Friday, December 4, 2015

How Low Can You Go?

Because I've played and coached basketball for nearly 20 seasons, I've lost too many games to count. But if you ask about my lowest point during that span, I won't hesitate to recall that. It occurred Feb. 16, 1991, my junior season at Gannon, when we were obliterated at Pace, 90-64. The rout marked our 5th loss in 7 games but two additional factors made the situation worse than just what the final score indicated.

First, the prior season we had won the Mideast Collegiate Conference, the East Region, and advanced to the Division II Elite 8 in Springfield, Mass. That team lost only 8 games, and each one of them came after we put up a fierce battle, especially on defense. We were accustomed to winning or fighting to the end until time ran out for the losses. The other factor that made the Pace loss worse was that Gannon had never lost to the Manhattan-based school. The Setters (yes, that's Pace's lame nickname) talked every year about knocking Gannon from the MCC perch, but the results were never that. We'd beat them at the Audi, in New York, and then in the conference tournament whenever Pace got that far.

I distinctly recall after that Pace debacle standing in a dim hallway near the lockerrooms with my gear in a bag over my shoulder and slowly sliding my back down the cinder block wall until I hit the bottom -- just like our team had. John Reilly, then an assistant for the Knights, entered the hallway and we shook our heads because we knew what each other was thinking. Riles and I had seen more Gannon/Pace games than anyone else in the program at that point -- him as a coach, me as a fan -- and we were embarrassed for losing again that season, losing badly, and losing to stinking Pace.

Riles is of course now the head coach at Gannon, and I'm sure he's once again shaking his head in disgust as the Knights reached their lowest point this season. The year after winning the PSAC West, the PSAC tournament, and advancing to the NCAAs, Gannon dropped to 2-6 (1-5 PSAC, last place in the West) after a pair of humiliating losses this weekend:
  • On Saturday, Gannon never led during a 79-70 system failure at Bloomsburg, who was coming off its worst loss of the season the evening before. Bloom was annihilated by 40 at home vs. Mercyhurst Friday, trailing 49-10 at the half, 63-14 with 15 minutes to play, before eventually succumbing 88-48. Less than 24 hours later, the Huskies led Gannon 20-5 and maintained the advantage throughout.
  • Friday, Gannon was squashed by perennial PSAC doormat Lock Haven, 68-60, marking the first time in 25 games GU had lost to LHU. I share the sentiments of Golden89 based on his late Friday comment on this blog post: "Yes, Gannon lost to Lock Haven. I can't believe I just typed that." How about me? I author a blog for a team that lost to Lock Haven! The butt of many jokes on this site, Lock Haven is now a better program than we are. I can't believe I just typed that!
Gannon allowed Lock to shoot 53% against them Friday and, instead of clamping down and suffocating Bloom Saturday, they allowed a 57% shooting chart. The Knights have already used 9 different starters this season and seem no closer to finding a rotation that works. They rank last in the league in scoring offense (61.1 ppg), 16th out of 18 in field goal percentage (.400), and an astonishing 15th in field goal percentage defense (.489), the team's bread-and-butter the past decade.

I don't know how much lower this can go but I know what happened the week after that Pace story I just told you. We traveled to Philly Textile and were murdered 70-50 ... which is why I never use the phrase, "It can't get any worse than this."


  1. .Special shout-out to Erie Times-News for providing about a 3/4 inch preview of this evenings game.


    Gannon 2016 Hall of Fame class announced. Basketball-related inductees include Kristina Freeman (2010), Geoff Husted (2005), and Rev. Addison Yehl, the posthumous distinguished service recipient. Fr. Yehl always sat in the top row of the plush seats right near mid-court -- never seemed to miss a game.

    Congratulations to all the inductees!!

  3. Well, this game will go down in Lock Haven's hall of fame -- their first ever win against Gannon after 44 years and 24 losses. Yes, Gannon lost to Lock Haven. I can't believe I just typed that.

    LHU shot over 50% from the field, the third time a team has shot over 50% against us. Combine that with 23 turnovers and you have a recipe for a loss, despite a 38-20 rebound advantage. The good news is that we have a chance to get this season headed in the right direction with a game in less than 24 hours.

    This team certainly is getting on the wrong side of Gannon history. The last time a GU team started 2-5 or worse was 2006-07 (finished 9-17). The previous time was Dukiet's last year of 1995-96 (finished 10-16). Both of those teams won their eighth game to move to 3-5.

    When was the last time a GU team started 2-6 or worse? You gotta go way back to 1956-57, Milt Simon's first-year squad that lost nine of its first ten games, but rallied to finish 9-14. It was so long ago that Fr. Yehl was only in his sixth year of his 55-year teaching career and in his fourth year as the tennis coach. Let's hope for a win tomorrow so that Milt's boys can keep that dubious distinction.

