Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pink Whistle: Bergenfield vs. St. Dominic's

BY RAY FLORIANI

Bergenfield 34 St. Dominic’s 11

Jersey City, NJ ­- A week ago Saturday afternoon was a JV girls game that is worth recounting as it touched on several topics. It was off to St. Peter’s Prep, as St. Dominic hosted Bergenfield.

I arrived early, while the varsity game is in the third quarter, and met with my partner, Bob Anderson. Three decades ago, yours truly coached in high school, spending two years at Secaucus High School. Anderson was head coach and hired me to be freshman coach and varsity assistant. As a freshman coach, I had a not-so-good first year, followed by a good second year. Believe me, I made my share of mistakes on the sidelines. As a varsity assistant, a major part of my job was advanced scouting, which I loved and poured myself into. The varsity was very successful, led by Ken Mack, a 6­-9 center who later played at Saint Peter’s. In my last year, we were beaten in the state sectional final by Rutherford, a very good team we had beaten a few weeks earlier. During the postgame disappointment, I can still remember Anderson’s message to the players, as he hoped they all had fun playing that year. Sometimes, that message is lost.

After two years, I gave it up to return to school for more post-graduate work. I stayed in touch with Anderson, who soon gave up coaching and went into officiating. He later talked me into it, and almost 30 years later, I haven’t not looked back.

The late Edgar Cartotto, a respected mentor and officiating clinician, often said “all officials should coach at some point and all coaches should officiate.” He was right with that statement. Coaching, briefly and not outstanding by any stretch, helped me as an official. I would never want to go back to clipboards and early Saturday practices, but the experience was truly invaluable.

St. Dominic’s, a team I had about three weeks ago, is much improved. At the half, it is a two-possession game, as they trail and enter the break in striking distance. The second half is all Bergenfield. The visitors get out in transition and run an effective zone offense. By the fourth quarter, the home five is worn down. Bergenfield is too deep, and turns it into a rout.

The improvement of St. Dominic’s is significant. As noted previously, the win-­loss record can be deceptive. The bottom line is if kids are learning and truly come to practice and games in an upbeat frame of mind. That is coaching. Coach Kaitlyn Gelati said the team had gotten a lot better as the weeks progressed. There are many things to improve on, and she agreed job one is teaching the kids shot selection. As I found out coaching freshmen, you can get caught up in teaching offenses and defenses, yet overlook the basics­, such as identifying what is and isn’t a good shot. Kaitlyn’s best player from the last time I officiated them was out with a bad ankle sprain, but the good news is she would be back soon.

I have worked with Bob before, but it has been too many years since we paired on an assignment. As it was in his coaching days, he does a solid job, with good judgment and court coverage. We had a good and enjoyable game together. “I’ll tell Pat (Devaney, our assignor) to get us together more often,” he said on departing the gym.

Three decades removed from being on the sidelines, those memories were great to share, as was our present endeavor of working and managing a game on the floor.


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