Looks like Moochie is thinking about coaching.
Back in the CBA, Norris has his eye on the future
By DAVE THOMAS
PUBLISHED ON Friday, March 14, 2008
YAKIMA -- A dozen years ago, Moochie Norris burst on the CBA scene, bringing a brash and flashy style that immediately endeared him to fans, and one he would eventually parlay into an eight-year NBA playing career.
Today, the point guard is back in the league where his pro dreams began, with a little less flash -- the full-blown afro he sported with the Houston Rockets has long since been replaced by a clean-shaven head -- but still a potent force on the floor.
In many ways, this latest version, Moochie 2.0 if you will, is perhaps a little more well-rounded model, with more brains than brash.
"My days of great CBA basketball were with Fort Wayne," he said of his early career that began in 1996. "I'm not as fast as I used to be ... but I don't do as many careless things. I'm more in control now.
"As you get older, you get wiser and smarter. I've grown as a player."
Even though the
34-year-old acknowledges he's a different player, he remains an extremely effective one, anchoring the Yakama Sun Kings' record-setting season.
"Some of his speed may have deteriorated, but he makes up for it with his basketball IQ," said backup point guard Denarryl Rice, one of the young Sun Kings benefiting from Norris' wealth of experience. "He's learned how to use his head more."
What's even more important is that Norris hasn't kept that wealth of experience and knowledge to himself, instead passing it on to his teammates. Often times during and after games, Norris has an arm around a young player, like Rice, sharing observations and advice.
"Moochie has helped me tremendously," said Rice, a first-year CBA player. "He offers a lot of constructive criticism, and he stays on me because he tells me he sees a lot of potential."
"To play as many years as he did in the NBA, he obviously had the talent," Yakama coach Paul Woolpert said. "But what he does very well is he shares his knowledge. He communicates very well.
"He's nearing the end of his career. Now is the time to impart some of that knowledge to the younger guys."
Part of Norris' desire to pass on his knowledge is because that's how he's continually worked to improve his game.
"I studied great point guards like (Jason) Kidd and (John) Stockton," said Norris, whose NBA career was spent primarily in Houston, but also included stops in Seattle, New York and New Orleans. "I study everyone. I believe you can learn something from everyone, and I try to incorporate those things into my game."
That attitude has helped Norris remain an effective player and it may prove to be an even more valuable commodity as he prepares to transition into a post-playing world.
"The more and more I play, the more I see myself as a coach," he said. "I've been around other players and coaches who tell me I should get into coaching. They say I understand the game and have a passion for the game."
Norris gets no argument from his current mentor.
"First of all, Moochie Norris will be a good coach," Woolpert said. "He's really provided me with a lot of help this season."
The admiration is mutual, with Norris saying he's learned a lot about the profession just by watching Woolpert.
"Other than Rudy T(omjanovich), Paul will definitely go down as one of my top coaches," Norris said comparing him to one of his coaches with the Rockets. "He (Woolpert) really thinks about the game ... and understands his players. He's a good teacher and all he asks is that you give it your all and leave it on the court."
That's what Norris has done for the Sun Kings this season, including a 26-point, 48-minute effort in Yakama's loss at Oklahoma in their playoff opener Tuesday in Lawton.
The mutual respect between player and coach helped Norris get through some rough personal times that forced him to leave the team to return home to Atlanta a couple of times during the season.
"I'm thankful that Paul and the Yakama organization let me take care of that ... and my teammates understood and were supportive," Norris said. "I don't think that would've have happened with another team."
Norris didn't let those distractions detract from his game, and he repaid the team's support with MVP-like play, highlighted by a league-best 8.9 assists per game, 2 1/2 more than runner-up Aaron Cook of Butte. He also averaged 11.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals, and finished with a league-high three triple-doubles, and 10 double-doubles in 38 games, becoming the latest in the line of great Sun Kings point guards that has featured Eldridge Recasner, Anthony Goldwire, David Vanterpool, Duane Cooper, and Darrick Martin.
"In order to win in this league, you have to have a good point guard. That's the one constant (in our success) ... and this year it's Moochie," Woolpert said.
"I played against all of those guys (when at Fort Wayne)," Norris said. "It's great to be one of those guys whose come through here and made a mark."
Playing on this team and in this environment has rejuvenated Norris, allowing him to keep his coaching aspirations on hold for now.
"I've really built a great relationship with this team. It's a great group of guys and we're winning more than I expected," Norris said. "At this stage of my career, I'm getting ready for the transition, but I'm not ready to quit now."
Rest assured, when that day does come, Norris shouldn't have any trouble making a splash in his new line of work.