Feb. 3, 2003
Do you guys read that stuff? Does it bother you?
I've been asked that question a lot since I've been at Providence, and certainly a few times in the past month. The team isn't playing great and the fans are getting restless and everyone has their opinion about the job we are doing and what is wrong. These days with the Internet and sports radio, there are countless ways for people to make their points and express opinions.
I like it. I really do. I like the fact that people care enough about what we do and have passion for it. It's part of what we signed up for, especially at a place like Providence where the school and community are relatively small but we compete on a national stage. You can't say that it is great to have a super history and support with 7,000 season ticket holders and then complain when they are unhappy if the team isn't going well.
I'll never forget how good it felt two years ago when we got together in Alumni Hall for Selection Sunday. The energy and excitement was unbelievable. People would stop you on the street and shake your hand, congratulate you, tell you they loved to watch the team play. But you can't enjoy that and not expect there to be a flip side when things are going as well as you would like.
I've always said one of the special things about Providence Basketball is that people genuinely care about it. So when things aren't going well, there is going to be some heat. It is part of the deal.
Do I read the stuff in the papers? Of course I do. I've been reading the sports section of the paper since I was old enough to decipher a box score. Every Sunday I get the Globe as well as the Journal because it has a great sports section. Do you think I would stop reading it because there is stuff about us in it that might be negative?
When people are talking about the Friars on the radio, I like to hear what they say. I'm not a big sports radio fan personally because there is really no accountability or credibility issue - anyone can say whatever they want, whether it is based in fact or not. But when the Score is doing a college basketball show, I like to listen because I'm a college basketball fan.
I always get a kick out of people who say they don't ever read what is printed about them. Most people who are in athletics are also sports fans, and sports fans read the sports pages. I don't think that would change because the articles are actually about you in some way. It doesn't make sense. Now I don't ever bother with chat rooms or computer web sites because anyone can say anything they want without any factual backing or accountability for what they say. If Kevin McNamara writes an article in the journal, his name and picture are right next to it, and he has to stand by it. And if he writes something negative about us, so what? It's his right to have an opinion, so you leave it at that and you move on.
Does it bother me? No, it really doesn't. It can't. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and the fact that they care is great. Only two things really bother me - 1) If something is printed that is just not true, or 2) If someone is taking personal pot shots for no reason. As long as what is being written is not false, and it is not getting personal, it really doesn't bother me. Usually our coaching staff will joke around about it in a meeting or before practice.
It doesn't bother us because pressure is something we put on ourselves. We have high expectations for this program and for what we can accomplish, so when things aren't going well we feel accountable to ourselves. Our own pressure is something we deal with because we expect to be good, and we work hard at it. If we aren't, we work to correct it. Not because of public opinion, or pressure from boosters or the administration or anyone else. The high-pressure environment that we work in is because of our own expectations.
That being said, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves Saturday night against Virginia Tech. We had lost four straight league games, the last two coming in the closing minutes against Notre Dame and Miami. We played well enough to win in Miami and certainly felt like it was our game to have, but we didn't make the plays in the final 10 minutes. We didn't do a good enough job of forcing Rice to put the ball on the floor and we turned the ball over on a key possession late in the game. We came close, but coming close is not good enough.
Was the Virginia Tech game a "must win" game? You bet it was. I don't think we would have said so before hand - coaches never like to use the phrase "must win," because what do you tell your team if you lose? But we had to win that game, especially with the week we have ahead of us.
Our press gave us a lot of energy against Tech, and the crowd really sparked us after a slow start. We scrapped and toughed better than we have, and we saw some good results. In our last 3 games we've done a good job on the defensive end and on the boards, holding opponents to 63 ppg and out-rebounding them by 3. Those are good signs, but we still lost 2 of those 3 games.
There is not a lot of room for error this week. Pittsburgh is legitimately one of the best teams in the country. They lead the country in FG% and they're in the top 10 in FG % defense. They are as good as any team I have seen this year, and they have a brand new building that is sold out for the entire year and gives them a great home court advantage. We will have to play great to win. Marcus and Ryan have to do a great job on their inside guys, who shoot 64 and 78% respectively from the floor (yes, that did say 78% from the floor). And we will need a great team effort on the glass with all five guys going hard to the boards. Do you remember who our leading rebounder was against Virginia Tech? Donnie McGrath had 7. We will need our guards to help uout against Pitt.
After that it is UConn and a stretch of 5 games against our 5 East opponents, save Virginia Tech who we have already played twice. It's the heart of the Big East season, every game a new battle. It should be a fun week.