Saturday, February 2, 2013

If Riles Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy

I'd like to share with you some of the notes I wrote while sitting at the scorer's table today watching Gannon's 77-66 defeat of Lock Haven at the Hammermill Center: "Outworked? GU didn't match defensive intensity of prior games. More ball pressure." I wasn't sure if I'd mention any of that in my post-game comments for a couple reasons. First, saying guys didn't play hard is about the harshest criticism you can give to an athlete, and I didn't want to go there if I wasn't 100% sure effort was lacking. Second, Gannon held a double-digit lead for most of the game, including a 20-point advantage with 7 minutes left. Was I being too critical of a now 17-4 club that clinched a posteason berth today?

I felt vindicated when I heard coach John Reilly's comments during his post-game radio interview with Jim LeCorchick. "I'm very disappointed," Reilly said. "We won, but I don't feel like we won because of how we acted." He also said, "Their energy was better than ours. Energy level is the most important thing for us."

It wasn't that Gannon was lethargic for 40 minutes. They played like their normal, Tazmanian Devil selves in spurts, such as when Tanner Furno battled for his 5 offensive rebounds and Robert Wilson dove into the base of the scorer's table late in the game when an ordinary player would have watched the ball roll over the sideline. But this wasn't the suffocating Gannon defense that we've seen put decent guards on their heels, rushing shots then showing frustration.

As Reilly said, "If we want to be a team that wants to be a contender, then the energy's there regardless. ... If we want to be a contender, our energy level always to be there." I have a feeling Riles will make sure the energy is there in practice this week and Wednesday night at IUP.

And for all of you who will respond, "Riley should be yelling at himself for working the guys too hard in practice," please save your breath. This team is deep and has split plenty of minutes over the first 21 games. Even if practices are difficult, there's no reason in the first half of a game -- especially when you're battling for an NCAA bid -- you shouldn't have maximum intensity every possession.

I recall a practice early my senior season when Bob Dukiet told us our effort was good enough to beat many teams on our schedule but he wasn't going to settle for that. "We have to play every day, every practice, every possession so we get good enough to beat Virginia Union," he said. That's the standard he set, and it sparked us to a 22-6 record and a Porreco Cup championship over Union, the eventual D-II national champs that year. I hope this edition of Golden Knights learn that same lesson and whip #8 IUP in a few days.

Other thoughts related to today's game:
* It was great to see Troy Nesmith and Chuck Campagne today during the halftime Hall Of Fame ceremonies. Chuck was my first real boss when I worked in the Career Concepts office in 1992, and he's earned every penny he's made. You had to get up really, really early to beat him into the office. I got to know Troy during several interviews and a photo shoot for SportsLook magazine back in the mid-90's. I'm also honored to say I played against him when Gannon scrimmaged an alumni team prior to the 1997-98 season. My main goal that game was to make sure Nesmith didn't land on my ankle and blow out his knee. I'd have felt terrible ruining his and the team's season.

* I give tons of credit to Lock Haven coach Mike Nestor for quickly turning the Bald Eagles into a respectable program. Nestor had Gannon well scouted, recognizing GU's offensive sets and calling them out to his troops. Lock Haven was clearly outmanned today, but played hard and smart for most of the game. They'll end this year a dozen games under .500, but that's not what matters. They are competing and will be a team to reckon with next year.

* Can you believe today was Tanner Furno's first career double-double? The senior popped off the bench for 17 points and 10 rebounds. LHU didn't have an answer for his crafty moves in the lane or his length.

* Today might have been Robert Wilson's best offensive performance in a Gannon uniform. He scored 22 points on just 14 field goal attempts, connecting on 6-of-9 from three-point range. At this rate, we'll see him inducted into the Gannon Hall of Fame in the near future.

* How about Darrell Blanton and Adam Blazek producing a combined 2-for-12 shooting chart and Gannon still wins going away? Besides Furno and Wilson, impressive Knights were Oscar Macias (15 points, 3-of-5 threes) and super sub Brandon Emmitt. The redhead guard played just 14 minutes but scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, including a gorgeous drifting jumper to beat the shot clock buzzer late in the second half.

