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
Dressed in their practice uniforms, Pat and Sherry exited the pickup's cab. Sherry opened the back door and removed the equipment bag packed with extra uniforms, personal items, and a change of clothes for both of them.
“Ready?” Pat asked when Sherry joined her at the back of the pickup. She waited for Sherry to nod then turned to walk the few feet to the players' entrance at the back of the arena. Reaching the door, she pulled it open and held it for Sherry to enter the building.
“I know you have a lot you want to go over this morning,” Sherry said when they started down the long corridor. “Is it okay if I get my practice shots in first?” she asked knowing Pat's routine was to review her own notes before calling for her assistants to join her.
“Yeah,” Pat replied distractedly.
“Something wrong?” Sherry asked. “You were pretty quiet on the drive here this morning.”
“Sorry,” Pat apologized. “I got a text from Mac just before we left the house.”
Shrugging her shoulders, Pat glanced at Sherry. “I haven't a clue. You know Mac, she isn't too much for providing details in advance. Anyway, she said she'd be waiting for me.”
“Should I stick around?” Sherry asked stopping in front of the door leading to the coaching staff offices.
Pat reached for the door knob. “No. Go ahead and get your shots done. She probably just wants to check on the progress of the rookies,” she added.
Kelley looked up when the door opened. “Morning, Sherry,” she greeted the women. “Mac's waiting in your office, Coach.”
“Thanks,” Pat said walking past Kelley's desk.
Her eyes following Pat, Sherry stopped at her own desk and dropped the notebook she carried onto its surface.
“What's up?” Kelley asked after Pat had entered her office and shut the door. It was rare for the team owner to make visits to the coaches' offices as she preferred her own office high up in the arena for meetings.
Sherry shook her head. “Don't know,” she said placing her equipment bag in her chair. “Anything going on I need to know about?” Sherry asked the other assistant coach.
“You mean besides that?” Kelley asked casually pointing her pen toward the closed door. When Sherry nodded, she continued, “No. Pretty quiet so far this morning, only a few players have shown up.”
“Okay. I'm going out on the floor. Give a holler if I'm needed back here.”
Tossing a curious look at Pat's closed door, Sherry turned and walked out of the office. A moment later, she re-entered the room. “On second thought,” she explained to a bemused Kelley, “maybe I should go over my notes.”
“Morning, Pat,” Mac greeted her head coach.
“Morning, Mac,” Pat responded cheerfully. After closing the office door, she crossed to her desk and took a moment to set down the notebooks she carried before sitting in her chair. “Coffee?”
“Kelley already took care of that,” Mac answered holding up a cup.
Wishing she had grabbed a cup for herself, Pat settled back in her chair. “What do I owe the pleasure of your visit?” she asked knowing her employer was not much for small talk or pleasantries when she had something on her mind.
“Tell me about the cuts you made Friday.”
“I sent you a report.”
“Yes, and I read it.”
“So why the question?”
“Tell me about Wagner,” Mac responded ignoring Pat's question.
Pat straightened in her chair then reached for her desk drawer. “She was lazy and put out almost no effort,” she said pulling out a folder and placing it on the top of her desk before pushing the drawer shut. Opening the folder, she flipped through the pages until she found the notes for the player being discussed. “Poor attitude,” she read from the page, “her shooting was inconsistent and her effort in drills was at the bottom of the scale. She paid little or no attention to instructions by the coaching staff.” She leaned back in her chair and looked across her desk. “She was a big disappointment, we had expected much more out of her.”
“I see. And Fisher?”
Pat flipped through the folder and pulled out another page. the paper onto her desk. “Much the same… here, read it for yourself,” she said pushing the paper across the desk to Mac. “This is the first time you've questioned my choices for cuts, Mac,” Pat said guardedly.
Mac leaned forward setting her empty coffee cup on the desk then picking up the paper. “I received a call over the weekend that concerns me,” she said after reading the coaching staff's notes on the cut player.
“About Wagner?” Pat asked confused.
Mac shook her head. “Not specifically. But a question was raised as to whether or not you give rookies a fair shot.”
“What the hell!” The response exploded out of Pat.
To calm her irate coach, Mac held up her hands with her palms facing Pat. “Hold up there, Pat. Let me finish.”
Fuming, Pat bit back the expletives on the tip of her tongue to let her boss talk.
“Look, Pat,” Mac began in a calm voice, “I know you and I know how you handle the rookies. I'm not putting any credence in this but I do think you need to know about it.”
“Who made the call?” Pat demanded.
“What?!” Pat abruptly stood and began for the door.
“Pat, stop,” Mac stood just as quickly and bolted to the door to block her coach from storming out to look for the player. “Sit down!” she ordered. “Go on,” she added when Pat stood indecisively in front of her.
Pat retreated to the back of the office to stare out the window.
