Alexander Wolff is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated. His book Big Game, Small World: A Basketball Adventure will be published in January 2002 by Warner Books, and his column, "The Hoop Life," appears regularly at cnnsi.com. He lives in New York City with his wife, Vanessa. Though he had never before visited Carmel Valley, Vanessa was born in Carmel. So even if he hadn't made it to the Zen retreat of Tassajara, his trip had a pilgrimage quality.