Johnson's Latest Coaching Gig a Bit Smaller Scale
November 16, 2011
BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Nets coach Avery Johnson surprised the boys basketball team at Brooklyn's Ronald Edmonds Learning Center (MS 113) by serving as “Coach for a Day” and taking them through an “hour-long” practice than ran 15 minutes long.
After Wednesday’s basketball practice at the Ronald Edmonds Learning Center (M.S. 113), 12-year-old Jamir Cheek was admittedly disappointed, but couldn’t stop smiling. He might not have won a pair of autographed sneakers, but he did come away with some good lessons courtesy of Nets coach Avery Johnson, who surprised the team by serving as “Coach for a Day” and taking them through an “hour-long” practice than ran 15 minutes long.
The boys didn’t mind.
“It was a surprise,” Cheek said. “I was happy when I saw him, and I thank my coach for bringing him here. He taught me a lot of things: like, work on my pivot and (getting) a better stroke on my shot.”
Cheek was one of 11 students, ages 12-14, at the Fort Greene middle school normally coached by Rahmen Anderson. In his seventh year with M.S. 113, Anderson played under and then coached alongside current Nets scout Khalid Green during his tenure at nearby Bishop Loughlin High School in Fort Greene.
Their connection helped spark conversations between Gary Sussman, the Nets’ vice-president of public relations, and Dawnique Daughtry-Pemberton, the school’s principal. Pemberton believes there to be a strong correlation between physical activity and educational excellence, pointing out that the same disciplinary skills that result in sporting success translate well to the classroom.
“We are so excited,” Daughtry-Pemberton said. “I see some of the same qualities (in Coach Johnson) of any good teacher: hard work, setting high expectations – what may seem as if you’re being too hard. Kids will rise to the level of expectation, and so I see some similarities with my classroom teachers, where they’re setting high goals, stopping children when they’re perhaps moving in the wrong direction, redirecting them. But the key is to always set high expectations, that they can do it and they can be the best.”
After introducing himself to the kids, Johnson laid out three expectations he and his staff (assistant coach Tom Barrise and video coordinator Patrick Spurgin) held for the session: 1) That the team would offer their eyes, and pay attention; 2) That they would play with energy; and 3) That they would try to be excellent, no matter what drill or exercise they were undertaking.
The three coaches focused on fundamentals, beginning with footwork, ballhandling and dribbling before moving on to passing, shooting and defensive drills; they finished the practice working on an inbounds play. Johnson then staged a game of “Knockout” for a the aforementioned pair of autographed sneakers, closing with a hushed-volume huddle in which he offered words of encouragement and a reminder that his “hope and dream” was that each applied the same effort they put forth in practice to the classroom as well.
“It was great,” Johnson said. “The kids were really excited. They gave maximum effort and paid attention. It’s just the purest part of the game. Obviously, they don’t get paid, they’re just doing it for the love of the game, and they want to continue getting better. They’re a really good group – we enjoyed our day here with Falcons basketball.”