Mac allowed the upset woman the time to settle herself. “If you want, I'll escort her ass out of here myself,” she finally said after several long minutes.
Pat glanced over her shoulder at the diminutive woman watching her and had to smile at the thought of Mac throwing the larger player out of the building. “Damn,” she muttered returning to her chair. “You'd think we could get through one season without this kind of drama.”
“You'd think,” Mac agreed.
Feeling her blood pressure beginning to recede, Pat slumped back in her chair. “I don't know what Jackson has to complain about, she wasn't cut,” she told Mac.
“My guess is she wants to keep it that way.”
“Great way to go about it,” Pat grumbled.
“That's basically what I told her. Listen, Pat, I told Jackson that it wasn't up to me who made it through camp… that's what I have a head coach for,” she added with a shrewd smile. “But, I'm serious about having her thrown out… if you want.”
“Damn, idiot,” Pat said shaking her head. “She probably would have made it through camp.”
“So you want her gone?”
Chewing on her lower lip, Pat considered the question. “I don't know. She has potential… if she'd just shut up and show it,” she muttered. She raised her eyes to meet Mac's. “Let me run this past Kelley and Sherry and see what they think.”
Mac nodded. “All right. Just be careful how you handle it, the last thing I want is another press frenzy to distract us.” Mac stood and retrieved her coffee cup. “Let me know what you decide.”
Pat nodded then stood and followed Mac out of the office.
“Thanks for the coffee, Kelley,” Mac said placing the dirty cup in the sink next to the coffee pot. “One thing is for sure,” she told Pat, “if you do end up signing her, I'm going to save some money on her salary.”
Despite her mood, Pat laughed at the team owner's way of turning any situation into a money maker. She waited until Mac had left through the door leading into the locker room. “Come on in,” she told her anxious assistant coaches.
Waiting for practice to begin, Brenda was sitting on a bench in the locker room when Mac walked through the doorway from the coaches' offices. She smiled at the team owner. “Good morning.”
“Miss Jackson,” Mac responded curtly then continued across the room and through the doorway to the corridor.
“You look like you just won the lottery,” Killen commented sitting on the bench.
Jackson smirked. “Maybe I just did,” she said smartly.
“What's with you, anyway?” Killen asked bending over to tie her shoes.
Jackson drew her eyes away from the door leading into the offices to focus on the other rookie. “What do you mean?”
“I figured by now you would have lost that cocky attitude.”
“You don't know anything about me,” Jackson retorted.
Killen sat up. “You don't remember me, do you?”
Killen shrugged. “I would if I had allowed someone to score a winning basket on me. I don't think I'd ever forget that player.”
“What are you talking about?” Jackson asked sneering.
“NCAA simi-finals two years ago... your team was up by two with less than twenty seconds to go… and you had the ball.”
Jackson's eyes narrowed as she thought back to the moment. She turned and glared at Killen. “That was you?”
Killen grinned. “Yep.”
“What happened?” Dimchek asked. She had been sitting a few feet away listening to the exchange.
“She got lucky,” Jackson snapped.
“You got greedy,” Killen countered then turned to Dimchek. “She tried to make a dunk… ball bounce off the rim. My teammate got the rebound and threw it to me. I was barely past half court when I heaved it at the basket. Longest damn three pointer I ever made,” she said proudly.
“Nice,” Dimchek said appreciatively. “'Course, that sucks for you,” she directed at Jackson.
“Like I said,” Jackson grumbled pushing up from the bench. “She got lucky.”
Dimchek and Killen laughed as Jackson stormed across the room and disappeared out into the corridor.
Pat detoured to the coffee pot where she filled a cup for herself. “What a way to start a Monday,” she told her assistants as she carried the cup into her office.
“What's up, Coach?” Kelley asked.
“Seems Jackson takes exception to the way I run tryouts,” Pat explained sitting behind her desk. “And she took it upon herself to call Mac over the weekend.”
“Are you kidding me?” Sherry blurted out.
“Oh, dammit,” Kelley sighed. “Sorry, Coach.”
“Kelley, this is not on you,” Pat told the coach who had asked for the rookie to be invited to camp.
“What did Mac say?” Kelley asked nervously.
Pat smiled. “She said, and I quote, ‘ I'll escort her ass out of here myself'”.
Kelley laughed. “Damn, I'd pay money to see that.”
“What now?” Sherry asked.
“That's a good question,” Pat answered. “Mac says it's up to me but she doesn't want this to turn into a media circus.”
“Which it probably would if we tell her to leave,” Kelley commented. “If she's stupid enough to call Mac, she won't hesitate to go to the press.”
“And say what?” Sherry asked in disgust. “She didn't work hard enough to make it through camp? Come on, Kelley, she'd just sound like the crybaby she is.”
“Maybe so, but, be honest, Sherry, there are members of the press just waiting for another scandal to come out of here.”
