It sounds crazy but let’s be honest, a win on Thursday night vs. Belmont saved our season and Christmas. OK, maybe I am just talking about saving my family’s Christmas because if we would have lost I would have been miserable. The win was huge but the mood in the locker room after the game was far from celebratory. In his post-game talk to the team, Coach Pearl discussed numerous things relevant to the current circumstances of our team.
Fatigue- physical and mental. It’s what players throughout the country at all levels battle every day. Can you wear down your opponent before you break down? If we are going to continue to play a 10 man rotation then we must take pride in going so hard while we are on the floor that we know when we get tired, a teammate will come in and have our back and TOGETHER we will wear down our opponent. We should NEVER be out-worked by our opponent. Mentally, as we get tired we begin to deviate from our strengths and try to make plays outside of our capabilities and thus falling into our weaknesses. This can’t happen. We must play within our role of the team because it’s vital to our team’s success. It will take sacrifices but it is worth it! Ask Scotty and Tobias, the two guys who spend the most time in the gym, if the sacrifice of spending extra time in the gym getting free throws last week was worth going a combined 16-19 and helping us beat Belmont by 1pt?
No matter what each of us does for a living, or where we are from, we are all going to face some highs and lows throughout our lives. Although it’s tough to not let those lows get to low, it’s just as important to not let those highs get to high. Coach Pearl discussed with the team that he’s been a part of numerous highs and lows during his 18 years of being a head coach and 32 years a part of college basketball. Despite all those experiences and being a part of numerous championships, Coach Pearl told the team that he is willing to give a lot to be a champion again because there is no feeling like it. The sacrifices you make with your family and your coaches’ support is worth it. As a Tennessee athletics fan, do you remember more about the losing teams in our basketball or football history or do you remember more about the winning teams? Do you remember more members of the losing teams or the winning teams? I can only relate it to what I know so I’ll say this: I remember almost every member of the Chicago Bulls during their championship run from 1991-99 (Jack Haley, Cliff Levingston, Bob Hansen, come on man, I know ‘em all!). Ask me who was on the team when they had 5 miserable years in a row from 99-04 and I couldn’t name many players. So would you rather be a member of a winner, or a loser? Wouldn’t you rather make whatever sacrifices you needed to make in order to be remembered as a champion?
Just as important as it was for Coach Pearl to wish all our guys a safe and happy trip home to see their families he reminded them to go home and serve their families and not let their families serve them. He has given this advice to his teams since I played for him and it is so true. Our players are often viewed as role models at home and in their communities. Thus, they must take this responsibility and use it to help and set good examples for others.
If we could have, Coach Pearl would have had the guys stay in Knoxville after the Belmont game on Christmas Eve day to “run ‘em really really hard” but in the big picture of things, being able to go see family around the holidays is much more important. However, with our schedule really picking up over the next 10 days, Coach Pearl advised the guys to go home and get some running in and not just go home and relax all weekend because when we get back to practice it’s time make some changes. We need to come back ready to be a different team. Coach Pearl let it be known that everyone better come back from home with a different level of commitment to the sacrifices we all need to make to be as good of a team as we can be. Don’t get me wrong we beat a good Belmont team on Thursday and are sitting on ok but unacceptable ground at 8-3. But let’s face it, if this is how we are going to play all year, sign us up for 4th or 5th place in SEC East. The great thing about this time of year is we have tons of time to improve. The teams that improve the most while school is out of session will be the teams fighting for conference championships and NCAA tournament bids. However, it’s the teams that stay focused on the daily process to be great that will end up winning those championships. How do we want to be remembered? Negatively, not at all, or as a winner? I know where my mindset is at and I can’t wait to help us get back to work on achieving our goals.
PS: I hope you have had a Merry Christmas and Holiday Season thus far. Please remember those who may be struggling during this time of year and be thankful for all the positive relationships we have in our lives rather than worry about the material things we may not have. I am thankfully blessed with a great wife, daughter, family and friends who I love dearly.
Happy Holidays and GO VOLS!!