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Friday, March 4, 2011
Dennis Wilson's sweet (or sour) dilemma

By Brendan Hall

Push Madison V Madison Trailer from Rudy Hypolite on Vimeo.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published on Thursday, March 3, before Madison Park head coach Dennis Wilson exhausted all of his efforts to try and switch his plane ticket to Saturday evening. Assistant coaches Frank White, Greg Simpson and Anthony Searcy will coach the Cardinals in their Saturday night Division 1 South quarterfinal at No. 1 seed Mansfield.

ROXBURY, Mass. -- So now what?

Madison Park head coach Dennis Wilson could only guffaw -- in a manner so unique to his smooth, philosophizing personality -- when posed the question by an ESPNBoston reporter following the Cardinals' 60-45 win over visiting Franklin in this Division 1 South first round matchup.

"Stay tuned, baby," he grinned.

The what, for the unfamiliar, being what he's going to do now that his squad is living another day, as the Cards move on to a Saturday evening quarterfinal at No. 1 seed Mansfield.

The problem? Wilson has already booked plane tickets to leave for San Jose, Calif. Friday night, to catch the Sunday night world premiere of the new documentary, "Push: Madison versus Madison", centered around his 2007 squad's run through the Division 1 state tournament. "Push" was one of 100 films to make the cut for this year's Cinequest Film Festival, will be first shown at 6:30 on Sunday evening, and is one of the few films that will be shown three times over the 13-day event.

Wilson will find out tonight if he'll be able to switch his flight to Saturday night, to accommodate his West Coast plans. But if not, he says he's "in a creek without a paddle", but has full faith in assistants Frank White, Anthony Searcy and Greg Simpson (affably nicknamed "Smooth") to come up with a great gameplan for a Hornets squad that has not lost a game since December.

"I've trained them well," Wilson said.

The film, directed by Boston native Rudy Hypolite, chronicles the stretch run of the Cardinals' 2006-07 season, all the way through the Division 1 South Sectionals, and focuses on the relationship between Wilson and his players, including stars Malik Smith and current UMaine point guard Raheem "Radio" Singleton. Off the court, they must deal with the violence and crime surrounding their neighborhoods. On the court they must learn to co-exist in spite of their roots in rival housing projects. Bringing it all together is the head of the "MP Machine", Wilson.

Last week at the Boston City League championships, at Madison Park, Wilson confessed to me that this film is the third most important thing to happen to him in his life -- the first two (marriage and childbirth) go without saying. To him, it's about the body of work and what it stands for, not so much himself. This is a story he truly believes is for Anytown, U.S.A.

"I think we've got something, an instrument I believe if the world sees, or even across the country, that there's so many inner-city kids going through so many struggles, and overcoming them," Wilson said. "So many inner-city coaches, man, that are dealing with so much, man. Turmoil, man. Being surrogate fathers, surrogate mothers, man. Mentors. Role models. In the trenches, trying to guide these kids to the next stage in their life, a positive stage in their life.

"So that's what I believe the significance of this movie is. It's the MP thing that I believe, man, whether it's East St. Louis or Watts or Newark or New York or Detroit, that this will give hope to a lot of coaches, lot of players, man, that you can do it. You can make it. You know? Just of course, believe in God the creator, believe in each other, and have that perseverance to get it done."

Simpson, who was the starting point guard on Wilson's first squad in 1982, is glad that Wilson is "finally getting his due."

"He's been a pillar for Madison Park High School basketball since he came to Madison Park in 1982, my senior year," Simpson said. "He put a system in, and we believed in him. And finally, all his hard work is paying off. He got us to the state championship (NOTE: there were no state championships in 1982, due to Proposition 2-1/2 budget cuts) -- we just believed in him, man. But to be honest with you, the documentary is a tribute to him, because of all the hard work that he's done and all the adversity he's gotten through, because of the different types of teams he's had over the years."

As for Saturday, Simpson's ready should the dice roll his way.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge if he has to go," Simpson said. "Believe me, I think coach Frank White and I can get the job done."