At The Boys & Girls Club, The Cool Rule.
By Tom Danehy
CONSIDER JIMMY MONK. His friends call him "Jay," and when it comes to friends, he has a couple.
Jay is one of those guys who found his salvation, his very purpose in life, because of basketball. Not that he can play all that well. Heck, Ray Charles could probably guard him. Jay couldn't score in a monkey whorehouse with a bag full of bananas. Nonetheless, basketball brought him to where he is today.
I met Jay while I was playing in a Sunday basketball league. He's twentysomething with these wild braids all over his head which make him look like he got mugged by Coolio. Actually, he looks like he's half-black, half-Indian, and two or three other halves of God-knows-what. He's one of those Lou Diamond Phillips kinda people who, when he had to fill out those papers in school, had to pause at "Ethnic Background" and then ask for extra paper.
He claims to be southern Californian, but he's got country written all over him. He speaks with this nasal twang that goes up in pitch in times of stress, which means that when he plays me in dominoes, he's in P.S. (Permanent Soprano) mode. The poor guy tries so hard to be a dominologist, but when it comes to the Game of Bones, he probably couldn't beat Nancy Reagan in heels and pearls.
He once told me that in high school he went to Long Beach Poly or Long Beach Jordan. It doesn't matter which; they're interchangeable. He claims he was an athlete, but the dude has marching band written all over him.
Jay calls me up from time to time. It goes like this:
Jay: What's up?
(NOTE: I actually wrote those lines for Master P. You probably didn't know that. I'm one of the founding members of The Sons of Funk. I'm just too busy around the house here to go out on tour. Plus, I've put on a few pounds, so I didn't want to pose for the cover photo wearing a mustard-colored iridescent suit.)
Jay loves movies. But his Top 10 favorite movies have all been free movies. He called one time and I explained to him that the movie that week was a sensitive look at love found and lost between an anorexic Croatian immigrant gymnast and a Welsh cooper who is suddenly questioning the need for barrels in a modern society. With two different kinds of sub-titles.
To which Jay responds, "Yeah, I've been waitin' for that flick!"
The turning point in Jay's life came when he was playing in this adult league over at the Steve Daru Branch of the Tucson Boys & Girls Club. League members were asked to volunteer a couple hours of their time at the club whenever they got a chance.
Jay stopped by one time and, according to reports, he hasn't left since, except to attend a free movie screening now and again.
Apparently, he stopped in and presented himself to Wynton Barnett, the branch director. Wynton's a great guy who has given 30 years of his life to the Boys & Girls Club. Maybe it just looks that way, since a friend of his swears that Wynton is only around 31. Gee, I can't imagine how working with smiling, wonderful young people could be that stressful.
Wynton passed Jay along to Paul Carrillo, the branch's recreation director. I wrote about Paul once. He was one of those guys who stayed in college for nine years just so he could compete in the national Flag Football playoffs in New Orleans. Those nine years were beneficial for Paul. The 36 units he accrued put him more than halfway to an A.A. degree.
Paul's actually a very good athlete. He played at Pueblo back when the Warriors were good with neighborhood players. This year's Pueblo team should be one of the best in the state, but no one will take it seriously, since the place has turned into Transfer Central. How hard is it to win with an All-Star team?
Paul put Jay to work with the youth basketball leagues. First, Jay reffed a couple games. Reportedly, he even blew the whistle once, but it was after the game was over and most of the players had gone home.
Then Jay moved up to coach. He coached one team and then another and then another. Pretty soon he was traveling around the state with the Steve Daru team. Now he carries a clipboard, wears shiny sweatsuits, and says stuff like "double-down" and "V-cut."
He once came to me and said, "Tom, you're an undefeated basketball coach. What's your secret?"
"Jeez," I sneered, "Just get real good players and then get out of their way."
Jay found his niche at the club. He's there all the time, helping kids, hanging out. He was only supposed to do a couple hours of volunteering and he ended up being named Volunteer of the Year. He's a big-time success story for himself and the club.
"I was only going to volunteer because of the men's league I was in on Sundays," Jay explains. "I didn't know what to expect. But I love these kids and I love coaching. It's cool."
Jay will be at the 87th-Annual Sean Elliott Steak 'N' Burger Dinner this Sunday at the University Marriott. Former Steve Daru kid Sean Elliott puts on the dinner to honor this year's good kids, and they are many. Sean's guest this year is NBA Rookie of the Year Tim Duncan. Don't bother trying to get tickets; it's been sold out for quite a while.
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