* Have you looked at the Gannon team stat sheet lately? Some of the free throw numbers are shockingly good: Macias (91.8%), Furno (88.2%), Emmitt (86.4%), Algeron Torrence (80.0%), Blanton (77.1%), and Wilson (77.1%). Blazek was Gannon's best foul shooter a year ago, and even though he's a respectable 75% this year, that ranks only 7th on this year's club.

* After today's action, 11-4 Gannon is once again tied for second place in the PSAC West with Slippery Rock. SRU lost today at IUP, 55-49. The Big Ind -- I mean Crimson Hawks -- are 13-2 and I think would lock of the #1 spot in the West with a win over Gannon this week. Edinboro is lurking in 4th at 9-6 after their win at Clarion today. Mercyhurst (8-7) held onto 5th place by rallying past 6th place Cal (7-8) in overtime at the MAC.

* In the battle of the East's top two teams, East Stroudsburg won by 10 at West Chester, 87-77. Stroud (14-1) leads the East by three games while WCU is now tied with Millersville at 11-4.

* If you're wondering about the first regional rankings of the year, you'll have to wonder 18 days longer. The first rankings aren't until Feb. 20 with only two more after that.

* Friendly reminder: In two weeks (Feb. 16), I'll be part of Pink Zone 2013, the cancer fundraiser coordinated each year by the Gannon women's basketball team. I will sign copies of my book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer with $5 from each sale being donated to the American Cancer Society. The book's regular price is $17.95, but I'll sell it at the Hammermill for just $15. For more details, click here.

23 comments:

  1. Nice, comfortable win today. Rough first two minutes, then kept the turnovers down. LH sat back in a zone and we have the shooters to counteract it. The game never seemed to be in doubt.

    Good to see the new hall-of-famers as well. Lots of great people in GU sports history!

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  2. Now to get the sound system fixed so I could hear my name called for the HoF walk on at half.
    Ha Ha on the HoF walk but not the sound system.

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  3. Another win. As a supporter of Reilly I am very disappointed to say, worst post game interview ever. Negativity is the cancer. "No positives from today's game" Wow. Coach you had 4 guys in double digit scoring 2 were off the bench. One player with 7 assists, one with 6 3's, one career first double double.

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  4. The only thing that would make this coaching staff happy is if the kids ran head first through a brick wall and even then they would say they didn't do it with enough energy. This whole charade of extreme intensity is a tired act. The kids played very hard all day and deserve to have a coach who recognizes that. Instead, take the example of what happened to Brandon Emmitt after he hit his runner in the lane with :30 seconds to go. He falls down and slides across the court and before he could even gather himself to stand up, the coaching staff was screaming angrily at him to get up and run to other end of the court. I'm really glad they did that, I mean, I'm sure that even after playing basketball for most of his life, Emmitt had no idea that he has to go back and play defense. Thanks coaches!
    As for the squad being at full strength, TJ Wilson and Torrence just returned to the bench (and presumably just started practicing recently) and didn't play much. The kids on the floor still are shouldering the brunt of the minutes. But that's right it's "impossible" for the kids to get tired!

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    1. Caught this same instance and was appalled.

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    2. Wish this was the only instance. Happened to Blanton yesterday as well and happens all the time

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    3. It's a broken record and it's not the first season I (and others) have voiced this disappointment. The look on their faces consistently is a mix of "what'd I do now," "seriously? all the time," "that bald guy yells enough for the two of you - shut up." These are still kids developmentally - coaching is not screaming one every.single.slight.mistake.

