There are No Goodbyes, Just See You Laters

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Irish people are funny.  Not funny as in they make me laugh, although they sometimes do.  Not funny as in they are odd, although they sometimes are.  Not funny looking, well at least not everyone.  The funny I mean is funny as in they are fair skinned and burn easily and yet on a warm, sunny day they paradoxically refuse to put on sun screen or shirts.  I’d like to say it’s an anomaly, but it’s not.  Anytime the sun peaks out and warms the air, within hours you’ll go from seeing albino polar bears (yes, that white) to lobsters.  It’s a give in.  The real anomaly is the sun shining and a Caribbean temperature.  This was the scene a few weeks ago.  I experienced a nice long Irish summer, I was told.  It almost lasted a whole four days!

I had given up checking the weather reports in Ireland.  It became depressing.  Cloudy, cold, with a 90% chance of rain was always the outlook.  Looking at the 10-day forecast could ruin your week (if the Jets didn’t do it first).  So when I woke up to bright lights and heat the other day I panicked and thought there might have been a fire in my room.  Turns out it was just a warm and sunny day.

When the weather is like this in Ireland, the mood of the country shifts.  Everyone is deliriously happy.  You can’t help but appreciate the beauty.  Another reason everyone is happy is because nobody seems to have to work on these days.   It rains so much; on a perfect day you can’t fight the weather. When it’s warm and the sun is shining it appears as though the country shuts down and everyone goes to the beach.  Yes, Ireland has beaches.  I was surprised too.  It’s impossible not to be happy on a day like this in Ireland.  It’s certainly not always this picturesque but on these types of days, it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. Even my sometimes negative nature could not bring down the mood.

The beautiful weather coincided with the last week we would all be together.  It was a big week.  My teammate (once a teammate, always a teammate – remember that Dre) Andre Tongo was going home in a few days.  Galway’s favorite Titan, Tim Coyne, was also set to visit on his way home to New York from France.  We had already decided to make the most of the last week, and that was before the sun popped out.

We awoke to this beautiful day.  You can’t plan for this weather, so when it came we had to adjust.  I was determined to work out before we did anything on this day however, Regardless of the sun.  I can have a one-track mind.  In my defense, I had to get a lift in.  I’ll explain why.  A few nights before, Andre and I had met a group of Americans in a pub somewhere in town.  Apparently, an American college football team was also in the same pub.  The Americans we met assumed we were a part of this football team.  One member of the group asked Andre if he was a running back or linebacker or some tough/big/strong position that.  Before Andre had the chance to politely explain that we are not football players, but instead basketball players, she turned to me and said, “and you must be the kicker.”  I do not think I’ve been angrier in my life.  She could tell I was upset by the death stare I gave her, and quickly changed her assumption.  “Oh, um, I mean the quarterback,” she blurted out.  Soooooo much better. Not.

To add insult to insult, the next day we went swimming with a few friends down by Blackrock.  Andre’s friend Dani did not go swimming, but she had no problem commenting on my muscles, or unbeknownst to me, lack thereof.  “Hey Brendan, I expected you to be, like, stronger, like.”  Hit me in the face with a 2-by-4 why don’t you.

First of all, I don’t know what these two were talking about.  Tony Horton’s P90X works.  Second of all, because of the mocking I was working out no matter what the next day.  Andre and my other teammate Chris “Danny Green” McNairney weren’t thrilled with the idea of a lifting session.  To be specific, Andre had already worked out 5 times that day and might have been talked into a 6th had it not been for the unreal weather.  Chris, having never worked out a day in his life, wanted no part of any strength training.  Both were ready to hit the beach and get their tan on.  Chris is the only Irishman who did not burn over the week.  Andre, uh, doesn’t have that problem.

We came to an agreement, deciding we could do both.  Chris was not happy.  We would run the mile and a half to the beach in Salthill, do a nice little Venice beach style pushup/pull up workout outside, and then properly enjoy the weather.  So ahead we went.  After finishing our run (with Chris gasping for air and grasping his knees), we started on our pushups.  A few minutes in I wanted to gauge my level, so I asked Chris how many he had done.  He said 35.  I had done 45, so I was feeling pretty good.  Kicker? I think not!  Then I asked Dre what number he was on.  He stopped mid pushup and casually said 180.  What?!?!!?  We don’t like Dre sometimes.  We finished with pull-ups on the playground’s jungle gym as stupefied kids on the swing set looked on.  One of the kids started counting for us.  “1..2..3..     …that’s it???  Dude must be a kicker.”

With our workout out of the way, we were able to enjoy the sun and the nonexistent surf for the next few days.  Highlights included seeing everyone from all walks of life together just enjoying being in Ireland (kids, adults, students, teachers, Irish, Americans, eastern Europeans, asylum seekers, ice cream eaters, good basketball players – ME, bad basketball players – CHRIS), playing American football style catch with a rugby ball, the pristine views of County Clare to the Aran Islands, seeing the different shades of red Tim’s sunburn could turn, and jumping off of the massively high diving board into the ocean known as Blackrock.

