CHINLE, Ariz. — Winter night fell like a blanket across the Navajo reservation and this town that sits at the mouth of Canyon de Chelly, the spiritual heart of this land.
I stepped inside a cavernous high school arena and saw a basketball team from Holbrook, Ariz., running and passing and pressing, threatening to push the hometown team into a ditch.
At halftime, the players from Chinle retreated, glum, to their locker room, 7 points down.
Their coach walked in. Silver-haired, wearing a gray dress shirt and black pants and a tie, he did not yell or pound his fist. His intensity was unmistakable. He looked at a lean sapling of a forward and asked quietly: “Elijah, you tired? No mas?” Then to his freshman wunderkind, “Cooper, are you ready to play now?”
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