In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade s sports section. Blade sports writer John Wagner recently talked with Emmanuel Baptist graduate Stephen Brough about college basketball.
The Baylor University men s basketball team entered this weekend as one of only six Division I programs with an undefeated record.
The problem is, the Bears are also winless this season too.
That s because they have not played a game yet.
Last summer the NCAA nearly banned the Baylor program for an entire year as the penalty for violations committed by former coach Dave Bliss.
Instead the NCAA ordered a partial ban, forcing the Bears to play only Big 12 Conference games this season.
That was just the latest setback suffered by the program, which made national headlines in 2003 when Patrick Dennehy was murdered by teammate Carlton Dotson. That opened an investigation that revealed the NCAA violations under Bliss.
Enter new coach Scott Drew and his staff, which includesToledo native Stephen Brough. So far this staff has endured scholarship reductions that have limited the Bears to no more than seven scholarship players over the last two seasons, not to mention missing the preseason this year as well as the Big 12 Conference tournament in 2004.
But Brough (which rhymes with tough) and the rest of the Baylor staff hope the end to the program s hardships is near. Brough knew the road would be a harsh one when he joined Drew s staff as director of basketball operations in the summer of 2003.
Brough came to Baylor from Wright State, where he was as a men s assistant coach for one season. Prior to that, the 1992 Emmanuel Baptist grad spent eight years at his alma mater, Miami University. Brough was a women s basketball assistant at Miami for two seasons after spending six years with the men s program, four as a student manager and two years of grad school as the team s administrative assistant.
As the Bears began final preparations for their season opener this Wednesday on the road against Bob Knight s Texas Tech team, Brough talked about where the Baylor program has been and where it hopes to be.
THE SITUATION at Baylor obviously was a dark day for the university, but for myself and the rest of the coaching staff it was a bright opportunity. It gave our whole staff a chance to do something familiar at a major school.
Most of the staff had been at Valparaiso, and I came from Emmanuel Baptist, so we were familiar with small, private Christian schools such as Baylor. But Baylor is a step forward because it is in the Big 12. We play Texas twice a year; we play Oklahoma and Oklahoma State twice a year; we play Bob Knight twice a year. And we play great teams like Kansas and others in our conference as well.
My dad was in the construction business, and my first job was in the construction business. I like to be a part of something being built. You begin with a hole, then you have the footer and the foundation, then the frame is built, then the shell of the house, and then the roof. Finally you have family move in to something you ve built. I generally like to do the same thing with basketball programs.
The old saying goes, the further you fall, the higher you ll bounce. Did you know that more teams from the Big 12 conference have been to the [NCAA men s basketball] Final Four than from any other conference? We know that if we build our program and work hard, we ll have a chance to win championships and hopefully put ourselves in a position to play in a Final Four. We re working hard to make that happen.
TO BE HONEST, we have not focused on what had gone on before we got here. We kept our focus on what is ahead of us. The NCAA investigation and the criminal case went on even two months after we got here, but as a staff we tried to have as little to do with those things as we could.
My first day on the job was a Wednesday; I flew in to Dallas, then drove to Waco and got here around 9:30 in the morning. I stayed here until 2:15 the next morning, then came back at 8:15 that morning. That routine lasted until February or March just because there was so much to do. We had the entire gamut of things [to run a basketball program] to do from scratch.
WE HAVE NOT PLAYED a game yet this year; all we ve done is practice. From a coach s standpoint, that was great because coaches love to practice. If you give a coach a choice between a week in Waikiki or a week of practice, the coach might take the practice. So we ve been practicing, doing all the things coaches love to do.
But we know our players are frustrated. For our guys, added to the month of practice before the season starts there has been six more weeks of practice, and that s frustrating. You face the same guys every day, and you re going through the same drills and working on the same techniques. It s frustrating.
But that extra practice has been important for us because our team is so young. We have four true freshmen and one redshirt freshman, and our young guys need the extra developmental work. [When we open the season Wednesday] we should be fresher [than our opponents], and I would expect we would execute the basics and fundamentals better. Buthandling the emotions of the game? Handling the crowd noise? Handling the flow of a game? We haven t seen that yet.
WITH NO GAMES in November and December we wanted to give our guys an opportunity to do something they don t normally have a chance to do during a basketball season. We gave them an extended break for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But as a staff we also talked about taking our team to practice at an NBA arena.
So we went to Dallas. We stayed at the same hotel we ll stay at for the Big 12 tournament, and we practiced on the same floor in the same arena [American Airlines Arena] as the Big 12 tournament. And we handled things as if it were a road game: breakfast was the same, walk-through and shoot around at the arena were the same, our pregame was the same.
We wanted to make it productive. We wanted to get ready for a road trip, but we also wanted to put ourselves in the city of the Big 12 tournament. We hope we ll be more comfortable with what s happening when March comes around.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.