Dec. 16, 2002
With 11 days in between games and final exams for all of our guys, we try and balance staying sharp and in shape with plenty of time to study and days off to allow them to focus on their schoolwork.
On Friday I was in the gym with Rome and Marcus who had come by to get some treatment in the training room and take a few shots on an off day. The door to the gym swung open and in walked Marvin Barnes with a few young kids from his neighborhood. He came by to say hello and talked with Rome and Marcus for a little bit.
About 20 minutes later, Rome was shooting some jump shots and the gym door opened again. In walked Ernie D., and he went over and started casually talking to Rome.
I sat there thinking to myself, man, this is pretty cool. Where else do you have two guys who were as good as Marvin and Ernie and living legends at their school coming by to see the team and speak with the guys?
I started thinking about a conversation I had with another assistant coach at the Final Four a couple of years ago. Without naming the school, he worked at a large state school in one of the 6 major conferences. This school played high major football and was located in a very good area for basketball recruiting, as well as having an on campus arena that provided a solid home court advantage.
They were having trouble having success at this school, and he started talking to me about a lot of the little things that made it difficult to recruit to the school. Basketball wasn't the number one sport on campus, the campus was very large and spread out, making it difficult for guys to get to class, fan support wasn't that great - a lot of things that you didn't really think about that made it difficult for them.
That conversation made me think about the reasons why Providence Basketball has thrived over the years, and seeing Ernie and Marvin in the gym on Friday made me think about it again. When we first arrived at PC, it seemed like people always talked about the school's limitations, the things we don't have. But when you walk down the hall outside our office, the great tradition of Providence basketball envelops you.
Everyone that is a part of the PC community talks about it as a special place, but what are the little things that make it so? Why don't we talk more about the positive things that allow PC basketball to continue with its great tradition?
I've only been here for 4 ½ years and I didn't go to school at PC, so many others might be more qualified, but I have thought long about it so here is my take.
It sounds simple, but it is really true. PC basketball really matters to people in this area. It matters to you if you are reading this. That is why you always want to know how Marcus Douthit is doing, why you cheer when we make the extra pass for the open shot, why some of you know more about our recruits than I do. It's also why you get upset when we lose to URI.
There are a lot of people who genuinely care about our kids and our program, and it is very important to us. I'll give you a couple of examples.
Our first year here we played Purdue in the Civic Center when they were ranked in the top ten. Karim Shabazz had decided to transfer from Florida State and we had him up to visit campus for that game. We played very well and beat Purdue in a battle, and the Civic Center was rocking. There were over 11,000 fans in the building and the passion was evident. It really mattered to everyone that we won that game, and it showed. It was obvious to Bazz, and he committed to us shortly thereafter and was one of the rocks on our 2001 NCAA Tournament team.
When we have recruits in on official visits, they have plenty of time to spend with our guys, and inevitably they end up spending some time at the mall. When Dwight Brewington is in on a visit and goes downtown to spend some time with John Linehan and Marcus Douthit they are constantly getting stopped by people who want autographs or just want to say good luck. It's clear to Dwight, as he's visiting, that he is going to be a part of something much bigger than him. It is a program that matters to people, and it is special to be a part of. It is special for our players and our recruits can feel it when they visit.
In good times or bad, when things are going great or not so well and you may love us or hate us, it matters to you. And that is important to us.
Tradition is a word you hear a lot in college sports, but what does it really mean? I was always skeptical about how much a "great tradition" actually helped your program. Sure it was nice to look back on teams and players that were good, but tradition didn't help you win any games.
I've learned a lot about tradition since I've been at PC. The names are unbelievable. Gavitt, Mullaney, Pitino, The Walk, Ernie D., Stacom, Barnes, Hassett, Croshere, Murdock, Linehan. But a lot of places have great names. What does tradition really mean?
Tradition is Marvin Barnes stopping by the gym to say hello. Tradition is when Ernie D. is on Mullaney Court with Rome on a Friday afternoon. I have no idea what they talked about, but here is one of the best college point guards to ever play the game taking his sport coat off and putting it on the gym floor so he can take a few shots with Rome while they talk. Tradition is when John Linehan is struggling a little bit, and Joe Hassett shoots some jumpers with them and raps about the game at a shootraound on the road. I mean, how about a guy who went on to win an NBA championship and now has a very successful career and a great family who still travels with us to every game to do the radio because he bleeds PC black and white?
I thought about this again on Friday when I saw Ernie D. with Rome. Tradition at Providence College is alive, because these people genuinely care about the school and the program. They understand how important both were in their success, so they want to try and help continue that great tradition.
Did you know that Providence College is the smallest school as far as enrollment of any of the schools in the 6 high major conferences? Did you know that if you cut any other Big East school's enrollment in half, PC would still be the smallest school?
Okay, if you clicked on this article, you probably did know that. As a matter of fact, if you are still reading this article, I'm sure you knew that - either that or you are related to me.
Publicly it seems like size has been used as a negative factor for PC, and in some ways it does limit what you can do compared to a Pittsburgh or a Syracuse. But practically the size of the school can really be a big positive for us. It is great to be able to tell a recruit and his parents that he will get "big-time basketball in a small school atmosphere." That means the kids will get one on one attention if they need it in the classroom, and plenty of support from everyone on campus. The other students, other coaches, professors, administrators and staff know who they are and can get to know them well.
Last year one of our players was struggling a little bit in one of his classes. Our office of academic services had let me know about his difficulties and he was set up with a tutor. But the professor took it one step further. He actually came over to practice and sat down and watch the last 45 minutes or so. Afterwards he grabbed me and mentioned that the student was struggling, but already had a plan on how to work it out. We called the player over and the three of us had a conversation. The professor wanted to meet individually with the student on a weekly basis to go over the notes he was taking and make sure he understood the material from the class.
At a bigger school, do you think the professor is going to stroll by practice to have a conversation with both the player and the staff about his progress? This way there was no miscommunication about what was happening or needed to happen. The people at PC take a genuine interest in their students, not just the student-athletes. They get to know with them, they work with them, and they really help them develop and mature.
Of course, there are plenty of other factors that go into being successful. Great people, great coaches and great players, without a doubt. But there are a lot of little things that are very positive that go into the mix that I think often are overlooked.
It's been a positive break for finals, and now we have three days to crank it up for a very tough Richmond team coming in on Thursday. They really do a great job on the defensive end and make it very tough for you to score, so we will need to be on top of our game to win. We follow that with a great trip to Alabama to play one of the best teams in the country - the single digit number to the left of their name tells you all you need to know about how good they are.
Two games that should really help us prepare for our 16 league games. We really need to make the plane ride on Friday a pleasant one with a win on Thursday night.