Monday, January 16, 2012

Cal "The Wolf" is a Wise Guy!

Putting on my Robert Greene hat, here is a look at Churchill coach Cal Wulfsberg through the eyes of a couple of HBO series. Being very familiar with Las Vegas, waching Wulfsberg reminds me of the wiseguys that buy out the craps table on the strip. They walk with a gait that screams power. Their demeanor says "I'm a Boss and you know it". Cal Wulfsburg has many detractors. A lot of people, opposing coaches, can not stand his swagger. A lot of basketball heads wish they had the opportunity to expose his weaknesses. Whatever your view of him, he has definitely raised the stakes in the city.

"He couldn't sell it" Junior Soprano, 'The Sopranos'

Junior Soprano wanted to make a move on his nephew, Tony, for control. He had a willing co-conspirator in Richie Aprile, a nasty old school hoodlum. Junior asked Richie to feel out some potential allies, also unhappy with the Tony regime, to see if they would back a coup d' etat against Tony. When Richie was flatly told that they would not support an uprising against Tony, Richie reported the disappointing news to Uncle Junior. Uncle Junior saw that Richie was too weak to lead a rebellion and was not "respected" by the other leaders. This lead him to say that Richie "couldn't sell it", he was not respected enough to sell it.

Cal Wulfsburg sold it. He had the resume' and experience to follow the successful Stacey Moore. The Wulf was able to keep Leslie Vorpahl from going to a different high school, even though she had to sit out her freshman season as a school of choice transfer. The Wulf obviously knows his stuff. This is an essential ingredient in a successful coach locally. San Antonio has a ton of elite dads. Elite dads seem to know it all and are always second guessing coaching decisions. Elite dads are numerous across the nation as most of them(us) have played the game and are living the game through our kids to some extent. The huge problem is that San Antonio has a lot of elite dads that have never played the game and their daughters are "not so elite". A large number of elite moms watch a Spurs game and feel qualified to heap criticism on the X & O ability of local coaches. The Wulf has the knowledge, experience and presence to shut privileged kids and opinionated parents up. In a recent game, one of his star players was talking back to him. He sternly told her to "shut up and sit down". Of course she did and he moved on to doing his job. He could not speak that way to a star player if she did not respect him. Her parents would not have allowed their child to be spoken to in that way if they did not respect his ability to lead. Just because someone calls themselves a leader, does not mean that they can lead! The Wulf is respected enough to "sell it" and others fall in line.

"The Game done changed" -Cutty Wise

"Nah, the Game is the same, it just got more fierce"- Slim Charles, 'The Wire'

The Wulf can care less about local sensibilities. He announced his presence to the local scene with clear intention; supremacy. He carries himself as if his counterparts are not on his level. He is a former men's college standout and coach. The same tenacity and lack of civility that is mandated on the men's side, he has brought to girls basketball. He has helped make the game "more fierce".

In a recent game versus Madison and their well respected coach Tracy Hastings, The Wulf howled. His Churchill squad was beating Madison by 30 points, late in the 4th quarter. Tracy Hastings kept her starters in the game and began pressing the Churchill second string. The Wulf looked down to the other bench at Hastings a couple of times. Hastings kept pressing. The Wulf stood up and told one of the most tenured coaches in the city, "Your not going to win, if you keep pressing, I'm putting my starters back in". Tracy Hastings kept pressing, so The Wulf backed up his threat and sent the A-Team back in a game that was already out of hand. The message was evident. The Wulf understands that every play is a battle. Every battle has an effect on the War. The War is not an individual game or district win. The War is establishing a tradition of excellence, a tradition of supremacy. Allowing Madison to have ANY perceived success against his team was a potential threat to his local legacy. If onlookers, scouts, parents, fans and his own players saw a chink in his armour, this could have a negative impact later. He had to make sure that his second strings inability to break a press did not bring up connotations that he only is successful because of his elite players. The Wulf is a different animal, not normally seen in local girls basketball.

"This aint about your business class, this is that other thang"- Avon Barksdale,
'The Wire'

Avon Barksdale was a street soldier. His long time partner, Stringer Bell, was more than a soldier. He was an articulate business minded street guy that shunned unnecessary violence in favor of cooperation and "business". Beefing with other street soldiers was not in Stringer Bell's character. Things could be settled in a business like way without violence in Bell's ruling style. Avon Barksdale saw a flaw in this strategy in time of war. When dealing with a ruthlessly capable upstart, Marlo Standsfield, Barksdale realized that Stringer Bell could not comprehend that business civility only goes so far. When dealing with an unrelenting opponent that possesses ambition and skill, a harder hand is needed. As Avon said, "it's that other thang" that a wolf needs to keep other wolves at bay.

