Randy Bennett and I had lunch about a month ago. Over the years I have met Randy either at St. Mary's games or banquets, but we never had a chance to really talk and get to know each other. Most of the time as we ate, we talked hoops, a little about my old St. Mary's team of '58 that went to the Elite Eight, losing to the team that won it all, Pete Newell's Golden Bears, and a little about his 2009/10 team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Butler, an accomplishment in my opinion that equals our 1958 effort. And we talked about the previous season's Gaels. If I expected to hear Randy express regret over that team's disappointing loss to Kent State in the opening round of the NIT, I was mistaken. No doubt the game ended not to his liking, but Randy made it clear those were his boys win or lose. Loyalty is essential to Randy Bennett. And looking back is a waste of time.
Toward the end of our lunch, I asked Randy if he was happy at St. Mary's. Yes, he said, they are good people. He liked the program they'd developed together. He didn't elaborated. He didn't need to. A man of few words, Randy Bennett said it all. 1) He is happy. 2) The St. Mary's folks are good people. 3) The program is something they built together. I knew that I was talking to a man who believes in the team concept, from players through coaching staff, and through administration.
St. Mary's College signed Randy Bennett to a 10 year contract. I'm betting on 10 straight years of Gael's winning basketball. I'll be rooting for them. Congratulations to the team: Randy, Athletic Director Mark Orr,
and St. Mary's College President Brother Ronald Gallagher.
Just as there are All-Star coaches like Randy Bennett, and All-Star basketball players (you take your pick), there are All Star poets. Phillip Levine, a member of my All-Star Poets Team, has been selected Poet Laureate of the United States. A native of Detroit, he taught for years at Fresno State University, teaching and mentoring some fabulous American poets, including the genius poet and my tennis doubles partner at the University of Iowa's grad. school in Creative Writing, David St. John. A progressive and radical thinker, I'm betting Levine is going to shake things up at the Library of Congress. The following poem by Phillip Levine is not about sports, but it is about teaching, something I did for twenty-two years after I retired from professional basketball.
M. Degas Teaches Art and Science At Durfee Intermediate School - detroit 1942 by Phillip Levine
He made a line on the blackboard,
one bold stroke from right to left
diagonally downward and stood back
to ask, looking as always at no one
in particular, "What heave I done?"
From the back of the room Freddie
shouted, "You've broken a piece
of chalk." M. Degas did not smile.
"What have I done?" he repeated.
The most intellectual students
looked down to study their desks
except for Gertrude Bimmler, who raised
her hand before she spoke. "M. Degas,
you have created the hypotenuse
of an isosceles triangle." Degas mused.
Everyone knew that Gertrude could not
be incorrect. "It is possible,"
Louis Warshowsky added precisely,
"that you have begun to represent
the roof of a barn>" I remember
that it was exactly twenty minutes
past eleven, and I thought at worst
this would go on another forty
minutes. It was early April,
the snow had all but melted on
the playground, the elms and maples
bordering the cracked walks shivered
in the new winds, and I believed
that before I knew it I'd be
swaggering to the candy store
for a Milky Way. M. Degas
pursed his lips, and the room
stilled until the long hand
of the clock moved to twenty one
as though in complicity with Gertrude,
who added confidently, "You've begun
to separate the dark from the dark."
I looked back for help, but now
the trees bucked and quaked, and I
knew this could go on forever.
What my musings are all about...
Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.
The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.
The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.