Chemistry on the basketball court is typically part of a winning recipe. The Southern Marin Lightning takes that chemistry far beyond a classic team to call each other brothers.
“We all just love to joke around and laugh together and the brotherhood we started to form became that same bond we had on the basketball court. We saw each other as brothers and we played hard for each other,” said Tam graduate, former assistant Tam basketball coach and longtime Lightning member Mike Mitchell.
Southern Marin Lightning is a local Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) boys basketball program based in Marin City. This organization is led by Orlando Wiggins, who continued the success of late Tam coach Jerry McIntosh after he passed away due to heart problems in 2007. This is a community that consists of future and current Tam students who have already balled their way to an AAU West Coast National Championship and continue to seek success on and off the court. This program shows that a team can develop a deeper relationship both on and off the court.
The organization has a very impressive resume when it comes to basketball, but it also seeks to help out the community, an original goal when McIntosh brought Lightning to life in 2002.
“Jerry McIntosh wasn’t just a coach. He was a father figure, a brother and an uncle. [He was] a true man in the eyes of the boys because, you know, he was a role model,” said Wiggins. “He was a guy that listened to them, helped them, and cared about them, not just about basketball but about them as a whole. He really went above and beyond the call to help a kid.”
McIntosh has his roots forever cemented in Tam basketball history. “Jerry Macintosh was a gentle giant who actually played for Tam,” Wiggins said. “Not only did he play for Tam but also he coached Tam. So he was a big part of Tamalpais High school. He was definitely a Red-tailed hawk. He was a good guy, a guy that cared a lot about kids just as much as I do myself.”
“Jerry meant everything to me. He was like a father figure to me because I grew up without my father around and when I joined the Lightning in the 5th grade Jerry really looked after me and took care of me as if I was one of his own. That meant so much to me. He would do anything for anyone, no matter what it was. Didn’t matter if he knew you or not,” said Mitchell.
In 2009, when one might expect the kids to be sulking over the loss of a great man, the 2009 U-15 team did the opposite by rallying together and bringing home the AAU West Coast National Championship.
“That was an exciting moment. It was one of Jerry’s passion to make sure we won nationals. We are the only Marin county team to win nationals and nobody has de-crowned that. A lot have tried but none have done it. It was an exciting moment. It’s something we will never forget,” Wiggins said.
Through this unthinkable run these young men lived Jerry’s dream. They traveled to Las Vegas to compete with the best teams in the nation.
“We played our hearts out because we knew what we were playing for. [We were] playing for more than a national championship, and we all knew this was all for Jerry. When we won the national championship, it was for Jerry. It was an amazing feeling winning in front of my family and with a group of guys that I love,” said Mitchell
Lightning looks to carry on that success and will be led by Wiggins as their coach and head director. “Orlando has been working really hard on and off the court to keep Jerry McIntosh’s dream alive. He is one of the best coaches that I have ever played for and he has helped all of us improve a huge amount as both basketball players and as young men,” said junior Ethan Rosenberg.
Junior Andre Shavers said, “Orlando is like a mentor. He can be playful and he can get serious.”
Lightning is also a great way for older kids to provide their experience to younger generations. Lightning members are always helping each other, regardless of what age or team they are on.
“A lot about being a family is teaching each other, and the older team is able to teach the younger team about what they should do or shouldn’t do based on what we have done in the past. Just like they can teach us a lot about what they have done,” said junior Ethan Rosenberg.
The program has two teams this year: an eighth grade team and JV level team. Both had their eyes on placing high in the Reno regional tournament over Memorial Day weekend.
“Our goals as a team are to keep improving and prepare for our tournaments. We also are working to possibly travel to Las Vegas for Nationals, depending on how we do in Reno,” said Wiggins.
Regardless of how the teams fare at their respective tournaments the Lightning will always watch out for each other and look to their second family.
Shavers added, “Lightning is honestly my life.” Shavers has felt the closeness of the team on numerous occasions. “I had to foul this opposing player on the other team and he got mad and pushed me back. When that happen the whole Lightning team came over to back me.”
Wiggins sees Jerry’s dream as an outlet for non-detrimental activities for the basketball team. “Jerry’s dream was all about helping kids and making sure kids had a basketball. You know if kids are around sports they’re less likely to get into trouble. That’s the meaning of keeping Jerry’s dream alive. We will continue to work with kids. And giving them a basketball so they stay out of trouble.”
Wiggins added, “The Lightning is definitely a family. Once a Lightning always a Lightning.”