Flashback: BeefLoaf’s Stories of DeLaSalle Meteors basketball – Coaching is More than X’s and O’s

I love playing basketball, more than any other sport, it’s the one that always makes me happy when I am out there playing….well, almost always.


I am not sure how high school basketball is run these days, but there used to be a certain cadence, a certain order of things when you were going to clash with an opponent, particularly one in your own league. Let’s take a typical Friday night / Saturday morning set up….

Friday 5:45 pm – Sophomore game

Friday 7:30 pm – Varsity game

Saturday 9:30 am – JV game

Saturday 11 am – Freshman A game

Saturday 12:30 pm – Freshman B game

Those of us that played basketball in the Catholic League in the 1990’s know this set up well. I think most of it is self-explanatory, except for the Saturday 9:30am slot. If we already have a Sophomore game AND a couple of Freshman games, then wtf is this JV game?? Well, I’m happy to explain. The JV game is basically a scrimmage game with the Sophomores that play at 5:45 the night before who you think are likely to end up on your Varsity team the next season AND the Juniors who’s asses were nailed to the bench in the 7:30 Varsity game from the night before, because well, they should get used to playing with those Sophomores because in theory those two groups will make up the following year’s Varsity team.


By some confluence of events I ended up in both groups (as a Sophomore on the Sophomore team, I started, and played a lot of minutes, so my stock was rising AND as a Junior, my ass was nailed to the bench, in fact, Tony Rappold, at the end of year banquet made a comment about how he wish he would’ve played me more during the season), so for 2 fucking years, I played in those games. Now, don’t get my wrong I’ll take my minutes where I can get them, but I’d much rather be sleeping in, than being at some freezing cold gym at 8:45am in and around the greater Chicagoland area where the maintenance people are just turning on the lights and you are lucky to get two referees to show up.

SIDE NOTE: The real “name” players were never fucking playing in these bullshit JV games, except for one time, Rico Hill from Brother Rice must have been in the doghouse with the coaches and he showed up for one of these games, but generally you were usually getting regular ass guys, not the dudes crushing the AAU circuit.

Weber High School (back in the day)

This takes me back to our story, so I did always play in these games because minutes are minutes and ball is life. This particular Saturday morning, we were at 5252 West Palmer, aka Weber High School #RIPIP and our head coach for the mornings festivities was one of my favorite people I’ve ever encountered in a school setting and that is Steve Hopkins (“Coach Hops”), more on him in a minute. This game stands out because I think we only had like 7 players show up that morning, so instead of the usual about half game you’d get most of us were going to play the whole game, which is good…..right?

This is Coach Hops…..btw, nice flow coach!

RIGHT!! My offensive game was going good, sailing into the final few minutes of this glorified scrimmage, I had a tidy double double in the books….on DEFENSE, HOWEVER…..whooo boy!! You see at DeLaSalle we always played man to man defense, so you learned that from the minute you walked in the door and that was basically all we ever played. We’d occasionally throw a zone press in there or a drop zone if we had the personnel, but it was basically man to man. My assignment that morning was going horribly. I couldn’t tell you the kids name, but he had to have put 35 points on me and if Chorizy comes in here and says it was 45 points, I’d believe that too because I was getting my got-damn ass worn out. It was one of those things where I had nowhere to hide, this kid was lighting me up, but there was nobody on the bench to save me and no other matchup was gonna work for me (yes, i likely would’ve fared worse against another basketballer than the one that had 35 pts on me, YAY DEFENSE!).


Anywho, we are coming down the end of the game, final few seconds, down 1 point, I get loose and behind the defense and one of the guards hits me with a pass streaking to the basket, I catch and go up and get absolutely clobbered, so it’s time to go to the free throw line for two shots, down 1 point. As anyone who has played basketball with me can attest to, I am a below average free throw shooter, not quite as bad as Shaq, but not good. My first free throw was a my keyster is tight and I am afraid to lose this fucking game free throw…heavy and short, lipping the front end of the rim. Then the unthinkable happens.



Yes, whoever the fuck was coaching the Weber JV team decided to ice me. Can you believe that shit? This is a glorified practice and this dude is icing me. Anyways,…we get to our bench and Coach Hops sits us down and starts barking instructions, but he says something very important “When BeefLoaf makes this free throw, we are going to…….” It may be cliche, but in that moment, getting my ass worn out by some no-name kid that has 35 points on me, the other teams coach trying to freeze me out with seconds left and make me the scapegoat for my squad, I just needed someone to believe in my ass and thank goodness Coach Hops did. I rolled back out there after the timeout, SPLASH on my free throw to tie the game, we went to OT and finally won.

Purely a dramatization of my actual shot, but you get the idea

Coaching / Teaching is just so much more than X’s and O’s or passing a test, it’s connecting with the pupil in a way that allows them to bring out what’s best in them, rise to the occasion and do things you maybe don’t believe they can do. This was a small thing, but it’s 25 got-damn years later and it still matters to me. See, if you make a real difference in someone’s life maybe they’ll write about you in their shitty blog that LITERALLY dozens of people will read.

Thanks Coach Hops, for that….and everything else.



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