Poetry of the Times
"Hit the open man!"
Head coach Red Holzman's strategy for the New York Knicks
championship basketball team, 1970 and 1973
I love to tell teenaged boys the story
of the famous shot when Doctor J went up
and under and around Kareem before
he slammed the ball home. I tell them Doctor J
gave all the credit to Kareem for forcing
him to fly in ways he had never flown before,
that there is always a big man between
you and the basket and he will teach you
how to create your own way to score.
Believe me, I know this is pure cliché,
but the boys I see are seventeen and can't
name the oceans surrounding the USA.
Yet a few have seen the highlight clip,
and most know enough to nod and listen
to my middle-aged white-guy stories about
where I sat the nights the Knicks took their titles.
But they're not sure they should believe me
when I say I'm still dreaming Red Holzman
will call me up to the pros to play point guard,
that I'm practicing medicine somewhere past halftime,
dribbling up court, checking out the defense,
always looking to hit the open man.