Having spent 20 years living on a farm, I think I understand the difference between house cats (the weakest sub-species of which is the Lap Cat) and barn cats.
You cannot teach a lap cat to be a barn cat. It just doesn't work. Once accustomed to the cushy life, I don't think cats toughen up. And, barn cats don't want to come inside. No room for their swagger and aggression on a couch.
So, when you need a barn cat -- you recruit a barn cat. You get a cat from a farmer down the road -- a cat born in the barn that has shown barn tendencies. You don't go to a cushy pet store and buy a cat that has been coddled all of its life. You don't get one from the litter of a show cat.
My best barn cats just showed up and stayed. They really wanted to be on my farm, were talented, but not heavily recruited.
I'm wondering if our problem doesn't stem from the fact that we've been recruiting lap cats -- kids who get acclaim and privilege, kids whose natural talent has led them to be coddled by high schools, AAU teams and sycophants throughout their careers. They've been told they are blue ribbon cats and simply expect to continue to hear the accolades.
There have been blue ribbon kids who come with a strong work ethic -- both of the AA's are the primary examples -- but where are those kids on this team? Zeke seems to be one of them. Brendan Lane always plays hard if not well.
So why aren't we getting more barn cat players? Is it that hard to tell the character of a recruit BEFORE making an offer? I can't see that it would be. In job interviews, it's usually not that hard to spot the people who walk the walk rather than talk the talk. Are we relying to heavily on "star" ratings and not enough on our ability to judge intensity, commitment and work ethic?
Much is being said about CBH's inability to motivate this team (and last year's) to play a complete, intense game.
I'm beginning to think that's not the issue. You can't motivate a lap cat to be a mouse killer. It knows it doesn't have to kill the mouse to survive. So, it will play with the mouse, lose interest, and climb back on the couch.
CBH's style of basketball demands barn cats. He had them at Pitt and thrived when he had them here. He is a tough coach whose defensive schemes require complete and total commitment to stopping the man you are guarding ALL OF THE TIME. How fondly I look back at AA's statement that he took it personally when his opponent scored. Personally. Like a barn cat that inadvertently lets a mouse get away.
Last night, you could hear CBH calling for intensity. Exhorting his team to play harder. The game before, he broke a clipboard.
The problem is, it may be too late for him to make those demands. Lap cats don't have the killer instinct needed to lock down and play a full 40 minutes.
From all we've seen, these are good kids. Bright and articulate.
But, they do not play with the level of intensity and commitment necessary to be winners.
And, I think a lot of that is on them. If they don't want to be barn cats, so be it. I don't think CBH can change them.
But, the next time he goes out looking for cats that will kill the mice, he might look a bit harder at the cats he is recruiting. It's not hard to spot a lap cat IF you are a perceptive buyer. If CBH cannot tell the difference between a lap cat and a barn cat, it may be time for him to go.
On the sidelines, he can waive his arms and shout all he wants. But, during a game it's too late. The cat either wants to eat the mouse or it doesn't. And, we seem to have a nucleus of players who are to well fed to feast on mice.