  4. Yeeouch ... 15th in FG percentage defense in the PSAC? Last year, GU was ninth in the COUNTRY in FG percentage defense.

    That's the most troubling aspect to this start for me. GU got off to slow starts in 2013-14 and 2014-15 (4-4 before winning PSAC), but that was mostly due to offensive woes. The defense was always a strength. This year the offense continues to struggle, but the defense is just average at this point.

    Can't do anything else but look ahead to Wheeling Jesuit, a quality MEC offensive team. Let's get revenge for their knocking off the volleyball team tonight in the Atlantic Regional Final.

    By the way ... the West was 10-8 this weekend on the road, meaning that the West leads 19-17 with 18 crossover games to go.

  5. It wasn't too long ago that Lock Haven was a glorified intramural basketball team. Now, thanks to several successive years of Philly area recruiting, dare I say that they, too, may win 20 games this year.

    Obviously, our team needs a lot of seasoning, very quickly.

    Next on tap: A Wheeling Jesuit team that is 6-1, easily manhandling Clarion earlier this season.

  6. How low can you go? Following a 37-3 drubbing by the Bengals, described the Cleveland Browns like this in today's analysis: "This is an overmatched team with little offensive talent and one of the worst defenses in the league." When you can cut a sentence from an analysis of the Cleveland Browns and paste it on your team's website and nobody knows the difference, that's how low you can go.

  7. When Riley first came here he said he couldn't win because they weren't his players. Now he has "his players". Actually, he has 18 of "his players". What's the excuse now? He's driven the program into the ground. If this was any other school in the country he would have been gone a long time ago. By the way, why does he keep recruiting seniors if he is going to have them riding the bench?

    1. The program you refer to that has been driven into the ground is in a rebuilding year after three consecutive 20 win campaigns, two NCAA appearances in the last two seasons, and a PSAC Championship last year.

      If you can't recognize the potential talent in some of the newcomers (Including a player, Byrd, who has barely played this season, but, trust me, is very good) then perhaps consider going up on the Hill and rooting for Mercyhurst.

      Let us know if they replaced the burned out lights on their scoreboard!!

      Go Knights!

    2. Really? Isn't "gannon grad" entitled to state his opinion without you banishing him to Lakerland? Isn't this blog a place where we can all discuss Gannon Hoops? If you want a rah-rah propaganda page, this ain't it.

    3. Yes, he is entitled to his opinion.

      I didn't banish him, I made a suggestion!

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  9. I agree with gogannongo...everyone has a right to voice their own opinions. Thats what makes this blog as popular as it is.
    I do like the "burned out lights" comment though. :-)

    1. Hey: All good! Let's just try to get things started with a nice win Saturday!

  10. Let me throw out a few numbers for why I think our problem is the coach:

    If we have a losing season this year, he will have had as many losing seasons as the last 11 coaches combined, dating back to Lou Tullio in 1951.

    Of the 4 most recent coaches (back through Tom Chapman) there have been 4 losing seasons so far, 3 with this coach.

    Chapman made the NCAA's 80% of his seasons, Dukiet 57% and Slocum 67% (including 6 straight). This coach - 40% and that will likely drop to 36% this year. [Why didn't these other coaches seem to have rebuilding season problems?]

    I can't ever remember the number of recruits leaving the program as we have had the last 10 years. It's become legendary. And don't forget that 2 of them who sat the bench here started for the national champion last year. I know - injuries, but why did they leave the program?

    Overall winning percentages: Chapman-.759 Dukiet-.682 Slocum-.696 This coach-.643

    Average losses per season: Chapman- 7.6 Dukiet- 9.0 Slocum- 8.7 This coach- 10.5

    Slocum had 6 straight 20 win seasons. Three straight for this coach, and that streak won't be extended this year.

    Has anyone else noticed how many players come in here with impressive shooting credentials only to be turned into brick layers? Blazek shot almost 45% as a freshman. His next 3 years combined were under 40%. Not a brick layer for sure, but definitely a drop off. I think that is a coaching problem, not a player problem. When all you know how to coach is defense, then shooting suffers. This year we're 16th out of 18 in shooting percentage in the league with only 40%. Even last year we were only 9th in the league at 44.7%.

    There are a lot of other things I could list, but this is a good sampling. (Oh yeah, what about attendance numbers?)

    And, I know, it's a different world and it's harder to win, right? Why doesn't Indiana and several other teams have that problem? They never seem to have rebuilding woes.

