On the Road with Mike: Michael Jordan Senior Flight School

It’s already shaping up to be another memorable week at the Michael Jordan Senior Flight School camp at the Mirage Hotel and Casino Las Vegas. Eight teams comprised of 9-10 players will make a run for the chance to compete for the championship title on Saturday. And to the victor go the equally coveted spoils: a diamond-studded championship ring inscribed with the Jordan logo, the year, and the winners’ names.

What makes this camp special is that you have Michael Jordan there every day involved and interacting with the players. And you also have a number of Hall of Famers on this coaching staff as well as a number of current NBA coaches and rising great coaches at the collegiate level including P.J. Carlesimo, Jay Wright, Roy Williams, Doc Rivers, John Calipari, Ben Howland, Alvin Gentry, Bill Walton, Bill Self and John Thompson III. This summer, veterans of the camp will coach their own teams and some of the new guys will be partnered up with those of us who have been around for a while.

We drafted our teams last night. My team is the Blazers and we put together an outstanding group of guys with talent and a strong will to win. Our front line is anchored by 6’5” Gary Munson, a 245-pound explosive rebounder from New York. My other center Mark Taylor hails from Weddington, North Carolina and is 6’4”, 230 pounds. My wing players are James Malinchak (6’3”, 215 lbs) from Henderson, Nevada and Chris Dunne (6’2”, 205 lbs) of Denver, Colorado. At 6’2” and 185 pounds a guy I’m relying on to play multiple positions is Ryan Meier from San Diego, California. And in keeping with the NBA trend of going global, I drafted John Herrero (6’, 222 lbs) from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Mark Scura (5’11”, 165 lbs) from Concord, New Hampshire plays some point guard for us, some 2 guard, and he’s a good defender. Rounding out our roster are two grizzly veterans: David Hilton (5’8”, 185 lbs) from Woodlands, Texas and Paul Hertzberg (5’10”, 180 lbs) from Los Angeles, California. They add their wealth of knowledge and experience to our team.

Michael Jordan opened camp with a lecture to the campers this morning. He touched on strategies for playing offensive basketball and the thought process when you’re starting out one-on-one, demonstrating how to face up and attack the basket. Following 15 minutes of Q&A with Jordan we had our first team practice. Afterwards Hubie Brown gave a great talk to the campers, sharing a historical account of how the players today compare to players of yesteryear and his experiences coaching at the different levels throughout his Hall of Fame career.

Then it was time to test the waters. In our first matchup we faced the Bobcats coached by Roy Williams and wound up coming away with the victory. Though it was a good win for the Blazers, we played a sloppy game – missing way too many free throws and easy shots on the inside. We had a lot of work to do in our afternoon practice before facing the Suns, who are coached by Alvin Gentry and Bill Walton. With only one practice and one game under my belt I had a lot of figuring out to do.

Our practice paid off. We did a better job of shooting our free throws in this afternoon’s game and our team defense improved. Though we didn’t rebound the ball very well we came with a narrow victory over the Suns. We have a very difficult game coming up tomorrow morning against the Nuggets who are coached by Bill Self and John Thompson III. They have a couple very good players. We have to watch out for powerhouse Michael Hawk, a 6’3” 185-pounder form Mt Vernon Ohio and Mark Gott, their 5’8” bullet point guard from Mooresville, Indiana.

With guys ranging from ages 35 to 66 our Blazers squad possesses a blend of youth, veteran expertise and a tremendous desire to win. I have one championship ring from when Mike Krzyzewski and I coached a team together some years ago. Would love to return home with another.

2010 Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

I arrived in Springfield, Massachusetts today where many of the game’s greats have gathered to honor the latest batch of soon-to-be inductees poised for enshrinement. This year’s Class of 2010 includes two Olympic gold-medal teams. The 1960 Olympic Team was arguably the greatest amateur team that we have ever assembled. Legendary Co-captains Oscar Robertson and Jerry West along with Jerry Lucas led their team to Olympic gold in Rome, doing so with relative ease.

Back then our teams were primarily comprised of guys from the Amateur Athletic Union along with NCAA players. And we always took a couple servicemen – guys serving in the armed forces who were playing service basketball. However after the 1971 “Haywood Decision” permitted college underclassmen to enter the NBA draft, our college ranks gradually became depleted.

