A wise business manager once told me an employee's true character is revealed between the moment they give their quit notice and the day they actually leave the company. Following that line of thinking, I continue to believe that a basketball program's true character is revealed between the day they are eliminated from postseason contention and the moment their regular season actually ends.
Now, you hate to have
your team test that theory because it means they missed the playoffs,
but that's where Gannon is this year. With one game to play, the Knights
are now 7-18 overall, 6-15 in the PSAC, and finished with a miserable road
record of 1-11 after smoking visiting California (Pa.) Wednesday, 77-68, then falling at Slippery Rock Saturday night, 65-57.
Knights had nothing to play for this week -- they're guaranteed to
finish 8th in the West and wouldn't crack the Atlantic Region's top 30
if they ranked clubs that far down -- but you couldn't tell based on the
max effort they expended.
Tied at the half Wednesday,
Gannon raced past the happy-to-be-mailing-it-in Vulcans over the final
20 minutes, hitting 58% of their shots while holding Cal to just 38%
shooting during the same time span. Cal should be fighting to the death
for longtime coach Bill Brown, who announced he will retire at the end of
the season. But for most of the game Wednesday, the Cal players
appeared they announced their retirement effective Feb. 1. Then in their
next contest, the Vulcans went through the motions again, falling
behind at Mercyhurst 35-15 at the half before succumbing 65-38.
also lost Saturday, but their effort was multiples of Cal. Wait -- I
said that wrong because anything times zero effort equals zero. Let's
say instead you couldn't tell by Gannon's effort Saturday that they were
already bounced from the postseason. For a variety of reasons --
shooting 30% from the field was a big one -- the Knights trailed the
Rock by 14, 57-43, with under 5 minutes to play inside a sleepy Morrow
Fieldhouse. I actually packed my things expecting to watch Gannon's
Instead I had to pull out my
notebook to write down this hustle-filled sequence. Slippery Rock had
secured the ball in the backcourt after a Tony Boykins miss, but instead
of jogging back on defense, Gannon pounced. Ian Gardener sneaked behind
SRU's Cornelius Brown and flicked the ball away. Emmanuel Matey scooped
it up and slashed down the left side of the lane, handing the ball on
the right block to Isaiah Eisendorf, whose layup attempt was blocked.
Instead of quitting on the play, Eisendorf threw his body onto the floor
in hopes of securing the rebound. He didn't get to it in time, but you
had to like the effort -- and so did the Gannon reserves who rose to
their feet to applaud the scrappy sophomore. The following possession,
after stopping the Rock, Matthew Dogan missed a contested layup which
was nearly tipped in by Boykins, except also crashing the glass was
Eisendorf, who scored on his putback.
Down 14 late in a lost season, most teams have guys who refuse to cross midcourt. Gannon, instead, has guys who refuse to quit.
Knights fought within 5 in the final minute, but they couldn't overcome
the huge advantage Slippery Rock built in the first half. I didn't say
"huge advantage" by accident. When the 6-foot-6 Eisendorf (Gannon's only
legitimate big man) went to the bench with foul trouble early in the
game, Slippery Rock's 6-foot-9 Cornelius Brown went crazy, handling the
ball on the left block nearly every possession on the way to tallying 25
of SRU's 37 first half points.
I rarely can compare
my daughter's third and fourth grade basketball team with Gannon, but
here's my opportunity. The past two seasons, our team has been no doubt
the smallest team in the league. (Note to self: Feed Evelyn more peanut
butter). And over the 13 games our undersized club has played in that
span, guess how many games we've won? If you said fewer than half,
you're close. If you said zero, you're 100% correct.
don't think it's because I'm a pitiful coach or because our team's skill
is so inferior to our opponents. We're just way smaller; it's that simple.
That's also been Gannon's main deficiency this year. I feel bad about
it, but I'd feel worse if we had a team that fell short with its effort.