Losing is brutal. It makes almost everything except seeing my wife and 3-month-old daughter miserable. The coffee doesn’t taste as good in the morning, watching Sportscenter is awful and it seems our play is all anyone wants to talk about. What’s wrong with the team? How’s Coach Pearl handling being away? You guys really need to try this….? Although tough at times, I can handle all that. My parents always taught me that if you are going to accept recognition during times of success you have to be willing to absorb the criticism during times of adversity. However, while getting a haircut I got asked a question that in my 15 some odd years playing being around basketball I never got asked before. This question hurt my pride and still eats at me.
After I had been sitting in the chair at the barbershop for a good 15 minutes discussing our basketball team, NBA trades and Saturday’s game vs. Vanderbilt with the 4 other gentlemen there, the blow finally came. Do your guys have any heart? BAM! I swear it was like being punched in the face. I rather be called ugly, dumb, etc., than have someone question the heart of something that I am a part of. Questioning the heart of someone is questioning their manhood and doubting their character. I immediately turned around in my chair and adamantly answered this elder gentlemen’s question with a zealous yes sir!
Although we lost on Tuesday night, I felt we played much, much better. Our guys played their butts off against a very good Florida team which was picked to win the SEC. Did we make some plays that prevented us from winning that basketball game? Sure. Are we 0-2 in the SEC? Unfortunately, yes. But, I interact with these guys daily. Shoot, I am around our players more than my own family. I see the pain in their face our current struggles have caused them. More importantly, I see the extra effort they are putting forth during practice, before practice and after practice. There is nothing more they want then to turn this ship around. We all do. Fans included.
To improve our teams play, our staff really stressed the importance of our bench to our team. The calling card of this program has been the “fresh troops” we are able to bring in off the bench to give our starters a blow. Right now, our bench’s confidence is rattled. Therefore, we took two extra hours on Wednesday evening to strictly work with our bench. Offensive execution, defensive understanding, and confidence building was hammered into them time and time again.
A stepped-up performance is in mind as our third chance to get our first SEC victory of the season comes Saturday at noon vs. Vanderbilt. With the College Gameday Crew featuring Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis and the human 5 Hour Energy Drink, Dickie V, in attendance, Thompson-Boling Arena will be an unbelievable atmosphere. However, we are going to need more than just energy to beat a very good Vanderbilt team. Their performance thus far this season gives them reason to believe that they can compete for the SEC Championship. Due to their multi-faceted offensive and defensive scheme, we have worked on installing a few new wrinkles into the game plan. Our entire coaching staff has worked diligently to get our guys prepared and we are confident that by noon on Saturday our team will be ready to execute and demonstrate the heart of a volunteer!
PS- Remember Vol Fans, the doors open at 8:30am for College Gameday so come early, support the Vols and get on ESPN!