Job Change: A Family Move to Indiana

I’ve accepted an offer from Greenwood Community Schools to teach seventh grade language arts and become the head girls basketball coach. The town of Greenwood is twelve miles south of Indianapolis, Indiana, the state where I grew up playing the game. My parents were both English teachers, and my dad was a coach.

Bill Torgerson, girls basketball coach, Greenwood High School

Greenwood, Indiana

The move is motivated primarily by a desire to put family first. If all goes according to plan–does that ever happen?–the position gives me the opportunity to teach in the middle school where both of my daughters will eventually attend. One of my dominant memories of growing up in Indiana is of my my mom, dad, sister, and me all piling into the car to head off to school together. I remember when my dad was the athletic director at Caston (name derived from Cass and Fulton counties) in North-Central Indiana, we’d take him dinner and have a sort of picnic in his office. In accepting the position at Greenwood, I imagine many times where all of us Torgersons will be in the same building doing the work of learning, teaching, and developing as members of a school community.

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Our Family in Asheville: Martin, Sue, Scottie, Megan, Anne, Isabel, Charlotte, Me

After ten years of not coaching, I found myself back in the gym coaching Charlotte and her peers when she was a second grader. Whether it was in Connecticut or North Carolina, we have regularly had lots of girls over to our house to work on their games in the driveway. Especially during the last two years, I’ve been scrapping for gym times, filling out insurance paperwork, and looking for gyms to rent. As I realized that what I liked best about my life was working with kids and basketball, I began to look for ways in which that activity could become a primary aspect of my job.

basketball, Bill Torgerson, Greenwood High School, girls basketball

two-ball passing in the driveway

For the past eleven years, I’ve been a professor at St. John’s University in New York who taught First Year Writing courses. What I’ve enjoyed most about St. John’s is working with the students. Located in the borough of Queens where over one hundred languages are spoken, I’ve felt like representatives from all over the world have shown up so that we could write and learn together. As discouraged as I can feel about the prospect of different cultures sharing space in the world together, the classrooms I’ve inhabited at St. John’s continue to show me those from different cultures can not only coexist, but celebrate and learn from one another’s differences. Over the course of my career of working with young people for over two decades, few things have made me more proud than being able to say I am a professor at St. John’s University.

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A Writing Group Pauses for a Picture: Love these SJU students!

During the last three years, I’ve been splitting time between Asheville, North Carolina where I live with my family and New York City where I’ve continued to teach writing courses at St. John’s University. I have loved living in Asheville for the beauty of the mountains and the French Broad River, the opportunities to live an active outdoor lifestyle, and for the passionate community that surrounds the arts. As a lover of stories and storytelling, I’ve felt empowered by the audiences that have supported my writing and films during the time I’ve called Asheville home. As much as I’ve enjoyed living in Asheville, I’ve felt divided when it came to the time I’m able to give my family and the time I want to spend with my students at St. John’s. I felt it was time to wholly commit to one community. Once I decided I wanted to teach and coach, Indiana seemed like the place to do it for its facilities, enthusiasm for the game, my upbringing there, and the chance to work with a good friend, Greenwood Athletic Director Rob Irwin. Rob and I coached together when I was his assistant at Carroll High School in Fort Wayne.

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Sectional Champs at Fort Wayne Carroll: Me on far left next to Rob Irwin

While the upcoming move to Indiana will be a return to the area where I grew up, it will be the first time my wife and daughters have lived in the state. As I engage in the work of moving and changing jobs, I try not to think too much about what I am leaving behind and instead focus on looking forward to the opportunities available to me as a teacher who will get to spend at least five days a week with students. I’ll look for chances to provide some sparks of excitement when it comes to young people’s enthusiasm for reading, writing, and learning. I look to the ways in which I can also use basketball as a vehicle to give young people positive experiences. My friends with kids older than mine testify to the fact that their children’s childhoods have gone by fast. My youngest daughter Isabel is eight years old, and I can’t help but thinking that she’ll likely be graduating from high school in ten years. Knowing that, I can think of no better way to spend the next decade than sharing it on a daily basis with my daughters, my wife and parents, and in service to the young people in the Greenwood, Indiana community.

Greenwood High School, Girls Basketball, Coach Bill Torgerson, Indiana

Looking forward to my first season at Greenwood High School!

 

 

 

Thoughts on Reform in College Sports

I’m a college professor and former high school basketball coach who has taught many college athletes over the past decade. I’ve recently listened to two books that I highly recommend, books that have got me thinking a lot about what reforms might be needed when it comes to men’s college basketball and football or any other sport that generates significant revenue for its university.

college sports, pay for play, NCAA, college basketball, football, Indentured, Joe Nocera, Jeff Benedict, Ben Strauss, Armen Keteyian