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  5. I think before anyone critisizes too much, I have to ask "How many elite 8 tourneys have they coached in?". I would rather pay up front with a chance at sucess then laze back and hope for sucess. You play to win and do what it takes
    within the rules. The harder they play the luckier they are.
    Some of the team members read this and if they are convinced they are overworked and can have an easier time someplace else, oh well Saynora to Gannon as we have seen.
    I prefer not to lambast the coaches, since I am not the AD and I don't give enough to Gannon to have a say.
    I just try to support our team and our coaching staff and leave direction of the GU sports program to those responsible.

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  6. Jeremy & ffroo: My perspective is different from yours. I think a coach's job when things are going well -- e.g. 17-4 -- is to look for the weaknesses and make sure your team is laser focused on them. You don't want the crew to get fat-and-happy, deceiving themselves that winning means they are achieving their maximum potential. Because when they play the best teams, they will likely lose because they are unprepared.

    Vince Lombardi was a pretty good coach, right? And you know the famous game footage clip of him asking, "What the H is going on out here?" (Check it out here if you want -- http://youtu.be/lbNidYYGjic.) I'm guessing that was during a pretty good Packers season and during a game where Green Bay did lots of good things. But Lombardi wanted to push his team to BE BETTER EVERY DAY, GET BETTER EVERY PLAY and never, ever get lax. The players can't get comfortable with their current success; they need to strive for more. If they were screwing up, Lombardi's job wasn't to say, "Well, we aren't playing to our potential, but Bart Starr is having a really good game so I think I'll talk about that. Yea Packers!"

    I saw what John Reilly saw yesterday -- not a bad game but not the same defensive effort this team is capable of. I guess he could have said after the game, "We really did some nice things, but I wish we'd play better on defense." But if I was a player I would have missed the point he was actually trying to make. From his postgame comments, I get the clear message that we had better play max effort on defense every possession or he's going to find someone else who will. He wants us to be satisfied only if we can compete with IUP, West Liberty, and East Stroudsburg, not pat ourselves on the back after we beat Lock Haven by 11 points.

    The successful coaches and business leaders I've interacted with aren't ever complacent, especially when the team has experienced some success. They don't say "good enough." They say "we can do better and I will make sure we do better." That's who I want coaching my team.


    One more note: My apologies to my mom (a former English teacher) and Gannon fan Paul DeSante (also a former English teacher) for using "ain't" twice in the headline. It won't happen again.

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  7. All this coaching staff is attempting to do is prepare the team for the "next level", be it the PSAC'S or, hopefully, the NCAA'S.

    No team gets to that magical "next level", by accident.

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  8. Jim, I agree and see your point. I think it was just his tone that I thought was negative. It just didn't sit well with me.

    Somehow I think that after Wednesday's game these guys are not feeling like they are very comfortable with the recent loss to the Rock.

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  9. Jim, you've set up a point with which it is hard to disagree; a team should always strive to maximize its potential. Who disagrees with that? Problem with that point is that one must assume that the Gannon kids were not striving to the max yesterday; in fact they were so complacent that it was worth throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water by making statements such as there were "no positives" from the game.
    You say that Reilly needs to make strong statements to get through to his team. At what point do the kids start to see through that facade, get frustrated for constantly getting lambasted for everything they do, then start to tune out the coaches? Once they start to realize that nothing they do is ever good enough, does that have a negative effect on their performance?
    I honestly don't think that most impartial observers would call yesterday's effort completely complacent. Besides, perhaps they ARE tired. After a rough loss on Wednesday, I doubt that the practices were very easy on Thursday and Friday. Not to mention those pesky things called schoolwork and classes.

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  10. A slow and somewhat sloppy performance versus a weak team could be just what this team needs to practice hard this week and go out with something to prove versus IUP and go out and play tough motivated basketball.

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  11. I hear where you can't let the players rest on their laurels but when you keep putting them down that can have a reverse effect. When you keep brow beating them eventualy the player says to him self " what the h--l can't I do anything right' and just gives up. Jim, do you manage your people that way always say you can do better and your not doing anything well? There are time a pat on the back can have a better result then a kick in the butt.

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  12. I guess I really didn't want this to turn into a Reilly bashing post. I just thought the comments were better left to just the team not the public if he had a point about maintaining aggressive style of play.

