On April 20th, 2019 I got a call from Ryan Mariano. He asked me if I wanted to, again, be his assistant. He was taking a job working with former Olympian Casey Patterson, and former NBA player and NBA dunk contest participant Chase Budinger. They were partnering up for the AVP season as well as some international events and needed a coach. Of course I jumped at the chance! Are you kidding me?
It started with a practice in Arizona at Grand Canyon University. We got out for a couple of days as Ryan got a feel for the team by running them through a bunch of drills. I got to be the guy on the box hitting balls. Ryan would run the drills, and the three of them would communicate the adjustments as well as what each person's role was for particular defensive strategies. I was just up there soaking it all in.
As the season went on, I got the opportunity to scout other teams for the guys as they made their way through tournaments. I would go out and look for tendencies, plays the teams would run, and just really try to give the guys as much information on what I saw as possible. I have to say, it was really awesome of them to give me the chance to be involved in the pregame discussions, the game planning processes, and the celebrations after big wins. Game by game I would listen to what kind of information they seemed to want and need to help them to be successful and I would go to the next team with those things in mind as I would watch. Here I was, a guy from Flagstaff, Arizona working with some of the top professionals in the sport! If you had told me even months before, that I would be scouting the likes of Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena, Jake Gibb, the Crabb brothers, Avatar, and so many others, I think I probably would have laughed in your face. While I'm pretty positive that the reason they won so many matches during the 2019 season wasn't because of my incredible scouting skills, I sure was honored to have the opportunity! Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Chicago... I got to travel, I got to sit court-side, I was in the player's tent with guys I had idolized my entire career playing.
In Manhattan Beach, Ryan couldn't be there. Goose stepped in and sat in the box to run them through the tournament. He was awesome to me. He would give me specific directions as to what he wanted me to look for to help inform him. I watched a ton of ball that weekend. Between matches at one point, the four of us rallied up and went back to Chase's house to watch the games together on Amazon Prime. That was a cool experience for me because I got to sit and watch a game with them and hear what their perspective was on what they were seeing and how to attack it or defend against it. Having never had a coach of my own playing the game, I had to pretty much learn technique and strategy from watching and listening. Coaching has been the same way. I am only as successful as I am in the field because I am humble enough to know that I don't know it all. I understand that when the moment presents itself, I have to shut my mouth, open my ears and my mind and take pictures in my head. In the span of 7 years I had gone from coaching a camp for kids who couldn't afford to play the sport in a small mountain town to sitting in the living room of one of the best players in the game learning. If you don't think that the relentless pursuit of the things that you want in life yields results, I would have to beg to differ with you.