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OPINION|RICK FIRES: Teachable moment from Rogers coach Early benefits young basketball star

by Rick Fires | January 22, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.
Mug shot for Fires' column

Great players still demand great coaching, even in an era where many of today's athletes are thought to be babied and coddled.

I saw evidence of this last week during a high school girls game in Springdale.

Brooklyn Owens is one of the best young players in our area and a primary reason Rogers left the Springdale gym with a 67-61 overtime victory over the Lady Bulldogs. But Owens was guilty of a defensive lapse in the second half that enabled a Springdale player to launch a 3-point shot uncontested.

Rogers coach Preston Early quickly called a timeout and I could see from press row his stern words were directed at Owens, a sophomore guard.

Any idea what happened next?

First, what didn't happen.

The coach didn't scream and holler. The player didn't pout, cry, or react in anger. The parents didn't come out of the stands and try to intervene.

The timeout, instead, was a teachable moment that benefited Owens, who intensified her effort on both ends of the court and finished with 16 points. Three days later, Owens scored 23 points to help lead Rogers to a 59-47 victory over rival Rogers Heritage.

"You've got to build a relationship with players before you can really get on them," said Early, who comes from a family of coaches. "She and I have kind of formed that bond where there's a trust. She had been drifting in and out of her level of play for a couple of weeks and I knew if I was direct with her, she was going to respond. She did and I think it was a great grow-up moment for her."

Another example, for sure, of great players demanding great coaching, even when they least expect it.


The return of Dan Enos as offensive coordinator at Arkansas reminds of the Razorbacks' 54-46 win in four overtime against Auburn and coach Gus Malzahn in 2015.

Enos was in a groove that day with play-calling that resulted in 29 first downs and 457 yards in total offense. Arkansas spruced up its offensive attack with some jet sweeps and play-action passes from quarterback Brandon Allen, who had one of his best days as a Razorback.

There was praise all around following the game, including this comment about Enos from then-Arkansas coach Bret Bielema.

"I thought (the game) truly defined how good Dan Enos could be because he really had an answer for every situation," Bielema said. "He adapted, he adjusted."

Enos will have to adapt again and devise a gameplan suited for KJ Jefferson, a stout runner and passer for the Razorbacks. Change can be difficult I'm convinced Arkansas fans are going to be pleased with having Enos back for another stint as the play-caller for the Razorbacks.


Fans are never completely satisfied and you hear it most forcefully following a loss when sports talk shows are dominated by complaints about play-calling and (lack of) halftime adjustments.

But I heard a comment from an old-timer last week who said the idea of players and coaches coming together in the halftime locker room to forge a new scheme is nonsense.

"I don't know if I ever made a halftime adjustment in my entire 18-year career," the old-timer said. "I think that's the biggest myth in football -- the halftime adjustments. You go in, you use the restroom, you eat a couple of oranges, and then the head coach says, 'Alright, let's go!'".

Those were the words of former quarterback Peyton Manning, a five-time NFL Most Valuable Player and two-time Super Bowl winner who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021.

A pretty good source, don't you think? Yea, me too.


I'm compelled to repeat here what I posted on Twitter about Kendal Briles, who left for TCU after suggesting days earlier he was returning as offensive coordinator for the Razorbacks:

So, Briles is gone, huh? OK but can we just drop the word "commitment" in regard to college players and coaches? I suggest "have tentatively agreed to but don't hold me to it" wording instead. Awkward but much more accurate.

Anyone with a better suggestion? I'm listening.

Print Headline: Teachable point benefits youngster


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