    1. Here we go again with the "players leaving the program" discussion.

      It happens everywhere.
      I know this: Gone are the days of 4 or 5 automatic cupcake early season tune-up games.... as many as 5 or 6 straight at home to open the season. Being an open blog that we are all thankful for, you are fully entitled to your opinion.

      I just don't understand the theory that the program has a "coaching" problem, when the present coach is a multiple league, and once, region, Coach of the Year.

      You want to see problems, click around the 'net to see what IUP swept under the rug last season, or, the problems at North Carolina, SMU ("Hall of Fame" Coach, by the way) among others.

      Rebuilding season. Indeed, everyone is a bit frustrated.

      I view the season, so far, as potentially very similiar in what happened two years after the team got healthy, made a key adjustment, and began a late-season run with a big win up at the Junker Center.

      We'll see. Admittedly, it doesn't get any easier Saturday with a very talented team visiting the Audi.

      As for myself, I'm looking forward to the development of this team, and, the return of Asuncion-Byrd when his ankle is healthy.

    2. OOps: ..."two years ago after the team got healthy..."

    3. gannongrad - you point out that Slocum had 6 straight 20-win seasons; in which he did. How many of those seasons did they win a conference playoff game? How many of those seasons did they win their conference championship? How many of those seasons did they advance to NCAA field? How many NCAA wins did Slocum record? 0.

      Nothing against Slocum - he did a damn good job when he was here and he's been rewarded as he should have been. But the team never did anything past the GLIAC.

  11. IUP and Rock are 6-4 this season... and they are not in a "rebuild mode"... they have almost all seniors playing... I'd say our young team with 2-6 record (and only 2 "bad" losses) aren't doing too shabby... not great, but theyre young

    1. No offense, but I'm not calling a 2-6 record and last place in the conference "not too shabby." I think it's more like shabby or even real shabby. How about just plain bad. IUP lost four key players from last year, compared to Gannon's five. Pretty even comparison. IUP lost starters Carnell Yarde II, Jeremy Jeffers, Shawn Dyer and PSAC player of the year Devante Chance. All from the National Runner Up team. The first 8 players in the IUP rotation this year are seniors and juniors (Norfleet, Hanner, Cottrell, Ugbebe and Spain). The first 8 players in Gannon's rotation this year are also seniors and juniors (Toupane, Boykins, Dogan, Kuteyi and Matey). Yet one school is rebuilding and the other isn't?

      Sometimes I wonder, as I sit in the bleachers among my fellow last of a dying breed, (and a few rubberneckers there to see the train wreck), how much fun it would be to see the Gannon players in a pickup game at the YMCA, free from the stifling no-dunks and no fun allowed Reilly coaching system. Gannon has a load of gifted players. Ian Gardener, for just one example, is insanely athletic. Toupane, for another example, can do so much more with a basketball than he's been permitted to show in the games. Wouldn't that be more entertaining than the increasingly painful PSAC experience of another two and a half hours at the non-Jammermill?

      I'd like to have a Gannon basketball team with a coach who doesn't year after year have to be defended by apologists on the Gannon Hoops blog (God bless you, every one of you, and Merry Christmas).

    2. I say not too shabby because some of the losses we kept close, when the other team should've been up by 40. If they were blown out every game, I'd say real bad. I view it from a coaching stance... going 13-15 with mostly juniors and seniors (but the majority of the 15 losses were "out of reach" games) or going 8-20 with a team consisting of many frosh/sophs (and most losses being a 2-3 possession loss) are the same exact season. At least that 8-20 team has some time ahead of them... that 13-15 team will have practically a new team the next year.

      And you can't compare IUP's "lineup" with GU's "rotation". IUP consistently uses the same players and the minutes are pretty well spread out (obviously if someone is hot here or there they play more that game... that's normal). GU has had how many different lineups now? Players play 5 mins one game (no foul trouble and not struggling shooting) and then the player is in for 34 minutes the next game. That's a rotation; no consistency. Lineup has consistency.

      As for no fun, the players are always cheering for one another and loud, on and off the court. If they weren't having even the slightest bit of fun, you'd think they'd be just sitting there on the bench and not making much noise. Theiro impresses me the most on the bench... kid is a senior and doesn't play... but is always up yelling and cheering. He's not even playing and shows he's having some fun

    3. also, did you mean the first 5 players in the rotation are seniors/juniors? Because Gannon only has 5 seniors/juniors that have played at least 5 minutes in every game they've played. IUP has 8.

    4. Sorry. Yes, I meant to say five of the first eight players in the rotation were seniors and juniors. And, oddly enough, Gannon and IUP each have five seniors on their rosters.

    5. Yes but roster and active players are two totally diff things. IUP has at least 3 senior starters (I believe 4), but all 5 play. Gannon starts Toupane and Boykins and that's all that plays as I believe Jim still has more total points than Bailey Dogbo and Theiro have combined minutes.

