Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Eulogy for Larry Benson

I can hear the angels laughing when they met Larry at the gates of heaven and he said to them, Did you hear about the man whose wife ran away with the police officer?" He had such a great sense of humor.

Larry found and became closer to many things in the later years of his life. One of those was Betty. I rarely saw him as happy as when he was around her. They were kindred spirits living in the country as they did. Larry found great pleasure in taking Betty on short day trips, always having fun humorous stories to tell after each one.

Although Larry had a strong faith before he met Betty, his faith expanded right here in this church. They even sang a duet together at one service. It disappointed Larry when his health problems limited him from attending service.

One of Larry’s greatest strengths was his unconditional love for his family-be it Betty, his daughters, brothers and sisters, his mom and dad, aunts and uncles or cousins. He loved being around them for a day of fishing, a night of playing cards, or an afternoon to tell stories. He did not want anyone to go unnoticed or unrecognized making sure that all in attendance were happy and taken care of. One of the last times we spoke he talked about Randy fishing down at Red Rock and times we had fished together.

Larry looked forward to the summers when his daughters, grandchildren, and Betty’s grandchildren would come and visit. He would find numerous adventures for them as well as making sure they spent time around their aunts, uncles and cousins.

Judy was telling me about the Sunday before he passed away. Darlene, Larry and she had such a wonderful conversation. One of the highlights for Larry that day was to watch the movie, “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”. He and I would sit and give quotes from the movie to each other. One he particularly liked was when Delmer said, “Them sirens turned Pete into a horny toad.”

Larry always gave me so much of his time and energy. When mom passed away, I was traveling; and when I got home, he helped me make arrangements, clean the house inside and out, and handle a tough time in my life. Another time was when I was having plumbing trouble with my house, Larry spent an entire weekend helping me fix it.




Another great story was when I took a car down to Texas for a friend. Larry and I drove 2000 miles in 40 hours. We were outside of Wichita Falls and I was driving down the toll way at 2:00 in the morning, I hit a raccoon about the size of a baby calf. Larry was sleeping in the passenger seat, he sat up and said, “Did you hit the baby?” Man we laughed about that.

As kind and fun as Larry was, he also was one of the most competitive people I have ever been around. When I was young Les and Linda had a ping pong table in the basement. Larry and I would play games down there for hours. Every game was a big deal. It drove me crazy because I could not beat him if my life depended on it.

It doesn’t matter what you were doing. If you were fishing, you were competing to catch the smallest, largest, most, and most kinds of fish. It was so much fun. He loved going to Kansas City and fishing with Johnny. He also had some of the best times of his life in Canada fishing with the family as well, or going down to Arkansas and fishing down there.


One of the most enjoyable times I ever had watching Larry compete was one day when I went out to lunch with Jerry and Larry at a place that had a pool table in Cresco. They played doubles against a couple guys for a dollar and beat them five times in a row. Each shot was like they were playing best shot golf against Judy for a quarter a hole down in Kansas City. They would stand over the table and talk about angles for the next shot. It drove those guys up the wall.

Larry took great pride in graduating from Dinsdale. Recently Marie and I went down to see Larry and Betty, and she took Larry’s senior year book with us. Larry was very prominent in it and had great success in baseball and basketball as well as other activities when he was in high school. Larry found much happiness going over every page of that year book.


When Marie called me that terrible morning, I became very selfish. I cried and I thought God had taken a person I considered a brother and a friend. Then I thought again and said to myself, “Maybe God needs someone with a great sense of humor right now.” If you met Larry one time, you were his friend for life. He cared deeply for all that he met. To Betty and her family, Deanna, Marie, Jerry, Judy, Darlene, Randy and all of his grandkids, be comforted with the warmth of all of the wonderful memories of Larry. I wish the angels peace as Larry brings his happiness and laughter to them.

Monday, March 2, 2015

State Tournament

State Tournament

To the players, coaches, managers, and girls' basketball family at Crestwood High School



            The state tournament, The state tournament, THE STATE TOURNAMENT!!!!



            This is what you players have been searching for the last 10 years of your basketball life, coaches your adult life and your high school life, parents you have dreamed this for your daughters and lived the peeks and valleys with them.

            This is what you have sacrificed your weekends and your summers for, this is why you have given up those Christmas vacation trips for, fought nagging injuries for, lived through disappointments and successes, went to basketball camps for and traveled countless miles to play, practice, or watch basketball.
           
