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Just call me a basketball coach (for a day)

Mar 23, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports Editor

R Recreation coordinator Mary Axthelm asked me if I wanted to play on the local basketball team against the Harlem Ambassadors.

I told her I was slowly getting in shape by walking three times a week on a treadmill, but there wasn't any way I could get in basketball shape in time.

But I told her I would be honored if I could be the coach of the local team.

The countdown for the big showdown was on.

The first duty was to call a practice so I could figure out who was on my team. Mary picked the players for the squad.

I set practice for Monday, March 12, but the Central Wyoming College women's basketball squad made a surprise run to the semifinals of the Region IX women's basketball tournament in Casper College. The semifinal game was played on the same day of my practice. I went and covered the loss to Otero Junior College and missed our only practice.

That wasn't a good way to start out my head coaching basketball career.

Mary gave me a scouting report of everybody on the team, and I scouted out the Harlem Ambassadors on March 15 at the Riverton Middle School. That's when I they had a 4-foot-6 woman on the team. The rest of the team looked in shape and had some decent-sized players.

The organizer announced his team's record was 200-0 for 2011.

I figured out our local team was in trouble. Game time was less than six hours away.

I wanted to back out. I didn't.

I put on my lucky Wyoming tie and a white shirt for the game. I showed an hour early trying to act like a real coach.

We had a meeting with the organizer, and I learned I couldn't call any timeouts. We couldn't play any zone defense, and I couldn't get a technical foul.

I was disappointed. I wanted to do at least a couple of those things.

Four minutes before the game started, Shoshoni boys basketball coach Max Mills reminded me our team needed some water at the end of the bench. In less than four minutes, the water was there.

Game time. I knew we were in trouble one the first play when one of the Ambassadors dunked the basketball.

That set the tone for the rest of the game.

The game flew by because I was in charge of making sure everybody got enough playing time.

The best part of the game was early in the fourth quarter. One of my players (and Riverton High School classmate), Charlie Marshall, missed a layup.

Charlie was always very talented in the sports he played in high school, while I had a hard time getting on the football field or the basketball court.

So this was the perfect time to pull Marshall and put him on the bench.

We did get 40 free points during the game, I hope it was entertaining for the people in attendance at Wolverine Gym.

The game was won by our opponent. Easily.

Afterward, the Harlem Ambassadors had a full line of people waiting for autographs. Not a single person asked me for my autograph after the game. Everybody loves a winner.

But I turned out to be a winner anyway.

One of my co-workers, Emily Etheredge, made T-shirts before the game for some of my family members and other co-workers.

On the front of the shirt, it says "Who rocks da' house?" On the back it says "Coach Tippets rocks the house!

I received a game ball from an anonymous fan in attendance, signed by the Harlem Ambassadors.

I won't forget the night I spent on the sideline at Wolverine Gym.

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