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  12. When comparing coaches you also have to take into consideration the leagues they played in.

    1. Definitely agreed and a look at the independent games should be noted as well.

  13. I think Reilly is an average coach in an average D2 basketball league, with one of the higher budgets for scholarships in the league.

    But he is our average I choose to keep watching and let it play out.

    I wish he'd recruit more shooters...and run different offensive sets, because the motion offense, in the 10 years I've been watching Reilly only seems to work if everyone is in sync...

    I sat behind the IUP bench and listened to Lombardi chastise his players "don't guard number 0...he can't shoot..." This is our vaunted freshman guard. Super athletic though

    I'd give up some of that athleticism for a guy who could consistently make three point shots. We seem really easy to defend when teams don't have to deal the 3 point shot. I'd zone Gannon all day long and sag on the post (which seems how teams are playing us).

    The weird thing about this year, the defense is not there. So the offensive ineptitude usually came with GREAT defense.

    Frustrating. I paid for my season tickets with the expectation of watching some good basketball. Didn't expect a championship. Now I sit with 500-600 fans a game usually getting out cheered by the visiting team.

    I like the ups like all of us, not sure with the amount of scholarships GU gives that we should ever be below .500 in a league like the PSAC.

    1. Forget about what I may think of our Head Coach. As I understand it, the awards and recognition he has received in the past are voted by his coaching peers. A veteran referee in our league has told me he thinks our coach, by far, is the best in the league.

      No matter.

      As far as our league being "average", methinks this "average" league has sent an NCAA D-2 team to the finals twice in last 4 years*. Last season alone, 4 teams from the average West side of the league received NCAA bids.

      Pretty average, I guess. Not to mention a close NCAA loss two years ago at East Stroudsburg, which at the time was #3 in the Country.


      * Funny how the discussion always includes IUP, which, record-wise, indeed deserves accolades. But, as I've stated before, click around the 'net on recent negative events in the past year or so down there.

      As I see it, perhaps several star players should have been potentially suspended, rendering recent success moot.

    2. I'm in agreement with you #453. Would I like to see the team not always have to look at the sideline for offensive instructions? Yeah. Would I like to see the team get 20 wins every season? Of course! Do I want to see them start playing PSU-Allegany and Behrend to do so? NO! The PSAC isn't the ACC or Big 10, but it's also Division II ball. Look at how many teams the PSAC consistently has ranked - typically at least 2-3. Findlay has fallen from the ranks of the always tops in the Country, Kentucky Wesleyan hasn't had the success they usually saw, etc. Plus it'd take a lot for me to want to go back to having to listen to Gannon games broadcast in the isolated areas of Upper Michigan that they always had to travel to.

      When Gannon is winning - people accept the coaching staff. When Gannon isn't winning - people hate the coaching staff. When Gannon is winning - we have great players. When Gannon isn't winning - the coaches are bringing down the players.

      Let's face it... we do have some tremendous young players (young key word), however, we do not have anyone even comparable to an Adam Blazek, Gibran Smith, Raphelle Thomas-Edwards or A'darius Porter. Not one. (speaking of players - someone earlier noted that Blazek's shooting percentage dipped after his frosh year... no one has ever really made mention of another player who has "slumped" while at Gannon. A holder of several PIAA records, but has not done anything while at Gannon. Is that all the coaching staff's fault?

      in re: IUP- I would rather have to deal with a few losing seasons amidst some NCAA-berth seasons rather than have players' off-court issues be the focal point of a NCAA run.

  14. Average league that is top heavy, with a couple of good team. But also bottom heavy. Lots of cupcakes. When we came to the PSAC the talk was how easy this league was compared to the GLIAC. There was not a Cheney or a Lock Haven in the GLIAC when we left.

    I believe that is a much stronger league top to bottom and yes I stick to the PSAC is an average league.

    Reilly is like a home run hitter who strikes out a lot. There are certainly some highs, but I am a paying customer (there are very few of us left...and no one young) and don't believe we should ever be under .500

    btw...the drug charges against Devonte Chance were dropped. Why should he have been suspended? I mean, I was gloating when I saw the story also, but why do you say "several star players should have been potentially suspended, rendering recent success moot..." when he was the only player involved and charges were dropped?

    1. To me, the entire IUP program raises some suspicions. Period.
      Hopefully, we can see some progress tomorrow against a very good team!

  15. I think that Lombardi is a great coach and I think the IUP program is a model program. ]

    Now Slippery Rock...I give Kevin Reynolds credit for competing with less scholarships than GU or IUP, but I feel the same way about SR as you do about IUP...I wonder when there is going to be a huge scandal there...

    Go Knights!