It could not have been a more perfect few days for the year to end with all of us together. The most perfect of all of the perfect moments was the end of the last night sitting on the wall at the Spanish Arch as we milked the last few moments of sun, the dying of the day, and the end of an epic year.  A group of 10, sitting on the rocks at the Spanish Arch enjoying each other’s company, and the scenery, one last time. We’d never be there again under those circumstances in that moment at that precise time of our lives.  It was special.

And the next day was even better. Right Ash?

It started raining the following day.  It hadn’t stopped since.

Until the next Irish summer…

…which came on my last two days in the country.  Ireland knows how to say see you later.  It’s never goodbye.

I’ve learned a lot this year, and grown in so many ways, making lifelong friends in the process.  The basketball was fun too.  But the biggest life lesson I’ve learned is something everyone in Ireland already knew.

Win or lose, we booze.

See you later Ireland.  On to New York.

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What’s Next

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The best television show in the history of the world, and also my favorite, The West Wing, made a habit out of using the phrase “What’s Next?”  The characters would often use it after doing something incredible, either through sheer work and determination or just plain old dumb luck.  Being a show about politics, these victories were of a political nature.  Toby finishing writing the State of the Union address, Josh getting the blue dog democrat to change his vote and pass an amendment, C.J. working the press room like a pro, or President Bartlett just being President Bartlett.  In my writing it doesn’t seem all that exciting, but the writer of the show, Aaron Sorkin, had a way of bringing these seemingly dull moments to life.  It was never easy, and it was the journey with all of its ups and downs that made the end so rewarding.  They had just done something great, something special that will have a huge impact on their lives going forward.  Then they would say, “What’s Next,” and they would have already moved on from the memorable moment to the next challenge.

I can relate.  You do something great, you need to appreciate it, learn from it, take it in for all its worth, and then just like that be onto the next.  There is always a new challenge.  If what you did yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today.   My time in Ireland this year is coming to an end.  This special, memorable experience with all of its ups and downs that will have a huge impact on my life going forward is nearly over.  It’s almost my turn to say, “What’s Next.”

But not just yet.  And before I do there are a few things from the past few months I’ve been meaning to put on the blog that I want to look back on before I move forward.

In some type of chronological order:

Two or so months ago Ruth Seligman wrote a great piece on my being in Ireland for the Horace Mann alumni website.  I am very appreciative and it’s really well done.  Thank you Ruth!

In the article, this blog is referenced and after it was published I noticed an uptick in visits to the blog.  It would have been smart to do a few posts during that time and take advantage of all of the extra traffic.  So of course I did not do that.  That would have been smart.  Better late than never!

It’s a good read.  You should check it out.  Or maybe I just think so because it’s about me.

http://www.horacemann.org/cf_news/view.cfm?newsid=545

I felt the same way 'Sheed.

I felt the same way ‘Sheed.

I was ejected from a game.  Rasheed Wallace style.  I still cannot believe it happened.  For better or worse (it was for worse), I suppose that’s one of the few things in sports I had never experienced.  It’s a loooooong walk across the court and out of the building.  Thanks to Paul Freeman for not leaving me alone in the Maree locker room that night even though I told him to go.  Apparently he missed Andre Tongo put on a show in the 2nd half.  Neither of us saw it.

Here's what I think about refs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeHIam5Wq-M         ......I'm sure Rasheed agrees.

See video below for what I think about refs. ……I’m sure Rasheed agrees.

I might just have to put that ejection on my CV.  You never know when that might come in handy in an interview.  There’s a positive spin here isn’t there?  I’m passionate, right?  Right, lets go with that.

My team won the regular season Southern Conference championship.  We went undefeated for about 5 months after starting the season 0-2.  I’m not sure that we were always more talented, but we had an attitude about ourselves and a toughness; two of the most important traits of a quality team.  Confidence makes you better than you actually are.

Southern Conference Champs.

Southern Conference Champs

On the night we were awarded the Southern Conference trophy, my mom and brother were in attendance.  This was the semi-final playoff game, which I was of course suspended for after my bogus ejection.  So my family traveled 3,000 miles to see me sit on the bench.  It all worked out though.  Our team won one of the best games of basketball I’ve ever seen.  99-97 final score in overtime that included a buzzer beater to tie and a game winner by Ditch “Conall” Mac Michael with 3 seconds on the clock in OT.  The teams combined for something like 30 3’s.  I would have enjoyed playing in that game.  I like to shoot 3’s.

Finally eligible to play again, we lost in the finals.  We had beaten the team, Blue Demons, twice before during the season, but they were the better team on the day of the championship.   I will always remember the support from our fans.  We brought multiple busses of supporters to Dublin (from Galway) and they filled our side of the gym.  As they had been all year, they were loud.  There are few things quite like playing in front of a capacity crowd that is going wild.  Even if some of the behavior may be bordering on psychotic.  Thanks to everyone.

The loss in the final was the 5th straight championship game loss for the Titans.  FIVE YEARS IN A ROW making the final and then losing.  Unheard of.  This is Buffalo Bills territory, and no one wants to have anything in common with the lowly Bills!  No offense Uncle Dan🙂  You can be sure the Titans will be back.  They make finals.  It’s what they do.  One of these years they will win it.

