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Former Globetrotter opponent leads Steinbrenner girls team

By Jeff Berlinicke
Special Correspondent
Published: January 14, 2014 Updated: January 21, 2014 at 01:07 PM

LUTZ – Watch JR Allen coaching his girls courtside during a Steinbrenner ladies basektball game, and you can tell that he isn’t only intense – craves winning.

Now imagine someone with the intensity of a warrior, being paid to lose. And not only lose, but to be paid to allow the other team to score early and often.

Allen loves coaching at Steinbrenner and pushes his girls hard, but, in his final playing days, it was all about losing.

Let’s clear some things up – Allen didn’t want to lose, but he played for the New York Nationals basketball team. If you haven’t heard of them, you’ve probably seen them in person or on television. Or you might have heard them referred to by their previous name, the Washington Generals. The Nationals are the team that travels with the Harlem Globetrotters, a team that has lost a total of one game since they came into existence in the 1920s.

The Globetrotters travel the world putting on basketball exhibitions. They flagrantly break the rules, but it is all in fun. One of their players wears a microphone through the game, talking and teasing the crowd and their stunts, which people have seen over and over for years, still bring heavy laughter from the crowd.

The Globetrotters need a hapless opponent that is supposed to do their best for the middle quarters of the game night after night, but let the Globies have their fun down the stretch. That’s what the fans come to see.

Allen played for the Nationals. He said it was a blast and the team played a game within a game.

“We knew the first and fourth quarter were all about entertainment,” Allen said as his Warriors, 21-3, prepared for their Jan. 19 game against bitter rival Freedom. “In the middle quarters, we played them even. That’s when it was real basketball.”

One night, Allen, a devout University of Florida fan, had a chance to play the Globies at Rupp Arena at the University of Kentucky. That is the home of one of Florida’s major rival, so Allen was pumped. He was also on fire.

“I was playing somewhere special. This was as big a deal as I ever experienced and I was going hard.”

By the fourth quarter, the Globie with the microphone announced, in a friendly way, that Allen should calm down. He had put in 37 points and it was time for the Globetrotters to show off.

Allen grew up in Crystal River and went to high school there. He was good enough to earn a ride at Bethune-Cookman. He was the first white basketball player ever at the traditionally black college.

After his time with the Nationals, Allen took a coaching job at Crystal River, but badly injured his back in a motorcycle crash. He tried to keep coaching but the pain was unbearable.

Five years ago, with the back as healed as possible, he applied for openings at both Steinbrenner and Strawberry Crest. He applied to be the boys coach at both schools. However, at both schools, the boys job was filled by someone else, while the girls job was vacant.

“Something was telling me something,” Allen said. “I decided to give a shot and that’s how I ended up at Steinbrenner.”

He’s had a great run with the Warriors who have a chance to go far into the playoffs with a shot at reaching Lakeland, home of the Final Four. He doesn’t hide the fact that he expects to get there.

“I’ve always had dreams,” Allen said. “If you have them you can get anywhere. You can’t relax along the way, but there’s a lot on the line. We are good enough.”