You might think that after winning 452 games as a coach and who knows how many more as a player, Warren Goodling wouldn’t feel particularly tense about shooting a couple of free throws to win a game with some other sixtysomethings.
And in this case, you would be absolutely wrong.
“I just went to the line and tried not to think about it,” Goodling, the former Hempfield boys basketball coach, said of a game he recently played in the city of Espoo, Finland.
No, it wasn’t just a workout for some veteran hoop lovers. In fact, it was the title game (65-over division) of the Federal International Maxibasketball Association (FIMBA) World Championships. And yes, Goodling drained those two foul shots to ice a 70-66 victory for his U.S. team over Russia, highlighting a memorable trip for the ex-Black Knights mentor.
Goodling, 66, has stayed very active as a player since closing his 25-year coaching career in 2010. He’s played locally, with and against former protégés, and also in several Masters Basketball Association tournaments around the country with the Lancaster Warriors.
It was basically a fun thing for him, until he met Ricky Greenwood and Roger Lawson, the captain and coach, respectively, of the U.S. FIMBA team in his age bracket. They travel the country looking for players, and they recruited Goodling to play point guard.
That was in April 2018, and Goodling’s team hasn’t lost a game since. They went 10-0 in winning two U.S. tournaments, then 5-0 in Espoo, near Helsinki, from July 27-Aug. 4. They were one of 244 teams representing 44 countries in the event.
They play 5-on-5, fullcourt games lasting 40 minutes, under international rules. Those rules include a deeper 3-point line and a wider lane, which Goodling said his team liked. Language barriers, meanwhile, added some curiosity.
“I never really understood what the other team was saying,” Goodling noted. “But if they were mad, you could tell that.”
Game officials also came from several countries, but FIMBA typically had an English-speaking person involved. Also, only team captains were allowed to speak with officials. In any case, Goodling said, his team had resolved to avoid such complications.
“We were representing the United States, and we had USA on our jerseys,” he said. “We didn’t want to get people thinking we were crybabies about any call.”
It didn’t hurt that Goodling and company blew through their first four opponents — Chile, Italy, Uruguay and Brazil — their closest score a 75-44 rout of Italy. In the final, Russia led by two at the half before the U.S. rallied to lead, 68-64, with 20 seconds left. Russia then scored at :06, and fouled Goodling, who settled the issue.
Basketball aside, Goodling came away with a high opinion of Finland after his first European trip. He was impressed by its cleanliness and public transportation (including free subways), among other things. He also enjoyed the food — lots of fresh fish — but said even the pizza was “off the charts.”
Goodling, who still teaches physical education to special-needs kids in Baltimore, is looking forward to future tournaments. The next FIMBA world event is set for 2021 in Orlando, but his team may be headed for Japan as well.
• Connect with Jeff Young, a former LNP sports editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.