Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Farewell to the Pope of College Basketball

The game of basketball lost a good man with the passing of Peter Francis "Pete" Newell yesterday morning.

Much has been said with Coach Newell’s advance age and failing health in recent years but sometimes—though not always—there are a few people that you wish could live forever because the world is a better place with them in it.

Coach Newell is one of them.

Big Man’s Camp

Since 1976 until the time of his death, Pete Newell has had a hand in developing the fundamental footwork and shooting of collegiate and professional forwards and centers without receiving any compensation in return. Newell shared, "I owe it to the game. I can never repay what the game has given me."

Newell’s Big Man Camp started with one player—Kermit Washington of the Los Angeles Lakers. In the book “The Punch: one night, two lives, and the fight that changed basketball forever,” author John Feinstein recounts that Newell’s work with Washington was so effective that his quickness, ball-handling, and jump shot improved to the point where his “inside game” became more efficient. Since then, annual Big Man’s Camps (since renamed to Pete Newell’s Big Man’s Camp) have been conducted in Honolulu, Hawaii and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Newell changed the way the game is played

Though I have not had the privilege of meeting Coach Pete, I have been fortunate enough to attend his son, Coach Tom’s camp here in Manila, Philippines during the summer of 2000.

It changed my life. My entire perspective of the game of basketball.

Coach Tom said that after our camp experience, we (the camp participants) would never see a basketball game for what it is—just a game.

And we never did.

Our eyes were opened, as there was a lot more analysis involved now. Putting the ball through the hoop was no longer as important as being fundamentally sound. Basic moves were scrutinized. Countermoves were put into practice. Reverse pivots became secondary. And so on…

All thanks to the teachings of Coach Tom Newell and in turn to his father Pete whose legacy was very much felt in that coaching program.

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