By Bill Renje | @BillRenje (Twitter)
Some coaches like to give fiery pre-game speeches to motivate their team, and then there’s the cerebral Jamal Basit.
The new Dutchtown boys basketball head coach prefers to calmly share a story with his team prior to taking the court. He draws on his experiences as a high school star in New Jersey, his college days at Massachusetts and Delaware, as well as his 11-year professional career playing European basketball.
A couple of Tuesdays ago, Basit wanted his team focused. So he gathered his Bulldogs and shared with them how in college he once boasted to his teammates, right before a game where they were heavily favored, that he was going to light up the scoreboard to impress a girl in the stands.
Unfortunately, he recalled to his players, things didn’t go as planned. As he held his players in suspense, he had them all laughing when he exclaimed he “didn’t get a bucket” that game.
The points to the story – to be relaxed, take nothing for granted and most importantly, don’t lose focus against an opponent you should beat – weren’t lost on his new Dutchtown squad. The Bulldogs (5-3, 2-2 in Region 4-AAAAA) promptly started the game off with a 17-0 run on their way to a 66-39 victory over Hampton in their first region game.
Basit learned his pre-game routine playing for legendary high school coach Bob Hurley, Sr. at St. Anthony’s in Jersey City.
“(Coach Hurley) always told us a story before each game that related to whatever situation we were facing,” Basit said. “He had a legacy established with a lot of great teams and great players. So he would further that legacy by motivating us. When I became a coach I didn’t have that legacy. But we’re trying to create that here by telling those stories to comfort and relax (the players) to get the best out of them.”
The 38-year-old, married father of three knows it will take a lot more than stories to build the Dutchtown program into a winner. But he took the job because of a vision for success and how to get there that he shares with athletic director Edward Senter, with whom he worked with at Towers High School in Decatur.
“We need to change the mindset here,” Basit said. “When I first looked at taking the job, I went back and saw that they’ve only averaged five wins a season since 2010. That’s a mentality of a lack of success that’s existed culturally from middle school through senior year of high school.
“We want to create consistency in the program, stability with what the players are being taught from the time they come into the program.”
So far the Bulldogs (4-2, 1-1) , led by seniors Bryce Parks, Luther Moore and Deandre Watson, have bought in to the system being instilled by their new coach.
“The kids have been great,” said Basit. “I think totally different of this group now than I did during the summer when I was disappointed by a lack of dedication. Now, we’ve developed a tough nosed mindset, practicing at 6am. I’ve told them ‘we’re at work before work’ and its (paying off).”
As far as the seniors are concerned, they’ve embraced Basit’s style of coaching.
“He has everything organized,” Moore said. “There’s a tight structure. There’s the same sequence every time. But we have freedom to put our own little twist on it (to be who we are as players).”
Parks agreed. “He’s relaxed. But it’s not like he’s relaxed because he doesn’t care. He’s relaxed like he knows what he’s doing. He trusts us more than I thought he would.”
They’re also embracing the opportunity to lay the foundation of a winning legacy and program,
“We want to leave behind a winning attitude because none of the seniors in the past experienced that,” said Parks.
“We want to leave behind that this is a family, that you can’t get anything down by yourself,” added Moore.