As a shop teacher at McKinley High School, Zaire Dorsey’s plumbing students work from blueprints as they learn the art of designing bathrooms for homes.
Wouldn’t you know it, his basketball team is working off a blueprint as well, and they aren’t about to let their chances of winning a New York State title in basketball go down the drain.
The Macks (20-3) are two games away from bringing the crown back to the Elmwood Avenue school. On Saturday they face Section III’s Bishop Ludden at 10:45 a.m. in the Class A semifinal at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Ludden (20-2) sounds like a team with a lot of the pieces. They feature a frontcourt with some size at 6-foot-6 and 6-5, an excellent shooter on the perimeter and a point guard who loves to dish.
“I think we’ll match up well against anybody we play,” said Dorsey. “We’re going to have to use our speed to get the loose balls, use our speed to get box-out position, and use our speed to run up and down the court.”
Dorsey has been teaching at McKinley for 13 years and has been with the basketball program for 12, the last five as head coach. He inherited a program that was going through a messy coaching change.
“We had our issues here, there’s no doubt about it,” said Dorsey. “But it was a winning program, and we decided to keep that winning tradition going on. My first year Athletic Director Dave Thomas hired Romeo McKinney to come be my assistant coach. That was a big help in that transition year, and then after that I was completely on my own.”
He was an assistant the last time McKinley reached the state final four in 2007. They lost in the semifinals to Glens Falls, whose lineup included Jimmer Fredette, who went to BYU and later got drafted by the Sacramento Kings. “We were up in the third quarter, Jimmer Fredette, he went wild in the fourth quarter, and that was the game,” said Dorsey.
Dorsey teaches career technical education, with plumbing a specialty. Students learn about drainage, vent piping, how to install hot water tanks and design and build their own bathrooms.
After graduating from McKinley in 1993, Dorsey did an apprenticeship with the Local 22, plumbers and steamfitters union, and then came back to teach while earning credits at Buffalo State toward his teaching certificate.
While Dorsey’s students learn a tangible skill, so do his basketball players.
“I’m trying to teach my guys that when they go out in the real world, they need to follow rules, follow direction and be productive members of society,” he said. “My discipline style is if you’re wrong, we’re going to discipline you for it.
“Now, It can be variations of discipline. You may miss some playing time, you may run a few miles in the gym – whatever we have to do to get you back on track.”
Dorsey patterns his coaching style from watching Big East games and teams from the 1980s like Georgetown when it had Patrick Ewing and Arkansas with coach Nolan Richardson, who pressed for 40 minutes, along with Jerry Tarkanian of the UNLV Running Rebels.
The Macks’ lineup can go 10 or 11 deep depending on the game situation, but look for Marcus Morris, Lovell Smith, Daequan Warren, Reyjzon Jordan and Samuel Smith to start against Ludden.
It’s a group that started believing in themselves the last couple of summers playing three nights a week at the McNeela Center on Clinton and Bailey in Buffalo.
It was 90 minutes before Tuesday’s practice, and Morris was already getting his work in. The 6-3 swingman was in a corner classroom watching film on his laptop from their last game against Aquinas. His interests are in electronics instead of plumbing, but he still likes things working efficiently.
“It’s important for me to watch film because I’m looking for mistakes that I made during a game, if I missed an outlet pass, see if I missed an open man and see where I made bad passes or took a bad shot and know not to do it in the next game and to work on it in practice,” he said.
“I think we’re going to play good at states because we trust each other. When you have trust, everything just comes into place. We co-exist well and we have a lot of team chemistry. I think we’re going to play good on the biggest stage,” he added.
Morris and Smith were key players on this year’s team that went undefeated in the Yale Cup. Smith said the first win over Early Middle College was the key and great for their confidence. But it was Dorsey who kept the team grounded and focused.
“He doesn’t let us get away with little stuff,” said Smith. “He yells at us for everything, but that’s good coaching, that’s what you’re supposed to do to keep the discipline. This is the best team I ever played with, the best coaching.”
And that’s why McKinley’s chances of winning a state title aren’t just a pipe dream.