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A Brief Divergence

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I apologize in advance for taking focus away from LeBron's impending press conference.  It will be a truly momentous occaision when James announces that he'll join the Kings for the veteran's minimum, but we'll have plenty of time to celebrate tomorrow.  For now, I have a story to share.

As you probably learned from Aykis' aptly-named fanshot, the Clippers have hired Vinny Del Negro as their head coach.  I felt compelled to share the story of when Vinny Del Negro coached me.  Yes, that's right, I was once coached by Vinny D.  It's safe to safe that he helped me become the basketball player I am today.

Everything you are about to read is true.

As I'm sure you all remember, Vinny D was drafted by Sacramento and played two seasons with the Kings.  He loved the city so much that he declined an extension and opted to play in Italy.  But he also started a tradition of summer basketball camps for kids.  In the summer of 1998, I attended the week-long camp at the newly-opened Granite Bay High School.

The first thing I recall were the coaches.  I don't recall Vinny D being there the first day, but he might have been.  Most of the coaches were folks who had played some level of college hoops, but the only recognizeable name was Mr. Miller, my 7th grade English teacher.

We were taught the importance of fundamentals, and we spent a lot of time working on various drills.  Conditioning was also stressed, as we were told we should run everywhere.  You don't walk from drill station to drill station, you run!  Conditioning was reinforced by an emphasis on proper diet, like the day when they fed us McDonald's hamburgers for lunch.  The key is that they were hamburgers, because the cheese would have been bad for our conditioning (or something).

Finally the day came when the man, the myth, the legend, Mr. Vinny Del Negro showed up.  He gave us an inspirational speech about how his parents got mad because he always had his basketball with him as a kid.  I thought to myself, "Ignore your parents rules and you make it to the NBA?  Got it.  I'm going to be rich!  Just not rich enough to get kids cheeseburgers instead of hamburgers!"

After the inspirational speech, Vinny played 1-on-1 with a few of the kids.  The rules were simple: He had to score three times to win, the kids had to score once to win.  I remember him blocking the shot of a particularly short 7th grader.  Twice in one game.  One kid managed to win by launching a 3-pointer immediately upon receiving the ball. 

At the end of the experience, I got my picture taken with Vinny, and he signed my Reeboks.  I'd include a scan of the picture, but I have no idea where it is.  It's in a box somewhere, along with the shoes. 

Looking back now, I laugh at the experience.  But at the time, I really enjoyed it.  Mostly because I spent an entire week playing basketball and not doing my summer chores.