John Feinstein wrote a detailed piece on Paul Hewitt and George Mason’s struggles this season for the Washington Post. It went live shortly after the loss at Rhode Island yesterday afternoon and brings up some points that I know people on here have been discussing for awhile. Is it more the players that are the problem or the head coach? A quote from Hewitt on the team this season:
“The thing is I like these kids a lot,” Hewitt said. “They’re a good group when it comes to listening and trying to learn. I’ve had teams that struggled that weren’t that way to the point where I was on the brink of thinking I needed to find something else to do.
“This is nothing close to that. In fact, since the Oklahoma game [an 81-66 loss on Dec. 8], I can only think of one half where we didn’t play well. Against Oklahoma, we didn’t compete and I was upset with that. Since then, they’ve competed well. We just haven’t gotten the results.”
To honest I think it’s both elements that are the problem. This team has talent, without question, but enough to beat the top of Atlantic 10 conference or other top 100 RPI teams? It’s painfully obvious now that they can’t just get by on talent alone and that we have to hold the players accountable to some degree. We’ve seen seniors, two of which are in their fifth year, making one costly mistake after another in late game situations. Everyone expects more from veteran players. I doubt anyone would argue it’s easy to win with your veterans playing like that.
But on the flip side of that, is the head coach putting his players in the best situation in order to win? What I mean is, is Hewitt running the best system to get the most out of the players he has, or is he trying to fit a square peg into a round hole? I don’t have the answer to that but the results have spoken for themselves recently. They seems to be so much disarray on the court, whether it’s the type of defense they are running or the player rotation.
I will admit though, that the last of the Jim Larranaga holdovers aren’t doing him any favors recently. Sherrod Wright, Bryon Allen, and Johnny Williams have all struggled at different points this season and Jon Arledge is seeking a transfer after playing in just one game. The other three have just not been the type of leaders on the court that I had thought they would have been in their final season here. I’m sure their presence in the locker room is strong as leaders but their production on court can easily be linked to the team’s 7-11 record.
Does reading this article from Feinstein change your opinion on Hewitt and the team’s current situation? Personally I feel like it’s easy for any coach to stay things like ‘well we just aren’t executing’ after a loss. And let’s be fair, Hewitt has had trouble winning consistently long before he arrived in Fairfax. Have they had some bad luck in the last couple of games? Sure. But take yesterday’s game for instance, it never should have went to overtime in the first place. The Patriots were in control for a long period of time and again blew a lead down the stretch. The UMass game was very similar and when things like that have become a recurring theme it’s difficult to blame a few players’ mistakes. To sum it up I do think the players are giving full effort and while they definitely lack mental toughness, I think they also still lack direction and an overall game plan that works for them.
[Photo by Bill Bride]