Could Stan Heath return home for UDM job?

stan heathThe head men’s basketball job at UDM remains vacant as we get deeper into Tigers baseball season and begin focusing on who will replace Stan Van Gundy as Pistons head coach and president.

Detroit Mercy Athletic Director Robert Vowels must decide if he should fill the job that was vacated after he fired Bacari Alexander after an 8-24 season, with a name coach or a coach who really wants the job and believes he can make a name for himself by turning the program around.

That man is former Saginaw High coach Lou Dawkins who won a couple of state titles at Saginaw with Golden State Warriors and former Michigan State stand out Draymond Green.

Dawkins, now an assistant at Cleveland State, wants this job more than anybody. The Titans job is not considered a plum assignment but Dawkins believes he will make Detroit great again. His former coach Tubby Smith and Green have gone to bat for him. He believes he can corner the recruiting base in Michigan after Michigan State and Michigan decide who they want.

Lou’s biggest downfall is that his son Christian, a young sports agent, was caught up in the federal investigation of college basketball corruption that brought down Louisville coach Rick Pitino and tarnished a number of other programs, including Arizona.

Lou said he knows nothing about his son’s activities and would be happy to talk to UDM officials about it.

The Titans could also look at former head coaches Stan Heath, who served as an assistant under Tom Izzo at Michigan State, and Mike Davis who took over for Bob Knight at the University of Indiana. Davis has led Texas Southern to a SWAC tournament or regular season championship the last six years.

He’d be a splashy name for the Titans but lacks strong Michigan ties for recruiting.

Heath was head coach at Arkansas, Kent State and South Florida and is currently head coach of the Lakeland Thunder of the NBA’s G league.  He attending Detroit Catholic Central High School and played at Eastern Michigan before becoming an assistant at Hillsdale, Albion, Wayne State and MSU.

 

 

Melvin Monkey

bully bully.jpgMelvin was a childhood friend who was severely mentally handicapped.

Back in the day we called people like this retarded. Melvin made a bunch of noises and we never knew what he was saying. He was loud and our parents never wanted him in the house because of it. But he was our boy and he was part of a group of eight to 10 of us 12-14 year olds who played tag, baseball, football and basketball.

I’m not proud of this today but we called him Melvin Monkey and I even used my creative writing skills to create the Melvin Monkey song. It was a harsh nickname but it came with our friendship and protection from other neighborhood kids that picked on him because of his limitations.

No one else was allowed to pick on him around us.

One day Melvin was playing in the alley between Vancouver and Oregon Streets when two bullies confronted him. They pushed him and called him “retard.” I told the boys to stop and they immediately turned their attacks on me.

“You friends with this animal?”

“You must be retarded too.”

I said I was if that meant being his friend. I told them one more time to leave Melvin alone.

By now Melvin was in a highly agitated state. He was yelling and jumping up and down.

Meanwhile one of my girls stopped by to see what was going on.

“This fool is defending this retard,” one of the boys said. “We should kick his ass.”

The girl was part of my crew.

“Well I guess you got to kick my ass too,” she said.

We both stood between the boys and Melvin until they finally backed down and left.

Melvin screamed “thank you.”

It was one of the few times that I understood what he said.

It was the only time I understood him.

Black male teacher shortage is nothing new

A few years ago  caught up with one of my high school crushes Joyce Wells who became a school teacher in Southfield and asked me to speak to a couple of the classes.

I said yes but was struck how excited other teachers were to have me in the building. They all said the same thing. The students do not see many black males in the building. There were no black male teachers at the school and there had not been any for years.

I thought it was odd until I thought back to my educational back ground. Outside of gym teachers I only had one black male teacher during 10 years of public school education in Detroit, two years of private school and four years at Central Michigan University.

His name was Mr. Kearney, a third grade American history teacher that I both loved and feared. He was a former paratrooper in World War II and he used to tell us the best stories about war. He hated how television and the government used to glorify war. He said war was hell and never wanted to go through it again.

He said he sometimes shouted instructions to fellow paratroopers while floating from the sky and got no response.

“I’d look over,” he said. “And my boys would be all shot up. I knew I could be next.”

I was discouraged from becoming a sports writer by many of my teachers “because that’s not what blacks do.”

Now that seems silly today when you see all the black faces on ESPN and other networks. There were about 50 black sports writers nationwide when I got my first full-time gig at the Detroit Free Press in 1982.

When I told Mr. Kearney I wanted to be a sports writer his response was short and to the point.