            You are now bound by one common event that will make you a special extended family, an event that will be remembered the rest of your lives. When one of the girls get married you will gather for her wedding and you will relive the memories of this season, when you have a common moment together you will look at each other and smile and realize that what you have in common is truly special. When every Crestwood basketball team starts a season together they will be working for what you now have.
           
            Please remember that everyone on your team deserves credit; the managers that hustle, work, and cheer for the team, the coaches that have worked and given up hours from their own family to help you achieve this dream, the player 1-15 as well as JV team that has scrimmaged, drilled, competed in practice, competed in games for one common goal a chance to play in Wells Fargo. Last but surely not least, the parents that have sacrificed countless hours for their children.
           
You will have many incredible moments the next week. Value, cherish and enjoy every single one. Enjoy the journey as well as the final destination. As I close this letter I must tell you what an honor and a pleasure it is to be a Crestwood grad  and know how happy you must be.




In the name of the game,



Jim Gillespie

Jesup Iowa

Monday, February 2, 2015

Gary Smith

I have been blessed to have been around some great educators in my life. One of them is Coach Gary Smith, the former Redlands men basketball coach. In this email he sent out recently, he talks about the Sacramento State women basketball team and how they practice and execute in games. Thanks Gary for letting me post this.

"Thought the group might be interested in the goings on at Sacramento State with Bunky Harkleroad.  They are 7-1 in conference, 1st place, after two very impressive home blow outs last week.  They are in Montana for two games - tonight and Saturday afternoon.  Their slow start was largely a result of the very tough schedule but also that the many new recruits had to adjust to this new style.

So how are they doing it.  Of most interest might be the fact that Sac State does not assign press positions or lanes to run on Offense or Defense.  They communicate and take the near position.  The only person, offensively, running the same position is the point guard.  The closest person to the ball on an opponents made field goal takes the ball OB and becomes the trailer; the lanes they run are all dependent on where they are on made basket.  This results in all kinds of combinations with no predictability (more to learn ie. the slow start but also more difficult to prepare for).  They subscribe to the preferred shooter concept very effectively in running the double or triple stagger screen action, ala Grinnell.

 Defensive the same thing is in effect, the near person fills the various press positions.  Last season most all conference opponents had success vs. Sac State by playing defense while on offense (spreading the floor, turning down shots, often lay ups, in the first 15-20 seconds of a possession) and the expectation was that they'd have success with that again this season.  Well it hasn't turned out that way.  They have evolved to two groups, each doing different things defensively.  One group zone presses with traps, lag denial gapping off the ball (similar to what most/many system teams do).  The other (once league play has started) is picking up in full court denial man defense (again, find the near person and play) and then they are in a quite aggressive "run and jump" defense with significant "heat" on the ball.  The two looks create constant pressure in different ways and they've improved execution of rotations, chases and so forth consistently throughout the season.

Offensively they have a few sets they run to create options quickly for specific players.  They are adept by now at drive and pitch and have multiple people who can execute this within their early offense or their 5 out (or 4 out 1 in) alignments with pass and a- go cut b- screen w/ dive cut c- screen with back cut d- fake screen and slip or e- fade screen -- all quickly into drive and pitch.  OREB's have been a huge emphasis from day one.  They spend a great deal of time, early to mid season, on skill development (dribbling, handling, passing, lay ups and, of course, shooting) along with more non scrimmage cardio work in skill drills than one might expect.  75% or so of drills have a score kept with losers paying a price.

Bunky has a very good staff and he consistently delegates practice responsibility.  They make considerable adjustments to their "script" as the game progresses; his assistant in charge of this played for him and coached with him at Glenville State before coming west with him.  He has one local coach, a local high school legend known throughout california for his pressure defense, who has major role with team. The other assistant is in charge of, among other things, the post players -- where in a good number of breakdowns he works on post skill development; it has been interesting to see the improvement in this area positively impacting game play.

They are very exciting to watch and have engendered considerable community interest and support.  The Hornet "nest" comes alive when they play.

gary

This coach has learned a great deal in watching them practice play."

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vinny Curta


Coach Mike Curta of Eisenhower High School  sent out a letter talking about his point guards record setting 34 assist night. He was kind enough to let me publish it here on my blog. By the way, his point guard is his son.


