Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Knights Still On Solid Footing, Rock Reputation Slipping

This week Gannon extended its winning streak to eight games with a rugged 57-54 win Wednesday over Slippery Rock but came crashing back down to earth Saturday when they fell to #6 Indiana (Pa.), 72-62. Unless some cataclysmic event takes place, IUP will win the PSAC West going away (they're three full games ahead of our Knights). 

Gannon’s postseason hopes are strong as well; they hold a three-game lead over Pitt-Johnstown for second place and a six-game lead over Seton Hill and Cal for sixth place, the final playoff spot in the West. The scenario for Gannon to fall to seventh place isn’t worth detailing here; we’d all have jumped off the Hammermill Center roof by that point.

With Gannon still in good shape and no overtime games to discuss, I'd like us to look beyond basketball for a bit. The late, great Dean Smith describes the purpose of an athletic program this way: "Athletics is to the university like the front porch is to a home. It is the most visible part, yet certainly not the most important."

I've written before about how John Reilly has done a stellar job maintaining his “porch” -- no embarrassments, arrests, academic chicanery, misbehaving coaches, or preening players. I’m going to talk about another team here, and maybe I don't have the right to say what I'm about to because I only see them once or twice a year. But here’s how I see it.

Slippery Rock's men’s basketball “porch” is a regrettable representation of their university.

Before I share details behind that statement, let me explain why a Gannon grad like me cares about The Rock. SRU is where my parents met and both graduated with teaching degrees, and they were proud of their experiences there. I grew up before kids had phones and everyone had cable TV, so I spent many rainy days poring over the black-and-white photos in Slippery Rock yearbooks. Soccer photos from the 1960s, when the game was foreign to most Western Pennsylvanians, were particularly entertaining to me.

My mom would laugh while telling stories about her quirky roommates, overbearing residence hall monitors, and her time in class with soon-to-be rock legend Donny Iris. I don't know much about music, but I know his real last name is Ierace and that teachers would scold him by saying "Mr. I-ROTCH-EE!" because of my mom's fond college memories. I don't want to overstate it and say the place seemed magical to me, but it certainly was admirable.

Today, when I see how men's basketball coach Kevin Reynolds represents Slippery Rock, I have a much different opinion of the school. I sit by the opposing bench most every Gannon game in part to observe the coaches (I'm a student of leadership and try to use every situation to learn), and here's some of what I recall from Wednesday:
  • You know how when a fan says the coach complained about every call or whined the whole game, they don't literally mean every call and the whole game. But I'm being literal here when I say Reynolds barked at the officials -- or sometimes just shouted at the wind -- for essentially all 40 minutes Wednesday.
  • He received a warning for being outside the coaching box early in the game and was unapologetic about committing the infraction. In fact, it seemed like for the rest of the game he was baiting the officials by regularly wandering to half court or stomping three steps onto the floor during a dead ball.
  • After coach Reilly vociferously (but briefly) argued a block foul call against Evan Phoenix, Reynolds made sure to harangue each referee one-by-one on the ensuing possessions. "Why didn't he get a box warning? Why didn't he get one? How come I got one and he doesn't?" he yelled at each official. Then he started shouting to nobody in particular, "Isn't it sportsmanship week? I thought this was sportsmanship week," to the bewilderment of the folks sitting around me. (P.S. Happy belated unofficial sportsmanship week, everybody!)
  • The capper for me came with 11 seconds left in regulation when -- I'll spare you all the technical details -- Reynolds was denied inserting a player back into the game because time hadn't run off the clock since the player subbed out. Gannon official scorer Rick "Stats" Klapthor caught it, and then one of the officials informed Reynolds. "The clock moved," stated Reynolds, who clearly embraces the concept of alternative facts. When informed that wasn't the case, he continued to state his false claim: "The clock moved. The clock moved." When the official walked away from him, he started shouting at him, "You're crazy! This is crazy! You're absolutely crazy!"
The thing is, I've seen a version of this all before. The only new part was the bald-faced lying. This wasn't just a "bad day" for Reynolds or him justifiably standing up for his kids because his team was getting manhandled. I recall in 2009 at Slippery Rock when the officials stopped the game because an SRU student fan grabbed Tyler Stoczynski’s jersey during a sideline inbounds play. When the officials asked Reynolds to address the kids, he promptly walked across the court … and started slapping hands with them!

I’ll admit I don't know Kevin Reynolds. John Reilly said in his postgame radio interview that the two of them are friends, so maybe off the court he’s the Mother Teresa of Division II basketball. And there’s no doubt Reynolds can assemble, coach, and motivate a tough, defensive-minded team every year. If you pay attention to his kids and not him, you’d think that Slippery Rock was a school for blue-collar, hard-working, nose-to-the grindstone kids. Who doesn’t love that?

But the fans I talked with after Wednesday’s game didn’t mention anything about SRU players because Reynolds’ hysterics were so distracting. If Reynolds doesn’t change his in-game behavior and Slippery Rock officials continue to ignore how he represents their school, to me that says a lot about the university well beyond their front porch.

