Yutaka Ueda, the honorable head basketball coach for the Hosei University Tigers, intently wrote down his X's and O's in his notebook. Well, not X's and O's exactly. In Japanese, X's and O's translate into squibbles and triangles.
He wrote down his squibbles and triangles intently.Chiefly this was because there, no more than 50
feet of gym floor in front of him, no farther than Bobby Knight threw that chair, stood Julius Erving himself, Dr. J, the man of a million moves, and he was talking about a few things that might come in handy later this season when Hosei plays Nippon or Nihon or any of about a hundred other cross-town Tokyo rivals.
The occasion was the first-ever "Dr. J Special Clinic for Coaches," sponsored by the allied powers themselves - Spalding, Converse and the NBA. Dr. J is the NBA's official international ambassador - they knighted him in New York sometime last summer - and even if he is 40 and three seasons past his Farewell Tour, Spalding and Converse still have him starting.
More than 100 specially selected Japanese coaches - some high school, most of them college - were invited for the clinic, held in the Metropolitan Gymnasium in Tokyo, site of the Jazz-Suns games this weekend.
"Konichi-wa," Dr. J said as he picked up the microphone and bid the Japanese coaches good day in their own language. Give him two weeks and he'll own the Orient also.
"My given name is Julius Erving," he said. "And my nickname is Dr. J." As if they didn't know in Tokyo.
He was preaching to the choir.
Actually, Erving had to be wondering if these were coaches at all. I mean, they didn't look like coaches in the American sense of the word. For one thing, no one had on a pair of Sansabelts. For another, there wasn't a "Nike" or "Avia" logo on a single golf shirt. For another, they took their shoes off when they got to the gym and put on slippers.
They need to get Rick Majerus over here and show these guys how to dress.
It was strange. A whole gymfull of coaches who hadn't gone to the NCAA tournament last spring - and they still had their jobs.
Ueda, the coach at Hosei, still had his job even though he'd gone 3-11 last year. But the year before he guided the Tigers to a 13-1 record and the league championship.
He said he'd been to American coaching clinics before - when Duane Casey, the coach at Western Kentucky, came over, and another time when Ron Adams, the coach at Fresno State, paid a visit.
But never anyone the stature of The Doctor.
"I know well about Dr. J," said Ueda. "I want to know Dr. J's personal technique on how to defense people, and know his way of thinking about basketball. I want to know all about Dr. J."
He had an hour and a half.
Aided by Rod Hundley, the Jazz's play-by-play announcer, Erving put on his proverbial clinic.
He, Hundley, and 10 basketball players selected from various Tokyo universities demonstrated a variety of drills and exercises. They showed how to do layup drills, fastbreak drills, the 3-man weave, the five-point defensive drill in the halfcourt, the shell drill, the head drill, and, of course, the players' favorite, the scrimmage.
On the defensive drills, Hundley said, in an English aside, "I don't know how to coach this. When I played I never guarded anybody."
As to coaching philosophy, Erving told the coaches, "The great coaches I've had are the ones who understood the individual needs of the player but also realized the needs of the team. They taught a concept of harmony, chemistry and teamwork."
The coaches from a country that has 120 million people on an island the size of Idaho, nodded. You gotta have Wa.
Erving experienced some frustration during the defensive drills when he kept telling the players to communicate with each other - as in "switch," "pick," or "I got him."
"The kids are so polite, I couldn't get them to talk on defense," he said afterward.
The coaches were also polite. In the question and answer session they only asked three questions, none of them controversial.
"Arigato," said Erving, who then concluded by, first, peforming the slamdunk that won him the All-Star Game Slandunk title in '84 in Denver (although instead of planting at the free throw line, he was maybe two feet forward) and, second, by sitting down and spending the next hour and a half signing autographs for every coach in attendance.
They lined up in orderly single file and circled the gym floor as the Doctor sat at a table and wished them good luck this season. They bowed and wished him good luck too.