The fam minus Raybo somewhere in Connemara.

The fam minus Raybo somewhere in Connemara.

My mom came to Ireland and she fell in love with it.  After months of planning, preparation, and constant, non-stop, never ceasing talk about her upcoming trip this was hardly a surprise.  My mom’s trip coincided with her birthday, which coincides with St. Patrick’s Day.  To spend my mom’s birthday on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland was special.  It was bound to get emotional.

My mother is a bit of a crier.  I don’t mean this in a bad way and by no means does she cry all of the time or really all that often.  But she is predictable in her tear patterns.  Most things to do with family and an outpouring of love or some jibber-jabber like that will set off the sprinklers.  Military service, the playing of God Bless America on a patriotic holiday, and a heartfelt message from her baby boy do it every time.  Especially after a pint or two.  I know this and I love this about her.  But it doesn’t mean I can’t have a little bit of fun with it.

My brother, Colin, had come to visit with my mom, and he was with us for her birthday.  After a wonderful day at the Coughlan house complete with a birthday meal and cake and before our night out in Galway began, I told my brother that I would have mom crying tears of happiness by 11 PM in the Skeff Bar.  He replied that there was no way I could accurately predict when, where, or even if this event would take place.  He should have known better.  Having spent a few hours pub crawling through Galway and showing her some of the town, it was time to start the bawling.

Lo and behold, at exactly 11 PM in the Skeff, I pulled out the “I love you mom, I’m so happy you’re here on your birthday on St. Patrick’s Day in Galway!  This is so special” line.   All completely true but like I said…  queue the waterworks.   It may have started in jest, but in the end it made for a perfect way to end a great birthday with my mom.  Every word was true and genuinely heartfelt.  I couldn’t have been happier I got to share that day and those moments with her.  It really was special.  The two of us will never forget it.

……You can bet she’s crying right now🙂

With my brother and sister high atop Blackrock.

With my brother and sister high atop Blackrock.

My sister, Catie, also came to visit.  She’s been insanely busy the past four years in college and prepping for her future by running the Georgetown Credit Union (fancy way to say bank or so I’m told), so we haven’t had an extended period to hang out and be together for a long time.  We got that the week she was in Ireland, and I’m really happy she came.  We even only got into a few sibling fights!  Progress.  There’s no way she reads my blog anyway, so she won’t mind me congratulating her on graduating from Georgetown last week and saying how proud I am of her.  She’s my little sister, but I look up to her in so many ways.  She’s doing big things.  I hope I can be a part of it.

In the off chance that she is reading this, I can see you rolling your eyes Catie.

U14 Sligo All-Stars

U14 Sligo All-Stars

I coached in a lot of places this year, but my main coaching base was in Sligo with the Sligo All-Stars.  From my first day coaching in Sligo I knew I was coaching a talented group of players.  The kids in the club had been well coached, skilled, and drilled from a young age.  The teams had been successful in the past, but this year the goal was to take the next step and earn national respect.  The All-Ireland Club Championships was the objective.  Fast forward eight months after my arrival, and both the U14 and U16 boy’s teams were playing for the All Ireland Club Championships.  The U16’s were playing in Galway and the U14’s were playing in Cork on the same weekend.  I was disappointed I could not be in two places at once, but I went to Cork with the U14’s.  It was an incredible weekend of basketball.  Every player on the team made a significant contribution and we gutted out win after win.  The U16’s were doing the same thing and both teams made it to the championship game.  In Cork, the U14’s matched up with the heavily favored home Neptune team.  The kids left everything they had on the floor and gave Neptune all it could handle.  It was the first time in the tournament Neptune had been tested, but in the end we came up just short.  It was a great game, and there were many moments from the weekend that will stick with me, but none more than the scene after the game.  After the loss every member of this team of 11, 12, and 13 year olds was crying.  The best measure of a good season is to see the reaction of everyone after the last game.  If the team is crying you know they cared.  It’s not something you expect, especially for this age group, but they put so much work in all year and wanted it so badly.  Sometimes you learn more from losing than winning.  I know this group will continue to work hard and get better.  They care too much, and they will remember what losing that game felt like.

When the post game awards ceremony finally ended, we made our way to the locker room.  The kids were still understandably devastated.  But in an instant, the mood changed.  We got word that the U16’s had won their final by one in overtime.  The locker room erupted.  We went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in a moment.  That is sports.  It was great to see the U14’s take joy in the U16’s win.  It was about the whole club, not just individuals or one team, but everyone.  It was a special moment and I hope it is something that can continue to thrive going forward.  Everyone in the club, not just the U14 and U16’s, have bigger things ahead of them.  I’m excited to see what they do in the future.  Shane O’Meara, Glen Monaghan, and Sean McGowan deserve all of the credit in the world for making it possible and taking them to this point.  Now it’s the kids’ turn to take the next step.  I am confident they will.  Sligo basketball is back on the map.

After finishing as the #1 and #2 teams in the country, the U16 and U14’s were treated to a hero’s welcome and reception with the Mayor.  It was well earned.

