Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is Kevin Stallings Concerned, or Is He Keeping This Team Humble and Hungry?

Coach Stallings and some of the players met with the media before the opening of practice on Friday to discuss the season. When asked what his expectations were for this team, his response was very cryptic.

"I was asked that yesterday by a member of the print media, and that's not a question I would answer publicly. We'll talk about that within our group...It doesn't really matter what I think we can become, what I think matters is the kind of job we do on a day in, day out basis. As I told [the team] in our meeting before we came out here, we can only become a great team if we practice like one."

Stallings' sentiments don't necessarily mirror those of his fan base, who are more excited about this season than any in recent memory, including the Commodores runs to the Sweet 16 in 2004 and 2007, and the Shan Foster led 4 seed team of 2008.

"We talked about how young we were last year, and this year we have 1 senior and 2 juniors. That still sounds pretty young to me. But we are confident, I will say that. At this point of the year, it's as confident as I've been in quite some time in what a team can become. These guys have really worked hard."

Don't take Stallings words the wrong way. It isn't that he's pessimistic about this team's chances. He knows this team's talent, he knows it's a more seasoned group. Stallings is doing what he's always done, ensure that his teams know that if they want to be the best, they have to work the hardest.

To briefly interject my Atlanta Falcons homer-ism (sue me, if Bobby can have a post about Mark Sanchez, I can write what I want), one phrase that Coach Mike Smith uses is "humble and hungry." Simply put, it means that last year was last year, and you can't become satisfied, or listen to the hype.

While Kentucky opened the Calipari-era with a megolithic rock concert complete with massive dunks by his series of blue chippers, Vanderbilt quietly went about their business, answering a few questions from the media and getting to work in an empty Memorial Gym. Some might ask why Vanderbilt doesn't make the first day of practice more of a fan fare. I'd speculate that the reason is simple: this team is Clubber Lang to the rest of the SEC's Rocky.

Vanderbilt basketball has never been about hype. It's never been about a high pre-season ranking. It's never been about rolling out a buffet of blue chip prestigious prospects. Vanderbilt basketball is about being the underdog. It's about dismissing pre-season drivel with performance. It's about taking five guys who will simply out work you, without a whole lot of fan fare. Why? Because they expect to, and their coach expects it as well.

Deep down, all of us, including Stallings, know that this team has the makings of greatness. But teams are great only by what their record says at the end of the season. For now, the Commodores are just a group of guys working hard to be the best they can be.

Personally, I'll take humble and hungry over rock star diva any day.


Anything but Gatorade said...

I'm middling about trying to stay under the radar on Stallings's part. The Dores are already under the radar. Why not try to generate some excitement for your team before the season gets underway? I'm not saying the coach should try to deliver a presidential address like Calipari did on Saturday, but at least be positive, speak confidently about your team's ability, and try to get some buzz going in your depressed-over-football fan base.

Stanimal said...

I would argue that the buzz is already there. But you don't necessarily want your team to believe that they're good to the point where they become complacent. Our perception of the team from the outside is different from what the team needs to perceive internally. I kind of like that approach, it works well for us, where bigger events might work better for bigger programs.

Anything but Gatorade said...

I suppose that's true. Congrats on getting tabbed for third in the East - ahead of Florida no less. I like it.

Anonymous said...

I watched the interview, along with the ones with Beal, AJ, and Tins. It is pretty clear, although they might not outright say it, they think they have a team that can win the SEC. And who knows from there, I bet Final 4 is circled on the chalk board.