Roman Banks had barely rearranged the furniture in the Southern men’s basketball office this spring when he made a clear, firm declaration.
“We didn’t get to this point overnight,” he said. “And we’re not going to get out of it overnight.”
What, exactly, is this point? There’s a short version and a long version.
The short version: It’s low, bleak, or any other word that lives in the same neighborhood as “grim.”
The long version: Southern went 17-74 in its final three years of the Rob Spivery era, and the Jaguars lost their two leading scorers from last season. There’s also a crippling Academic Progress Rate, which will not only keep the Jaguars out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament next spring (they’re serving a one-year NCAA postseason ban), and will force SU to recruit players with rock-solid grades.
So begins a long, hard climb out of the valley.
The preseason is under way, of course, and the first round of practices have been lessons in patience and adjustments.
As a former college point guard who could make an offense go - and as a former Southern assistant who watched Ben Jobe’s teams rip and run with the best of them - Banks would prefer that his team play all out, fast-paced, charging from baseline to baseline in a matter of seconds.
But right now, at Southern, maybe that’s not the smart play.
Sometimes, Banks said, his first team at Southern will run. Sometimes, the Jaguars will have to play it slow and smart.
“I know they were more of a possession basketball team in the past few years, but I’d like to open the court a little bit more, knowing the tradition here,” he said.
“We want to try to be a little more uptempo style of play. (But) we’re not going to sacrifice games just to run up and down the floor.”
That’s not the only compromise Banks has gotten used to lately.
Take, for example, the other end of the floor. If he were armed with a roster of known commodities, Banks said, he’d play an aggressive man-to-man defense that often picks up opposing point guards before they reach the timeline.
Right now, well, Southern’s defensive scheme is in the to-be-determined stage.
So it goes at Southern, where patience and adjustments are in high demand.
Except for assistant Morris Scott, who spent two seasons with Banks at Southeastern Louisiana, no player or coach has ever worked with the new boss before.
So Banks spends a good portion of his day saying things like, OK, let’s do it again. That’s what happens when you’ve got seven new players and a first-year staff. While sprinkled with potential, the team is still learning how to play together, much less play a new set of schemes.
So begins a slow, hard climb.
One day, the Jaguars might return to the top of the SWAC. But they won’t do it overnight.