Lopes back in his `heaven'
WATERTOWN – He was probably the happiest person in gym.
You would have never known it watching Watertown High girls basketball coach Ed Lopes as his Indians tangled with Holy Cross Friday night. It wasn’t all smiley and feel good as he was in typical Lopesian mode, stalking the sidelines or sometimes on one knee, explaining, directing, pleading, cajoling, questioning and supporting.
It all wasn’t enough as the Indians lost to undefeated Holy Cross, 36-28, in a hard-fought and sloppy NVL battle between two of the league’s top teams.
In a sense, though, no matter. There was no other place Lopes would have rather been. In fact he had probably been to all those other places for the previous four and a half weeks.
The was Game 3 of Lopes’ return from an enforced absence while school officials conducted in investigation believed to be related to coaching style issues. The administrative leave began Dec. 7 and was ended Jan. 8. During the time Lopes was not allowed to have contact with the team, be on school property or have contact with any students.
A tough no-go for a gym junkie who revels in the winter months and the relentless tap-tap of the ball bouncing off of the floor in the glory of one part cold, and one part sweaty gyms. The winter is his time in this way and this winter went icy cold.
So what do you do when your team is off-limits? You find a basketball game, somewhere, sometime. Lopes didn’t sit home catching up on Friday Night Smackdown or trying to figure out who is a bigger do-hickey WFSB or Cablevision in the Channel 3 fiasco. He found a gym.
“I went and saw every NVL team twice, I went and saw some Southwest Conference (SWC) games,” said Lopes. “I watch last year’s game films. I kept busy and prepared.”
Lopes got his fix, he didn’t have a ball but he found a ball – in gyms, on video here there and everywhere. But you know, your heart is with you team. Especially one that has your own blood on it, his daughter Rebecca a junior and proud Indian.
Lopes doesn’t look back here although the incident has left an impact. But it is all about looking forward. And being in his home gym for the first time this season and on a Friday night was a nice part moving on down the road.
There is however some catchup to do.
“It’s halfway through the season and I’m still in my preseason,” admitted Lopes.
On the scoreboard it was an up and down week for Lopes and his team. There was a difficult 40-39 loss at Torrington in which the Red Raiders rallied from a 12-point third quarter deficit. Watertown rebounded to beat Crosby, 32-27, before the loss to Holy Cross.
“As every day goes by we will jell and get our rhythm,” said Lopes. “We need repetition so we are all on the same page and we will get there.”
A lot of that is about getting there together and not reading about it in the paper. So there was Lopes in his element, in his home gym doing his thing Friday night. Nattily attired in his black Watertown sweater vest with can’t-miss-it orange `W’ insignia on the front, punctuated with a black pin-striped shirt on underneath, he was ready to roll.
To tell you he was happy with the execution and outcome would be a misnomer. The Indians didn’t shoot well, turned the ball over a pile of times and had a rough night. No smiles here although the effort was top notch.
But, it is early in many respects here. The season has a ways to go and the NVL decides its champion in the NVL Tournament. The Indians (4-1 Brass Division, 8-4 overall) trail St. Paul (5-0 division) by just a game in the division. This was not a result that demanded Life-Star. There is time.
It was also not a result that dominated the night. There was more here. For the first time since last season Lopes was back home on the sidelines after a difficult time. Sometimes just being there it much of the fun. This time was one of those times.
“This is my heaven, it is so much fun,” said Lopes. “I’m so happy to be back.
Yeah, Ed Lopes didn't like the final score Friday night but he have been the happiest person in the Watertown gym.