‘Cats coaches preach old-school mentality to defending league champs
Dave Fox and Butch Thorpe are used to players who listen. Players who know fundamentals, who set their egos aside in favor of the squad.
Because they were spoiled by girls.
Safe to say, Fox, the head basketball coach at Fruita Monument, and Thorpe, an assistant, will not be signing up for male-female communications classes or reading why men are from Mars, and women, Venus.
To them, they’re all from Earth anyway.
Fox coached Fruita’s girls basketball team from 1985-1994, leading the Wildcats to a 1989 state championship, 1987 state runner-up finish and the final four on four occasions.
Thorpe, a six-year assistant, coached the Harrison High School girls in Colorado Springs from 1985-1998, leading the Panthers to a 215-104 record and three second-place finishes at state.
As the coaches prepare the returning Southwestern League champion Fruita Monument boys for a season in which it returns two-time conference player of the year Drew Bridges, they realize they’re blessed to have talented, coachable players. And they’re male.
“Girls are so fundamentally sound and we’ve used that (experience) with the boys,” Thorpe said. “But boys are just so quick and strong.”
And these coaches, with their backgrounds coaching detail-oriented girls, expect the same from boys, who as teenagers are sometimes stereotyped as a bit, well ... focus-deprived.
“They better do it our way,” Fox said.
And their way is with defense, specifically a run-and-jump full-court press, which is a man-to-man press that emphasizes switching on picks.
Although Fox said he and Thorpe are “old-school” — they don’t like their players to wear earrings or long-sleeved shirts or an abundance of arm bands that look like an open pack of Life Savers — they allow the boys to use their imagination. That is, perhaps, what boys do best.
“We’re allowed to do fancy things with the basketball, some flashy stuff,” senior guard Alex Padgett said during Tuesday afternoon’s practice, “but we’re still fundamental, and that’s what wins games.”
Padgett and Bridges bumped fists, Bridges approving of Padgett’s words.
That, of course, encouraged Padgett some more.
“I’ve heard that this group of kids, at least the coaches in the program told us, we are very good at listening,” Padgett said.
For Padgett, “flash” means using his back as a means of hiding the basketball.
He does it through behind-the-back passes, twirling the ball a full circle behind his back as a fake pass before a layup, or by palming the ball and faking a behind-the-back pass by halting the passing motion at his spine and, then, once again, laying the ball off the glass.
For Bridges, on the other hand, “flash” just means a dunk.
“Just pound it down,” Bridges said.
“I’d finesse a dunk if I ever get a chance to,” Padgett added.
Then, another fist bump. And matching smiles.
Under coaches with exceptional resumes coaching girls and plenty of wins on the boys bench, the Wildcats play fundamental basketball spiced with athleticism and style.
Boys and girls basketball, despite their differences, always tend to meet on some level. During a shoot-around Tuesday, guard Cody Daniels dribbled to the sideline and tossed a ball back to team manager Sydney Heart.
“Look at it — 28.5 (ounces),” Daniels said.