...with the Mayor.

…with the Mayor.

A few weeks after meeting the Mayor of Sligo, I met the President of the country of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins.  He moonlights as a leprechaun.  No really, see the picture below.  I knew leprechauns were real!

...with the President

…with the President

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of what’s next.  But the concept is too general.  I want to know specifics.  What is actually next?   Asking the question is not enough; I have to already know.  I’m a very goal oriented, point to point person in that I like and almost need to have a plan.  When I don’t have a plan, I am lost.  Recently however, I’ve come to the realization that it is those times when you don’t have a set in stone rigid plan that are the most fruitful and fun.  Ireland, and of course Joe Coughlan have had that influence. Heres an example.

Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle

A few weeks ago on a drizzly (of course) lazy Sunday I got a call from Joe asking if I wanted to go for a drive.  Now, first of all, you have to realize what a drive with Joe Coughlan entails.  You could literally be in store for anything.  Its safe to assume, however, that should you say yes you will be out of contact for the rest of the day, if not longer.  You might be driving clear across the country.  If you made plans, you had better be ready to break them if you tag along for the drive.  You can’t have plans around Joe, things just happen.  This drives me crazy.

But I had no plans for the day, so I agreed.  We picked up Joe’s son and a friend, and headed though the hills and rocks of Connemara and somehow ended up in Mayo.  Upon arriving into Mayo, Joe remembered there was a castle I might like to see, so we set out to find it.  Joe then tells me we are going to Ashford Castle, an exclusive hotel and golf destination built on the grounds of a medieval estate where numerous U.S Presidents and Hollywood stars had stayed.  That sounds cool.  So we must be driving by to get a look in the distance and be on our way I think to myself.  I should have known better.

In his rather large, “traveler” van, Joe drives through the massive front gates and parks right in front of the impressive castle in a space that is clearly marked “Residents Only.”  These signs never seem to apply to Joe.

Joe Coughlan...

Joe Coughlan…

This is great; we were able to see the castle from up close.  Time to be on our way, right?  Wrong.  Joe gets out of the car and makes his way towards the entrance.  I am wearing sweatpants and sweatshirt at this point, so there is no way they are going to let me into this 5 star luxury hotel that is also a castle.  Joe even begins to realize we might be pushing our luck now and tells his son and friend to run around the castle while we attempt to go inside.  It’s a big castle, so it should give us a few minutes to try and get inside as the kids run around.  Its raining outside and the boys are in shorts and t-shirts, but what’s a little cold.  Gillian (Joe’s wife) won’t know how they got sick, so we’ll be fine.  (Whoops! Sorry Joe!).  So with the kids occupied, we ascend the staircase and come to the doorman at the front door.  Oh well, we made it pretty close I remember thinking. It was a nice run.  But instead of the doorman questioning who we were and my attire and turning us away, he opened the door and asked if there was anything he could do for us.  What?!?!!?  So we were in.  Bill Clinton had just recently been there, and now so too were Joe Coughlan and Brendan Barile.  After this adventure, we are both ready for a pint.  The bar is on the other side of the castle so we have to walk through the lounging areas and the people to get there.  As we started to walk, you could feel every eye on us.  We did not belong there.  This place was too nice.  My sweats probably didn’t help our image.  You could just feel the money is this place.  We finally made it to the bar, sat down in maybe the most comfortable seat I’ve ever sat, and started to drink the only pint of Guinness I’ve ever actually enjoyed.  As I’m an obnoxious and dumb American, I’ll describe the moment in the most descriptive way I can.  It was awesome.

Right about then, little Joseph and his friend Aaron came racing down the hall.  They were covered in mud.  Surely we would get tossed from this posh castle now.  Alas, no one seemed to mind.  As usual the boys were full of energy and could not sit still.  When we were finally able to settle them down, they seemed to appreciate where they were too.  Wide-eyed and mystified little Joseph sat back in his chair and let his eyes wander in wonderment.  He gets it too, I thought to myself.  A minute later he springs back to life and yells, “Do you know what this place would be great for???”  He paused for what I’m sure was dramatic effect, and screamed….. “hide and go seek!!!”

Two peas in a pod...if the pod were a castle.

Two peas in a pod…if the pod were a castle.

He and Aaron then tore off to explore the castle, completely oblivious to the multi million-dollar refurbishments and medieval history still present.

A few moments later, an impeccably dressed manager began to make his way toward us.  I saw him moving our way out of the corner of my eye.  As he continued down the long corridor, I turned to Joe and told him thanks for the great day but this is it, we’re out.  Even Joe had come to that conclusion.  Neither of us moved a muscle.  For some reason we were hoping the manager was like T-Rex and we were in Jurassic Park.  If you don’t move he can’t see. When he got to the table, instead of escorting us out of the castle he asked one question…..  “Are you Joe Coughlan?”  Of course he knew Joe.  Everyone knows Joe.  We were then treated to another pint, a lovely bowl of fresh chowder,

That pint went down easy.

That pint went down easy.

and  left with a story about that time we snuck our way into Ashford Castle in plain sight and were treated like kings.

Not bad for a day that started with no plan.

