Just under a year into his tenure as head coach, Maine’s Bob Walsh is confident that he will be able to rebuild the Black Bear program, even after struggling through a 3-27 first season.
“We’ve created a new mentality here from scratch and I think that mentality and approach is very clear to our guys,” Walsh said. “We haven’t done a good enough job of living up to it every day and that’s the next step for us.”
Instead of calling that a first season filled with adversity would be a tough year, Walsh said that dealing with the win-loss record wasn’t difficult.
“I had a blast coaching these guys every day and the challenge that we took on, trying to find a way to get better and establishing a new mentality and a new culture, it was great,” Walsh said. “I would say what was difficult for me, personally, was being in games that didn’t have a lot at stake. When I was at Rhode Island College every single game we played mattered, we took the approach that every game was an NCAA tournament game because at that level if you lose to a bad team in November it could cost you an NCAA tournament bid.”
Walsh’s first year showed promise, especially the freshman class of guards Kevin Little and Aaron Calixte, two of the first recruits he brought into the program. Little led the team with 12.5 ppg and Calixte led the team with 3.4 apg, ranking fourth amongst all America East players. Now the duo will have to embrace leading a group, as Walsh said he would like to see the two guards take ownership over the program.
While junior Till Gloger made a leap, leading the front court with 11.5 ppg and grabbing a team-high 145 rebounds, Walsh and the 6’8″ forward know where he has to improve.
“He’s a guy when, we sat down and met after the season, and I ask him so what do you really think you need to do to work on to help this team, he immediately brings that up, ‘I’ve got to be a better defender, I’ve got to get a little bit quicker, I’ve got to get physically stronger,'” Walsh said. “He gives us a consistent threat in the low post who shoots a high percentage and those guys are really valuable, but he understands he’s got to give us a lot more defensively to really help us.”
Certainly Walsh would like to see the Black Bears defend better, after allowing opponents to score 74.8 ppg, which ranked at the bottom of the America East conference. Where those changes will have to start is by getting not only faster, but stronger.
“It starts with embracing the weight room, which is something this program has not done in the past,” Walsh said. “We’re lifting five days a week, so the first thing we’re doing before individual workouts and any team stuff, is we’re in the weight room every day during the week, but I think what creates a much better defensive approach is a competitive environment, which we haven’t had here.”
“We need a competitive environment around everything that we do. Our guys have to understand that they’re going to have to compete to earn everything and last year, just because of the numbers that we had and the situation that we were in, we had some games where we had seven healthy players dressed. I have to do a much better job of creating a competitive environment around everything we do and I think that will really help us on the defensive end.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.