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Coaching title eludes Bailey

Damon Bailey has had plenty of success at the AAU level in basketball, first as a player and now as a coach.

Bailey, an Indiana high school legend, won six national AAU championships as a player. He is trying to win his elusive first title as a coach. Bailey guided his Indiana Explosion squad, based mostly out of Indianapolis, to a successful run at the 2010 AAU Girls Basketball 12 & Under National Championships in Rochester.

The 38-year-old has been coaching at the AAU level for four years and each time he has guided his team to the national tournament.

"We haven't won it yet," Bailey said. "But we've been second, fourth and fifth. Year in and year we're in the thick of it."

The Explosion came up a game short of playing for the championship. The Indiana squad lost to the Fairfax Stars from the Potomac Valley in the semifinals on Tuesday. The Explosion will play for third place today on the final day of the tournament.

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Bailey has coached at different age levels in AAU. That's because he's coaching the team his daughter, Alexa, has played on. The 13-year-old is the point guard for the Explosion.

"Ever since I've been playing," Alexa said of how long her dad has coached her. "About eight years."

The 5-foot-6 teenager calls her dad a good coach.

"He knows what he's going," she said.

Bailey attempts to pass along some the experience he gained as a player, and he hopes the lessons sink in.

"You'd like to think so," he said. "But I'm probably a little more competitive than most coaches. I'm competitive and probably expect more (from my players)."

Bailey is Indiana's all-time leading scorer in boys basketball with 3,134 points. As a senior he guided Bedford North Lawrence to a state championship. He scored his team's final 11 points in the title game in front of 41,000 fans. He was first recruited to play basketball at Indiana University by Bob Knight as an eighth-grader when the coach called him a "hot prospect."

Bailey played for the Hoosiers and helped guide Indiana to a Final Four appearance as a sophomore in 1992. He ended his career sixth on Indiana's all-time scoring list with 1,741 points. Bailey was a second-round draft choice by his home-state Indiana Pacers in the NBA, but he only played one season in the league before playing four more in the CBA.

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He now runs his own business in Bedford, which gives him time to coach. Bailey says he uses a offensive similar to the one from his high school days. Defensively, he likes the aggressive man-to-man style of Knight.

"I try to clean up the language a little bit," Bailey said. "I learned a lot from him."

Bailey believes in pressure defense and wants his players to get back in transition to avoid allowing open shots or easy baskets.

"We try to get out and pressure teams defensively," he said. "At this level it's very rare if they shoot it really, really well."

Plus it doesn't hurt that Bailey's team features a trio of girls 6-foot or taller, including starters Cierra Porter (6-2) and Brittany Ward (6-foot).

"We have some tall girls, that's obviously an advantage for us," Bailey said. "It lets our guards take some more chances and be more aggressive."

Bailey plans to continue coaching his daughter at the AAU level as she gets older. He also has another daughter, 12, and a son, 9, so he could continue to coach AAU for quite a few more years. But he admits there is more pressure coaching the boys, especially in Indiana.

"Coaching boys is a whole different level," he admitted.

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For now he is just enjoying this year's team, even if a possible national championship will have to wait for another season.

"We have a great group of kids and a great group of parents," he said.

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