I would imagine that, if you would ask Jim Dooley how to properly cook any kind of shish kebab, he would tell you how to cook nine kinds of shish kebab.

Dooley, Delone Catholic High's boys basketball coach, has knowledge beyond hoops. He's been to and lived in places we can only dream of. He's the former national team head coach of Iceland. He grew up in the Bronx in the '50s, back when professional basketball was still finding a place in popular sports culture.

He's had 42 years of teaching and coaching - 43 after this season - and 1,000-plus games to carve his way around the basketball court.

He has his routines: shaking every player's hand seconds before games start, his saddle shoes, his cool sweaters over his button-up shirts and his ties.

So when Jim Dooley tells you to write about something, you write about it.

"If you want to do something for high school basketball, start writing about this," Dooley said Dec. 23, minutes after Delone finished off Littlestown on the road, 59-45, in a game was one part sloppy and another part successful.

"Starting the fifth of January, we go three games a week every week," he continued. "And here's your problem because most people don't realize this.

"Normally if you play Tuesday-Friday, what you do is you take Wednesday-Saturday and you do all that fundamental stuff and fun stuff. There's no time for that fun stuff. So here comes the grind."

For Delone in particular, the grind means 13 games in 31 days.


That leaves room for 11 practices and several walk-throughs on game days.

The Squires play 22 regular-season games in all before the YAIAA playoffs. While high school football's 10-game regular season schedule wasn't cut, nearly all other PIAA sports seasons were shortened, including basketball.

"Even in the beginning, I feel like we're cramped," New Oxford head coach Jim Zinn said. "We're playing game, game, game, game and we're not practicing because of the way the season has been shortened or squashed the way it has been."

For other Hanover area teams, it's more of the same in January. South Western has 12 games, Hanover has 11 and five other teams have 10 games this month. Biglerville, fortunately, has nine.

"The rest is not an issue because I really feel this team is in very good shape," Canners head coach Mark Petrosky said. "But what is the issue is not having the practice time because half my team played football. Half my team played soccer. They didn't play basketball, so we're missing the hands-on practice time."

Practice time is a vital issue because, once you take that away and force coaches to drill with a dentist's delight, it can negatively affect players. Coaches will see a downturn in play, much like this rapidly crumbling economy. Slumps are more common. Players get worn out. Having fun doesn't happen as often.

At the root, these are still high school kids. Coaches aren't expecting the world out of them, so why this schedule?

The grind is inevitable. You can't improve unless you practice. And, if all you do at practice is drill, then something gets lost in between.

"This is a horrible problem that's been going on for four years and keeps getting worse every year," Dooley said. "So the longer you're a coach, the advantage you have is that you've done this, so you kind of know how to organize your practices."

The problem doesn't look like it's going to end anytime soon. And area coaches surely have a problem with that.

Contact Cory Mull, who's in the process of finding his J back, at cmull@eveningsun.com. Read his blog, A Handful of Sports, at http://blogs.eveningsun.com/mull.