College basketball has been a treasure in Philly for over 50 years. To play a small part is very humbling. Thanks to the Daily News for allowing the Hawks to share our perspective through this blog throughout the year.
Practice started on Oct. 18, but truth be told, the planning and scheming in my program began last April. Always assessing returning players’ strengths and weaknesses on and off the court, wondering what skills the new guys will bring, how does the A-10 stack up and how are the other teams in Philly are improving.
When school opened I knew that our older guys were carrying themselves with an air of confidence – NCAA Tournament appearance and an Atlantic 10 Tournament run along with signature wins over Xavier and Villanova – and at the same time a degree of uncertainty – why the lulls after going 15-5, what happened in letting the A-10 title slip through our grasp, how to score enough points without Rob Ferguson and Pat Calathes.
The other faction – our young guys – arrived on campus with great appreciation and respect for the opportunity they had been given. No sense of entitlement but a real sense of excitement.
The casual fan doesn’t realize the sacrifices that go with being a Division I player. Our guys get up every day in September and October to a schedule that includes early a.m. workout skill instruction, classes, study hall, tutors and pickup games. I’m very conscious to not wanting to burn them out so I closed our gym (in this year’s situation our beautiful practice facility, next year the Hagan Arena) every Wednesday and Sunday. The preparation for the opening of practice takes place with little or no fanfare but is invaluable to building our team.
Christmas Day for coaches comes early when we hear the sneakers on the hardwood, the bounce of the ball and the sound of the buzzers. Each of us wants to be seen as a teacher – the label may be “coach” but the job description screams “teacher”. The goal is not to have our players pass the class but rather to get A’s (or the occasional B). The teaching portions of our class are coming to an end. It is now time to take the tests – all of the programs in this city have prepared and are anxious.
Good luck for an injury free season!
Let the games begin!