Anissa Hastings is an Alpha female personified. Hastings bows down to no one. She has used her super athletic frame and tenacity to lead her very successful Sam Houston High School team as a player years ago. She earned a ride to the University of Texas. Her first head coaching job was at Fox Tech. She chose to become an assistant before getting the reigns at Stevens. When a local coach walked into a meeting last year and stated, " We all know who District MVP is, so let's get it over with", Hastings protested. The coach was automatically giving the award to NC State's Erica Donovan but Hastings had other ideas. She felt her Western Kentucky bound guard Alexis Govan was the true MVP and fought for her kid. Hastings lost Govan and other key contributors to her successful 2010 team and went to work. She made her current group believe that they are elite by demanding it! They are currently #2 in the city. Hastings is ambitious as a street soldier, Marlo Standsfield.

The Wulf had to see if Anissa Hastings was a formidable foe in the first game of the season. The Stevens team was down when Hastings started to LEAD her team on a run. During an emphatic block by one of her players on a Churchill shot, the ref called a foul. Hastings went off! She told the ref, "She volleyball spiked it and you called a blocking foul?" The Wulf overheard the comment and smirked. He had some ammunition.

The Wulf started playing pick up ball. His team made a shot and he looked over at Hastings and smiled. He looked at his fans behind his bench and winked at them. Whenever the Churchill team got a questionable call against them, he yelled at the ref, " That was a volleyball spike". These digs were an attempt to get under the skin of Hastings. While it did not work, Stevens prevailed, the message was sent. The Wulf will test the metal of his opponents. Like ANY former competitive basketball player, he understands that the games are not just played in between the lines, but in between the MIND!

"Fish gotta swim"- Omar Little, 'The Wire'

Omar Little was speaking of the nature of a certain individual. Like the gentleman that Omar was referencing, The Wulf has tenancies. A few of his tenancies show that like fish, he does was he is built to do.

A former point guard, The Wulf is smart enough to keep the ball in the hands of his point guard. In a city that is fascinated with taking the ball out of the hands of their best player, The Wulf is a stark contrast. He runs numerous flat screens for his star, Vorpahl, that makes teams adjust. He knows that the best decisions come from the most experienced and skilled players. He knows that he has arguably the best pure point guard in the city. His knowledge tells him that it would be IGNORANT to not have the ball in Vorpahl's hands. In a recent spanking of Johnson, he had a seldom used post player set 4 on ball screens, 25 away from the basket, for Vorpahl, on one play!. She eventually found a gap and turned the corner to find a wide open Jordan Holub for a jumper.

While the Wulf is respected enough to make his team realize who will have the ball, he is smart enough to get easy looks for Vorpahl. In a game versus the amazingly good on ball defender, Moriah Mack, Vorpahl struggled to get open shots. Accordingly, Churchill lost. It is amazing that more coaches do not swim with Wulfsburg. Local coaches allow one of the best decision makers in the city to MAKE DECISIONS. How does the city guard these effective flats; trap it and make her pass then deny the return, hard hedge, go under, funnel, shadow it, make her refuse it, jam the screener, switch, etc? Most of the time, no game plan is set for an offense that is ran 90% of the time for the #4 team in the city!

How does The Wulf defend opposing elite players? He runs a creative 1-3 Zone with his best defender face guarding full court. It resembles a Diamond and 1 but flattens out the baseline defenders. (Amazingly, no one counters with an inverted 1-4 high set that puts skilled guards at the high post to play 4 on 3 with the back line defenders) .While he KEEPS the ball in the hands of his best player, he refuses to allow other elite players to KEEP the ball in their hands. He runs his girls team like the boys Churchill coach. The boys coach keeps the ball in the hands of Scott Mammel, another great savvy decision maker. This less than complicated theory is what you do when you have a Chris Paul. You make it easier for Chris to do his job. What Mike Floyd did with Erica Donovan, what Tina Camacho did with Len'Nique Brown, what Kari Wallace Did with Meighan Simmons is what The Wulf is doing. For this reason, Churchill is not a team that local coaches are going to want to see come February.

The Wulf is good for the city. His "take no prisoners" approach will make others start to take the game seriously. He is a system coach. His system is something that allows his kids to look good while making others look bad. The comparison to HBO gangsters is not meant to vilify nor insinuate negativity. It is to illustrate an old gangster maxim, " Gangsters do what the want, the weak do what they can". Cal "The Wulf" is doing whatever he wants to do. Other teams, with more talent, are pitifully doing what they can!