Bumped. A good discussion topic. Go Bruins. [DC]
There's been a lot of talk here about this team having met the minimum preseason expectations set for it. For some, that may be true.
Not for me.
This team, this coach and this staff did not meet my preseason expectations.
Before today, I never got into the "expectations" discussions because, in my mind, expectations are not objective -- they are subjective.
With no disrespect intended toward any poster here, even though we challenged for the Pac 10 championship and are going to the tournament, I do not think our players coach or staff have had a successful season. Said another way, they have not met my expectations.
I am old -- and, therefore, old school. Although I understand the value of setting quantifiable expectations -- like "20 wins and a tourney bid" or "Pac 10 championship", I choose not to use such standards to set my expectations or define "success".
My standard is simple:
Success is the peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming. -- John Wooden
That is all I "expect" of every Bruin team in every sport. Whatever the talent level, whatever the context or circumstances, I expect us to live up to Coach's standard.
That will account for teams that have serious injuries, face bad officiating, or are matched against better talent -- all of which we have had this year.
I am prepared to lose. I am not prepared to lose playing at a level lower than that of which we are capable.
By this standard, many of our players, our coach, and our staff have failed. Because it is clear to me, that we rarely did our best or played to our capabilities.
I do not care how many games we win, or conference titles for which we compete -- if we win those games or titles playing without the intensity, focus, control and team play that are defined in the pyramid.
It is easy to win 20 games. You simply take an extremely talented team and have it play poorly 1/3 of the time. Or, in our case, have it play just enough excellent minutes to win games that should never have been close or in question.
Interestingly, Dan Guerrero embraced a subjective standard when he fired CTS -- "I want a team that will fire out on every play." (paraphrase) And, as upset with our football program as I am, I think they came closer to his standard during their season than did our basketball team.
I think we have talented basketball players who, on paper, are a level above their counterparts on the football team.
Why have the basketball players performed so poorly?
Much has been written about that on BN for the past few years and there is no reason to go into it, in depth, again.
But, it seems clear to me that we are failing on the "mental" side of the game -- we have talent that is not playing up to its potential.
That is on the players. And, their teachers.
They are both failing. The players simply do not demonstrate, on a consistent basis, a commitment to the principles of the Pyramid. And, the coaches seem incapable of teaching them to do so. To me teaching is far more than X and O. Great teachers, like Coach, inspire. They inspire players who love them and want to please them. And, they inspire players who do not love them, but respect them enough to understand that greatness lies at the end of Coach's advice.
Our players do not show that they get it -- that they cannot claim satisfaction in the "win/loss" column, or in a tournament "seed" -- that satisfaction comes from within.
And, our coaches do not show that they are capable of teaching our students to get it.
Incorporating the greatness of UCLA is more than wearing a little pyramid on one's sleeve. In fact, I find it insulting that with the Pyramid on our uniforms, with those 4 letters on our chests, we play down from our potential, most of the time.
The Pyramid is a way of life, not a fashion accessory. Maybe, people should have to earn the right to wear it like warriors earn the right to wear battle ribbons.
I, for one, do not think we have earned a right to go to the tournament. Not that we will not be competitive. But, that we are not playing successfully, as Coach defined it. The tournament should be a reward for a successful season. We do not deserve that reward.
Thinking about this all season long, as "expectations" have been discussed has been very difficult for me.
I really like Coach Howland, the person. I say it often, he "gets" UCLA in ways that no other coach in the country can or will. And, he truly understands the Pyramid. My concern is the apparent disconnect between his substantive knowledge and his ability to convey it in an inspirational way. Like many teachers, he probably needs a particular type of student to fully appreciate and learn from him. He needs to get back to recruiting those kids of students.
And, I really like our players. The problem is that I like them more off the court than I do on it. They represent us well. In every interview with every one of them, I am impressed by how articulate and perceptive they seem to be. Compared to most athletes, ours shine. And, I like their distinct personalities.
And, I see the good and potential in them on the court, too. I have been a Reeves Nelson fan from Day 1; his passion and emotion, even if not fully controlled (see "Emotions" in the Pyramid), are the foundation for greatness. I like Tyler Honeycutt's pure love of playing the game; I've compared him to Josh Shipp, who I also liked; this should be fun and there is nothing wrong with smiling if one is playing well; it is a manifestation of "success". Malcolm and Zeek have played their hearts out -- even when hurt; Zeek has probably come as close to "success" as anyone on this team. Josh is young and on his way; I admire his ability to play with people hanging on or hacking him at every turn; it would be easy to quit, as Shaq ultimately did; but, he needs the focus that will come from seasoning -- he will be a "success" with time. Jerime and Anthony Stover have shown both improvement and ego control; they have made the most of their time; like everyone else, I am pleased (and relieved) that Jerime has finally got "it".
So, with a coach I love and players I admire, a team that competed for the Pac 10 title and earned a tourney birth, how dare I say that this team did not meet "expectations"?
Because we could and should have been so much more.
And, to claim "success" without looking at the way we played is to ignore the teachings that made UCLA special. We are John Wooden's school. We do not define "success" in wins or losses -- Coach never did. We define it in terms of the peace of mind one gets from playing to one's full potential. We have not done that.