As the sun rose on Thursday morning, I rolled over in bed, and the first thing my wife said to me was, “Well, how does it feel?”
She didn’t specify a topic, but I knew what she was talking about: Twelve hours earlier, Grizz Gaming had finished our 2021 season in the NBA 2K League with a 2-0 sweep over Raptors Uprising. The wins locked us into the third seed in the Eastern Conference, and left our record at 18-10 for the regular season. This was our best finish in franchise history, and the first playoff appearance in franchise history.
I felt a range of emotions, but more than anything, it felt validating. We’d been so close for so long, finishing one game out of the playoffs for each of our first three seasons. As I’ve said before, it would make you shake your head and laugh if it wasn’t so ridiculous. But the truth is, at the end of the season it doesn’t matter if you finished one game or one hundred games out of the playoffs—either you’re in or you’re out.
From day one of this season, our goal has been making the playoffs. To be honest, that’s been our goal every season, but it wasn’t until this year that I was willing to say it out loud. Previously, we worked and we fought, sure, but I kept our goals private. This season, I took a page from Oprah: I would try to speak our goal into existence. What else did we have to lose?
So when we started the scouting process heading into this season, each time that our retained players (Vandi and Authentic) and scout (Token) and I spoke to potential draftees, I made clear that it was playoffs or bust.
It helped that I finally felt like I was getting closer to figuring out this 2K League coaching thing. Almost every coach in the League has some kind of history in the 2K community, except for me. So I’ve spent the last four years playing catch-up, learning animations and coverages and badges, while trying to keep us winning games.
But the real reason we won two-thirds of our games this season? We have a great team. It’s simple and obvious, but sometimes the obvious answer is the correct answer. The group of players we have on our roster right now are six great 2K players, who more importantly have all bought into the team concept. They understand the value of sacrifice, of putting team over self. That’s not a lesson I’ve had to teach them, which makes it even more satisfying.
We got off to a 9-1 start to our season, and everything seemed to be trending in the right direction. Then things swung the other way, when we had a stretch against our toughest competition, and to be honest, we stumbled, going 3-8. But we buckled down and fought back, making some adjustments and finding our way forward. And wouldn’t you know it, we managed to win 6 of our last 7 games, on the way to that 18-10 record, and the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The other thing most people will never understand is just how much work is involved. We practice seven days a week, for about five hours per day. That means all summer long, when my son is out of school, I’m at work every day. It would probably be easy for me to set up some scrimmages and let the guys come in and scrim without me, but that doesn’t seem right to me. If they’re going to work, I’m going to be there with them. That sacrifice is what makes us a team, a unit. These guys have done everything I’ve asked them to do, all season long. What more can a coach ask for?
With one mission accomplished, what’s next? Well, now we go to the postseason and look to make some noise there, which we are fully capable of doing. Along the journey of this season, we’ve seen enough to know how to play at our best. We’ve reached our destination. Now it’s just a matter of executing.
And to my wife’s question? It feels good. Pretty, pretty good.