By the eightees many other countries were sending pros to compete in the Olympics, but NBA players were not permitted to participate in international competition. Fortunately FIBA Secretary-General Boris Stankovic decided that this was not only unfair, but bad for the sport of basketball. So he led a movement to change the rules. 1992 was the first year that NBA players were allowed to compete in the Olympics, and hence the Dream Team was formed.

To me the 1992 Dream Team is the greatest Olympic team ever assembled. Marv and I were working for NBC at the time and had the incredible opportunity to cover the Dream Team both at the Tournament of the Americas in Portland, which was the Olympic qualifying event, and throughout the Barcelona Olympics including the gold-medal game. Coached by Chuck Daly along with Lenny Wilkens, P. J. Carlesimo and Mike Krzyzewski, our guys were overwhelming against every opponent. It was the most awesome display of talent I have ever seen.

In addition to these two teams, a number of outstanding individuals will be honored at this evening’s induction ceremony at Symphony Hall. Karl Malone was an incredible performer from the standpoint of his consistency, his reliability and his durability. And though Scottie Pippin ended his career with Portland, we will always remember Pippin as part of the Bulls’ dynasty and as Jordan’s running mate en route to six NBA Championship Titles.

Unfortunately Dennis Johnson is no longer with us, but the three-time NBA champ is being recognized for being such an integral part of both the Boston and Seattle franchises. He was an excellent defender and a solid, steady point guard who played well within the structure of the Celtics team alongside Bird, McHale, Parish and Angie.

Cynthia Cooper’s name is among the top five that always come up whenever you talk about women’s basketball and the great players who have gone on after their collegiate careers to have outstanding pro careers. She was instrumental to the success of our women’s teams at the international level.

Bob Hurley’s story is just incredible. The 35-year veteran coach at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City is known to be a very demanding coach, but he is a highly respected coach who has captured 23 State Championships and turned out more than 100 graduates who have earned Division I basketball scholarships. While the success of his basketball program is remarkable, it pales in comparison to what he’s done for these young men and for their lives in terms of giving them direction and helping to keep the heartbeat of their small, parochial school alive by finding people to make the donations that allow it to stay open year after year. Bob is an outstanding and special individual.

Jerry Buss is one of the premiere owners in the NBA. He has done for the Lakers organization what the late George Steinbrenner did for the Yankees. New York City has always taken great pride in the Yankees and Steinbrenner felt it was his obligation to keep them on top. Likewise, Los Angeleans take great pride in the Lakers and for over three decades Buss has done everything in his power to help maintain the high standards they have come to expect. He is a great owner and being memorialized in Springfield alongside many of his former players is a well-deserved honor.

Czar’s Got Heart: CIC Celebrity Golf Classic

The PGA Championship is under way at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Tiger Woods has a great opportunity here to make a statement in order to secure a position on the 2010 Ryder Cup team. Currently tenth on the U.S. qualifying list, Woods may even be able to sneak into the top 8 and earn an automatic berth if he finishes high enough in this tournament, which is the last qualifying event for the Ryder Cup.

Fortunately I didn’t have as much riding on my performance at Monday’s Celebrity Golf Classic. Cleveland Indians Charities hosted the 19th annual tournament to benefit their community outreach efforts. We had a great group of people, and the idyllic conditions made for a terrific day of golfing at the Quail Hollow Country Club.

Among the Indians alumni who participated was MLB great Kenny Lofton, who was inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame during a pregame ceremony on Saturday. And former Indians manager Mike Hargrove was in the group right in front of me. He managed the Indians back when I was a coaching the Cavs and he’s been a great friend for many years now.

Professional Travel sponsored my team. President and CEO Robert Sturm had a dozen of his employees playing on two different teams. In fact, his other team wound up winning the tournament. One of those guys sunk a spectacular hole in one and went home with a brand new Mercedes Benz. I just narrowly missed the hole in one by about 80 yards.

In light of my latest adventures in golfing, looks like it may be time for me to go back to my swing coach and work on my technique. Or maybe Hargrove can help me out. He knocked the living day lights out of the golf ball. If Hargrove were still hitting baseballs like he hit the golf ball in the tournament, he’d still be playing in the Major League.