This story is a sequel to my stories , Fast Break and Footsteps (Ghost Towning) . You may want to read the preceding stories before reading this one. Fast Break and Footsteps (Ghost Towning) can be found on my on my website – mickeyminner.com
Pat stood on the court running the team through new plays. Frowning, she blew her whistle freezing the players in place. “Killen, what play are we running?”
“Guard left, Coach,” the rookie replied uncertainly.
“And what does that mean?”
“Hudson is supposed to get the pass and run to the bottom left of the key.”
“Um… cut through the key for a layup.”
“Correct,” Pat snapped. “And where is Hudson supposed to be in the key when she shoots?”
Killen checked her position on the court. “About where I'm standing, Coach,” she replied nervously.
“Exactly… so get your ass out of there,” Pat ordered. “Let's try again,” she said after the rookie jumped out of the key.
Wendy, her leg in a cast, sat dejectedly a couple of rows up in the stands.
Kelley climbed up the steps then carefully stepped over the guard's outstretched leg to sit beside her. “How are you doing?”
“Bummed. It's the pits being up here when I want to be down there,” Wendy said nodding toward her teammates.
“That's understandable.” Kelley watched the action on the court for a few moments. “I think I have a way to help with that.” She handed the injured player a clipboard and pen. “With Coach Calvin and Coach Gallagher on the court, it's hard for me to keep track of everything. Think you could help by writing down anything you see that isn't right.”
“Sure,” Wendy agreed taking the offered items.
“I don't care who the player is or what they've done. If you think it wasn't right or it's something that could be improved, write it down.”
“Yes, even Coach,” Kelley replied with a grin.
Wendy smiled. “Goodie,” she said enthusiastically.
Standing, Kelley laughed. “Thanks for helping.”
“It's better than just sitting here being miserable.”
Kelley patted the player on the shoulder before moving back down the steps.
“Let's gather up,” Pat told the players. She waited for them to fill the front row of seats below where Wendy was sitting. “As you all know, pre-season is over,” she stated. “We start the season with games against Miami on Friday and Los Angeles on Saturday.”
“You think Miami is still pissed over losing the championship to us?” Pete asked grinning.
“Wouldn't you be?” Pat asked.
“Hell, yes,” Val shot back and several of her teammates agreed. “But we're going to whip their butts again.”
“Okay, settle down,” Pat said after several minutes of boisterous declarations of how they would defeat their upcoming opponents. “Miami will want to prove that the wrong team brought home the trophy. But they weren't the best last season and they sure as hell aren't going to be this season.”
“Damn right,” Jade emphatically agreed.
“Miami hasn't changed too much in their lineup,” Pat continued. “But knowing their coach, she's probably going to have a chip on her shoulder. It won't surprise me if they have new defenses… especially when it comes to stopping Sherry.” She grinned remembering how the point guard had played the game of her life the prior meeting with Miami.
“Yeah, Sherry sure put on a show against them that night,” Pete exclaimed.
“Trust a rookie to show up the rest of us,” Val teased.
“Gosh, I thought I played pretty well,” Jade chimed in. “That is, when I got a chance to handle the ball,” she added elbowing Sherry in jest. “Ball hog taking all the glory… that's a rookie for you.”
“Hey, you were a rookie last year, too,” Sherry mock protested the good natured teasing. “And it wasn't my fault I had to carry the rest of you to win that trophy,” she joked breathing on her knuckles then rubbing them on her chest.
Someone threw a towel that landing on the grinning guard's head and draped over her face.
“All right, that's enough,” Pat tried to settle down the animated players. “Let's get back on track.” She waited a moment for the players to quiet and for Sherry to remove the towel. “We know Miami is most likely going to have something up their sleeve Friday and Los Angeles is always changing their play up… so let's concentrate our efforts working against various defenses. That way, we'll be prepared for anything. Are you ready?”
“Ready, Coach,” came the immediate response from the players.
“Okay, let's get started.”
Pat crossed mid-court then paused, dribbling in place as she surveyed the other players on the court. Tonie, Val, Terry, and Pete were playing offense while Hudson, Jackson, Amie, Sara, and Sherry played defense.
The defensive players were spread around the key in a zone defense with Hudson, Sherry, and Amie aligned at the top of the key, and Jackson and Sara at the bottom.
