Like most sports, basketball is all about the numbers. Final score. Shooting percentage. Free throw percentage. Rebounding totals. The numbers have basketball surrounded.
Coaches draw from the numbers where to coach, who to play, what offense to run, what defense to run, etc.
The overriding factor for some coaches' decisions is beyond statistics. It is much closer to home. It is family. R.A. Long's Rally Wallace has used family as the foundation for most decisions throughout his career.
After one year at Lower Columbia College, Wallace matriculated to the University of Puget Sound to play for Coach Don Zech.
After three seasons with the Loggers, Wallace journeyed to Australia to play professional basketball.
"Cindy Christensen (R.A. Long, Portland State) was playing in Australia and she told some teams about me. They were looking for an American with my skill set," Wallace said.
Wallace visited with UPS even a year prior, even though he had used up his eligibilty.
"Coach Zech wanted to take us to Australia for a vacation. It was cool."
Christensen was in Newcastle and that's how Wallace ended up playing for the Newcastle Hunters as a semi-professional.
Wallace said Newcastle was a level 2 team in Australia, about on par with Division 2 teams in the states. The season began in late January and finished around June.
For three seasons, Newcastle paid all of Wallaces' expenses (rent, airline tickets, electricity, a car, and car insurance) saved for his phone bill and any clothes he purchased.
Wallace's VISA was good for one year at a time so he would leave for the states and then come back to Australia with another VISA. He did that for three seasons each time returning home to reconnect with his family.
Wallace's job the first year was as a bellhop at the Newcastle Park Station Royal. His second season down under Wallace taught PE and Health. His third year he was a doorman at a casino.
His first season, Wallace averaged 35 points per game and Newcastle won the league title. The second Newcastle finished second.
"I asked the team to give more to stick around and it said it couldn't. Then two weeks before I left, they came up with a better offer," Wallace explained. "If it wasn't for my closeknit family, the huge family I belonged to, I would have stayed. But family was more important to me. That's why I came home."
Another factor was he needed to work toward a Master's degree or lose his teaching certificate.
Once stateside, Wallace began subbing in the Longview-Kelso school districts. He had teaching and coaching stops at Kelso, Monticello, R.A. Long and Lower Columbia College. In his last year coaching at Monticello, Wallace applied for the boys' basketball head coaching job at W.F. West.
"It looked like I was going to get it," he said. "I told my wife and she said she was pregnant."
Wallace saw the following scenario in his future - teaching at Monticello, then commuting to Chehalis back and forth. The whole time Michelle, his wife, would spend most of her time with a newborn as a solo act.
'My heart told me to stay," Wallace said. "This is my home. This is my kids' home. I didn't want to uproot my family just to coach. My family came first. That was most important to me."
In 2006, Wallace was named head boys' basketball coach at R.A. Long. In 2007-2008, Wallace guided RAL to the state tournament in which the Lumberjacks posted the first boys' state victory in 54 years against Prosser.
"That was probably the neatest experience, " he said.
During his years at RAL, 12 in all, Wallace says he was lucky to coach some stellar kids.
"Scott Pisapia was my captain. He was the best captain. He was a level-headed kid who made sure everyone got along."
Two other players stood out from that 2008 squad.
"Tanner Bradley worked on his shot and became a standout shooter. Marcus Irwin did all the little things like defense, rebounding, taking charges. He put everyone else first."
To get to state in 2008, RAL had to beat Hockinson for a third time.
"That was one of the greatest games we ever played," Wallace admitted.
Years later, Wallace felt blessed to coach Marcus Maryott, Coby Rothwell and Ian Mahncke.
"I'm most proud of Mahncke. He had all kinds of issues off the court and some even on the court, but we got him through school and he graduated. Without basketball, I don't think that would have happened."
After nine seasons, Wallace was called in the athletic director's office to discuss the road ahead.
"Ty Morris didn't want to lose Jeray Key (C squad coach) or Scott Pisapia (JV coach) because they were the future," Wallace said. "Scott did what was better for him and decided to run the Roots Sports Academy program. And Jeray said he didn't want to coach C squad or JV."
In his mind, Wallace figured the AD would make Key an associate head coach.
"That's what I thought he was talking about. And he said, no, co-coaches."
People around Wallace felt he had been blindsided by the move.
"I think Ty thought I would resign. And I would have, but my son (Conner) was there now. And all the time I had put in and Ty was asking me to give it all up."
So Wallace stayed on for three more seasons. The final 3 seasons with his son. And when asked about his son, Wallace paused. His eyes got a little watery and his voice was filled with emotion.
"The pressures your own kid has compared to the other kids is immense. Some people think that sure, he's the coach's kid, he'll play," Wallace continued. "But the real reason he started halfway through his freshman year was because we had nobody who could get the ball across halfcourt because of pressure."
Wallace admitted that coaching his son meant he couldn't just lather the praise on him like he did for other kids.
"Conner was the hardest working kid I've ever had. But he was a sensitive kid too. I felt his ups and downs more than any other kid," Wallace explained. "He never complained. Never. The most ultimate kid I ever coached was my son."
Wallace said his original plan was to coach until he retired from teaching. But due to the change in coaching plans, he figured when Conner was finished, he would be finished.
"I've given my all to this job. It's time for me to do something else in life," Wallace said. "I haven't had winter break in 29 years. I want to see what it is like to have a Thanksgiving break, a Christmas break and a New Year's break."
Wallace added that he might get bored and come back somewhere and help. Especially if Michelle (at Fibre Federal Credit Union) tells him they need more cash to pay for the kids' schooling.
In the meantime, he's going to watch Natalie (at Eastern Washington University) and Conner (at the University of Washington) spread their wings.
So for Rally Wallace, there's no place like home.