I must admit my first year as an assistant coach at Lander University spoiled me. We started the season 13-0 which was the best start in Lander’s history. It was an exciting time to be apart of the program. After that season I remember telling my peepers that I have been spoiled. I know it’s not like this every year.
Well, within a few months my life changed drastically. By June of that year, I found myself and Jeff Burkhamer sitting in an office at the University of West Florida trying to put a team together in a few weeks. I went from coaching a team that was heavy contenders for a conference championship to coaching a team that ended their season 2-18. Went from contending to rebuilding. Not spoiled anymore.
Rebuilding a program is an experience that has been beneficial to my growth as a coach. The 2015-16 campaign was full of heart breaks as we lost 9 games by a few possessions. Learning to help the players get up the next day to continue to work was a humbling experience. Our coaching staff worked hard everyday because we understood that the hard work would pay off.
The dynamics of a team during a losing team is very fragile. Players and coaches can start to point figures and put blame on others. We preached how important it was to stay together through the process and to keep working. Learning to deal with the players during defeat is important because they put so much of the blame on themselves. Then they beat themselves up which can damage their confidence. In basketball, confidence is a major aspect to succeeding. I found it important to have dyadic conversations with them. Wanted to know why they thought we were losing and converse with them about ways to fix the problem.
Throughout the year, I focused on being the positive voice and continued to preach about how hard work pays off. Credit the players because they continued to work hard and finished the season winning last 4 out 7 games.
Now we look ahead to the next year and have an opportunity to turn the program around. We have a strong recruiting class and bring back a great group of men. Its time for everyone to buy into the process and believe that the University of West Florida basketball will be a consistent winning program.