This loss isn’t like the losses that we’ve had in the past. Sure it hurts like the other ones but there are so many other feelings that are running through me. The two that stick out the most are disappointment and pride.
I’m disappointed that we are in the position we’re in with not having Coach Pearl, but I’m proud of how our coaching staff handled it. I’m disappointed in the way that we played for the majority of the game but I am proud of the way our players battled the last 7 minutes of the game.
Not having Coach Pearl around before the game for the first time was different. You could see it in the guys’ eyes this morning. But, I really thought Coach Jones did a great job. Prior to watching film in the morning team meeting, he told the team exactly what they could expect from the coaching staff. He started off by discussing how now that his role has changed to the Interim Head Coach, he must move from being more like a big-brother figure to more of a father figure to our players. After explaining the roles of Coach Forbes and Coach Shay, he moved to discussing what he expects from the players and it was simple: Passion, Poise and Purpose. All our guys are familiar with that, and it’s what Coach Pearl has instilled in this program from day one
Coach Jones’ pregame speech was heartwarming, passionate and motivating. He told our team that although he didn’t envision his chance at being a head coach to happen in this manner, it was something he always dreamed about and worked for. He went on to tell us how he always looked forward to the day his parents would be able to see him coach his own team, but that because of their sudden, unexpected and tragic deaths he couldn’t have them here with him during this special moment. He warned the team that he might shed a tear but that it was because he wanted this game so bad. He was going to give it all today for this team and for his loved ones. So, although I’m disappointed in the loss, I’m proud of the effort Coach Jones gave and the way he coached our basketball team.
As for the game, I was disappointed in the defensive effort we gave for a good portion of the game but proud of the way we responded when we got down 11. We worked our butts off defensively, battled back and gave ourselves a chance to tie it up at the buzzer. However, because we continually left the spoon-feed dunk as we helped up on penetration, had too many unforced turnovers, missed late free throws and rarely got a loose ball (what we call a 50/50 ball) we got our 5th loss of the season.
The locker room after the game was one of the more somber regular-season locker rooms I have been a part of. The players and our staff wanted this win bad. We wanted it so that we could keep progressing toward our goals, for Coach Pearl and for our fans. But it didn’t happen. The first thing Coach Jones said was he asked the players “Did you play the first 33 minutes with the same effort you did the last 7?” After some guys said no, he asked “Why not?” When you lose to a team you’re more talented than, it hurts. It hurts bad. It’s unacceptable. I don’t care what profession you’re in or what you are trying to accomplish, if you consistently work harder than your opponent you will eventually pass the less hungry, passionate, dedicated person on your way to the top. Some people will start ahead of you because of God-given talents or unforeseen circumstances but those can and are surpassed by those who give great effort daily. Our talent giving great effort at the start of the season got us off to a 7-0 start, but right now because we are not matching or exceeding the effort of our opponent, we are getting beat.
With lengthy film sessions, intense practices and extra preparation we will work to get better before Florida comes to town on Tuesday night. This game is huge and due to my disappointment in our play and pride in the University, our program and our fan base, I can assure you that we will work our butts off to be as prepared as possible for the Gators.