The Things That Come Out of Coaches’ Mouths

I love analogies. There are a lot of things that happen in basketball that can be compared to other things in life. For instance, I often use the old adage, “Even a blind sow can find an acorn.” That might imply that I just found a great recruit or maybe it’s a big win, but to be ALWAYS politically correct, I represent the sow in that phrase.

Past players often come back and say phrases I don’t remember saying, but they definitely remember them. I want to tell you a couple of my favorites and the origin of each.
The oldest one I use came from my college days at Kearney State College, now the University of Nebraska-Kearney. I was a senior in college in the winter of 1973. Actually, it was my second senior year. That’s how much I enjoyed college.

I sat at the Kearney State gym, watching the finals to a high school district basketball tournament game between two central Nebraska teams. The heavy favorite was in trouble. It was a back and forth game until, with two seconds left, the underdog stole the ball at half court. One of the best players had a layup to win the game. He decided to take one extra dribble to make sure he would make the layup. It bounced off his foot and went out of bounds.

At that very moment, a country western song by Booby Bare sprung into my mind. The name of the song is “Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goal Posts of Life.” Still to this day, every time one of my players loses the basketball off her foot, that phrase comes out of my mouth. I’m sure the freshmen think I’ve lost my mind and the upperclassmen are sick of hearing it. They should be glad I don’t use another favorite country song phrase when I watch them play. That phrase is, “I Don’t Know if I Should Kill Myself or Go Bowling.”

I have another song title that I echo every time one of the Northwest players shoot an air ball. What I usually say to describe a very poor shot that failed to draw iron is, “She’s like my old college girlfriend, she’s ugly but she’s mine.”

I need to make a disclaimer to the very few girlfriends I had in college. I doubt any will ever read this blog, however, you were all very attractive. I would say cute, but as Susan Sarandon says in the movie Bull Durham, “Baby ducks are cute. I don’t want to be cute.” If you were to interview any of them, they would tell you I had out punted my coverage. That means I overachieved.

I need to go back to the air ball that was ugly. I got that phrase when I took my high school basketball team to the Midland College team camp. It was a week long camp and often the coaches met at a local establishment to talk basketball. The York High School basketball coach found a song on the juke box titled, “She’s Ugly but She’s Mine” by the Kinks. I actually found a copy of the song at a store that had old eight tracks. That really dates me. I won’t give you any of the lyrics because they are so sexist. However, that term is the perfect description for an air ball.

I have a song I often use to describe my offensive philosophy. If you like a nice, neat package of set plays, don’t watch the Bearcats. I more often than not allow my players to use a couple of rules to play fast, offensive basketball. At times, it looks a little chaotic.

Joe Diffe, another country singer, had the perfect song to describe my teams organized mayhem. See if you can recognize the song’s name from the lyrics. “Cause and effect, chain of events, all of the chaos makes perfect sense.” Those are part of the lyrics to “Third Rock from the Sun”. When things get crazy on the floor, I justify it by repeating Joe Diffe saying, “All of the chaos makes perfect sense.”

Finally, one of my favorite things to say is “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat.” That sounds awful, but it really means something much different than it sounds. Cheating doesn’t mean breaking rules or playing dirty. Let me explain how I first used this saying.

My Doane College team was ironically playing Missouri Western. Their coach, Jeff Mitte, is now the women’s coach at TCU. They had a great team that came to Crete, Neb., to play us in late December. They were undefeated, 12-0. Their best player was a six foot guard that was a junior college transfer from Indiana.

She was a great player and I didn’t have a player who could match up with her size and quickness. I decided to take a chance and matched her up with Nikki Plank, a 5-6 guard that was really competitive, but only had average talent..

The Western player liked to wear her basketball shorts low on her hips. It was a popular way to wear your shorts like that back in the 1990’s. Nikki was in her face all 40 minutes and kept tugging on those shorts the whole game. She also was the only player who could talk more trash than the Western player.
Doane won the game, giving Western their only loss of the regular season. Nikki had a career high 22 points and fouled out the taller, quicker Western guard while holding her to only nine points. After the game, the opposing guard came to me with tears in her eyes, telling me she didn’t think it was funny to have my players pull down her pants.

Nikki’s “cheating” gave us a huge win over an undefeated, ranked team. After that game, the phrase “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat,” came to be.
When I left Doane College, my past players gave me a plaque. It wasn’t for wins or championships. Rather, it had many of the strange things that come out of my mouth during a basketball season engraved on the plaque. You never know what someone will remember.

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Gene Steinmeyer

About Gene Steinmeyer

Gene Steinmeyer coached the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team for 13 seasons before retiring after 26 years as a collegiate head coach after the 2011-12 season. He retired as the second winningest women’s basketball coach at Northwest as his 2010-11 team won both the MIAA Regular Season and Tournament Championship advancing to the NCAA National Semifinals one game shy of the national championship game.