Everyone who has heard about the Harlem Globetrotters in their heyday knows about Meadowlark. Now meet one of the lemons.
The touring comedians of basketball also featured Curly Neal. But how about the straight men? One of them is coaching the girls basketball team at East Aurora. Chris Koselny was a player for the New York Nationals (formerly the Washington Generals), a team not exactly deserving of four stars.
Koselny may have been a part of one of the most spectacular losing streaks in sports against the Globetrotters (the Generals won once about 35 years ago) but all that has changed since he joined East Aurora two years ago as its head coach.
He toured with the Nationals in 2001-02. He visited more than 56 countries and played 186 games in 200 days. "When you play against the Globetrotters, you don't get a lot of things that go your way, if you know what I mean. We were never not trying not to score," he said.
Koselny got his chance to play for the Nationals while attending an Alfred State Hall of Fame ceremony. There he met a man who had toured with the team, and he got him an interview with the team's general manager. He was scheduled for a South American tour, but it was canceled when Sept. 11 happened. It wasn't until the day after Thanksgiving he left on a Central American tour.
Koselny, a 6-foot-6 forward, may have played for the helpless opponents of the Globetrotters, but he said he taps into his basketball past to help his current players achieve their goals. As a first-year coach last year, Koselny led EA to the Section VI Class B title. The team has won ECIC IV for seven straight years.
"As a player I had so many positive experiences through so many different stages. I find myself using bits and pieces from what I learned from middle school to now," he said. "I don't really tell the girls a lot of stories. Every once in a while in practice I'll bring out a situation. When I was in Central America, I was going to play against this giant, and here's what worked for me."
Koselny, 32, is a Rochester native, but his wife is from Orchard Park. He's in his third year as a physical education teacher at East Aurora Middle School. Besides getting married and he and his wife having their first child, Koselny said playing for the Nationals was the greatest experience of his life.
"I'm a little less intense than I was last year. We had a daughter in August. It really puts things in perspective," he said. "The best part of my day is when I pick her up and spend time with her."
In two short seasons, Koselny has earned the respect of his players. They look to him for more than drills and out-of-bounds plays.
"His stories are more motivational than how he did," junior guard Sarah Tarantino said. "He doesn't brag to us about what he accomplished, but how he worked so hard . . . and that's what his dream was, and he helps us become what we want to be."
He takes on all comers when members of the boys team, who often practice after the girls, challenge him to a dunking contest. "The girls stick around and cheer for me," he said.
And not all of Koselny's lessons are about basketball. He had an athlete who was having trouble in Spanish class. Discouraged, she asked when would she ever need a foreign language. He told her he had the opportunity to be in a Spanish-speaking country for six weeks and he was amazed how much the Spanish he learned in high school helped him.
Besides fielding questions about his basketball past, Koselny is often asked if he would rather be coaching boys. His answer is always the same -- "definitely not." He said the girls listen, follow through with what he says and he's amazed each day by their effort. After last season's 22-2 record and No. 1 ranking among Western New York small schools, they also know a thing or two about winning.
After playing for the Nationals, that has to feel good.