Pat watched Tonie and Terry run crossing patterns through the key. Pete was several feet to her right midway between mid-court and the first line of defenders and Val had taken a similar position to her left. She resumed her movement forward and, when Sherry moved out to guard her, she fired the ball to Pete.
Changing direction, Pete angled to cut between Sherry and Amie.
Amie immediately moved to stop Pete's advance while Sherry faded back into her original position.
Pete passed to Pat who flipped the ball to Val.
Val dribbled down the sideline hoping to pull her defender, Hudson away from her zone and open up the key.
Hudson held her ground preventing Pat from having a clear path to the basket.
After feigning a charge to the key, Pat backpedaled.
Val passed the ball to Pat.
Pat dribbled straight for the top of the key.
Amie moved to help Sherry guard Pat.
Noting Amie was concentrating too much on the ball handler, Pete made a run around her.
Jackson failed to move out and take up defense on Pete.
Pat took a step to the left pulling Amie further out of position then she swung the ball around the guard's side.
Pete caught the pass, left her feet to spin about in midair and dropped a jump shot through the basket.
Kelley blasted her whistle. “Jackson, care to explain what you were doing to prevent that?” she asked the rookie who allowing Pete the uncontested shot by never leaving her position at the bottom of the key.
“I'm in my zone, Coach,” Jackson responded nonchalantly. “Pete was Amie's problem.”
“Pete got around Amie,” Kelley barked at the rookie. “Your job is to shift… and when you don't, that's YOUR problem.”
“Alright, ladies,” Pat interjected. “There too many mistakes on the play… Amie, you were paying too much attention to me and not enough to Pete. You should never have let her sneak around you. Jackson , seeing that, you needed to move and help out. Hudson, take over at point. Jackson, you're out. Stacy, Ashley, you in on defense.” She started for the side of the court where her angry assistant coach was standing.
“Damn, she can be lazy,” Kelley grumbled.
“I've got more important things to worry about right now,” Pat responded.
Forgetting the rookie for the moment, Kelley asked, “Are you worried about Miami?”
Pat shook her head. “Los Angeles is who worries me. Tomkins wants the trophy and I think Buttram might be willing to do anything to get it,” she said of the Beachcombers owner and coach.”
“Not to mention the return of Dawn,” the assistant coach said apprehensively remembering the player's actions when she was a member of the Cougars the prior year.
“Don't remind me,” Pat muttered. “Let's up she's grown up some and we won't have to deal with any trash play from her.”
“We can always hope.” Kelley looked down the sideline to where Jackson was sitting. “I guess I better go talk to our current problem.”
“No,” Pat stopped her assistant. “Keep them working,” she said indicating the players on the court. “I'll handle Jackson.” She bent down to retrieve her water bottle and took a long drink while eyeing the insolent rookie. Then, carrying the bottle, she headed down the sideline.
After stomping off the court, Jackson had slumped into a seat some distance away from the other players waiting their turns to participate in the practice session. Still fuming, she made no attempt to acknowledge her coach when she sat beside her.
“You have a problem with my coaching style?” Pat asked after several moments.
“Hard for me to learn when you keep benching me,” Jackson snapped at her coach.
“Jackson, high school players know what a zone is,” Pat snapped back. “I don't expect a player at this level to have to learn that. You were caught flat footed and made absolutely no attempt to guard Pete. And I'm not benching you… if you haven't noticed we have more than ten players on this team. In order for everyone to get time on the court, I need to rotate people.”
“Some seem to get more time than others,” Jackson groused.
“That's right… my key players and starters get the most. Do you think that's different from any other team?”
“Dammit, what is the matter with you? Do you want to be a part of this team or not? Because I really don't need players with your attitude.”
“Are you threatening to cut me again?”
Pat twisted in the seat to glower at the rookie. “I'm asking you a question and I want an answer!”
Jackson took her time before responding. “Yeah, I want to be on this team.”
“Then I expect you to start acting like it. And the first thing I want to see you change is your attitude. Got it?”
“Got it, Coach,” the rookie said halfheartedly.
Pat shook her head in frustration. “I expect players not on the court to sit together and to pay attention. You can learn just as much from the bench as you can on the court.”
Jackson pushed up from the seat.
