Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Waiting For Godunk: On Coaching, the Big Dance and Smelly Frenchmen

My name is Kevin Owens and I have been playing professional basketball for the past six years. I decided to start a blog documenting my daily life. I have a degree in journalism and haven't written anything since college, so I figured why not. I don't particularly think I am that interesting, however when telling people about the traveling circus that is my life, they seem very entertained. I'll be contributing some of those stories once a week here at HHR. You can also now catch me on Twitter @Waiting4Godunk. Hope you enjoy!


I have a little confession to make...I have been waiting to go play for a few months now, but I recently turned down several opportunities. I had the chance to workout for a D-League team and was also offered a deal from a PBL (Premier Basketball League) team. I turned them both down because my dream job became available…A chance to join the staff of a local collegiate basketball program. At this point in my career, I feel the need to start looking towards the future. Coaching would be my first choice.

I have been teaching basketball lessons to students of all ages for the past seven years. During that time I have really honed my coaching skills. I’ve worked with quite a few players who have gone on to successful Division I careers. I believe I will make a great coach one day.

However, passing on jobs is a little stressful. I have never been the best decision maker. If I were ever on Let’s Make a Deal I would walk away with a goat every time.

‘Maybe I should take this deal and pass on coaching…Nah, I’m a shoe in.’

‘Perhaps I should retire from basketball and move on with my life…No way, teams will be knocking down my door.’

‘Perchance I shouldn’t invest in AIG…C’mon, They sponsor Man United, their stock will never drop.’

‘Maybe I should not sell my enormous pick-up truck…Nah, What do I need four wheel drive for?…It’s not like we ever get a blizzard in South Jersey.’

Anyway, the main reason I am so enamored with coaching is because of the atmosphere. I love college basketball. There is so much more passion in collegiate athletics than in the pros. When I think back to the most passionate fans I ever played in front of, it has to be from my sophomore year in college…The most enjoyable, rewarding and memorable season of my career.

Let me set the scene for the Monmouth University Hawks 2000-2001 season. We were a proverbial walking-mat for the NEC (Northeast Conference). During the two seasons prior to 1999, we were 4-23 and 5-21. That’s when we developed the nucleus that would take us to the first NCAA tournament appearance of my career.

During the 1999-2000 season, my freshman year, we acquired two transfers named Gerry Crosby and Rahsaan Johnson. We finished 12-16, respectable for the program at the time. During that summer we took a visit to France and Switzerland…and that is when it happened. It was the fourth quarter of a rough and meaningless game between MU and some random French team. We were playing in what felt like a grade school gym in the middle of August.

Gerry Crosby had the ball on the sideline when a large smelly Frenchmen (trust me I was guarding this monster all game) elbowed Gerry directly in the mouth. G retaliated and the benches cleared. Now, I never believed I would be in a brawl. If I did, I guess I envisioned lots of snapping and dancing. However this was intense. It all happened so fast. I remember having an attempted roundhouse kick flung my direction by a surprisingly limber gentleman. I also remember getting a jab in on a guy half my size. The next thing I know we are being dragged off the court by our coaches. In the locker room after that game something changed. We developed a trust. We realized we are not alone…we were all in this together.

We took that attitude into the season and finished with 21 wins, the most regular season wins in school history. We rolled through the playoffs…until the championship game. That night we played St. Francis (NY), with an NCAA tournament bid on the line. You may have watched it on ESPN. It was the game with no fans. We played in front of a raucous crowd of about 200 people. A powerful snowstorm blanketed the east coast making travel conditions a little shaky. Or at least that’s the excuse my roommates gave me.

As the game wound down we found ourselves in a deep hole. Down by over twenty points with less than fourteen minutes remaining we started to mount, what is now known in Monmouth inner circles, as “The Comeback.”

Little by little the lead was chipped away until it was 61-59 with just over a minute remaining. That is when our two leaders took over. Rahsaan drove into the middle of the lane and kicked to Crosby who buried a three giving us a one point lead, and we never looked back.

In the NCAA tournament we drew, quite possibly, the best Duke team in school history. Although we lost, I still maintain the game was much closer then the 95-52 score indicated. In that game I played against two future teammates. Casey Sanders, my teammate in the D-League, and Nick Horvath my teammate and now good friend, in New Zealand. It’s funny how small the world is when you are seven feet tall.

I was reminded of the Monmouth team this week by a posting on Facebook. It’s amazing how different everyone’s lives are now, but how strong the bonds still remain. I still pop in the highlight tape of “the comeback” every once in a while…or when I can find a VCR that still works.

Who would have thought a seven foot Frenchman would have impacted our lives so drastically. If I could meet this man now, I probably would shake his hand…or offer him some soap.

RIP Jay Dooley…teammate, friend, champion

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