“Shit, you can do that,” he said.

Yeah, he also had a salty mouth. I don’t know where Mr. Kearney was from. But he never said we lived in the United States of America. It was always the United States of Amuuuurica!!

He dealt with a lot of kids who had already given up on life, but in between lectures on Lincoln and Kennedy he always told us we could be anything we wanted and to ignore the negative environment we lived in.

I was made fun of because I read books, studied hard and spoke “proper English.” People said I wanted to be white. That’s not true. I wanted to get paid.

According to a recent Albert Shanker Institute study, students of color are now in the majority in pubic schools, but the number of black male teachers has shrunk while the number of Latino teachers has not kept pace.

From 2002-2015 15 percent of black teachers left New York City schools and 62 percent of black teachers left New Orleans schools. In contrast NYC showed a 1.9 percent decrease in white teachers and New Orleans reported a 3.3 percent increase in white teachers.

So why does it matter? Isn’t a teacher of any color good for students? The answer is yes but studies have shown that black male teachers have higher expectations for black students and reach them more than white teachers.

For instance the only teacher who believed I could be a sports writer in the United States of Amuuuuuurica was Mr. Kearney  — way back in third grade.

 

 

 

Old people hit the town in different ways now

seniors.jpgWe are nicknamed “The Old People” simply because we are old.

We are a group of men and women aged 55-75 at Planet Fitness who work out every morning between sessions of gabbing and complaining about ailments, surgeries and doctors appointments.

They are my people and we are going out tonight for dinner at Uptown Grill in Commerce Township. We might even stick around for when the young people take over the dance floor. But we will mostly smile and watch, wishing we were in our 20s again.

I like the old people because we can talk and not argue with each other. We have Trumpers in the mix along with people who wished Obama could have had a third term. We have Jews and Gentiles, men and women, blacks and whites, conservatives and liberals and every view in between.

The Old people have had heart surgeries, strokes, knee replacements and hip replacements. I complained about having to take a steroid shot for a sore right shoulder, thinking my pain was something special.

About half of the old people threw their hands up in the air and said: “I’ve had one of those.”

It is tough getting old. If you have not had an ailment, you are about to. But we are trying to delay further attacks on our bodies. That is why we are in the gym and eating healthy meals.

We do more than work out trying to stay healthy. It has become a fellowship. We all look forward to our 60-90 minutes each morning on the tread mill, stair master and by the weight machines.

Back in the day I would guarantee that I would dance with one of the cuties at Uptown. But here is what’s likely to happen tonight. A cutie will approach me and say: “Mr. Foster. My dad loves you.”

And if I’ve had enough beers I might reply: “Do you love me?”

Cutie: “No. The only love you get from my family is from my dad.”

Oh well.

 

 

 

Home is where the heart is

Celine went through her first crisis at Stanford University and I knew she was having a tough time. Maybe that’s why I got really sad when she sent me this cartoon text.

It broke my heart.

I could actually see my daughter on the moon looking back at home, wishing she were here. It is the first time since she began school that there seemed to be a melt down.

She’s made a decision not to just be a student at Stanford. She is a campus leader and is trying to make a difference. I am fine with that but when you attempt to stand out people are going to take shots at you no matter how well intended your advocacy is. In other words they only hit the one carrying the ball.

Celine ran for sophomore class president and emphasized improving mental health awareness on campus and is organizing a mentorship program where seniors and juniors can mentor under classmen. During the campaign an underground newspaper said there was more back stabbing during the race than a “Game of Thrones” episode. Since Celine won freshman class president she was the target of many of the arrows.

And it hurt.

This is the draw back of sending your kid so far away from school. Although they are technically adults you still want to wrap a arm around them and protect them. If she were at the University of Michigan or Michigan State I would have driven to campus for lunch or dinner and a good heart to heart talk.

I cannot fly to California whenever I want because flights are expensive. I am on Face book. I don’t own it

We have friends who sent their children to New York, Tennessee, Georgia and California. They all got home sick and some came back home.

During the presidential race there were allegations of campaign violations by one party who may or may not have thrown an illegal party with booze. There were reports that Celine’s party exceeded the $400 spending limits set by the campus. She disputed that report and she proved that she spent $388.

This was Hillary and Donald all over again.

Then she told us that she did not win the election, which I was fine with me. She is doing so many things that she does not need to be class president. The girl  became sad and talked  about her friends at Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State.

Then came the cartoon text.

