The “Relentless” Coach Paul Foringer
Lunch last week was my treat, Italian hoagies at Gemelli’s Italian Market in North Potomac.
I spent the month of March in Florida and missed Quince Orchard’s basketball run to the state finals at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center. My luncheon guest was QO’s Coach Paul Foringer. I have known Paul for the better part of 15 maybe 16 years and we share a common bond, the annual recap of his season as the varsity coach at QO. I missed the 2017 season ending.
The evening before I took off for Florida, March 7th, Paul was over at my house reviewing the team action portraits. Prior to our review I told him of my Florida vacation plans and that I was unable to cover the state playoffs. As he was leaving I told him to win the first playoff match.
I said “there I have said it, you win the first one, then the jinx is removed and you’ll move forward to the finals at Xfinity.” I would be away so that jinx is doubly removed and now there was no stopping them. Paul smiled and chuckled, “I hope your right, we’ll see.”
With Paul it is simple as ABC, always be coaching.
Paul and I came together around 2001 to satisfy mutual needs – he needed to provide individual basketball posters for his entire team at the end of season banquet – me I needed to take sport photos for the Town Courier newspaper. I had the cameras and wanted access. Ultimately it was all volunteer services over the love of high school sports.
What we got in return was a friendship that spanned years of team variations and a view of what it takes to be relentless. I saw him at his best with teams of bad chemistry and lots of wins; and at his worst with great teams and not many wins; and everything in between.
Paul walks into Gemelli’s and smiles and immediately says, “It was crazy, Wise and then the state finals, unbelievable and sad.” “Yeah, I know,” I said, “I was following the tweets.” We shake hands and head over to the counter to order two hoagies on crusty rustic bread.
Paul left Gaithersburg High School sometime around the 2001 school year to teach and take over the basketball program at Quince Orchard. Also at the time he was the JV football coach at QO. While he was at Gaithersburg in 1998 he won the Maryland State Basketball Championship in a never to be repeated final with 5 overtimes. He lived literally across the street from QO. Both his son and daughter would attend and graduate from the school. QO is home for Paul.
“So how did it go, with Wise?” I ask.
He proceeds to give me the blow-by-blow rundown. He spills out his game plan conceived four days prior to the final on how to defend Wise. Though talented, Wise was only 6 deep in player quality. The plan was to play a box and one on their stars, to lay off some and let certain players drive and others to be defended on the perimeter. It was a quick game plan and it worried Paul that his kids wouldn’t grasp it. By halftime QO’s lead was at a stunning 11 points and then they face a rejuvenated Wise team in the 3rd quarter. Wise begins to tire in the 4th. The game is winding down to – Paul’s time.
Blog Note: In my humble opinion Paul and Magruder’s Dan Harwood are the two best basketball coaches in Montgomery County. Their command of the late game is superior to anyone I have ever seen at this level in over 15 years. Once I stopped shooting an overtime matchup between Magruder and QO to position myself under the scorer’s table (the absolute worst seat on the court to photograph a game) just so that I could watch up close these two. Never mind the action on the court, it was all happening on the sideline in that five minute OT period. Harwood won.
What happened next at Xfinity was pure Paul, as he controlled the clock.
He described how he had the #1 team in the DMV on the ropes in the 4th quarter with his underrated squad of homegrown players and Wise sweating.
He said that he was without two senior starters but managed to run the game clock down to a final minute and squeeze out a 1-point lead over Wise; when Wise fouled a QO player. With less than 30 seconds remaining and without timeouts he managed to look towards heaven and said a little prayer. It was to the late Jeff Simms. His assistant coach stopped him in mid prayer and asked what the heck he was doing; he said, “I am asking Jeff to help Jack make two.” Jack Faroane sinks both to give QO the lead at 55-52, the clock quickly runs down on Wise and QO pulls off the biggest upset win in the DMV and MPSSAA this season.
QO was headed to the state finals with nine seniors of homegrown talent – most of who were taught at young age by Foringer’s friends and assistants, the late Jeff Simms and Dave Griffin. Dave, unable to attend the playoff rounds due to undergoing a series of cancer treatments, participated from his home in the before, during and after coaching via Face Time.
Between bites of our hoagies he laments about the 59-56 overtime loss to Perry Hall in the championship game. What plays he should have called at the end of the game and what he could have done better. I told him to forget about it, that just getting that far with his undersized team was more than whatever could be expected from them this year (in my opinion).
So then I said to Paul “It was last years team that was most talented but they lost in their first match of the MPSSAA playoff.” He quickly interrupted me and said, “that loss was the best thing that ever happened to us [the 2017 team].”
Of course, I get it; it is the ABC’s that makes him Relentless.
