Christmas is a time when the stores that started advertising the holiday season about Halloween has to finally find some new theme, likely Valentine’s Day.
Christmas is a time the all-Christmas music radio stations finally have to find new music to put on the airways.
Christmas is a time when fat guys in red suits are more popular than the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny.
Christmas also is a time for college basketball teams to make long trips to warm climates to play games in front of much smaller crowds. They also play in strange gyms. They often have to leave their comfort zone.
That’s what I have been doing for the past week. For the last 15 years, I have played both small and large parts in putting together holiday basketball events in Hawaii. I brought my own teams to Hawaii many times.
It’s really interesting to see how coaches and the fans handle their time in paradise. Personally, I asked my team to give me complete focus for three hours two different times in Hawaii. The rest of their time was their own.
I felt good how that worked. Over the years, we beat teams we shouldn’t have and even losses were closer than expected. The team would have one big meal. We would invite the parents. It was a great evening. The rest of the time, I gave my players a per diem for the rest of their meals.
Curfews were extended to midnight on game days and 2:00 am other evenings. I would sit in the lobby checking everyone in. There were some memorable events during the non-basketball focus.
My favorite story with one of my players came during my years at Northwest Missouri State University. I had a senior player that had gathered a lot of attention on the beach from one of the football teams that was participating in the Hawaii Bowl.
They encouraged her to attend a bikini contest in a nearby bar that night. She came to me to ask permission. As you might suspect, my first reaction was absolutely not. Then I had one of my better ideas.
Both her parents were on the trip. Both parents taught at a nearby Christian high school. The family was very devoted. I figured there was no way she would ever get the parents’ blessing. I told her if it was okay with her parents it was okay by me.
Much to my shock, the parents told her to go have fun. I couldn’t believe it, but now I had a player that was about to go to a bar packed with college football players. I told her she had to take three teammates and had to personally check in with me when she got back.
At the very stroke of 2 am, the bikini contest player and three teammates show up in the lobby of the hotel where I was waiting. It was a cool evening in Honolulu and the player that competed in the bikini contest was in jeans and a jacket.
I asked her how she had done. The player got a strange look on her face, reached into her jeans jacket pocket and pulled out a bunch of wadded up bills. She smiled and informed me she had won.
There have been 13 games with 13 teams this week in Hawaii. It’s been very interesting watching the coaches handle the stresses of paradise. Some coaches are very steady and positive. Some coaches are loud and very negative.
I took all the teams to Pearl Harbor. Just to show you how different coaches look at things, the trip to Pearl Harbor tells it all. I was unable to get tickets in advance for the USS Arizona Memorial. I wasn’t overly concerned because I knew a way to get everyone to the Memorial.
We only were able to get tickets for a couple of teams. I would take the teams without tickets to the overflow line. I might take 15 to 30 minutes to get everyone into the theater where the trip to the Memorial begins. It’s not as convenient as a ticket, but it works.
One day, I had one team go out in the morning. They went to the overflow line and got everyone in the Memorial within 30 minutes. That was 36 people who didn’t have tickets.
That afternoon, another team and fans came to Pearl Harbor. Since there were 56 of them, it took 45 minutes to get everyone into the theater. The team that went out in the morning was appreciative of my efforts and was very complimentary. The afternoon team was a team where the head coach was very critical and was vocal about it.
This is just a brief peek into the difference between the good and bad attitudes with the head coaches. I have to admit, with the games ending Thursday, I was very anxious for some of the teams and especially the head coaches, to catch a flight home for Christmas.
After all, it is the Christmas season. Merry Christmas!!