One of the biggest transitions in life occurs when a person leaves college and looks to build on what he or she has spent years accumulating in academia. In many cases, it’s a substantial shock to the system because of how different it is to negotiate with the world on our (and the world’s) own terms. For former Ohio State guard Danny Peters, his world seems to be in a different place altogether. He’s since left the Buckeye basketball team as the winningest player in the program’s history, while trekking into a career of teaching as an assistant coach for the University of Arizona’s men’s basketball team. Danny has been gracious enough to let me and the rest of the SLAMonline family in on what it means to embark on the daily challenge of becoming a successful college coach, by way of a special “as told to Sandy,” open-letter San Dova Speak-Easy series, dubbed “From Danny, To Sandy.”
It’s that time again, that first official practice I always love watching guys develop through skill instruction, but practice has always been my favorite part of the season. Obviously in college I did not get a whole lot of minutes, so practice became my most important classroom. I could ask questions and learn as I studied several of our coaches’ delivery and philosophy. This season, I am one step closer to that position with a new set of coaches to learn from.
Midnight Madness is tonight. We do not have one at Arizona, but our Red-Blue game is in two weeks and is very similar. I can remember my father’s teams and their first practices. I was always able to go and watch, because we did not start our high school practices until the beginning of November. So for two weeks, I would hear him teach and explain his system, the open post and transition defense. The first practice was entirely dedicated to transition defense and the importance of getting back and stopping the ball early. At an early age at Youngstown State, I can remember him having that three-hour practice and most of it was spent in transition drills preaching “pick up the ball early,” “don’t give the offense an advantage, get back and protect the paint,” “get in position to help on the ball” and many other key points to good half-court defense. If I was to look back at the stat sheets, I would not be surprised to see a low number of fast break points scored on his teams.
At Cincinnati, practice was three hours all year round. That is what they did and it separated them from other teams and programs. But, Midnight Madness with the Bearcats…James “Flight” White with between-the-legs dunk from the free throw line…I was a junior in high school and will never forget it.
So tonight is my first official practice as a Wildcat. It is our first opportunity to prepare before Idaho State in less than a month. Each of our players has made great improvements since we returned to school in August, but this is the time when we can grow as a group. Practice is everything, and our first few weeks are key as we rework our system defensively and offensively. Various magazines and polls have us ranked to finish first or second in our league (SLAMonline predicts a second-place Pact-10 finish for the ‘Cats –Ed.), but that is just a prediction and who knows what will happen. It will be interesting to see where the next two weeks takes our team and the progress we can make. I will be sure to check in before Thanksgiving, Sandman; until then, make sure you TiVo those late night Pac-10 games back home in the Midwest .
(To Danny: I’ll be sure to watch — I’ve been a Wildcat fan since the Mike Bibby-Miles Simon-Jason Terry days in ’96!)
You can pick up more bits of Danny’s ride through the recruiting circuit and his thoughts on the game via Twitter (@PetersDanny).
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist, and fitness enthusiast, whose work has been featured in Robert Atwan’s “America Now,” USA Today’s UWire, and Yahoo!’s Associated Content. You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Facebook and Twitter.