"Hi Coaches,

It has been an interesting month for the Cardinals to this point. We are currently at 12-7 (5-3). We have a two game lead in our league and have rebounded nicely after going through a three game skid over the first two weeks of January. The injury and illness bug has gotten us a bit which has caused some adjustments in shifts and rotations but the kids have continued to play hard and through those things. This brings us to last night's game against a Chicago Public School, Benito Juarez. We had a pretty good idea that they were not going to be very competitive based on some of the scores that we were getting, and ten minutes into warmups this was confirmed. It was going to be a severe mismatch. I had talked with the seniors and mentioned that this might be a good game to try and break a record, and they came up with the plan:
 
They wanted to get my son the state record for assists in a game (old record 33) and our other top player the school scoring record of 53. Turns out our scorer was out sick yesterday so we modified the plan to strictly go for the assists based on the kids and what they were looking to do. I actually gave Vinny the option of what he would like to try for, and he went with assists. Looking back this really kept all of our kids involved and a big part of the accomplishment. What unfolded was a very interesting and strange game.
 
Our rule was that the first shot taken in any possession was to be taken only on a pass from Vinny unless we got a steal in the backcourt or on an uncontested offensive rebound. We are not the most basketball savvy group, so the kids took it to the extreme and no one would shoot at any time unless Vinny passed the ball. He had 11 assists in the first quarter and 22 by halftime. It actually helped keep the game somewhat workable because the score could have been really lopsided at the half. Starting the second half our opponent decided that they would not defend against Vinny. They had been playing zone in the first half and in the second they sort of matched-up with our four other guys in the game and left Vinny open. I must add that Vinny took a total of two shots in the game. A floater in the lane instead of taking a 3 second call and a three when he was left completely open and the opposing team was yelling "shoot it". It was a bit weird to watch Vinny to continue to try and find spot up shooters and cutters while basically being unguarded.....I am sure any purists either at the game or watching the stream had to have been horrified. We continued to do our thing through the third and into the fourth. With about five minutes to go in the game and the assist count at 30, our opponent pulled out the ball and decided to not attempt a shot. We chased and trapped, and then instructed our kids to allow them to score so we could keep the pace going. They wouldn't shoot the ball. Twice we stood and watched their player get to the rim uncontested and with no one near him and he stopped, looked at the rim and then tossed it back out. We were able to turn them over and keep going to a degree...there was roughly a 35-40 point differential at this point. There next strategy was to foul Vinny when he crossed half court to not allow him to make the assist pass. He finally tied then broke the record and after their second foul I felt it wise to remove him so as not to sustain an injury. There was nothing malicious about the fouls, however there was no need to take a chance, or so we thought.
 
This is what we learned:
1. The opportunity to do something like this with a good group of kids is priceless. Everyone was a part of it and they all kept track of when they made a shot off his pass. Kids knew the number in their head throughout the game. We had several kids come out of the game visibly upset after taking what for them was a questionable shot. They were apologizing for hurting Vinny's chances at the record. Of course they did not do this on purpose, but it was great to see kids pulling for each other like that.
2. A practice at how to play in this situation would have been helpful. We went into the game cold because of the changes and with the score getting out of control and everyone focused on his assists, the game was a bit strange.
3. Social media is a powerful tool. Within an hour after the game, through Twitter, USA Today picked up the story as well as local newspaper and television outlets. Not sure if more will come of it, but the fact that our program was out there in the spotlight for a brief moment was great for the kids. It really energized our team in a tough part of the season.
4. This particular record was really beneficial for a number of kids. We had two boys who had not shot the ball well find their groove at different points during the game and you could see their confidence swell. I think that this could be extremely valuable to us for our next conference game on Fridayas well as the home stretch of the season.
5. Finally, to be able to do something like this and having the support of all of the kids was really special for my son. To share his night with him and see the respect that he got from his teammates was something that I will never forget. And then to get home and talk with him, the family, and my son Nick calling from Grinnell was once in a lifetime. I wish all of you could have seen his face when he heard from Coach Dave in Reno and then spoke with Coach A about the game....what more could a dad ask!
 
Thats' it for now. Good luck to everyone playing this week.
 
Curta
Eisenhower"

Monday, January 19, 2015

How Bad Do You want It?

When there us something that you want, ask yourself this question; "How bad do you want it?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Talent

Talented people must face contention in order to appreciate success.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Questions From Parents to Athletes


"Three things you should ask your son/daughter after a game: 1. Are you hurt? 2. Did you have fun? 3. What do you want to eat?"
 Doug Weber



Picture from http://www.fencing.net