Editorial: On Being Not Happy

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“If you’re disappointed by a 12 point win, I do not think you will find joy in this game.  That would suck.”

That’s what Alan Boston e-mailed me after last weeks win over UNCW.  I was upset that the Dragons hadn’t given UNCW the beatdown that both Alan and I thought they would have.  The game was a great spot for the Dragons, returning home after a long road swing and playing the conferences most porous defense.  And they did win by twelve, covering the Vegas expectations and having a good day at the office overall.  My disappointment was less about expectations and much more about seeing whether this team could make the jump into the high end of second tier teams in the CAA.  I didn’t think after that game that this team was there yet.

Alan has a point, that double digit wins are to be enjoyed in Division I basketball, there’s not an easy game in Division I basketball.  But, in a must read article I’ve been referring to all year long, Ken Pomeroy had a point that wins are one of the most overrated statistics when evaluating D-I programs.  A win will move you up and down the standings and make you eligible for postseason play, which isn’t to be undervalued, but how the team gets to that win can tell you so much more about the team and the program.

I don’t want to be unhappy.  I don’t want people at Drexel to be unhappy.  Except right now, I’m unhappy.  And on Saturday Coach Spiker wasn’t happy.  And his unhappiness…  It made me happy. Quote it and pin it, Dan Crain said it out loud.  But in this, as in everything, context is key.  And don’t say this too loudly, and he’ll never admit it, but it appears the guy in charge of this ship appears to agree.

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The Dragons scored 84 points against the best scoring defense in the CAA on Saturday.  College of Charleston had been allowing just 65 points a game, and only once this season had they given up more than 84 points.  That was when they visited first place Hofstra, and gave up 86.  The scoring from Drexel in this game was on par with what a top 50 offense in the country might score against Charleston, if that team played well.  For a Dragons team that is trying to find the next level, it could have been viewed as awesome.  And so in the press conference, I asked Coach Spiker his thoughts on the output.  And his thoughts?

“We had 15 turnovers so we should have scored more.”

I love it.  I do.  Yes, this was off a tough loss, but his offense had just done something that almost no other team had done all year, and Coach Spiker was unhappy.  He followed up:  “We go back and look at the quality of our shots, so I can’t give you an honest answer about that right now.  It’s too soon and there’s too many competitive juices flowing right now, I’m best not talking [right now].”

And here is the truth of this game against Charleston.  Yes, the Dragons put up a monster number in the points column.  But just as wins can be misleading, so can points.  The Dragons turned the ball over more in this game than in any other game in league play.  And while they did get into the paint in the second half, their most efficient plays were Troy Harper three point shots and free throws.  The Dragons were perfect from the line.  All great performances on this day, no question.  But as a coach, if you want to create a consistent top tier offense, relying on free throw line perfection and a career 29% three point shooter to shoot contested threes at a 60% clip is not a winning strategy.  Coach Spiker didn’t even need to see the tape to know that those 84 points were as fluky as they were great.  And so when he was asked about what some people would see as one of the great offensive performances of his teams season, he picked his words carefully.

I don’t want people at Drexel to be unhappy.  I believe there will be a day where this program is successful in all facets, and so many people will have so much to be proud of when that day comes.  But if someone was to walk up and talk about attendance being positive on Saturday, when the reason that attendance was increased is because the building was half full of Charleston fans, I’m going to wish they were unhappy with the attendance.  In the long term, the school will only be successful when they draw a crowd of Drexel fans that consistently come to each game, as opposed to out of town fans that will come for a single game.   And when Drexel puts up a crazy offensive performance because the team is raining contested threes, I’m going to wish that the coach is unhappy, because that may work for one game, but it won’t work for many others.

And Coach Spiker wasn’t happy!  He wanted more from his offense, he thinks they should have scored more points, on a day which many others would have considered a huge offensive win.  He was as open and honest as he will get about this.

So Alan, I’ve found joy.  This team is being coached by a guy who doesn’t evaluate the shot on whether it goes in, but rather by whether it should have been taken.  Like Ken Pomeroy noted, worrying about the how, and not the outcome, is the key to winning.  That key is being unlocked at Drexel, right there on Sam Cozen Court.

It’s a Great Day to Be a Dragon.

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