Breeding basketball banter
Grand Junction neighbors share love of hoops
Crooked by a few degrees, the basketball hoop tips toward Sam Provenza’s house. It marks the middle of “basketball row.”
In a quiet north Grand Junction neighborhood, where roads marked now and again by deer-crossing signs crosshatch houses built in the 1960s, three basketball gurus have found themselves neighbors. A total coincidence. But one that affords plenty of basketball-related banter through the three houses separated by fences of chain link and wood.
And one basketball hoop. The only among the houses. Provenza, coach of the 10-2 Grand Junction High School girls basketball team, said a construction truck once errantly slammed into the pole, leaving it tilted. Eventually, that will have to be good enough for 18-month-old Trey Doane.
Trey, son of Central High School girls basketball coach Mary Doane, considers Provenza’s backyard — and, soon, the hoop — an extension of his backyard.
On the other side of Provenza is Bud Smock, women’s basketball coach at Mesa State College from 1986 to 1988. Smock was the first of the coaches to move into the neighborhood. He laid the foundation for basketball row in 1969.
Provenza, unaware of Smock’s location, showed up in 1988. Then about four years ago, Doane made it a “three-peat.”
After Tuesday, neighborhood conversations won’t be quite the same. Provenza’s Tigers play at Doane’s Warriors at 5:30 p.m.
“I’ll paint the fence orange, and she’ll paint it red,” Provenza said. “That’s what’s going to happen in that game.”
Near the front corner of the wooden fence separating Provenza’s yard from Doane’s, a space two planks wide remains. A talking space.
The coaches have history. Doane played for Provenza from 1994–97 when Provenza coached at Palisade High School. Doane later coached at Durango, and for seven years, instructed her players just down the sideline from Provenza.
So, for chats revolving around an orange, spinning ball, the talking space made more sense than enclosed privacy.
“As far as a neighbor, you can’t ask for anyone better,” Doane said. “As far as playing each other, that’s life, I think.”
Smock has the outside view. Through a chain-link fence, Smock might see Provenza mowing his lawn, shoveling snow, heading to work, and conversation will begin like an alley-oop lob. About fishing, maybe dogs. But almost always basketball.
Smock never criticizes his neighbors’ coaching. He’d have the credentials to do so: Long before coaching at Mesa State, Smock led the Montezuma-Cortez High School boys to their first Class AA state championship in 1962. Now he’s the CEO of basketball row.
“They didn’t have any idea where I lived,” Smock said. “Or anything about me. It just happened.”
In a stretch of snow draped on Provenza’s front yard, a foot-stomped path cuts directly to Doane’s driveway. Usually, it’s Mary Doane bringing Trey to “Uncle Sam” and “Aunt Karen.”
“(Trey) thinks their yard is an extension of his yard,” Doane said. “They’re definitely not strangers to him. And that’s what it always will be. There’s more to life than a basketball game.”
Both Provenza and Doane have said life lessons are a predecessor to hoop dreams. Each has children, spouses and a dog. Priority and perspective lord the land.
“Junction always competed the right way; my girls compete the right way,” Doane said. “You have respect for opponents, treat people the right way.”
And that is why the gap in the wooden fence likely will be a passage for coaching conversation regardless of Tuesday’s outcome.
As long as basketball row remains, the basketball hoop — still standing despite a sturdy prod — will be the epicenter of the three basketball homes and an instrument of future talent.
Because Doane does not plan on erecting a hoop for Trey.
“Trey will go over and use Sam’s hoop,” Doane said. “Sam has a nice hoop he put up, other than it being a little crooked. But some of the greatest shooters have been known to have shot in a barn.”
But Trey was not born in a barn.
Surrounded by his choice of mentors, Trey was born on basketball row.