Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Slocum Story #1

The first time I had an extended conversation with Jerry Slocum was prior to his second season at Gannon (1997-98). I was joining the radio crew with Steve Bohen, and Slocum wanted to meet with us to review the game-night schedule and update us on the team that year. I recall walking out of Slocum's office and saying to Steve, "Do I still have eligibility left? I'd love to play for that guy."

From just one interaction you could tell that he was no nonsense and had a sharp basketball mind. I know the Slocum many people recall was his sideline demeanor which could be kindly described as intensely intense. His scowls at GLIAC officials are legendary.

When I traveled with the team, I saw the kinder, gentler side of Slocum. Not only was he always warm to me personally (he always asked about my younger brother) but I saw how he encouraged his players.

One trip I made was to Ferris State in Big Rapids, Mich. (which is just lovely this time of year). I asked Slocum after the game if I could watch him and his staff break down the film from that night's victory. I observed that he did an excellent job dissecting his team's successes and failures. And he commented on the officiating, of course.

I recall one stretch where first-year guard Marc Sturdivant made a series of mistakes -- nothing major, just things like wrong spacing on offense or not being aggressive enough with the ball. Sturdivant was a product of the junior college system which is not noted for freelancing offenses, not for teamwork and discipline. Slocum asked assistant Dave Mislan to have Sturdivant come to the room to watch a portion of the film.

Keep in mind this is after an evening game, so it's almost 11 o'clock at night. I was ready for Slocum to let Sturdivant have it. But you could really see Jerry the teacher. He patiently showed Sturdivant what he did wrong and what he could do better. But Slocum didn't stop there. He let the tape run a little longer to a clip where Sturdivant drove to the hoop and scored. Slocum praised him, patted him on the back, and sent him back to his room with a big smile on his face.

Slocum is now in his 4th year at Division I Youngstown State. His team is just 4-9 this year, suffering a few heartbreaking losses. If you want to keep regular tabs on Jerry's kids, click here http://www.ysu.edu/sports/mens_bball/index.htm.

I know his YSU teams aren't winning a lot of games right now. But I'm sure his players are learning a ton.

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