Plus Ca Change
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr is hardly a household name. He certainly would not have known the difference between a ball screen and a back door cut. Yet, he was still a clever guy. A witty 19th century teacher and journalist, he penned the famous epigram “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.” Over time, the phrase reduced to just plus ca change. But it still translated as "the more things change, the more they stay the same".
Maybe Monsieur Karr was a prophet, at least regarding British Columbia boys’ high school basketball. The province's first championship was held in 1946 and featured only eight teams. There were no divisions. All schools played in one tier. As in soccer’s FA Cup, the minnows had to take their chances against traditional powerhouses such as Duke of Connaught, Vancouver College and Oak Bay.
However, change eventually occurred, starting with the move to A and AA tiers in 1970. Eighteen years later a third tier was added, while in 2014 the AAAA competition formed. With this came a new lease on life, not only for players and coaches such as myself, but for all schools. Those involved now had a realistic chance of taking part in, maybe even winning, a BC tournament.
The steady evolution was fueled by basketball’s ever-growing popularity. The NBA came to Canada in 1995, in the form of the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies. And, through the decades, the BC high school provincial events featured their own super star talent. Legends named Kootnekoff, Shields, Burrows and Hansen. Kazanowski, Sacre and Olynyk. Steve Nash. Coaches Wright, Taylor, Horwood, Disbrow, Dockendorf and Goulet, among many others.
Moreover, from humble beginnings, significant crowds flooded to watch. On occasion 10,000 strong. Major stadiums, such as UBC’s iconic War Memorial Gym, the Pacific Coliseum, the Agrodome, Rogers Arena and the Langley Events Centre, played host.
But what of the game that has never changed. Nervous players, tingling with anticipation, wait in locker rooms for their moment on stage. For some, a quiet confidence, bolstered by hours of practice. Others less sure.
Finally, the moment arrives. “Steady, Discipline, No Fouls, Back on D”, all lost when the team races on court. Bedlam, as raucous student bodies temporarily lose all sanity. The noise is deafening and will remain so for the next two hours.
The adrenaline surges. Players move faster, jump higher than ever before. Final words, final reminders, final thoughts. The game begins.
Too soon it is over. Jump shots maddeningly spin out, passes go awry, rebounds elude straining fingers. There are wild scrambles, costly turnovers, key free throws, pretty passes, 3 point bombs, lead changes, frantic comebacks.
Pressure and more pressure. Passionate coaches. Referees, doing an impossible job that requires perfection from the start, and then steady improvement.
In the aftermath, for the losers maybe tears, though the disappointment eventually fades away. For the victors, happiness, soon replaced by the knowledge another key contest awaits tomorrow. Cool heads required. Everything very possibly riding on one shot, one pass, one rebound.
It’s all part and parcel of BC high school hoops. Which, over 75 years, at its very core has stayed the same. Try it. You'll like it. I do. And so would have Jean-Baptiste.
Plus ca change indeed.