May 1, 2021
This is not an easy newsletter for me to write. There are two parts: one concerned with Hofstra’s 2020-21 basketball season and one concerned with the upcoming East Williston School District (EWSD) budget vote. There is bad news on both subject matters. In any event, here goes.
- Hofstra’s 2020-21 Men’s Basketball Season
In case anyone forgot, Hostra won its first Colonial Athletic Association (CAA Men’s Basketball Championship) in March 2020, defeating Northeastern 70-61. The teams’ combined wins over its past two years include 26 wins in 2019-20 and 27 wins in the 2018-19 campaign. These 53 wins placed them 14th nationally and was the main reason they won consecutive regular season titles. In addition, Isaac Kante was exceptional with a 65 percent field goal average – 9th in the nation. They were worthy champions in 2020 but, alas, the COVID-19 struck and the NCAA Tournament was cancelled.
The bad news continued following the conclusion of the 2019-20 season when coach Joe Mehalich took sick and has retired from basketball. The new season brought forth a new coach with Kante selected on the CAA’s preseason first team plus Jalen Ray and Tareq Coburn were preseason honorable mentions. I was pretty certain they were going to have another great year. But, the team’s performance turned out to be less than stellar. They arrived at the CAA Championship Tournament with high hopes but failed miserably.
My notes on this past season are listed below:
- They continued to play zone defense; even mediocre teams don’t play zone.
- There was no hustle on defense – a characteristic of many zone defenses with players confused at times as to who was guarding who.
- They couldn’t hit 3-pointers with any consistency.
- There was often poor shot selection.
- The other teams were simply better.
What makes for a winning team? Here is what legendary coach Rollie Massimino offered in my Basketball Coaching 101 book: “Every team has an identity and for me it is family. The magic word is WE. We are all together. Most of our family of players, coaches, etc., regularly contact each other for Christmas. I also still get calls from my gang at the beginning of each season wishing me well.” The Hofstra team? They looked like a pickup team; it was as if the 5 players had just been introduced. The bench? It appeared comatose most of the time. I once half-jokingly mentioned that “if you hope to win a championship, you’d better be with people you love.” Now I don’t think of it as a joke.
Next season? Look for them to rebound with a new coach. The new coach? What a great choice: Craig “Speedy” Claxton. Speedy played at Hofstra and won the Haggerty Award (top New York metropolitan player) as a senior. He followed that with 7 years in the NBA. Hopefully, he will not follow in the same footsteps as Chris Midlin. One thing we know is that Hofstra has had a really fabulous record of recruiting top guards and this included both Speedy and Juan’ya Green plus my favorite – Charles Jenkins. More recently, Speedy was apparently responsible for not only recruiting but also developing Justin Wright-Foreman and Desure Buie. Let’s hope the tradition will continue since it is guards who bring home championships. Regarding Speedy, my dear friend and mentor, Jack Powers, former Executive Director of the NIT, had this to offer: “He is a wonderful kid, a quality person, a credit to our sport, and certain to succeed. Rick Cole made a great choice.” My sentiments … exactly.
II. The East Williston School District (EWSD) Budget Vote
Over the years, I have been critical of teachers for taking yearly salary increases at a time when many people in the private sector are being laid off, taking salary cuts, or losing their benefits. Such is the situation this year.
A question we engineers often ask when evaluating a scheme, proposal, contract, etc., is as follows: Is it cost-effective and is there sufficient accountability? When applied to education, most school boards, school administrators, and teachers have conveniently avoided answering this question. In fact, these individuals continue to try to convince concerned taxpayers that taxes need to be raised further if our children are to receive a quality education. Our teachers also maintain that they are dedicated professionals. What in the world is the rest of the workforce? To hear the teachers you would think they were God’s gift to society. Regarding our teachers, I have more respect for the NYC teacher, who I believe is as dedicated, if not more, because they are exposed to combat duty, often on a daily basis. Furthermore, one need only compare the recent conduct of teachers with 9/11 first responders and the COVID-19 pandemic health care workers.
Needless to say, I shall vote against the budget since it contains increases and not reductions in teachers’ salaries and benefits. I suggest District taxpayers do likewise. Remember, it is Okay to vote NO on the budget.
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Here are this month’s three offensive suggestions from the upcoming second edition of my “BASKETBALL COACHING 101” book.
- Every attempt should be made to exploit the team’s offensive capabilities against the opponent’s defensive weaknesses.
- Players should learn to dribble with either hand.
- Players should learn to shoot with either hand.