Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Helter-Skelter Season Melter

For us fans of Gannon hoops, it doesn't get much more disappointing than what we saw at the Hammermill Center Wednesday night, a 76-62 loss to Edinboro. The Knights opened PSAC West play sputtering on offense, flailing on defense, and blowing a 13-point second half lead, which led a home loss (GU's third already this year) to a local rival. Even worse is the damage the result has on Gannon's postseason hopes.

I don't want to overreact here; I'm not saying the season's over. But, as my brother Rob asked me recently, how many losses can Gannon absorb before they're eliminated from NCAA playoff contention? Nine? Maybe 10 at the outer limit? Mercyhurst was 20-7 last year and didn't receive an NCAA bid. Slippery Rock got in with 10 losses because they racked up 20 wins, many of them thanks to a late-season surge. At 8-5, the Knights are already halfway to 10 Ls and they still have to go on the road to face IUP (11-2, 8-1 PSAC), Clarion (11-4, 7-2 PSAC), and Slippery Rock (9-4). There's also the home-and-home with Mercyhurst where nothing's guaranteed (except that thousands of Catholic fans will swear at each other in the name of Christian fellowship). If the Knights keep their pace of winning half their road games (GU is 2-2 away from the Audi) and two-thirds of their home games (6-3 currently), Gannon will finish the regular season 15-11 or 16-10 and be on the bubble for the PSAC tournament.

Again, I'm not saying the season's over. I'm just highlighting that the Knights need to pick up the pace before the Lake Erie snow flurries finally show up, or Gannon's special season will never come to fruition.


  1. No posts yet ... not sure that nobody knows how to characterize this loss.

    Not sure that I have more to contribute, other than that this was a bad loss to a mediocre Edinboro team.

  2. Reilly blamed loss on his kids' poor defensive effort. Period. That was on post game radio. Anybody agree with that? He was especially disappointed that they could not keep number 5 from driving to the hoop and scoring. Number 5, Alex Moore, was scoreless, 0 for 3. He did have a rebound, though, and what should have been an intentional foul on Air Darrell.

    How prepared were the Golden Ones for that three quarter court defense Edinboro used the entire second half? Sure looked like not very.

    Walkovich and two of his coaches watched the Porreco Cup from the upper southeast corner of the Jammermill. They took a lot of notes. It showed tonight.

    Gotta love Furno for his hustle and enthusiasm and skill around the hoop but he is not a ball handler. No one expects him to be. So why does Reilly have him yet again in the backcourt handling the ball in the closing seconds setting up for the last shot? Didn't work against Seton Hill and it didn't work again tonight as Furno turned it over. At least this one won't be on ESPN.

    Gotta feel bad for Furno, going 1 for 8 and making some key turnovers. Even the best players have an off night sometimes. It happens. So why was left out there to struggle?

    5 minute mark in the second half. Score 64-64. Three starters, Belt, Macias and Dmitry, are on the bench. Anybody else have a problem with that?

    Gannon's lack of foot speed at the point, which has been pointed out on this site by others as far back as game one, could prove to be their undoing. But take nothing away from Blazek. Projected by most observers to be redshirted because he wasn't ready to play at this level, this kid is playing like a man possessed, not to mention like a reliable veteran, with his relentless defense, slashes to the hoop, long bomb threes and general leadership. Tough tough kid. Gotta be the PSAC freshman of the year.

    Is Brandon the Assassin Belt a big time player or what, hitting those two deep treys at the end of the game.

  3. Some observations-

    This was a tough loss, but a couple things stand out. GU is way too good a team to be shooting 38% at home against an EUP team that played defense only occasionally (until the last couple minutes, that is), particularly in the first half. That is the sign of a team with tired legs. 11-33 by your starting guards really emphasizes that point, and they shot somewaht poorly Saturday, too. Macias and Belt (to a certain extent) looked to be dragging on defense as well. Martytenko had trouble playing more than 3 or 4 minutes without coming out. The GU players need to get their legs back somehow. Continued marathon practices and two-a-days are NOT helping this team. Perhaps a less strenuous practice regime would be in order. Just a thought.

    It's clear that Furno should not be in games when it's close at the end. He simply cannot catch/handle the ball well enough under pressure and makes a lot of bad decisions with the ball. 1-8 from the field doesn't help, either.

    A critical mistake GU made that probably will get little mention was their decision making with a double digit lead when EUP went to that little nuisance trap. It yielded few if any steals, but what it did do was get GU to play faster than they should have on offense, taking many poorly-selected quick shots about 10-12 seconds into each possession.

    I hate to bring the officiating into question, but 5 team fouls on Edinboro in the second half, none after 10:55 remained in the game? 14 free throws for a home team that took the ball inside as much as GU did, while the road team shoots 21 with a limited inside game? Sorry, not in a physical game like that. A lot of bumping was allowed the Scots, but, for the most part, GU couldn't make much contact at all without being whistled.

    It's becoming clearer to me with each passing game that Coach Reilly could use someone on the bench that can offer some strategy input at times instead of 2 guys that do little except yell the same things at the players time after time. Looks to me that the players may be starting to tune these guys out somewhat.

