay Prep.
At the start of the third quarter in Saturday’s game, he embarrassed himself by darting onto the court, nearly causing a nasty collision between two players running at full speed.
It wasn’t so much the near calamity he caused but that running onto the court while the clock is running is strictly taboo.
His reason for his on-court faux-pas: Even though a player from his team had been ejected in the first half, the coach wrongly inserted him back in the starting lineup for the start of the second half. The referee immediately scolded the coach for his error, and in a frantic attempt to make amends, the coach went onto the floor to alter his lineup. Bad move.
What awful performance, right? Just don’t be too critical of the coach.
That’s because, for this one night, I was that coach.
Case Keefer, my colleague at the Sun, and I were the coaches for the Halloween Hoops exhibition at Coronado High. Most of the 16 local teams in the three-day tournament to unofficially start the high school season had a player selected for the team.
It was intended to be a fun night, giving these players their crack at proving themselves against Findlay Prep’s roster of five-star recruits and All-Americans. We simply had to give a few words of encouragement, manage the lineup and smile for the cameras.
If it were only that easy. We lost 86-42 — a picture of the scoreboard was taped above our desks when we arrived to work Monday — in a final that could have been much worse. (Thanks to Findlay coach Todd Simon for calling off the dogs.)
All of our players are the stars on their high school teams and are accustomed to playing a majority of the game. We were only able to provide a few minutes every other quarter — similar to a coach trying to empty his bench of reserves in a blowout win.
We were honored that Coronado coach Jeff Kaufman invited us to coach the team but a little apprehensive about taking a seat on the bench. We are good at talking about basketball on our weekly Prep Sports Now podcast, but calling the shots in the heat of the moment during the game is another thing.
One of the my pet peeves in sports is how a parent yells at a coach from the bleachers to make a change to his lineup or formation, or how a reader on a fan message board criticizes a coach for poor decisions during a game.
As Keefer and I painfully learned last Saturday, it’s not that easy.
Sure, Findlay Prep — the Henderson-based power that always is in contention for the national title — is arguably the best high school team in the world, and as Kaufman jokingly said when inviting us, “Not even John Wooden could coach the players you’ll get and beat Findlay.”
When we walked into the gym to see Findlay’s lineup of eight players taller than 6-foot-4, including a pair of 7-footers, even my wife of little sports knowledge sensed trouble and asked why the players we were coaching didn’t have the size. I tried to explain that Findlay was a team of players destined for the NBA, whereas our lineup was primarily athletes hoping for a college scholarship.
When Findlay’s Nigel Williams-Goss drained a 3-pointer on the game’s first possession to put us at an immediate deficit, I turned to Keefer and mentioned how we were in trouble. That was the understatement of the night.
Soon it was 23-6 — thankfully, we eventually scored.
Williams-Goss, who is verbally committed to the University of Washington and ranked as one of the nation’s top-five guards, finished 10-for-10 for 22 points with 11 assists and five steals. Findlay made 31 of 54 shots. Our team made just 14 of 44 attempts, and since all of our players wore jersey No. 13 in keeping with the Halloween spirit, there are no official stats.
Keefer plays in a recreation league, which, when considering I was cut four times from the Chaparral High team in the mid-1990s, made him the expert on our two-man staff. To his credit, he attempted to make in-game alternations and was able to recognize the few things our players were doing well.
I was a reserve on my high school soccer team and knew how it felt to be at the end of the bench waiting for the coach to call my number, letting the task of rotating players in and out dominate my night.
Each received playing time in each half, giving me satisfaction of a job well done. Some players even referred to us as "coach," a title I haven’t heard since coaching youth soccer many, many years ago. I was pretty bad at that, too.
Fortunately, our players Saturday didn’t take themselves that seriously. And because of their good nature, we were able to win the third quarter.
Our coaching surely had nothing to do with flashes of good play, where players such as Desert Pines senior Julian Jacobs, the Stanford-committed Allen twins from Centennial and Bishop Gorman big man Stephen Zimmerman showed why they are top-level college recruits.
More importantly, they are quality kids who played along for the night in allowing two reporters be their "coach."
Next time, I’ll have to remember to stay on the bench.