“One more thing, Jackson,” Pat said before the rookie could walk away.
Jackson stood in front of her coach waiting.
Pat stood so she would be eye level with the rookie. “Leave Sherry alone,” she demanded. “I don't know what you think the future holds but she's not interested… not today… not ever.”
Jackson smirked. “Are you making that decision for her?”
“Good, because I kinda like what the future holds.” Smiling, the rookie turned on her heels then trotted down the sideline to join her teammates.
“Oh, that went well,” Pat muttered.
Pat sat at her desk; her elbows rested on the wood surface and her chin cupped in her hands. “Ugh… ugh… ugh… ugh… ugh…,” she kept repeating.
“What's up, Coach?” Kelley asked walking into the room and settled into a chair opposite the head coach. “I thought things went pretty well today.”
“On the court, yes,” Pat responded watching Sherry enter the room and sit in the chair beside Kelley. “It's the off court stuff that's getting to me.”
“Your talk with Jackson,” Kelley speculated.
Nodding, Pat sat up then leaned back in her chair.
“What's her problem now?”
“She doesn't like being benched,” Pat told her assistants.
Kelley looked at the head coach seeking any indication she might not be serious. “What part of she's a reserve player does she not understand?”
“What part of all of this does she not understand?” Pat countered. “I wish I knew what made her tick.”
“Why not just cut her and be done with it?” Kelley asked.
“For what reason?” Sherry decided to join the conversation.
“For being a pain in the ass,” Kelley suggested grinning.
Pat shook her head.
“We could cut her for being lazy.”
“Maybe,” Pat said, “but she does make an effort at times. Like this afternoon.”
“She doesn't try to fit in with the rest of the team,” Kelley suggested. “But then we've had a lot like that,” she continued, “including a certain assistant coach at one time.”
Pat chuckled. “I've grown up since then.”
“You?” Sherry asked in surprise.
“Oh, yeah,” Kelley responded.
“It was right after Mac hired me,” Pat explained. “I was still recovering from my knee surgery and I wasn't too happy. It didn't help that I knew Mac only hired me to sell tickets.”
“Taking advantage of the home town hero,” Kelley added. “You were a real pain back then,” she told the head coach then grinned to lessen the sting of the criticism.
“Yeah, I was… but I wasn't let go because of it.”
“So we keep Jackson?” Kelley asked.
“I think we should,” Sherry said.
Kelley glanced at Sherry in amazement. “I would think you, of all people, would want to dump her,” she said.
“You're not going to cut her on my account,” Sherry said.
“I'm not so sure about that,” Pat muttered.
“Well, I am. If you want to get rid of her because she's lazy and an irritant to the rest of the team, do it; but don't you dare get rid of her because of me,” she insisted staring straight at Pat.
“You want to keep her around even though she's obsessed with you?” Pat asked dubiously.
“No. I want to keep her around because if Tonie can't last the season, we'll need Jackson.”
“I can work around her,” Pat declared.
“And leave us a player short. Is that far to the team?” Sherry stood then paced to the window at the back of the office. “I thought we were focused on keeping the trophy,” she said peering out at the rain clouds developing over the mountains. “If we get rid of a player we might need, is that going to help accomplish our goal?”
Pat sighed. “I don't know, Sherry. I know she has the skills we need but… dammit, her attitude and lack of effort is troublesome. How do we know we can depend on her if we ever activate her?”
“I think it's a chance we have to take.”
Chewing on her lower lip, Pat shook her head. “What about her approach with you? Let's be honest here, she's become more than just a nuisance.”
Sherry turned around to face the other coaches. “I can handle her.”
“What if you can't?” Pat asked.
“Then we'll put our heads together and come up with a solution.”
“I don't know, Sherry.”
Sherry straightened then walked over to stand beside the head coach. “If you dump her because of me, it'll make me feel like you don't trust me.”
“That's not true.”
“It's how I'll feel,” Sherry insisted then turned to walk out of the room.
“That's not fair,” Pat called after her upset lover. “Damn,” she muttered when Sherry didn't come back into the office. She looked over her desk at her other assistant coach.
Kelley grimaced seeing the anguish in Pat's eyes. “She stays?”
“She stays,” Pat said standing. Without further comment she went in search of Sherry.
To Be Continued...
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