As much as I love football, basketball is my real passion. So it is with frustration that I have watched our bball team struggle mightily this year. But my frustrations lie primarily outside the win / loss column. I believe in John Wooden’s definition of success "Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."This is not to say that wins, conference crowns, and NCAA banners are not important. What I’m saying is before any of that is possible we must play to our true potential and play hard for the four letters. I have largely seen neither this year. How many 50/50 loose balls has the opposing team came up with? 60%, maybe 70%. Ben ball warriors have always OWNED those loose balls because they have passion and they wanted it more. In short, they went and got it. Period. We have seen unskilled players like Mata dive on the floor and future NBA players like RW and AA play every play like it was their last. That is true success, and that success did translate into victories and Final Four’s. With the exception of RN, and possibly MR, who else can claim that they are performing to the best of their God given abilities? I understand that we are young but that is only a lame excuse for failing to achieve true Wooden success. Youth has nothing to do with playing without passion, nor does it give cover when you play below your potential.
Having said all of that it bring us to an uneasy question for those that support CBH. Why has this group of players demonstrated such a lack of poise, fundamentals, game sense, and dare I say it…heart?
More after the jump.
Success begins with the coach who must instill this drive into his players. It would seem that so far CBH has failed here and must bear complete responsibility. However, I would argue that he should only shoulder half the blame. To his fault, he has not modified his approach to the new and different personnel he has this year. There is no one size fits all approach to teaching the game and guiding young student athletes. Second, there must be a level playing field of consequences. The players must know that everyone is held accountable – on every rotation, on every play. Pulling the freshman for missing one assignment and allowing ND to jog down on defense after shooting another forced brick sends the wrong message and causes leaks in the passion bucket’s of other players. Our young players are especially impressionable and CBH cannot allow them to see a senior awarded with huge minutes when he plays like a $C player. Nevertheless, our team has shown significant improvement over the past two games. We are playing harder and seem to be headed in a positive direction. CBH may be letting go of his stubbornness to running a zone, but until he benches JA and ND for their lackluster (at best) play then we can rightly cite his stubborn approach as a factor in our struggles.
On the flip side the players must share the other half of the responsibility for bringing some measure of shame to our program this year. If CBH was able to reach RN from day one and show him how to play like a warrior, what excuse do the others have? Especially JA and ND who have been in the program longer. Moreover, our players are not at $C. They are intelligent enough to know what is expected and understand directions. When you play at UCLA under CBH the expectations are clear – play defense, play hard, play with a warrior's heart….however if ND is continually awarded with big minutes then that expectation becomes lost and our program will find itself in real trouble.
In closing I am optimistic about this year and do believe we can move forward and achieve real success as we put team over individual, play with heart, and reach our true potential. I especially have high hopes for MR, ML, and TH finding true Wooden success and being Benball warriors EVERY night. Finally, we must never compare CBH to Lavin. Whatever you say about CBH he has shown nothing but total class and represented our University better than Lavin, and many others, ever did. We can all complain about his reluctance to make in game adjustments, run out of timeouts at critical junctures, etc but let us never disparage him by comparing him to Lavin.