As a coach and the owner of The Sports Academy in Millburn, David White has met his share of NBA players through camps and events, but this weekend beat all.
When the Miami Heat -- yes that Miami Heat with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Juwon Howard -- came to New Jersey this weekend to play the Nets, they tracked down White and asked if they could practice in his Millburn gym.
“It was thrilling to say the least,” White said. “It happened through the magic of the Internet. They were staying at the Hilton in Short Hills and did a google search for basketball gyms and asked if I could accommodate them.”
A handful of players came in on Saturday to shoot around a bit and the entire team showed up for a full practice for two hours on Sunday before they went on to beat the Nets 108-94.
"He nicely told us we had to be out of the place," said Hank Zona, a Maplewood resident who plays there every Sunday. "But while we were outside the bus pulled up so we watched them get off the bus and head inside."
The whole thing had to be kept very hush-hush, White said.
“You can imagine if word got out,” said White, who didn’t even bother the Heat for a photo-op. “It was a no-picture no-autograph type of thing. Knowing they were here and getting to watch them and talk a little basketball with them was enough.”
As it was, he had to get Zona's group out of the gym early.
"Those guys are usually pretty slow getting off the court, but I had to rush them out of here before the team came," White said.
As a coach, he said, it was satisfying that to see that the same things he teaches kids were being taught at the professional level.
“It doesn’t really matter how young or old you are, certain things are taught at every level,” he said. “Sometimes you wonder, ‘Am I teaching this the right way’ and then you see them doing the same things and you think, ‘Maybe I am.’”
The weekend with the Heat turned up in the house was made more exciting by the fact that both White and his 14-year-old son are big fans.
“I’m from Michigan and I’m a big fan of Juwan Howard (once an All American Fab Five for Michigan),” he said. “He spent quite a bit of time talking to my son, telling him to make sure he does well in school and studies. That’s actually the best part of something like this—seeing the look on your kid’s face. Having them here is something we’ll remember forever.”