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Two thumbs up!

I’m ok not having a plan now.  At least sometimes.  It’s amazing how much can change in a year.  I could not be more grateful for the opportunity and overwhelmed by the kindness of everyone I’ve met in Ireland.  I am especially indebted to the people in Galway and Sligo who without I don’t know where I would be.  The support from my family at home made this possible.  I hope they know that.  The year of basketball in Ireland was the experience of a lifetime that I will never forget.

What’s Next?

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We’re Going to Toulouse, but We’re Not Going to Lose

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“We’re going to Toulouse, but we’re not going to lose!”  (Toulouse kind of sounds like to lose, if that wasn’t obvious). This was the catch phrase the U-13 Titans boys team used non stop in the lead up to their trip to Toulouse, France for a basketball tournament hosted by St. Oren’s Basketball Club.
Any time you get to travel to another country for basketball it is an incredible opportunity, but this trip was even a bit more special.  Former Galway Titan Tim Coyne is now the main coach and a player with St. Orens and he was thoughtful enough to invite his old club in Ireland to a tournament with his new club in France.  Tim had coached most of the U-13 boys last year, and the kids could not have been more excited to see their former coach, and a little bit of southern France in the process.
Little Joseph with two of his older "brothers."

Little Joseph with two of his older “brothers.”

Before I go any further, on behalf of the Titans I just want to thank Tim and everyone at St. Orens for their hospitality and kindness throughout the weekend.   Everyone did a great job, and the tournament was a huge success.  Tim put a lot of effort into the setup and it was his connection to Ireland that made it happen.  It was his show and he did not disappoint…

…and he wasn’t afraid to let us know it.  He was so confident that HIS tournament would go well, he decided to call the tournament the “Tim Basket Tour.”  Not only did he name the tournament after himself, but he also decided to up the ante and put that name on anything and everything having to do with the camp.  It was the header for the schedule, on the t-shirts, and most importantly front and center engraved on each of the huge trophies.  If he had more preparation time I’m sure he would have gotten RyanAir to paint it on the outside of the plane we took from Ireland to France.

Tim, Tim, Tim, Tim, Tim!

Tim, Tim, Tim, Tim, Tim! …oh, and basketball.

******* In Tim’s defense he says he had no idea about any of this and it was just as much a surprise to him as it was the rest of us.  I’m not sure I’m buying it.  For that to be true he must have done a great job coaching this year and St. Orens must have really appreciated him as coach, player, person, and ambassador for the club.  But that couldn’t be the case, could it? *******

All kidding aside, Tim did right by the Titans and it was a great weekend.  With his (nearly) fluent French he played the role of translator for both the French and the Irish.  It was impressive seeing him seamlessly transition, going back and forth between the two languages.  Not bad for someone who didn’t speak a word of French 8 months ago.

We packed a lot into the long weekend, and it started in Carcossone with a picnic and then a trip to that castle.  Picturesque. And the weather was brilliant.  Our French hosts commented on how cold it was, but they didnt realize that what is cold to them is probably the warmest day of the year in Ireland.

French: Cold and Windy ---translated in Ireland English: Warm and Sunny

French: Cold and Windy —translated in Ireland English: Warm and Sunny

After our sight seeing we made our way over to the St. Oren gym for a fun training session/meet and greet with the St. Oren players.  The kids ended up playing knockout, which the French call lukey luke (spelling errors I’m

Knockout!

Knockout!

sure – literally translated as shadow shooter I think).  After getting over the initial confusion over the name of the game, everyone had a blast playing together, and they would play knockout/lukey luke only about one million times more over the weekend.

On Saturday, the tournament took place all day with games starting in the morning and ending in the evening.  These are always great days for players.  The French teams in the tournament were comprised of high level, talented

"3's count for more than 2's!"  Great coaching.

“3’s count for one more than 2’s!” Great coaching.

players.  It was a great chance to compete against some really good players and for the Irish kids to see how much harder they need to work to get to that level.  As a team, the Titans improved throughout the day, and I know they will take a lot away from the experience.  We may not have won all of our games, but we went home with a big trophy anyway!

4th place!

4th place! …out of……

At lunchtime during the day of games, we were told the mayor had requested our presence to welcome us at the town hall.  When we arrived at the town hall, we were met by a marching band that led us to the mayor.  When we reached the mayor, there was another musical performance awaiting us and a reception complete with food and drink.  It was a hero’s welcome to the visiting Irish basketball team.  Although a part of me wonders if something was lost in translation and the mayor thought he was welcoming the men’s Irish national rugby team.  He seemed surprised when we walked in the door with basketballs and a team full of children who would not have been tall enough to ride a roller coaster.

At the reception, there was a table of drinks and food in the back.  It was innocuous looking enough, with finger foods and snacks sitting next to glasses of what appeared to be juice of some sort.  Coaching is tiring, and I was thirsty so I made my way straight for the juice.  When I took a sip, I realized however, this was no ordinary juice.  It was a fruit punched laced with heavy amounts of rum.  Fine by me I thought to myself.  And then I realized there were nine 12 year olds about to grab the same “juice” I was drinking.  I knew the French casually drank during the day at lunchtime, but I didn’t think this custom was acceptable for children too.  It turns out it wasn’t.  Crisis averted.  That would have made for some interesting games that afternoon!

