Friday, January 25, 2013

Ball Don't Lie:Tina Camacho 500 Wins


Tina Camacho is a leader. She is a manger, boss, supervisor, etc. She has that IT that allows her to earn not only the respect of her players but her peers. The two time court coach with USA Basketball earned her 500th victory this past Tuesday and the feat is nothing short of remarkable.

Take a quick look at some of the great coaches in the NBA. Phil Jackson, Don Nelson, and Doc Rivers all played the game, yet were not considered stars in the League. It is probably not a coincidence that these players became very good leaders. Playing on teams with great stars, these men learned to earn their respect, yet understood their role. Being stars at the high school and college levels, these men learned what is was to be at the top of those respective totem poles. They have learned to play with teammates who had inflated egos and they also learned to encourage lessor teammates with fragile psyches. Camacho too learned to lead by being a high school star yet paid her dues as a role player at a Division 1 University, UTSA. Leadership ability is earned and learned through being battle tested and proving that capability to those that follow. Leadership is not a title, bestowed by some high school athletic director filling a position.

Camacho's leadership is evident on many fronts. She has coached current high school head coaches and former assistants, Triva Corrales(Judson), Jackie Contreras(Harlandale). Another former assistant is now a head coach in the Fort Bend district. Her current assistant works in a auxiliary role for the SA Silver Stars. Like Bobby Knight to Coach K, Al McGuire to Doc Rivers, and Red Holzman to Phil Jackson, the Camacho coaching tree is a direct indication of her ability to lead.


Leaders inspire. After a recent workout in preparation for her Pro Day tryout, former Wagner star and recent San Diego State player Sojoyia Griffin spoke to a gym full of young aspiring middle school players. When a future Wagner Thunderbird asked her to give her thoughts about playing for Camacho, the well spoken Griffin seemed to struggle to find the words to express her appreciation for her former HS coach. After repeatedly pausing, Griffin stated, "I just love Coach Camacho, what she has done for me, I will never forget". Enough said! She is a leader that inspires loyalty and admiration from her successful troops, not dissension and contempt.

Many high school coaches view their jobs as Jobs. Camacho realizes that coaching is more than a Job. Many of her players have had to overcome incredible obstacles and social issues to thrive. Camacho has been and is at times a social worker, mentor, shoulder to cry on, disciplinarian and for some, a second mother. Whenever I tweet anything about Camacho's success, it never fails that her numerous college players retweet the message. Her players care about her long after they are done playing for her because they know she continues to care about them!


The 2007-2008 Wagner team was loaded with 10 players that went on to play in college. That team went 36-1. The T-Birds went to the state semis before running into the Ogumike sisters, who lead their Cy-Fair squad to the championship. The  Wagner 2007-2008 team was the best that I have seen in my handful of years in the city. Sajoyia Griffin, Jessica Sommers, Briana Brock, Arielle Roberson, Len'Nique Brown, Michelle Rodriguez, all went on to play D1 basketball. Amber Roberson had D1 basketball opportunities but chose to play at UT for the Final 4 bound volleyball squad.

Detractors will read that and exclaim that she is supposed to win with all those bullets in the barrel. That is easier said than done. Managing the egos and agendas of 10 talented kids and making them believe that the best interest of the team supersedes individual accomplishments is not, nor has ever been easy. For those nostalgic dreamers that wish for a different era, read about Auerbach, Lombardi and Wooden and learn that all great leaders have had struggles coaching supremely talented teams and getting players to "buy in" to the mission. That is what made them great, the ability to teach sacrifice by sacrificing!

How many high school coaches still drive from house to house, apartment to apartment,  dropping off kids after practice? How many of them will encourage players to sell candy or work a snow cone machine in order for them to afford to travel with a club team in the summer? How many high school coaches will meet their player, an aspiring rapper, at a local college visit where she can get her first chance to rap in a professional studio, all while learning to appreciate an art form that is so foreign to a fan of country music?! How many high school coaches spend time cold calling college programs to help their kids get into school? Or spend their time and money traveling to Dallas or Houston in the summer to keep an eye on their players while they play club ball?  Camacho has done and will continue to do these things. She is vested in her players success and her players invest their considerable abilities in her and her program. It is not a relationship of exploitation in the name of recognition or coaching advancement.


500 hundred wins speaks for itself. Now factor in how difficult it was to win at Burbank, a program that was not known to inherit an abundance of talent. Then move to Wagner, an immensely talented environment filled with "know it all players and PARENTS". Anyone sitting in the crowd at a Wagner game over the last few years have heard daddies, mommies, grandma, grandpa, and the community of sideline coaches criticize and second guess her decisions. Through all this, she is respected by almost all of the "know it alls". They know that the ball don't lie. She has consistently won and given the opportunity for many young women to succeed. That is her enduring legacy. How many young women have USED her to realize their dreams?!

I look forward to the summer in San Antonio. Every year, I get a chance to be a fan! The grapevine speaks of a game time and they all come. Last year I walked into the gym and saw Nique Brown, Jessica Sommers, Amber Roberson, Ashley Catlett, Briana Brock,  and The Twins. Also in action, half of the current UTSA women's team, current and  former college stars from across the city. WNBA All-Star Danielle Adams sat on the sideline and took in the action. I mistakenly identified Texas Tech and Judson great Ashley Roberson for her baby sis Arielle. I tweeted the assembly of SA hoopers, happy to get a chance to see young women play with passion, for the love of the game. Arielle replied to my tweet that it was not her in the gym YET, she was on her way from Colorado and excited to join the celebration. Arielle came to the place that loved her, to a culture of success that helped propel her to having a remarkable freshman season. The architect of that culture of excellence is Tina Camacho. The ball don't lie!!!