Marching toward the playoffs reveals the many characters of coaching

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Fans at a basketball game usually focus their attention on the court and players.

But sometimes, a glance at the bench can be even more entertaining than what's playing out on the court. It's there that coaches direct their team, occasionally employing ingenious techniques.

There are all styles of coaching, from the fiery, hands-on (literally) approach of a Bobby Knight to the zen-based coolness of Phil Jackson.

That same variety of coaching philosophies is found among basketball coaches of all levels around the Walla Walla Valley. It's at the youth, prep and smaller college levels that coaches are often as much a psychologist as professor of the game of basketball - more so than big-school colleges and pro teams, where pure talent abounds.

Local coaches have to know when a single player, or an entire team, needs emphatic inspiration or a gentle hand on the shoulder.

This process can be fascinating to watch. Coaches may soar into the air, loudly spurring a team on with arms flailing; quietly confer with an assistant on the next move; histrionically berate a referee; or have a little playful interaction with fans in the stands.

Whichever philosophical approach is chosen, Valley coaches this week lead their teams into state and conference tournaments trying to bring home championship hardware. Entertainment isn't their goal; winning games is. But sometimes, it's a bonus.

Good luck to all.

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