“Hey!” Pat barked. “Knock it off, both of you. Damn it, we can not allow this kind of crap to cause problems between the three of us. Got me?!”
Kelley leaned back in her chair to stare at the ceiling. “What a freakin' mess,” she muttered.
“Pat, what are we going to do?” Sherry asked apprehensively.
“First, you two are going to kiss and make up... figuratively, of course,” Pat quickly added when Kelley tossed her a skeptical look. “Then we're going to decide how to handle Jackson.”
Kelley straightened in her chair then turned to face the other assistant coach. “Sorry, Sherry,” she offered contritely. “Heat of the moment.”
Sherry smiled apologetically. “Me, too.”
“Now, about Jackson ?” Pat asked.
“I say we boot her,” Sherry said.
“I know I should agree,” Kelley said thoughtfully, “but, damn it, I still think she has what we need.”
“She's trouble,” Sherry countered.
“I'm not arguing that. But, so was Dawn, and she worked out.”
Sherry turned to look at the head coach. “Pat?”
Pat took a drink of coffee. “I'm not willing to cut her just because she made a bonehead move calling Mac. But I'm not going to keep either just to stop her from complaining she didn't get a fair tryout. For now, she stays. But she doesn't get a free ride… she has to prove herself just like ever other rookie in camp. If she doesn't, she gets cut. Agreed?”
Sherry and Kelley nodded.
Pat glanced up at the clock. “We're late. Anything else?”
Sherry and Kelley shook their heads.
Pat stood up. “Okay, then let's get going.”
The players waiting in the locker room quieted when the three coaches entered and walked to the front of the room. Sherry and Kelley stopped at the end of the wall of white boards while Pat continued to the center of the wall.
“As you can see,” Pat began addressing the players, “there are fewer of you today than last week. That means both good news and bad news for you. The good news is you survived week one; the bad news is it's going to get tougher for you to stay. Some of you may have thought you didn't get enough playing time last week,” she said looking directly at Jackson who glared back. “That won't be a problem this week. Less players means you'll be spending more time on the court. I hope you're ready for it,” she challenged the rookies. “Also, starting today, you will spend two hours after workouts in the weight room.” She smiled as a few groans escaped from some of the players. “Our team trainer has worked out an individual program for each of you and she'll be in charge of your weight training. I strongly suggest you work with her and not against her. Okay, let's get out on the court.”
“Right, Coach,” Pete responded. “Let's go. Move it,” she shouted at the players.
The coaches watched as all but one player jumped up and ran out of the locker room after Pete. Pat followed the players.
“Jackson, stay back,” Kelley told the rookie.
Jackson smiled. “Sure, Coach,” she said smugly.
When the room had emptied of players, Sherry walked over to the door, pulling it shut behind her as she left the locker room. She quickly caught up to Pat. “Think we should be in there?”
“No,” Pat said bending over to pull her knee brace up over her knee. “I don't see any reason to listen in every time one of my assistants sits down for a one-on-one with a player.”
Pat straightened. “Honey, Kelley's been coaching a long time. I'm sure she's more than capable of handling Jackson. Come on, we've got a lot to do today,” she said then turned and trotted down the corridor to the arena floor.
Sherry hesitated a moment then ran after Pat.
Left alone with Jackson, Kelley had stood for several minutes gathering her thoughts. “I'm not sure what your intentions were, Brenda,” she began moving to an empty chair near the player. Flipping the chair around so she could sit facing Jackson, she continued. “But I can tell you that you failed to impress anyone,” she continued calmly. “Not Mrs. Christopher. Not Coach Calvin; not Coach Gallagher; and, definitely, not me. In all my years of coaching, I have never heard of a rookie doing what you did. I'm sure you had your reasons but all you accomplished was to make yourself look like a whiney, spoiled child. And the Cougars don't have whiney, spoiled children on the roster.” Kelley looked sadly at the incensed rookie. “You're in camp because I thought you had talent. I obviously was wrong because you haven't shown much. If it were up to me, I'd have thrown your ass out of camp because of this but Coach still thinks you have something to offer this team. So, you're staying… for now. But understand, you have yet to prove you can play ball at this level. And I can assure you, there isn't going to be a free ride because of your call to Mrs. Christopher. You'll continue to be treated like every other rookie in camp… from this point forward, no second chances.” Kelley stood up and returned the chair to its original position. “One more thing,” she said looking directly at Jackson, “don't make the mistake of calling Mrs. Christopher again because she also wanted you kicked out of camp.” She raised her arm to look at her watch. “Now, you have thirty seconds to get out and join the rest of the rookies.”
Jackson glowered at Kelley.
Jackson slowly stood.
Jackson ran for the door.
Kelley exhaled loudly after the rookie left. “Damn,” she muttered walking toward the door. “I hope I never have to do that again.”
To Be Continued...
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