13 comments:

  1. Key Performance Indicators out for this week.

    Gannon remains #12, but has an enormous opportunity to move up and to seriously enter the NCAA tournament discussion with the next three opponents being #16 Slippery Rock, #6 IUP, and $15 UPJ. Better get wins against strong teams now, because the highest ranking remaining regular season opponent after those three is #29 Seton Hill.


    And a not-so-bit game in Erie County tonight as #34 Mercyhurst takes on #35 Edinboro. Don't forget there are 43 teams in the region.

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  2. Yup...Tonite's game has some implications. Repeated kudos to Erie Times-News for ZERO information on the game.

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    News video done by Craig Smylie (google Gannon's John "Shanghai" Matthews passes away..) brings back some pleasant memories.

    On one of "Shang's" dunks,clear as a bell in the background is former "super fan", the late Joe Lunger.

    I was fortunate to know both "Shang' and Joe. Two fantastic people!

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  3. Another stressful, but great win.

    Perfect scenario for a win against Slippery Rock ... a close call down the stretch causes our buddy Kevin Reynolds to go ballistic. Good basketball on the court and entertainment on the sideline!!

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    1. I think I mention it almost yearly: Kevin Reynolds himself is worth the price of admission.

      Come to think of it, so are the needlepoint passes by Jimmy Berger!

      Nice team win against a pretty talented edition of Slippery Rock. As usual, they rebound, are physical, and provide an evening of interesting entertainment.

      Zay Jackson seems to get quicker every game.

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  4. Former Golden Knight Bobby Bossman is interviewed in this NY Post piece:
    http://nypost.com/2017/01/25/the-inside-story-of-a-basketball-teen-so-tall-he-doesnt-look-real/

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  5. Going by just stats... it appears Gannon is better off when their starters don't all do well with scoring! Aye carumba!

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  6. 1. Jim you have every right to share what you did as you stated they were how you feel... not necessarily go everyone feels but your opinions.. No one can shame you for that. It's your right and everyone's right!
    2. Reynolds is a joke. I cant stand him and feel if he coached at a school that made their basketball program to a higher academic standard (same with IUP) he'd not be that much of a coach.
    3. I remember the incident you spoke of and it was a very embarrassing display. Glad the security guard had a brain!

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  7. Funny thing. I sat in the bleachers section behind the SRU bench. I couldn't hear anything Reynolds said but I could tell from his body contortions and facial scowls that it was all ungood. I thought the officials put on a textbook display of unconditional restraint. They could've decked the guy and had him hauled out of the Mill on a stretcher and not been convicted by a jury of their peers. Or fans. It also occurred to me, with the HOF game coming up, that if Gannon had an opposing coaches Hall of Shame, Reynolds would be a first ballot honoree.

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    1. Hmmm ... An opposing coaches Hall of Shame. That's a cool idea. What would the criteria be? It's gotta be someone who had been on the opposing bench for a minimum number of times ... maybe three or more?

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    2. Seems like the criteria would have to be subjective but maybe there could be a required minimum number of technical fouls, thrown chairs (or other inanimate objects), at least five small stools on the court during time outs, a cheap suit and a bad haircut. I don't know. Perhaps a Gannon Hoops blog member poll should decide this. As for minimum times, three appearances at the Mill should do it. One would probably actually do it but consistency counts.

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  8. Yesterday's loss shows how far IUP is ahead of the relatively weak PSAC West. They have a three-game lead over Gannon (and IUP has the tiebreaker) and GU is three games ahead of third.

    IUP is tough enough to beat when they make 12 three's and even tougher when they hold their opponent without a field goal for over 10 minutes, as they did when building a 40-18 lead. GU did their best to claw back, but GU never got back to the point where they seemed like they were back in the game.

    I'd say that if IUP and GU played 10 times (5 home, 5 away), IUP would win 8 of the 10. If there is a third meeting, it will be at the KCAC in Indiana, PA.

    So seven games are left, three home, four away. Gannon will likely be favored in six of the seven (the road contest at SRU may be the only time the opponent would be favored). Six wins takes us to a 19-7 record; maybe 18-8 is a tad more realistic. I'd have signed up for 18 wins last November.

    Onto meaningful February basketball!!

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  9. Opposing Coaches Hall of Shame: hmmmm After approximately 51 Gannon seasons at the Audi:

    * John Chaney (Cheyney State): He takes the cake: Once ran almost all the way up the steps to to near the upper level arguing a call. Pushed a long-time fan to the ground after a bad loss. He is lucky that fan didn't flatten him. He almost did. I was 5 feet from the incident. (To Coach Chaney's credit, I heard later a personal letter of apology was sent). Years later, at St. Bonaventure, I witnessed this same coach nearly get into a fistfight with reporters.

    * Yes, Kevin Reynolds! :I witnessed a rant to reporters, and, anyone who would listen, that pizza delivered during PSAC conference tournament some years ago was too cold. This is the same guy who brings fans to the Audi because it is too warm! I also saw the classless incident at Slippery Rock in 2009.

    I consider both Coaches as cartoon characters. Fun to watch, but, pretty pathetic representatives of their schools. I'm sure there will be more nominees!

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    I believe this team will bounce back from Saturday's IUP game. They will learn from it.

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