  4. From the restroom to the blog, there appears to be a recurring theme of critiquing the coaching staff, particularly those members of the staff who apparently were not given names upon birth. The term "yelling" or "yell" seems to come up with some kind of negative tonal element, leading one to believe that they ought to be using a different vocal delivery method for their orders. Given the sheer volume inside of the Center when clutch moments come upon the team, yelling seems to be the only way to communicate to the young men on the court what it is that they are supposed to be doing. But, maybe they should drop the yelling and try "coaching" in a conversational tone? Maybe not say anything at all and just pass Coach Reilly notes with their thoughts? Maybe use ESP? I personally get the impression that the only way to communicate information to players on the court is through a high volumed, high intensity scream.
    There is a reason that players get "yelled" the same things time after time. While I am unable to hear the coaching staff (again indicating that the volume of the Center demands yelling to communicate) I would guess that they are telling their players both what they are doing wrong and what the coaching staff believes to be the best decisions for play running. So, in the game against Edinboro, when our Knights are allowing the opposition to drive again and again towards the inside, and consistently get split apart through slick passing designed to open up a long range shooter, I would imagine that the coaching staff would be screaming the same instructions to try to counter this. The fact that these instructions were not being heeded and implemented would probably lead a coach, if that coach had passion, drive, and determination to win, to continue to yell those instructions.
    The role of the coach is to prepare those athletes for competition. Their job is to make those men faster and stronger than the rest, and more technically proficient than any competitor who dares to set foot on the court with them. When they are on the bench, they are not yelling under some delusional idea that volume will be the game changer. They are communicating, with their heart and soul, the strategical input that will change the game. Yelling looks like simple yelling when the players don't do what they are told. The coach was not present for the first 18 years of life to form the work ethic in the athlete. The coach, in a measly four years, cannot undo bad habits that have become ingrained in players. The coach must take what he or she is given to work with, and form that athlete to the best of their abilities. But, it is a two part composition. The athlete must take in what the coach says and apply it. Gannon did not lose because the coaching staff failed the athletes. Gannon did not lose due to the lack of strategy input by the two completely competent assistant coaches. Gannon lost because the players didn't want it bad enough. They did not fight to the very last breath. The entire tempo of the game shifted as exhaustion set in. A coach can guide and motivate, but a coach cannot "do" for the player. The athlete must perform. And it is at the athlete's discretion as to whether or not he "tunes these guys out." If that is what an athlete is doing, then it seems we have more of a criticism of the athletes than we do the coaching staff.
    Coach Viscuso and Coach Stearsman may not be the greatest basketball coaches ever. I am hardly qualified to make that assessment. What I am qualified to say as an observer is that they give their all. They sacrifice everything to the program. They bring a level of technical knowledge and slavish devotion to the school that ought to be envied by many. There is probably a reason why Coach Reilly has maintained a working relationship with Coach Viscuso that has spanned two decades.

  5. It is very easy to criticize coaches. We find ourselves naturally viewing them as the end all of harsh commentary about team ability. And when the day ends, it falls on their shoulders heavier than anyone else affiliated with a sports program. But we must not fall into the trap of immediately blaming them for every shortcoming that we perceive or stumble upon. There is a reason that they are down there on the floor, in the trenches, sweating it out during practice, sacrificing personal lives, paying too little attention to families, and enduring the never ending criticism of their competency. They have what it takes. We must demand athletes that can measure up and keep up.
    I have no experience coaching or playing a college sport. But, I do have enough leadership experience to know that leading from the front is the hardest thing to do. Keeping your head up, and being the human shield for your men when your men fail to accomplish is a noble role, one which seems so easy looking at it from a third party perspective. I acknowledge that. Keep it up coaches. There are some of us who see you giving everything that you possibly have to give.

    1. I must say.. There are times that Coach Reilly's "strategies" make me scratch my head (whether they work or not), but Common Sense is right. Blame can't all be put on coaches. They're not playing. And if you pay attention and can hear what they're "yelling" at the players, alot of the times it is the same thing over and over again. I don't think it's because they like hearing themselves over the crowd.

      Also good point about Coach Reilly keeping Coach Viscuso for so long. Would Coach Reilly risk his career just for an assistant coach/friend? I know I wouldn't... he's doing something right whether we see it or not.

  6. I can see the comments on my phone but when I click "comments" on my computer I get a blank screen. Anyone else having this problem?

    Common Sense -- You're kidding, right?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. No. What did you think that I was kidding about?

  7. No offense. A compliment, actually. I thought it was great satire. But if it's for real, that's cool. We all have our opinions.

  8. Whats great about reading TheObservor and Walter Ego's posts is that it saves me the typing; their opinions on the coaching blunders takes the words out of my mouth. Just want to add that we've seen the same sort of late-game meltdowns with many different groups of Gannon players over the past 7 years. That should be a sign. This style of bootcamp basketball doesnt seem sustainable, unless you like 15-11 basketball every year.

  9. So how many MORE losses can we now afford? A record of 16-10 seems unrealistic at this point. We'd have to go 7-2 down the stretch, still having to play IUP twice.