He goes on to recall how this past January QO met Clarksburg at home. Clarksburg was their foil in that 2016 playoff loss. QO is playing crappy and at halftime in the locker room Foringer calls out the team for playing subpar – and recalls smartly saying “why should I expect more since you guys lost to Clarksburg last year.” That’s all they needed to hear, by the end of the game its 69-41, QO.
He would use that motivation throughout practices as they approached the end of this season. This team had something to prove.
Paul returns to his recap of the Perry Hall championship game and recalls how after that OT game the MPSSAA TV broadcaster approaches him with his first question, “Paul, when you got to OT with Perry Hall what were you thinking. Did you think back to 1998 and your 96-91, 5 overtimes win?” Paul responds, “Heck, I was thinking I should have won this one in regulation, I was thinking of winning it now.”
Blog note: I am led to believe by good sources that the 5-overtime win changed the state rules for championship finals. Co-champions would be crowned for competition that ends in a tie after 2 overtimes. Paul says, not. I say, I think so. We will never know – it’s not clear in the MPSSAA rulebook.
Coaches drive you __, fill in the blank. They are forever coaching; it’s in their DNA. In Paul’s DNA there is a good bit of “relentless”.
The QO boys might think that they came up with that “Relentless” moniker a couple of years ago but in reality they were describing their coach. I should know because he drove me that way too.
You see, when I first took on the volunteer task of photographing the boys for their banquet posters I had just picked up the camera again after a five-year absence.
Paul wanted posters of players with a certain look crafted in a certain way – ball in the shooter’s hand or just leaving it, face in view, lighted so you could tell who they were, picking them out of a mass of spaghetti arms and contorted faces. It did not matter if the player was a starter or played just one minute in the entire season – he wanted that look. I didn’t always get it right and he’d let me know.
We would spend late season evenings looking over photos and describing game actions – what he remembers the boys were doing, right or wrong, through each photo reviewed. Eventually I would bring a players “parent mom” to help make final choices but in reality it was always Paul’s choice. So over the years that end of season review with Paul was my reward for all those volunteer hours.
After two seasons and some success even QO football coach Dave Mencarini got into the act. Dave asked me to do the same individual posters for football seniors. It grew from there. Pixelate, and in dark football or basketball settings, those “huge” portraits linked all to a common bond of school and glory day memories. I can’t tell you how many homes in North Potomac have those 20 by 30 inch full blown action portraits of their sons hanging from their walls – but it is a lot and all due to Paul.
But it was Paul’s need for perfection, the right photo and the right look that drove me bonkers. I would bring in flash photo lights to the QO gyms because there were very dark corners in there around the home basket were I shot. Then I even balanced camera equipment purchases based on how it would help deliver that well lighted and perfect action photo inside that gym.
The referee’s would years later put an end to my corner flashes, saying that it was disturbing the play of the game. In reality it was the visiting team coach who did the complaining. Paul never complained he loved the results.
On that night before I left for Florida, Paul told me that he was hoping we could get photos of the starters at Xfinity. Of course he knew I wouldn’t be there but he said that Mac Kennedy, former QO player and a good photographer with the Town Courier could. So we made a plan for the banquet photos.
Paul knew even then that he had “the” team and a chance to get to College Park. So later that night I told him it was time we turned this over – that my schedule and work with other clients limited coverage opportunities. Plus, he still hadn’t fixed that damn overhead lighting system in the gym and slyly said that I preferred Tuscarora’s gym. I too, am relentless.
Over the years unbeknownst to those around us Paul and I would check with each other at halftime during a game. He’d ask me if I got everyone that he substituted in the game. Of course there was always another game or play opportunity to catch a senior starter in action but those subs who warmed the pine were whom I always waited for until the buzzer sounded.
On some occasions in the 4th quarter I would from under the home basket look for a substitute to enter a game. I would glance towards Paul, mouth a number or point to a player and suddenly at the next dead ball timeout in comes the sub in hopes that I could get that game action shot.
Leaving Gemelli’s Paul turns to me and says, “you are just too good, and you’re too busy.” We talked Maryland Women’s basketball and a few other regular clients. But I recognized that his comments were good coach-speak, because he knew that he relentlessly crafted me into a good sports photographer. I was appreciative and smiled as it is time to move on.
He asked me if I was going to continue to cover QO baseball this season and other sports as well and said “certainly, they all know who I am here and frankly they are not afraid of the camera, it’s home.”
Then I said, “I can’t begin to tell you how many times your players made ballet moves on breakaways towards the home basket because they knew I was shooting under that basket.”
He laughs and says, “They better not.”
We both smile knowingly and jump in our cars.
ABC. Always Be Coaching, Relentless.