During halftime of their team's AAU quarterfinal game Wednesday at Chantilly High School, coaches Lucius Allen and Sam Lacey conferred outside the locker room. Lacey demonstrated a move the players could use to free themselves on offense; Allen listened.
While the team was shooting before the start of the second half, Lacey pulled aside Maryann Mitts to offer the same instruction.
All things considered, Mitts and her teammates -- Lucius and Lacey's Ladies -- probably benefit from as much basketball knowledge as any of the other 61 teams entered in the tournament in the 16-and-under bracket of the AAU/USA Junior Olympic Girls Basketball National Championships. The tournament is taking place this week at Chantilly, Fairfax and Lake Braddock high schools and at George Mason University.
"It's certainly a special situation," said Mitts, a forward who finished with 10 points as Lucius and Lacey's Ladies, the Missouri Valley entry, defeated New Jersey, 76-68, and advanced to the winner's bracket final today against the Southeastern team at Lake Braddock at 12:30. "That's what makes us different from every other team in the tournament. It's not your high school coach or your college coach. It's two (retired) pro players."
Lacey played 13 NBA seasons, 11 with Kansas City and one each with New Jersey and Cleveland before he retired in 1983.
Allen played 10 years in the NBA -- five with Milwaukee, three with the Lakers and two with Kansas City.
Now, as coaches of an AAU team, Lacey and Allen find themselves with a talented team two wins away from a national championship in the highly competitive 16-and-under bracket, a division that attracts the interest of as many college scouts as the 18-and-under division.
If they win today, the Ladies could face the Vogues of Virginia, coached by Denise Fiore of George Washington and led by all-Met players Christy Winters of South Lakes and Penny Moore of Stuart, a team that has advanced through the losers' bracket.
In the 18-and-under division, the Vogues lost for the second time last night, 94-81, to Ohio and were eliminated.
Aside from Mitts, who will be a high school junior, Lacey and Allen get scoring from Felicia Braddy, a 5-foot-8 senior-to-be. She led the Ladies with 27 points against New Jersey and is expected to be one of the outstanding players in this year's senior class. Angelique Lee, a 6-4 center, gives the Ladies inside power, but lately she has been limited by torn ligaments in her right pinkie.
How did two former NBA players come to coach a girls team?
"For me, it was kind of a fluke accident," said Allen, who usually has little to do with organized basketball and is the chief executive officer of Technical Support Management Inc., a firm that helps manage hospitals.
"A friend asked me if I wanted to do it. I told him I didn't want to be a chaperon; that if I did it, I really wanted to coach."
Lacey has been involved with the AAU the last five years and coached the boys team at Barstow High School in Missouri this past year. "But this is my first year coaching girls," he said. "As a person who played for so long, at least I can teach the basics."
As it turns out, Lacey does far more than that. In the coaches' division of labor, Lacey installed the offense and Allen works on defense. During the game, Lacey shouted instructions from the bench as the score changed nearly a dozen times in the second half. Allen addressed the team during timeouts.
"We complement each other very well," Lacey said. "I'm a little more emotional than Lucius. Lucius is the ice. I'm the fire."