Not every college basketball team holds practice three nights a week in a shoe store Strayer College does.
Not every coach has to interrupt his blackbord diagramming to answer the doorbell and say, "Yes, ma'am. This is 1329 1/2 F St. and I'm the manager, but the Vanguard Shoe Store is closed at night." Strayer coach Josh Wright does.
Not every team practices three other nights a week in the tiny, chilly, third-floor gym of Epighany Episcopal Church, where any shot from more than eight out in the corners is impossible because the ceiling is only nine feet high at that point Strayer does.
Not every team goes on a two-month Chritsmas break without a single game, Strayer did.
But above all, it is not every college team that could put up with half these embarrassments and discomforts yet keep coming back for more, actually begging its coach to schedule more games, Strayer does.
By all rights, Strayer team this year should be in complete disharmony anddisarray. Every one of the team's dozen nonscholarship players and its two volunteer coaches have been told a hundred times that they ought to wise up and quit this basketball foolishness.
After all, Strayer College is no breeding ground for NBA millionaires, but rather a low-tuition, four year business college of 1,500 students geared toward producing accountants, secretaries, data processors, court reporters and mechandisers.
It has no ived campus or marble pillars, just two utilitarian floors above a department store at 13th and F Streets in the Homer Building, the sort of well-worn, walk-up office building where Sam Spade might hang his shingle.
On top of that, the team has had a terrible season, losing every game this year from the opener, when Gallaudet scored a school-record 106 points, to this week's most recent 52-point loss to Southeastern.
And in between those games, things really were bad. The 122-61 beating at the hands of D.C. Teacher's subs was hard to take, but the season's low point came in a game when Strayer trailed by only 41 points.
"I pulled my team off the floor," says coach Wright. "When the refree ran past the other team's bench and winked at the other coach. We will lose with dignity, but we will not be humiliated."
This team - made up of night school students, police cadets, sheet-metal workers, married men, and one sub who played for Strayer in 1967 - has put up with many a sarcastic wink this year. Yet it preseveres.
Only a week ago, this cast without a man over 6-foot-3 scored one of the ashington area's greatest triumphs of the year. They lost by only four points, 72-68.
"It made us all feek wonderful," said guard Bruce Fleet. "We had a 10-point lead against Gallaudeet, a respectable college team, a team with a 6-foot-9 center and scholarships and a milliondollar gym. That was our game. We shoulda won."
"Strayer students told me we played a good game," says Strayer's (Fancy) Dan Ford. "It was nice to get a compliment."
That defeat has induced coach Wright to actually dream of a victory this Saturday in RIchmond against Smithdeal Massey College. "They're so overconfident they're going to give us a free meal before the game," Wright told his team.
But if Strayer is to win, it will win "the right way." Both Wright and his assistant, James Brown, have seen the wrong way, first hand.
"We both played for Strayer last year," said Brown, who averaged 22 points a game for the 1-5 squad. "We had a lot more talent then, but there was no discipline. Nobody came to practice but we always had at least five men for games."
Once, however, it was exactly five. When three Strayer players fouled out, the coach, Jim Carroll, had to put on a uniform and Strayer played the last six minutes with three men.
"The other team knew we'd do anything to keep from walking off that floor," said Brown. "They didn't take advantage of us with any special plays. We appreciated it. But it was the bottom. The basketball program almost went out of existence."
With that memory of disorder behind them, Wright and Brown vowed to build a team from scratch that would, in their words, "give others respect and earn respect for ourselves if we never win a game."
After one game, an official said, to me 'Hey, it looks like you guys are a whole new Strayer," Brown said.
That, at any rate, is the idea. Wright spent the first two weeks of practice this fall preaching attitude, not basketball."The officials got enough problems without listening to your mouth," he tells his players.
"You think the officials don't get together n their little clinics and get the word out rag-tag image with the officials and with other-schools, it will help us for years to come."
Last week, Wright kicked a player off the team for coming to a game drunk. "Some of us like to party," he told the team this week. "But if we don't have the willpower and selfpride to get to bed the night before a game, then we aren't players."
So this Friday night, Wright nows, the team will either sleep on cots at his house, "or I'll check everybody's house by phone all night every two hours."
Strayer's players nod their heads with approval when Wright tells them, "If you won't dive on the floor, if you won't play for the team, if you can't get your attitude together, then drop your uniform. We'll play basketball if we only have five men."
Two police cadets, Darryl Butler and Eric Gainey, both 6-3, have brought a bit of height, experience and shooting in the last three games. Those who have suffered from the beginning lend the character.
'We're trying to get a name, to build something from the bottom up." said loquacious forward Kermit Duell. "That's something everybody on this team understands. I sat on the bench with championship teams at DuVal High but the star of that team is bagging groceries at Giant now while I'm getting an education."
Strayer's players understand the concept of limited, plausible goals.
"Everybody has to start somewhere," Wright tells his team as they hold one of their thrice weekly chalk talks in the back of the shoe store. "This job I got here, I do the best I can. Take pride in what you do. Don't live for the impossible."
Nevertheless, in some ways, Wright already seems to have done the impossible. He has found a practice gym (at Epiphany and a game gym (at Bowling Air Force Base) that cost Strayer next to nothing.
He has his whole team showing up regularly for every practive in gym where one of the baskets in lopsided, an old green couch sits in the temperature is in the 50s.
Wright and Brown keep their shoestore chalk talks and practices going for as long as six hours so that players can wander in and out as it fits their schools and work schedules. "I leave the diagrams on the blackboard overnight," says Wright, "so nobody has to miss anything."
Such devotion in the face of one enormous defeat after another seems almost incomprehensible until one see Wright and his players, whom he calls, "the family," leaving the store late at night.
On either side of tiny Vanguard Shoes stand nine other major shoe companies in the same 1300 block of F St. "Sale . . . Big Sale . . . Half Price," the display windows scream.
In this hustling marketplace, this block dedicated to long hours and the hard sell, stands the sdopte home of Strayer's players, like their coach and his business, they are trying to make it every day, despite the odds.
Wright looks at the shoe store next door and says, "Darn, that guy hits me with his two-for-one sole every three months."