Princeton Principles

Watch the man in front of you, he tells you what to do!

CCJCC Maccabi Basketball – “Happy to be here”!

Greetings CCJCC Maccabi athletes, families and supporters from soggy Springfield, Mass. It’s been raining here since the moment we landed safely yesterday at 9 AM am…it’s now 11:04 PM and there’s no talk of it letting up until later tomorrow if then.

That said basketball of course is an indoor sport so we are completely unaffected by the weather and truly having a great experience already.

We are blessed with a completely awesome group of kids, each of whose character was tested and validated “awesome” already. I’m proud to be their coach and all of you should be proud to be connected to these guys……I’m happy to be here!

I use that phrase because it’s the theme of a story I told our guys 45 minutes before we walked out on the court to play a very good team from Cherry Hill, N.J. that jumped all over us and then after we offered mild resistance re-jumped all over us beating us by 20+ points.

This team ran well, they shot it incredibly well (13 “3 pointers”) and basically were quicker to the ball on nearly every opportunity.

I’m not sure our guys had any idea what hit them even though I was well aware that something like this could happen in Game #1 on Day #1 at the Maccabi Games.

A quick story that I shared with our team this morning and one I repeat often to explain why I knew a game like our first one today could happen; it’s both true and relates to many things in life at least from my perspective……….

The very first year I was a Head Coach at the Maccabi Games was 2004 in Houston. I was coaching for Palo Alto JCC (Contra Costa had not yet developed a Maccabi presence). Our team that year was a good team with a great bunch of guys. We had practiced together but we had NEVER played a game together. Certainly my fault but just the same that was the situation.

In our very first game that year we ran into a “buzz-saw” team from Chicago who took advantage of our nerves and lack of game experience and got out to a big lead which they never did relinquish…no happy ending at least for this particular game.

We had on our team that year a young man who was then and still is a very competitive and precocious individual.

During the middle of this first game on this first day of the Games he started to yell at me from the floor, directing me as to what we needed to be doing etc. After a minute or so of absorbing this rant I suggested that he and the rest of our team “just play”……………my thinking being just to get our feet wet. Again this was Day #1 and the Games last for four days.

Please know I’ve made plenty of mistakes as a coach including a few in our first game today but this suggestion to “just play” was not one of them.

After my suggestion/admonition this young man waved his hand at me (essentially in disgust) from the floor, in the middle of the game and in front of all of his teammates.

I proceeded to call a time-out simply reminding our guys that this was

  • Our first game
  • That we needed to build momentum AND
  • Above all they needed to realize the privilege they had simply to be in Houston representing their delegation.

“Raise your hand if you’re happy to be here” I said to the guys during this particular timeout. Each one of them did except the one who thought….well to this day I’m not sure what he thought. He was our best player and seemed smart enough to know to raise his hand even if he was lying.

As soon as I noticed his lack of response….he wasn’t happy to be there I subbed him out.

We continued to play, without him out there, we continued to lose but most of us established that this was a special opportunity and that savoring each minute was a worthy goal.

Five minutes of play went by and ultimately our “star” came up to me and said “Coach, I’m ready to go in”. I replied, Adam “I’m not interested if you’re ready to go in I want to know when you’re “happy to be here”!

He walked away again! The first game on the first day of the Maccabi Games and we had someone who for some reason didn’t seem to appreciate the opportunity to be there.

About 3-4 more minutes passed and this young man with who I remain friends and a mentor to to this day came up to me FINALLY and said “Coach, I’m happy to be here”………..back in he went, we went on to win a number of games that year our last game in double overtime on Day #4 that year. Adam went on to play for me  two more times and as I said we remain close to this day.

Immediately following our first game today I reminded the guys that we talked about a game like that happening and that it was now officially over….the only thing that really mattered now was our next game which was starting in a mere 90 minutes and were they “happy to be here”

They were reminded of our theme “YaChad”, “together” and how often we discussed that in each practice……………it was a word then but now we would find out if we could “walk our talk” in the next game.

The structure of the overall event makes winning games the first two days a bit less important then playing well; I was not pressuring them so much to win as to compete and leave the last game where it belonged.

To the credit of these guys they did what they needed to do in Game #2, leaving Game #1 behind except to use for learning. Each of them proving they were in fact “happy to be here”!

I too am happy to be here and deeply appreciative for the privilege to work with this group. We may not win another game, we may win a Gold Medal but I know these guys will compete for themselves and for one and other.

This makes me proud as it should each of you, their support system, the ones who have helped instill their obviously high values.

As a parent of two young adults I know you may not always see them as I do now but I can assure you that each of these guys knows right from wrong and as simple as that may seem it’s a huge accomplishment!

I apologize in advance for the length of this first blog post from the Games but I want to do my best to share with each of you what it’s like to be here and that your sons, Megan and I are (again) happy to be here!

Tomorrow we play two very good team (Miami and Los Angeles, Milkan). While I obviously have no idea the outcome, your kids, our team will not lose from a lack of effort or character.

Special thanks to Carl Bass and his 80+ year old mom, The Kobre’s (Kim, Shaw & Alec (a former CCJCC player), their Uncle Barry, Josh Mandel and Sam’s aunt and last but certainly not least Jeff Orlik for all of your support here at the Games….it means a great deal to me having you folks here!


Coach Barry

P.S. Judith and Dave you both of course are missed

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