VALPARAISO | Most coaches head back to the drawing board following four losses in the last five games, especially when the latest loss produced a season-low 45 points on national television.
Valparaiso’s recent struggles have instead sent third-year coach Bryce Drew to the bookshelf where he has spent time reading “The Greatest Coach Ever: Timeless Wisdom and Insights of John Wooden.”
The book’s opening chapter has given Drew some solace as he attempts to rationalize the ups and downs of a season where he has been forced to return to preseason teaching techniques.
“John Wooden said it best when he said ‘We tend to forget that all good things take time,’” Drew said. “It took two of the greatest coaches ever – Tom Landry (Dallas Cowboys) and John Wooden (UCLA) – some time to get to that point. Landry never won more than five games in his first five seasons, and Wooden took 14 years to win a championship. The best things take time.”
Although he was referencing coaches, Drew’s history lesson was more about his current team than it was about himself. The Crusaders are a combination of inexperienced seniors and even more inexperienced freshmen. Trying to find the right balance on the floor has been Drew’s season-long task, and the process has at times produced interesting results.
Bobby Capobianco was relegated to nothing more than a disappearing act against Wright State on Friday as the senior played a season-low three minutes in a 62-45 loss. Jordan Coleman and Lexus Williams combined for 23 points in the first half against Oakland and then played a combined 19 minutes with just two shot attempts in the second half as the Crusaders fell 75-70.
The starting lineup has been a revolving door this season as nine players have started multiple games. Before this season, Drew only had eight players who had started multiple games in his first two seasons. If history is any indication, there will be another change to the starting lineup for tonight’s Horizon League game at Detroit. Drew made changes after a three-game losing streak earlier this season and a two-game losing skid heading into conference play. The changes resulted in victories in both instances.
“We evaluate everything after a loss,” Drew said. “We evaluate everything regardless if we win or lose, and we’re usually coming back to the same answer. The best solution is that we just need to get better. We’re reverting back to some of the things we did in the preseason. We’re concentrating on ourselves right now and getting better. It takes time.”
The challenge for the Crusaders tonight will be avoiding what has plagued the team in the last two trips to Calihan Hall as well as what was their undoing against Wright State: a double-digit, first-half deficit. Valparaiso needed Will Bogan’s seven 3-pointers and a buzzer-beating layup from Erik Buggs to recover from a 12-point deficit against the Titans two years ago. Last season the Crusaders scored the final 12 points to win 89-88 after trailing by 18 points at halftime.
“I think the reality is that we can’t dig ourselves that big of a hole,” Drew said. “We’ve battled back before, but we’d rather not be in that position. It’s very difficult to make multiple big runs like that in a game.”