For us his name was Coach and we called him that or sir. Bob Bedesky was one of those volunteer youth sport coaches, who gave of his time generously, taught us to love basketball and grow as people at the same time. I have nothing but praise for the man.
The previous season his team the Pelham Panthers had gone all the way and won the bantam all Ontario championship in dramatic style. He showed us the trophy in the dressing room as inspiration. According to him it was one of the oldest basketball tournament trophies in all of Canada, if not the world. We weren't his championship team though. Kids like everyone else age and almost his entire roster had moved on.
The team was so desperate for bodies, I was approached by one of the players I went to school with and he managed to convince me to come to practice. I'm sure from day one Coach saw my potential, but at the same time knew his work would make a future coach look good rather than himself. He taught me, pushed me and encouraged me anyway. He selflessly taught us all that way. We learned to play with the skills he taught us and our hearts. He also taught us to play with our heads.
One of my favourite memories was our brief appearance in the playoffs that year. We barely squeaked in and thus got to face the best team in the league. This opponent had beaten another team in our league 128 – 8. We were better than their victims, but not by that much. We were expected to get crushed.
Coach prepared us thoroughly. His intention was to have us walk off that court with our heads held high as worthy opponents. To that end we prepared a few little surprises.
“Today I'm going to teach you how to play a full court 3 – 1 – 1 pressure defense,” and he did exactly that.
“We're going to do this after the first basket we score. It will catch them off guard and you know what they'll do?”
“They'll call a time out and their coach will tell them how to beat it. They'll plan to run a player up each sideline to about half court for an outlet pass. You know what we're going to do?”
“Switch to man-to-man full court pressure and nothing they just drew up in their huddle will work. You know what they'll do then?”
“Call another time out. We'll have forced them to use up two of their timeouts in less than a minute of play.”
On game day that is exactly what happened very early in the game. I remember all of grinning at each other during each of those two time out. They were bigger than us, more experienced than us and better shooters too. They won the game but we dictated how it was played. They had to beat us at our game. At the end of the day, their coach came to us and said that if we had anywhere near the talent they had that year we would have won. He admitted that they out shot us but we out played them.
I came off the bench and put a fake on the league MVP and scored a layup. That was one of only four baskets I scored all season. I don't like losing games but that was one that we were all proud of.