Despite his doubters, Coach Nicholas Singh has the Tigers chewing on the competition for the second year in a row.
Singh became the head coach of the basketball team at the Lutheran School of Flushing and Bayside in 2006 and subsequently watched his team lose every game. The following year, his team did not even enter the league.
They were reinstated in 2008, amid expectations that ran lower than the individual heights of his middle school roster. The school was skeptical that Singh could rally his team to post a single win the entire year.
They had it exactly backwards.
The single digit posted ended up being their one loss – as Singh’s Tigers overcame the odds and posted a 9-1 regular season record, before winning the school’s first championship in 20 years. It was vindication for Singh who said that even after their impressive start, the Tigers were not inspiring school pride.
“They told me to enjoy it while it lasts,” said Singh. “Early on, they cast a shadow of doubt over us.”
This season, the Tigers are 6-1 with a string of games leading up to the playoffs on Friday, March 5. If they can win that one game playoff, it will mean their second championship berth in as many seasons. This even surprises Singh, who said that the eighth graders who made last year so special, have since graduated.
“There are no guarantees this year; every win has been hard fought,” he said. “But our objective – to win at all costs – has never changed.”
Singh has his Tigers playing a run-and-gun offense that focuses much more on lay-ups than perimeter shots. Couple that with a stingy defense and Singh believes he has the formula for success.
“If we keep them from scoring, then we only have to score once to win,” said Singh, who motivates his team with Yankees-inspired speeches and Los Angeles Lakers tapes. “I think I would coach the same way if this was an adult team. The approach is more important than the kids playing it.”
If the Tigers can win back-to-back championships, something Singh said would be “unheard of,” he will not spew I-told-you-so’s or wait for adulation. His group of proud players and the title would be congratulations enough.
“I do not seek out credit,” he said. “When the kids look at the banner and they think of me, that is my fulfillment.”