With mayor. No big deal.

With the mayor. No big deal.

What a welcome!

What a welcome!

The kids were staying with French host families.  I knew how difficult it was for me to communicate without understanding the local language, so I wondered how the kids were dealing with this problem.  At our training session on Sunday morning, it didn’t seem to be affecting them at all.  They were laughing and enjoying like they spoke the same language and had known each other for years.  I asked one of the kids how they were doing it and he told me he didn’t know, they were just playing.  It’s amazing that children have this ability, and some of that likely has to do with the universal language of sport.  Sports bring people together.  Even when they can’t understand a word anyone is saying.

Who won the jump?

Who won the jump?

On Sunday we also mixed the teams up with French and Irish kids playing on the same teams.  They seemed to play exceptionally well together.  With the language barrier I was again confused.  I asked one of the Irish kids what was their secret?  His answer was that one of his French teammates was his host family, and the night before they had played NBA2k on the playstation.  Whenever they wanted to do something on the real court, they would yell out the corresponding button on the video game controller.  Then he ran away from our conversation, yelled out “X button” and received an alley-oop pass from his French teammate.

Whatever works.

Thanks again to Tim and everyone at St. Orens.  Special thanks to Simone and Catherine for chaperoning the whole trip and for making sure we didn’t lose anyone!

And I haven’t even mentioned the food yet!  Let’s just say it was pretty good.  Prettay, Prettay good.  Just don’t ask what it is.  You’re better off not knowing.

All in all, a great trip.  Thanks to everyone that made it happen.

Me even met a French National Basketball Player too.  I think this guys catches lobs from Tony Parker!

Me even met a French National Basketball Player too. I think this guys catches lobs from Tony Parker!  …or Tim Coyne, the two are easily confused.

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Gambling Debts? I’ll Take Michigan and the Points.

It’s about an hour before tip off in the NCAA Men’s National Championship game between Louisville and Michigan as I am typing this post.  I’ve been wrong on nearly every bet, prediction, assumption, conjecture, hunch, speculation, and wager I’ve made all year.  But I feel like my luck is about to change.  I’m due.  Then again, so were the Titans.  And I always think I will be right.  Michigan by 5.

There’s a few things from that first paragraph on which I want to expand and one thing I don’t want to elaborate on.  I’ll get to the one I don’t want to bring up here and save the other ones for my next post.

So when I say I’ve been wrong on any guess having to do with anything, I mean everything.  I would consider myself an adroit “gambler” or at least would have before I got to Ireland.  Gambler is in quotes because I don’t often actually gamble, but rather talk about potential gambling.  Family and friends in the states won’t take my bets anymore due to the fact that I always win.  I pick my spots, I watch, I study, I know.  They know now too, so they won’t bet with me.  My friends in Ireland won’t bet with me either, but for a slightly different reason.  I lose all of the time, and they don’t want to take my money anymore.  At least they must be good friends right?  Except for this one guy who now actively seeks out my weakness for betting on the game.  It does not matter the game.  He’ll take anything.

We played a game of poker one night and I thought I was in line for a payday.  I’ve watched enough World Series of Poker on ESPN, I know what I’m doing.  But as I found out, you can only play the cards you are dealt.  Sometimes its out of your control.  All night I sat there thinking I was Matt Damon’s Mike McDermott from Rounders.  At the end of the night when I had no money left, I realized I was Worm.  In Ireland I’ve lost bets on sports games, games of poker, but it didn’t even have to be a game.  I was going to lose.  This is where my gambling legend or infamy began.  As AI would say, not a game, not a game, not a game, not even a game.

Right around the time of the Superbowl I had been in Ireland for nearly half a year, and had been losing bets for just about as long.  I saw this as just a small rough patch in an otherwise stellar gambling career.  My confidence was not shaken in the least.  So with the Superbowl fast approaching, there would of course be friendly wagers, and I thought it the right time to ramp things up.  I tried to organize a Superbowl box pool, but quickly realized the Irish had difficulty understanding anything that had to do with American football.  You could blame lack of interest, but I blame all those years of Buckfast.  If you know what Buckfast is you are shaking your head in agreement.  If you do not, you do not want to know.  My next, and I thought ingenious, idea was to bring out some of the prop bets.  If they didn’t actually have any concern for the game, surely I could drum up interest in betting on how long Alicia Keys would take to sing the National Anthem!

The line was 2 minutes and 15 seconds.  I took the under.  It went over.  2 minutes and 35 seconds.  I even lost that bet.

Looking back, no one in his right mind would have made that bet.  I must not have been/am not in my right mind.

With the big college game about to start this post is ending early.  I took a few weeks off from betting in Ireland and only once the NCAA tourney started did I take another crack.

I finished in last place in my pool.

NBA teams only have internal problems over women and gambling.  If the Titans were an NBA team my teammates would love me.

The luck of the Irish, right?

Next post to be about last few weeks of things.  I found them interesting.  Until then enjoy the game.

