A Coaches Diary: #12 & 13

by February 21, 2008
1

Well, we have finally arrived at the final turn of our long journey that is the college basketball season. As I sit down to write this diary entry so much has happened.

Just last night, the New York Giants defeated the once undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Please note that although I am not a Giants fan, I may be as happy as the average New Yorker today because the 1972 Miami Dolphins remain the only unbeaten football team in NFL history. I have been a life-long Dolfan and can now rebut to my Bostonian friends that my beloved team still stands atop the mountain of the league’s greatest teams.

As they prepare the Giants ticker-tape parade just miles from my apartment, I learned that Texas Tech coach Bob Knight has just resigned his position effective immediately. As a coach, the respect I have for Coach Knight is tremendous. The world has formed so many differing opinions on the tact Coach Knight has used to instill his value system in his teams. The bottom line is the man is the all-time wins leader in Division I men’s basketball with 902 victories. The most remarkable thing about his record is that he has achieved this success without committing one NCAA rules infraction. You would grow tired trying to find one coach in today’s game who has not broken a single rule as it pertains to recruiting or eligibility.

Coach Knight is a pioneer in many areas of our profession. He was one of the very first coaches in history to employ a true motion offense based on read and react concepts. Coach Knight’s practice sessions are some of the most innovative and many coaches still employ a lot of the same drills today he invented over 30 years ago. Another lesser known fact is that Coach Knight invented the concept of drill station work while working the famed Five Star Basketball Camp in Honesdale, PA. Five Star is a camp I have worked and I feel so blessed to have been given the chance to walk the same paths and sweated on the same courts teaching the game that he had many years before.

Coach Knight will be missed by so many in our profession. I think over the next week, the rest of the world will learn just how influential he was to the lives of all of his players. Coach Knight is also responsible for me having my first temper tantrum over a basketball game in 1987. As a die-hard Syracuse Orange fan, Keith Smart made me cry for weeks after he hit that runner from the left baseline in the New Orleans Super Dome to give Knight his third national championship. I can only hope when I decide to retire, I will be fortunate enough to have given back to the game as much as Coach Knight has.

Our team just finished off another physically and emotionally draining week of competition. Last Thursday, we knocked off the University of New Haven in double overtime in front a capacity crowd on school spirit day. The win was so exciting for our players and coaches. The students actually rushed the floor as the final buzzer rang. I received so many calls and emails and personal visits from College staff members who thought it was one of the most exciting sporting events in school history. The win, our sixth of the season, eclipsed the final victory total (5) from a year ago as it looks like our program reclamation project is working. However, we stumbled at Dowling College over the weekend to bring us right back into a tie for the final playoff spot. I understand our kids are tired and played 90 minutes of basketball in 39 hours, but this is the time of year where you have to ignore fatigue and convince yourself how much better your body will feel when you win a conference championship. I have been hard on my players this season, but I believe our kids will outlast our opponents. So, I will not relent in our demands of work in the program. I am confident our hard work will pay off in winning time.

Until next week…We have just seven games remaining…Time if flying and I am still having fun!

DIARY ENTRY #13

February 2008

I write this week with such hope and optimism. Our group just captured two big wins over conference foes.

Last Wednesday, we were able to complete a season-sweep of Adelphi University with a win on the road. The sweep was the first in program history as well as the first ever win on our opponent’s home court since records had been kept officially. On Saturday, we said farewell to four seniors and propelled ourselves into the final post-season tournament spot by beating Molloy College in our final home contest of the season. The win was so impressive, as we posted 50 first half points en route to a 16-point margin of victory. This marked the first time all year that we won a game by double digits. I was in unfamiliar territory, as I actually had time to clear the bench and allow for a nice standing ovation for all four seniors.

This has been a truly exciting year for our program. We have been able to accomplish nearly all of our goals. We actually have an entire week off until we play again. With this time off, I have had time to do some reflecting on what this year has meant to all involved.

For one thing, as a coach, this is the most wins in a single-season I have ever had. I cannot say I have worked any harder this year as opposed to others; rather the hard work I have put in is starting to pay some dividends. I have learned so much this season. I have learned that sometimes your strengths as a coach “fit” better with certain personnel than others. I haven’t deviated much from my game planning and style of play from years past. This season I have a group that can execute the plays more consistently than the players I have had in the past.

Is it me or would all of the phenomenal freshmen we have witnessed this season be better served with another year in school? I have been a strong advocate for young athletes defecting to the NBA to make as much money as they will pay them. However, I have seen so many flaws in the overall games of so many of these proclaimed hardwood prodigies. I know Michael Beasley is putting up serious numbers at Kansas State and Eric Gordon of Indiana University is near impossible to guard with one player. Maybe it is my old age setting in…These kids are not ready to take on LeBron, Carmelo, or Kobe.

One theory I have is that the NBA itself is such a “young” league. When these kids leave after one year, they are joining downtrodden franchises that have rosters containing other barely 21-year-old players. So, the novelty of having the next young superstar in your city is not there. Also, the youth is served on the defensive end. Young legs are guarding other young legs. This was not the case a decade ago in the NBA.

I reference the resurgence of the Boston Celtics. Seems they are being carried by veterans who are on a mission to win a ring. Night in and night out, they are feasting on young and inexperienced teams who are just learning how to defend at the NBA level. I beg these fabulous frosh to stay for at least another year and keep our game at the collegiate level fun and exciting on a nightly basis.

Lastly, I want to call out Louisiana State University for firing John Brady at the beginning of the month. All Coach Brady did was reach the Final Four two years ago by knocking off some of the top programs in the country. He did all of this at a “football” school with kids who left for early entry into the NBA that same year. Coach Brady has no known recruiting infractions or cases of student-athlete misconduct. The institution had just gone through a media nightmare with the recent resignation of their head women’s basketball coach a year ago when it was insinuated she had been in a relationship with one of her players. This leaves me to ponder…What do schools want from their head coaches? Seems they may say they want a high graduation rate and their student-athletes to act in an appropriate manner, but once a coach starts to lose…The school moves briskly to make a “change.” Any wonder why coaches appear to be on edge all the time???

Go Mavericks!

Yours in Hoops,

Tony Staffiere