April 1, 2018
Last year, I described Hofstra’s 2016-17 season with one word: underperformance. Here are some of my bullet pointers from last year.
- Once again (as with last year) defense was woefully weak.
- Once again, bench help was essentially non-existent.
- Sabathy (the reserve center) was underutilized.
- Rokas had a disappointing season; his defense play was often missing and also had a poor shooting season.
- Foreman emerged as a force to be reckoned with the next two years.
- The club lacked a floor leader.
- I don’t see a leader emerging next year; this should be potentially worrisome.
- Hire an assistant coach to help reduce/eliminate defensive problems.
- STOP playing zone; Wisconsin had several players who couldn’t guard one-on-one and yet played a solid man-to-man defense.
- Recruit players who play stellar defense.
- Although the team’s goal should be to win games, the ultimate goal is to win the CAA tournament – and that should be reflected in the team’s philosophy and overall preparation during the season.
- Players should understand that the magic word in defense is INTENSITY! And this is where bench help comes into play.
Here are some earlier comments on defense that appeared in my BASKETBALL COACHING 101 book. “The author repeatedly told basketball aficionados that defense is 50% of the game. And every individual has responded with something to the effect: ‘of course, I (or we) know that’. But really? Who believes them? After all, from the first day a player is introduced to basketball, offense has been stressed. The novice is taught and/or learns how to shoot, dribble, pass, etc. Defense was almost always an afterthought. In fact, the author has repeatedly claimed that it is great guards that get a team to a championship game, but it is great defensive guards that win championships. It is their ability to create havoc on the opponent’s offense that makes the difference.”
“How important is defense? Here is a case in point. Stevie Mejia served as the point (or 1) guard for the 2012-2013 Hofstra team. Some in press row commented on several occasions that Stevie wasn’t playing to his full potential. What they were referring to was his scoring. Yet during the season, he stopped the star guards Scott Machado and Michael Alvarado of Iona and Manhattan College, respectively, COLD! These two players were projected first-round and second-round picks, respectively. Interestingly, Hofstra lost three games during the 2013-2014 season because of an inability to stop the star guard of the opposing team.”
Here was my earlier analysis for the team this year. “They legitimately have a chance to be the premier team in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). But I believe that many of my earlier concerns have carried over to this year, particularly a porous defense. I hope not. On the positive side is Coach Joe Mikalich. He is capable of turning things around if he opts for a man-to-man defense and commits to something more than a 6-man rotation.”
“As for predications, it will probably be another mediocre year for three reasons:
- Their defense remains unexplainably weak at times, allowing the opposing team to take layup practice during the course of the game.
- The team is devoid of a shot blocker, adding to their defensive woes.
- Player attitude problems may have surfaced.
Bottom Line: I’m not too optimistic; hopefully, I’m wrong. The talent is there, but…”
Well, what about this year? They had close to a dream team – Rokas (leading rebounder in the country), Foreman–Wright (CAA Player of Year), Pemberton…etc. It was indeed a dream team, but perhaps from an offensive perspective. They went 19-12 and finished third in the CAA. Scoring during the season was not a problem but they were consistently inconsistent when it came to defense. Still, they had a good shot to win the CAA tournament and go on to the NCAA tournament. What happened? They played one of the weakest teams in the CAA at the start of the tournament and lost 93-88, unable to guard the opposition star who scored 37 points. I mean, this other “weak” team scored nearly 100 points. The offensive scoring machine in this year’s NCAA tournament average under 70 points/game. If that’s not the icing on the cake with regard to defense, I don’t know what is. Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call, but I doubt it.
What’s the bottom line regarding Hofstra’s defense? Lowly Wilmington scored 50% above the average scoring of the other 3 quarterfinal games in their game against Hofstra. Do you need anything more? 50% more than the other teams were scoring!! You want more? The next night Wilmington scored 52 points (not 93!) and lost by 27 points. Obviously, the Hofstra players were either never taught how to play defense or don’t care to play defense or don’t realize the importance of defense…or some combination of the above. It’s time for the Hofstra team and Coach Mikalich to rethink their approach to defense; I doubt the end result will change next year unless some action on defense is implemented.
The NY Dodger fans’ motto during the 1950s was: wait till next year. And, indeed, they will have to wait till next year. Next year will bring forth a powerhouse group of guards that will need to be supplemented with a shot-blocking big man who can play defense. But, they will also need to help in two more areas: play a solid defensive guard and stop playing zone defense.
Finally, it is business as usual with the NCAA and, in particular, college basketball. The Feds have now accused numerous key individuals associated with the sport with wrong doings. Yet, nothing has been done and no one really expects anything to be done. There was absolutely no mention of the scandals during any of the NCAA Tournament games or any of the analysis programs, even though all of the participants were aware of the scandals–with the knowledge that there were more on the horizon. CORRUPTION REIGNS! In case you missed it, loveable Rick Pitino has asked for another chance. In the spirit of Easter, I suggest he be brought back to basketball to coach at the J.V. high school level where he will not be in a position to further embarrass our sport.
It was 14 year ago when I started clamoring that the NCAA’s concept of the student-athlete was one of the all-time great scams perpetrated on the public. The NCAA corruption is a cancer that will not go away because of the money involved, and, nearly everybody now knows it. Look for some massive changes (coaches, ADs, presidents, etc.) in the coming months as the rats scurry to the foothills. It will take some time, but ultimately the disgraceful “coaching legends” – Pitino, Calipari, Williams, Smith, Izzo, Calhoun, Boeheim, Krzyzewski, etc. – will hopefully get their due, even though they are/were caught up in a system that requires them to lie, deceive, manipulate, etc., in order to survive. And, wait until the football bubble bursts; it will be worse than the basketball scams.
In the meantime, coaches like Bob McKillop (Davidson), Jim Jones (Yale), DeChellis (Navy), etc., remain on the sidelines in semi-obscurity even though they are legitimately the true legends of the game. In fact, I continue to claim that BMCK is the premiere coach in the country because of what he has been able to accomplish while playing by the rules.
On a sad side, Jeff Hathaway—one of the good guys in our sport—has resigned (?) as AD, and Rick Cole will be replacing him. President Rabinowitz tells us that Cole is “the one to take us to the next level.” I can guarantee both of them that the next level will not become a reality in Hofstra’s mens basketball future unless defensive issues are addressed . . . immediately . . . and you can take that to the bank.
P.S. A 13 member class headlined the 2018 Basketball Hall of Fame inductees, including such “greats” as Katie Smith, Charlie Scott, Rod Thorn, Lofty Driesell, Tina Thompson, Rick Welts, Dino Radja, and Ora Washington. And how did my nominations–Jack Powers (NIT), Eddie Corbett (referee), and BMCK (coach) fare? You guessed it. They simply don’t fit into the HOF committee’s concept of legends. Some of those selected are embarrassing. Nearly everybody told me that the selection process was a joke. I now have come to believe this as fact. Sad Stuff!
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