Image

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We Came to See Brendan Barile…Pass the Ball to Andre Tongo

It’s been a long time, shouldn’t have left you without a dope beat to step to. Or in this case, to be more specific if slightly less poetic, it’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you without a slightly above-average blog post to sit at your computer and read…to.
No flow to my version. I am not Timbaland. I apologize.

Too much has happened in the last two months (can’t believe its been that long since I last posted) to write it all down here. Instead of trying to do that I will just mention a few quick things.

1.
Last week I was in Gothenburg, Sweden coaching at the Michael Bree Hogsbo Basketball Club basketball camp. It was a great week of basketball ALL DAY for the campers and for me. It was the way basketball should be. I definitely learned a lot as a coach, and after camp each night my teammate Dre and I were able to practice with Hogsbo’s Men’s Division One team. We “balled up” as he would say. “Balled up” is not part of my vernacular yet, but I may start using it in everyday conversation.
It was a good basketball week, but that’s not why I bring it up.
At the camp, we each coached a team for the week. We drafted our players after an intense scouting session, ran team practices, put in plays, and everything else that goes with that before we had even played a game. We spent a fair amount of time with and coaching our teams. All week I preached defense. Ball pressure, help rotations, toughness, and most importantly to me, taking charges. I personally have only taken a few charges as player, but I love the idea of them. They are game changing plays that shift momentum. They are the ultimate team play that sacrifices your body for the group. I’m a big believer in the charge. I talked to my team all week about not being afraid to step in, waiting for the contact, and taking one for the team. All week my words of wisdom fell on deaf ears. I can’t even blame them; I would have been the same way as a player at a bball camp. But then, in the finals of the camp playoffs, in the fourth quarter with our team desperately needing a stop, it all came together. One of the best players in the camp beat my team off the dribble to the middle. The weak-side help defender for my team slid into the lane and was perfectly positioned to take the charge. He stepped in and see the picture below for the outcome.

Play of the year.  But ouch.

Play of the camp. But ouch.

He took the charge like a pro. He also broke both of his wrists. There’s no moral to this story.

2.
Upon returning from Sweden late Friday night, I had a big game with the Titans vs. one of our biggest challengers for the league title, Blue Demons, on Saturday night. As I’ve mentioned before, I spend half my week in Sligo coaching and half of my week in Galway. After months of posturing and coordinating, we were finally able to organize a day for the players I coach in Sligo to come to Galway to square off against the players I coach with the Titans. A busload of U12, U14, and U16 Sligo All Stars were to make their way for a matchup vs. some of the Galway Titans underage teams. They would also stick around until the game I was playing in later that night.
This was great I thought. The kids in Sligo were excited to come to Galway, get some games, and watch me play. They had not seen me play in a real game, so they were excited to find out if I could live up to the hype. They were so excited in fact, that they told me they were going to make a sign for me in support! I couldn’t wait to see it.
I was expecting something like this:

Dude's got a big head.

Dude’s got a big head.

It did not end up being something like this.
After a day of well played and hard fought basketball from both Titans and Sligo, the Sligo kids unveiled their sign during warm ups of the Titans/Demons clash.
What I got was this. Couldn’t have been funnier.

Always a good pass.

Always a good pass.

I did not see that coming.  But that was an awesome sign.
We went on to win a barn burner in OT in our packed-out Renmore gym. And it was LOUD. Those are the best games to play in. Also of note, I was T’d up.  Again.  “Do as I say, not as I do,” I say to everyone I coach.

Check out these highlights from the game.

http://video.ak.fbcdn.net/hvideo-ak-ash3/v/763702_600450223314985_506353857_n.mp4?oh=6456a0adea27fdede7cad84bc04548f4&oe=5127CD7A&__gda__=1361561789_4e2960859ff9ee22e2fca6ca06a466d5

Note: While the video may show otherwise, other people did actually score in this game. Thanks to Joe Bree for putting this together.

While we’re on dope bball videos, check out new Under Armour spokesperson Andre Tongo’s new spot. The commercial should start running in the states in the next few weeks.

I AM from Adio Ash on Vimeo.

Thats what I call balling up.  Shout out to Dre’s brother Adio Ash for producing, directing, etc.  Talented.  He knows what he’s doing.

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Proud to Be an American

Screen Shot 2012-12-19 at 2.46.09 AM

I’m back home in New York for the next few weeks, and its great to be back. I thought I would sit down and put together a post reflecting on the last (almost) five months in Ireland. Something that touched on all of the special people I’ve been able to meet, the incredible things I’ve been able to do, the wonderful places I’ve been, and the awesome experiences I’ve had. In such a post I would thank everyone that has made this year possible and for making it the unbelievable opportunity and time it has been. I would also mention how I have grown as a person, the lessons I’ve learned as a coach, and the fun playing basketball (which I might have forgotten somewhere along the way) can be. But then I thought (which is really never a good thing), that while I might enjoy writing that, it would probably be boring to read. And it would probably be really long. I only have so many off-the-cuff adjectives at my disposal to use for great. (Santa might want to bring me a thesaurus for Christmas.)

