Dreaming of a retro era

by Paul Honda on January 18, 2013

This is one of those old-but-new pursuits that I often don’t get around to. That’s right, for all the photos of curry plates and miso ramen I’ve ever taken (and posted) online, somehow I actually get an insane amount of work done when it comes to certain things.

One of them should be dubbing my old VHS and Beta videotapes. I even bought a Dazzle* techie thing from Best Buy this week. Supposedly, as the clerk there (really good at what he does) said, it will allow me to play a VHS tape directly into my computer. Sounds too good to be true, but between the Dazzle* (yes, this name includes the asterisk) at about $75 and the only other gadget that does the same thing at $200, it was only choice.

I haven’t opened it yet. But once I do, I want a great watch of my old LMU game videos, including the infamous battle against LSU and Shaquille O’Neal. LMU lost that game, but even as I recorded that game decades ago, I knew it was special. I just didn’t know it would be the last chapter of true fastbreak basketball during my lifetime. It’s like LMU ate the last big serving of the Fastbreak Era at the buffet bar.

Come on. You guys who are roughly my age or older remember being coached to “fill the lanes” after every rebound. That was a common practice. It was commonly taught. It was the way. The Way. I never imagined that this would be a phrase that basketball players would stop learning (and coaches stop teaching) by the late 1990s.

Now? Coaches are afraid to fastbreak. They trust defense. That’s all good. I love defense, too. But even the dynastic Celtics of the Cousy-Russell era played great defense AND ran that fastbreak.

But I can’t say it’s totally dead. Never has been. Just slowly dying on the vine, like the vanilla bean plant near my lanai. Alvin Gentry, the last remnant of the D’Antoni/Nash era in Phoenix, was fired today by the Suns. They knew he was all about pace and filling the lanes. But they stocked his kitchen with plowhorses and camels, basically. He didn’t have a chance.

The occasional treat, I appreciate. Maryknoll ran with Punahou last week (or was it the week before) for a 70-66 win in the fine, air-conditioned comfort of T.C. Ching Gymnasium.

Earlier this week, it was a fairly decent pace in a 63-55 win by the No. 1 Spartans over a quick Kamehameha squad. I credit the Warriors and their staff (currently led by Julian Nakanishi, and previously led by his brother Jesse) for unleashing the program’s speedsters, kids who could run and shoot and play defense. They favored the fastbreak, but it was also a logical means to success.

Coaches rely on their strengths, and if depth is in the mix, it’s almost ludicrous to NOT run. But in the end, especially in the old format of the ILH, regular-season success — wins — were so hard to come by and meant so much. So the 29-23 game almost became commonplace. The 36-31 game was pretty normal.

IT WAS ALMOST UNWATCHABLE. But that’s what the system, what the format dictated. It was a grind to end all grinds. As aesthetically pleasing as watching sausage being made in a stinky old factory. Or worse.

When Kalaheo hosted Farrington earlier in the week, of course I thought back to that 102-94 game of the 1980s. The one I’ve mentioned a few times here. The one I wish I could’ve seen. The one I would still like to see if anyone has the tape. (It would probably be on 8mm. Or possibly Beta.) Of course, it wasn’t to be. Kalaheo is extremely long, skilled and deliberate.

So there we have it. Our best coaches tend to dictate pace. Many of them still prefer to keep up with snails and disable deeper teams by milking each possession dry. More power to them. I just hope to see more and more teams get back to running the floor. Sometime soon.

Paul Honda, Star-Advertiser

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