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  13. This is the critical point in the season where every team responds to its coach's strategy regarding practice length/intensity, motivational techniques/policies, starter's minutes, etc. by either elevating their games or sliding off the proverbial cliff.

    The successful teams are those that respond positively to how they have been trained/motivated and have the mindset and energy to perform to the highest level of their abilities.

    Those that are not successful wear out physically and develop undesirable, ineffective attitudes, their performance suffers, and they lose the games they need to win to be successful.

    It was clear from listening to Coach Reilly's post-game interview that he is remaining consistent in his motivational approach, demanding full effort at each practice and game, and reacting as he did when he felt that wasn't the case Saturday. After all, I'm pretty sure he and a lot of other people feel his job just might be on the line this season.

    I watched IUP play the Rock on the web Saturday evening. If the C-Hawks play Wednesday with the defensive intensity that they displayed vs SR, it will be difficult for GU to triumph no matter how hard they play. If IUP plays as they did vs Mercyhurst, GU has a shot if they play as well as they can. We'll see.

    Reminder to anyone not able to make the trip to Indiana. IUP's games have been available for free this season via a link on their website (www.iup.edu). Hopefully for all of us, that will be the case again on Wednesday.

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  14. The LH game was a classic "trap" game ... a game coming off a big game (SRU) with another big game looming (IUP). Coming out flat is a little understandable. But Riles demands an intense performance every time out ... that's how he is and that's what drives his defensive intensity time in and time out. Giving up 66 points is too much.

    It's also a little easier to get your team's attention after a win. Find something to improve upon. And the defensive intensity was high, but not as high as the typically GU team that we're used to seeing.

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  15. This result won't exactly help Gannon's strength of schedule. The Knights bested Ohio Valley by "only 26" back in November:

    WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The No. 3-ranked West Liberty University men's basketball team was expected to have an easy time of it against last-place Ohio Valley and the Hilltoppers more than lived up to expectations Monday night at the ASRC.

    West Liberty (21-1, 15-1) came roaring out of the blocks to build a 20-point lead in the first 9 minutes and Coach Jim Crutchfield rested his starters for most of the second half in a 112-55 blowout of the Fighting Scots (3-19, 2-14).

    The Hilltoppers had blasted OVU, 139-71, in a November game at Vienna and Monday's contest followed much the same script.
    West Liberty used an 11-0 run to go up, 11-2 in the first 5 minutes and the issue was never in doubt.

    Shawn Dyer's stop-and-pop 3-pointer pushed the count to 35-11 with 10:17 still showing on the first half clock and the Hilltoppers coasted into the locker room with a 65-27 halftime lead.

    The song remained the same in the second half. West Liberty passed the century mark and took its biggest lead of the night, 101-42, on a pair of Kelvin Goodwin free throws at the 7:21 mark before coasting home.

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  16. Congrats to the Number 6 Lady Knights!! As far as the men's team goes, it seems that the IUP game is critical for favorable PSAC playoff seeding.

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  17. As far as the women's team goes, the IUP game is critical for hosting the regional.

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    1. As I can tell, the two biggest threads for hosting the regional outside of GU are Edinboro and Shaw. Shaw has 6 losses in a "weaker" conference and Edinboro has 4. If GU wins tonight, it would be HUGE to maintain that gap between them and the other Atlantic teams.

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  18. Speaking of West Liberty, my wish for this season is for the Knights to play West Liberty. I would love to see how our defense would play against their offense. I think that our offense can handle their defense.

    They look like a shoo-in to host the regional. Can we get an 8 seed in the NCAAs? Make the NCAAs and face them in the second or third round? Can someone make this happen? Please????

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  19. I don't think we're looking at an 8 seed bid. Just throwing out the scenario that we lose to IUP and then win out, win one psac playoff game that leaves us at 24-6. That is very worthy of a 4,5,6,7 seed. The CIAA appears to be very week. I see gannon being 6.

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