So I decided not to write that post. Once I decide to post something however, I’m not going to leave the page until I put something down.  Pen to paper.  Or rather fingers to keyboard.  I started to peruse pictures and posts from the past few months looking for inspiration and came across the above header image.  If you are anything like me, you are probably too lazy to scroll back to the top.  You are probably not as willing to go a little further as Red, and I am certainly not Andy Dufresne.  I’ll post it again.  Look down.

Titans Win!

Titans Win!

This screen shot comes from a website that allows you to follow game action and score updates in real time. Its actually a pretty cool and useful website as long as there is no radio, television, or ESPN gamecast coverage technology available for the particular game. This is not available in the Irish National League. I came across the link for our game vs. Maree and thought I would check it out.

Maree is our big local rival in the league. They call it a derby match. Think Red Sox/Yankees, Duke/Carolina, Celtics/Lakers, Tottenham/Arsenal, etc. The most accurate personal comparison to the Titans/Maree rivalry is Horace Mann/Collegiate at Collegiate on a Friday night when I was a freshman and sophomore in high school. That won’t mean anything to most people so I will quickly explain. — I went to Horace Mann. The biggest game of the year in terms of attendance and fan interest was the Collegiate game at Collegiate on West 78th Steet in Manhattan. Basketball might not have been that important to the student bodies most of the time, but EVERYONE came to that game. And the gym was tiny, which is a huge understatement. The “facility” was standing room only and even that is being generous. I vividly remember saving a ball from going out of bounds and knocking into one of my classmates, who fell into the person next to him, who dominoed a group of 10-15 people to the ground. Lots of people in a confined space is the point. Huuuuuuuuge fire hazard. I made sure not to rip the nets too hard with my swishes over this concern. In the years I remember, HM was one of the heavy league favorites and Collegiate was good but not great. It was always an intense, highly contested battle. In the years I am choosing to remember HM won most of the time. If Collegiate had won it would have been a major upset. The games were always close and memorable. One year, the coach of Collegiate, being worried that HM knew all of their plays, changed the names to every play they ran. He tried to do this less than a week before the big game. Collegiate’s players were confused all game. Horace Mann had not talked about their play names once in preparation. Backfire. Horace Mann won at the buzzer the next year and the fans stormed the court. — You could probably substitute Titans for Horace Mann and Maree for Collegiate in the preceding little HM/Collegiate summary and have a pretty good understanding of Titans/Maree. Big rivals, smaaaaaaalll gym, Titans are better.
It appears we’ve lost the picture. Let me post it again.

Titans Win!

Titans Win!

Let’s take a look at the picture now. We, the Titans, beat Maree 72-63. If you go to game recap (http://whatsthescore.ie/live/view/183) you’ll see the Titans led nearly the whole game, but Maree was able to make it interesting down the stretch. At the 1:42 mark, the Titans American makes a huge three that essentially ends the game and seals the win.  Ok great, but who is this mystery Titans American?  No need for suspense, it was me.  The point I’m doing a poor job of getting to is that everyone else who was in the game updates was referred to by their actual names.  I was called “Titans American.”  While I suppose this is technically true, I can sometimes be negative, and initially saw this as a slight.  “Are you kidding me?  They don’t even know my name?!?!?” was my first reaction.  We have another American who was given name credibility, what happened to me?  I was hurt.  I was upset.  These feeling did not last, however.  I’m working on being more positive, so upon further reflection I have done a complete 180.  Titan’s American is a much better title than just my name.  Anyone can have a name.  Not everyone can be a Titan’s American.  There are many requirements to be met.  You know, you have to be a Titan and an American.  So like lots of stuff.  There are strong barriers to entry in this Titans American club.
In all seriousness, it is an incredible sign of respect really, and I couldn’t be prouder to be referred to an American, or seen as from the U.S., or to tell others I live in the greatest country in the world. The Titans part is pretty good too.

So thanks to whoever decided to just call me Titans American. I appreciate it and will wear the title as a badge of honor. Please continue to call me this in any and all future gamecasts. I’m proud to be an American, and I’m even prouder to be a Titans American.

***********Endnotes
1. I worked a Shawshank Redemption reference into this somehow. Bill Simmons would be proud.
2. http://whatsthescore.ie/
3. Collegiate’s coach ended up winning 4 straight state championships after I graduated. Horace Mann’s coach coincidentally stopped coaching right before Collegiate’s 4 year run. Hmmm…..
4. Game Box: MOF Chemists Titans 72 (40) (B Barile 21, P Peldzius 13, A Tongo 13) Maree 63 (33) (T Mitkus 18, K Hansberry 14, D Hansberry 7)
5. Even though I posted the picture 3 times with the picture getting bigger each time, the point of posting that screen shot was not to indicate that I had hit a huge three pointer than essentially ended the game. No really, I’m serious, it wasnt!
6. I can still see you rolling your eyes. It really wasnt!
7. I love Ireland too.
8. My name is Brendan by the way.

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Fairytale of New York

This is my new favorite Christmas song.

Enjoy the song, and enjoy your own Christmas fairytale, whatever that may be.

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