I wanted her to attend school in the state of Michigan coming out of high school. But then I saw how well she fit in at Stanford I wanted to do everything I could to make that a reality. I’d welcome her back but I know she loves that school and her friends there. It is the perfect place for her. She does not love Michigan. She does not love Michigan State.

She loves Stanford and I did not want chatter to drive her back home.

The other day I got a cheerful phone call from my daughter. She was saying “you know dad. They only hit you if you are carrying the ball or if you are doing something that matters.”

Hmmmmmm. I wonder where she got that from?

She won her election with 57 percent of the vote over three other parties. She made the Dean’s List academically. And although she misses home and her friends here, she is no longer sad about not being here.

She is staying out there for the summer and will be a tour guide. So if you visit Stanford this summer and want a tour, ask for Celine Foster. She gives a great tour. She is also working on organizing freshman orientation this fall.

Crisis over.

 

 

 

Visit your sick friends, don’t stay away

Hospital-building.jpgI am going to visit Larry Bird in the hospital in the next day or so. He just had knee surgery and he will be sidelined for a while.

This is not the Larry Bird you are thinking about. He is the Larry Bird nobody knows about who works out in my gym at Planet Fitness.

A couple years ago there is no way I would visit him in the hospital because I thought most people wanted to be left alone following surgery or an illness. Then I found myself in the hospital for five days and hoped that every set of foot steps I heard in the hallway were coming to my room.

I talked to other patients, including a man diagnosed with cancer, and they all talked about the importance of visitations.

When we are down and out we need people more than we need peace and quiet. I was happiest when my room was filled and full of banter than when it was desolate and quiet.

Besides, you get enough peace and quiet late at night and early the next morning.

It is great to know that somebody cares. I cried when my neighbors Joe and Nancy poked their heads in when I was a patient at Henry Ford Hospital. I thought I’d never see them again and was overcome with joy when I saw them.

A few of my friends apologized for not visiting. They did not hear from me and thought I needed solitude. Some did come and it brought the biggest smile on my face. Now I am a hospital visitor, not  guy who will stay away.

I know Larry Bird is in pain as he recovers from knee surgery. I simply want to bring a smile to his face.

Gores should demote SVG

Detroit Pistons v Miami HeatI was not invited to the summit meeting between Pistons owner Tom Gores and coach/President Stan Van Gundy.

But if I was asked to join in I would push for Gores to strip Van Gundy of his personnel duties and retain him as coach. He is not a draft guy as his eye for talent is lacking. Besides I do not believe in allowing one person to run and coach a team unless his name is Gregg Popovich, Bill Belichick or Scotty Bowman.

In other words only a Hall of Fame guy could talk me into it. Van Gundy is not that. However, he deserves one more shot at coaching a healthy roster. The Pistons are an incomplete team because Van Gundy and General Manager Jeff Bower earned an incomplete job at bringing in talent.

The point guard is often the most important player on an NBA roster. The Pistons were 12-25 without Reggie Jackson and 27-18 with him. And they played just four games this season with Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin and Jackson.

Van Gundy has not been an upgrade over the post championship Joe Dumars era. He passed on Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell for Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard. The Mitchell omission was puzzling because I heard he tore it up during his work out for the Pistons. It seemed as if they already had their minds made up

Van Gundy and Gores are scheduled to meet in sunny California this week and the owner could make a change that changes the direction of the franchise. Gores gave Van Gundy both titles to lure him away from Golden State, which appeared ready to give him a better coaching situation before hiring Steve Kerr.

Now the Pistons are in a better position to give Van Gundy a take it or leave it offer. The team is in better shape to make a smart coaching and personnel hire and it has plenty of time to do so.

President Arn Tellem could act as a temporary personnel guy because the Pistons don’t have a first round pick and he knows how to wine and dine free agents to try to lure them to Detroit.

“We have to break it down, where we’ve gone right, where we’ve gone wrong,” Gores told the Detroit media before the final regular season game. “We haven’t won, so I don’t want to pretend we are going to the playoffs. Stan and I have to talk about that.”

Give Van Gundy one more shot to coach this team. But as far as doing the shopping? I’ve seen enough.

 

Clearing up a big myth in sports

penguins.jpgThis is one of my favorite times of year as a sports fan.

The NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing. The only weird part is neither the Pistons or Red Wings are in the championship mix.

I want to clear up one of the most popular myths in sports as we enter the playoff season. There is no such thing as momentum between games. But a lot of people believe it is true.