The Professional Minor Leagues Give Athletes a Choice Other Than College

Three Ideas for Reform

  1. Negotiated Player Contracts: These contracts could be anything ranging from partial one-year scholarships to full rides with monthly stipends in the thousands of dollars. These contracts could include the sort of healthcare provided or scholarships that are honored even after professional careers have ended. For many schools and most athletes, nothing would change. There’s nothing about being a student that means you can’t earn money. That some football and basketball players would get paid wouldn’t disrupt parity. There’s already nothing equal or level about the college football programs at places such as the University of Texas compared to Bowling Green. Title IX? Check out Alabama’s football coach’s salary versus whatever the volleyball or softball coach makes. The main problem here is that billions of dollars are being made on the hard work of and talents of 18-22 year olds while they get very little in return. If all the sudden the University of Kentucky basketball players were earning $1,000 a month stipends, I don’t think this would make their fans any less enthusiastic.
  2. Freshman Sit Out Their First Year of College: While I’m all for the athletes who bring billions of dollars to their respective conferences earning some of that money, I also think they ought to be students. I don’t think players have any business coming through school for a couple of months before not even finishing their second semester in college to turn pro. I don’t blame today’s current players. They are doing the best they can within the current system. For those students who are going to represent their colleges on the playing field or court, they ought to be students at those institutions. For athletes who really want to be students too, that first year will be an important step to getting off to a strong academic start. The requirement would also discourage those players who aren’t interested in being students from ever showing up to college in the first place.
  3. Continued Development of Professional Minor Leagues: I don’t think potential professional athletes should have to wait a year after high school to turn pro. I don’t think young people who are only interested in playing a sport should be pushed hard into going to college. I’m excited for young basketball players to have something such as the NBA Developmental League where they can continue to develop much in the same way young baseball players have for decades.

I hope this post can be the start of a thoughtful conversation in this digital space about what might work best when it comes to NCAA sports, revenue, and the working conditions of college athletes. Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and I hope you’ll be willing to contribute to the conversation.

 

Back in the Zone / Back to OKC

Was that a zone defense Golden State played?

zone defense, Golden State, Warriors, Steph Curry, Steve Kerr, OKC, Thunder, Westbrook, Durant

not a zone

Watch along the baseline in the clip above. #40 Harrison Barnes chases Durant to the corner. If defenders chase the man they are guarding to a different part of the court, you’re looking at a man-to-man defense. If defenders point to each other and pass off offensive players to each other to guard, then you’re probably looking at a zone. At the end of this play, it sure looks like Golden State is in a match up or 2-3 zone, but they aren’t.

Extra note: In Golden State’s man-to-man defense, usually everyone not guarding the ball has a foot in the lane. They are really packed in, and when you combine that with the fact that sometimes the Thunder players don’t move (happening less in the playoffs) it’s easy to think that Golden State is playing zone.

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match up zone defense 

In the clip above, watch ponytailed #12 Steven Adams in the blue for the Thunder. When he runs away from Golden State’s Bogut in the paint, Bogut just lets him go. He points to Curry to pick up Adams. Switching every screen has a lot in common with playing a zone defense.

In a zone, you match up with the person in your area. Theoretically, this means Golden State could have someone like their center Bogut match up with Durant when he tries to post up in the lane but have someone faster and more mobile like Draymond Green defend Durant when he is on the perimeter.

I remember Coach Bob Knight saying that the offense’s advantage versus a zone is that they get to pick who they want to attack. Want to play your little point guard on top of the zone? How about we put Dirk Nowitzki up there to shoot threes over your little guy? The defense’s advantage is that they get to pick where their players play.

zone defense, Golden State, Warriors, Stephen Curry, OKC, Thunder, Durant, Westbrook, NBA, Western Conference Finals

looks like a zone

On TNT, Chris Webber sounded like he was in disbelief that Golden State went to a zone. I tend to agree with CW’s assessment that this is indeed a zone. The aspect of this play that gives me pause is when Golden State’s Andre Iguodala seems to beat a screen and chase Durant to the top of the key. I think A.I. probably abandoned his post for a second so that Durant wasn’t left running free or else Kanter came down and tried to pin him inside so Durant could get free for a shot.

It might be interesting to see if Golden State tries to play more zone in Game six.

Yeah, Golden State played some zone, but Curry was back in the zone as a shooter

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Curry back to his old MVP self

In the upper right hand corner, first Curry goes back door off a down screen. Then he runs off a down screen on the other side of the court to the perimeter. Adams can’t decide if he should chase him or not. This is the kind of play where the defense pays so much attention to Curry that the screeners are left open.

Although Curry’s percentage was below average, he was 10-10 from the line, making circus moves around the hoop we are used to, and scored 31 points.

What do I mean the screeners get open?

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#12 Bogut screens for Thompson

 

It’s most impressive when the player with the ball realizes the screener is open and find him. In this case, this is most likely a set play out of a timeout. Pay attention to #12 Bogut. He is heading to screen for Thompson, a fantastic three point shooter. When everyone runs out to the shooter, Bogut gets free for the dunk.

When Ezeli hits two, you know it was Golden State’s night

Festus Ezeli, Golden State, Warriors, Curry, Steve Kerr, OKC, Durant, Westbrook

Swish, swish!

Festus Ezeli shot 53% from the line during the season and 42% in the playoffs. Here, near the end of the third quarter, he makes the both. Game six coming right up on Saturday night in Oklahoma City!