As a senior in high school applying to the University of Pennsylvania – a school to which I was accepted but ultimately chose not to attend – I wrote a moving and intellectual essay about my dream of coaching the Los Angeles Lakers to championship victory at Staples Center. (OK, intellectual may be pushing it; as I recall I started the essay with “…and that’s when it happened.”)
Fourteen years later I stand at half court on that very same floor. The logo says “Clippers” in bright cursive, but the feeling is even more real. For the fourth time I am about to coach a basketball game on the court that I imagined as a silly teenager. One of my dreams (kind of) became a reality.
Being a coach is wonderful. It also really sucks. You live and die by the actions of your players. As I watch them run up and down the court, giving their all I am filled with a sense of longing to be out there with them. When they come up just short (as they did yesterday at Staples) I am left with all the pain and none of the sweat to have earned it. I am simultaneously proud and disappointed. I want to hug them while strangling them. I find a million things that I should’ve done differently to help them. I understand why Bobby Knight threw chairs.
Playing on the floor where legends have stood fills me with a sense of awe; I marvel at just how ridiculous it is that I get such opportunity. I close my eyes and see Shaq and Kobe connecting on one of their championship plays. I remember the roar of the crowd as 20,000 of us packed that arena screaming our lungs out for a win. I sit in Doc Rivers’ chair, mocking his voice and trying to channel that same inner fire. When I open my eyes I see the 100 or so fans who’ve come out to see us play and they are just as loud and enthusiastic.
I’m glad they’re on our side. If only some of them could play….