Each game is a separate chapter to what hopefully will become a great book or playoff series. There is momentum within games but once the game stops, that is it. That momentum might last 30 seconds, 30 minutes or an entire game. It does not last for 24 or 48 hours.

Have you taken a peak at the Pittsburgh Penguins-Philadelphia Flyers series? The Penguins dominated Game 1 7-1 only to lose the second game 5-1. You can even make a cases of it in the Vegas-Los Angeles Kings series although Vegas leads the series 2-0.

Vegas won Game 1 during an emotionally charged game, but came out flat in Game 2 before playing better hockey during a 2-1 double overtime win. If anything the losing team plays better in Game 2 because it is more desperate and the coaching staff makes more adjustments.

Here is another silly myth teams tell fans. The Pistons sold their fans on the importance of finishing with a flourish to carry over into next season. No player will remember if they finished with a five game winning streak of five game losing streak when they tip it off next season. It won’t matter if they finished .500 or three games below .500 the first time they play the Indiana Pacers.

The momentum, if you want to call it that, comes when building the team. Did the Pistons get better players or did they stand pat?

Here is another silly question athletes are asked late in the regular season. If Team B beats a better team that it might face in the playoffs reporters always ask “Do you think you sent a message to Team A with the win?”

Hell no.

Players do not remember who won a random game in March. No messages are sent. They do live by the motto of one game at a time and one moment at a time. The past is history.

So enjoy the playoffs and the many different chapters and events they may present.

 

 

Black in back

restaurant.jpgI was in Florida a few years back to cover a Detroit Lions game against Tampa Bay and my boy D Fry wanted to meet for dinner at a restaurant that he swore the tourist did not know about and served some good food.

It was a circular shaped restaurant with an open feel that overlooked a man made lake. We arrived and the hostess grabbed two menus and told us to follow her. We walked past a bunch of tables by the windows that overlooked the lake toward the back of the restaurant.

I could tell D Fry was getting annoyed.

“She better not be taking us to a table by the bathrooms,” he grumbled.

Bingo. That is where we were headed. He’d been to this restaurant twice and both times he was seated by the bathrooms. D Fry is black and I felt his pain. Black patrons are often seated in the back and by the kitchen or bathroom.

I think it is a subconscious thing.

I have a three strike policy and one of my wife’s favorite Mexican restaurants is on double secret probation. If we get seated by the bathroom on our next trip I am never going back.

They sat us by the bathroom twice in a row although other tables were available. The last time we went we took the entire family for my birthday. The hostess took us in a different direction from the bathrooms.

I was encouraged until she sat us by the noisy kitchen.

I was mad. The restaurant was about a third full and none of the other families were by the kitchen.

“Really,” I said. “This is ridiculous.”

My wife Abs said: “You are like my dad. He hated being sat by the bathrooms or kitchen all the time. And he used to tell the restaurant.”

Let’s go back to Tampa. I told the hostess that D Fry really loved this restaurant but if we don’t get a better table that this place is off his list. I did not make a stink. I simply said to the woman: “Could you sit us at the table you’d want if you were eating here.”

She  picked up the menus and sat us by one of the tables that overlooked the lake.

I live in two worlds. There is the world where people know who I am and the world where people don’t know me. When the restaurant owner knows me I never sit by the bathroom. I’d say when they don’t know me that they try to sit me by the bathroom about 30 percent of the time.

No more. Unless the restaurant is crowded I will say something. I’m not taking this crap any more.

We traveled to a soccer camp outside Chicago and stopped at a restaurant with an open patio for lunch. The hostess paraded us through an entire empty restaurant toward the bathrooms. She had a perplexed look when I said we are not sitting here.

Could you sit us on the patio. She paused and had a look on her face like she’d get in trouble if she sat us there. But she did and I noticed no one else sat by the bath room during our stay.

I have a friend in California named Kalisa and she can get into any restaurant in the state because she is willing to sit by the kitchen. She is a chef and wants to see how high end restaurants work. There is a joint in San Francisco called Boulevard that often has a three day wait to get in. So we stroll in at 8 p.m. on a Saturday and I said she is crazy. We can’t eat here.

The place was packed. Home girl casually strolls in and tells the hostess we don’t have a reservation. The woman looked at us like we were crazy. Kalisa told her we want to sit by the kitchen. We got in. And the food was great.

She told me when you are spending $80 for dinner people are not just paying for the food, they are paying for the experience and atmosphere. They’d rather come back another time than get a bad table.

I agree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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