ALBANY, N.Y. – Steve Pikiell probably answered the same questions on Saturday he’s answered seemingly thousands of times before. Too many times, really, and not because of anything he’s done.
When will Stony Brook win the big game? What’s the feeling after another one of these close calls? Did you get concerned down the stretch?
You know those questions and variations of each were undoubtedly fired away at the Stony Brook mentor on Saturday.
As members of the media we ask these questions because we have ideas of the answers, but want to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. We want the raw, unedited feelings to convey to our readers. It’s understandable, but it’s not easy, and at some point it’s not enjoyable to be a spectator at one of these where those questions and variations of them are rehashed. We got a taste of it last year, when Pikiell knew it was coming and had answers that sounded prepared – and you can’t blame him. We got an additional taste of it last year when Dave Coley broke down and had to leave the press conference early; he said few words, but said a whole lot, really.
In fact, he said all we need to know. If you think this doesn’t matter to today’s players, just go to a locker room after a team lost a heart-breaking championship game with an NCAA bid on the line. I’m sure Stony Brook’s locker room was like that on Saturday.
You have to feel for Pikiell and his staff. They have been to the America East championship game four times in the last five years, and they have lost all of them. One of them was a surprise, when an injury-riddled team made a run and led for most of the game before losing at Boston University; the others were good teams that were expected to at least get that far. They’ve lost in particularly heart-breaking fashion a couple of those times, especially on Saturday. It looked like they finally had one. It looked like we could finally stop asking Pikiell about it, or at least change the questions to “How does it feel to finally win?” and variations of it.
Instead, this narrative will probably take on a new life of its own. And that’s really too bad, because Pikiell has a program that many would love to have right now. There are teams that are lucky to even get to a championship game, let alone as often as this team has been.
“It’s hard to get back to this game,” Pikiell said on Saturday. “A lot of teams in America would love to be in the championship every year.”
Indeed they would. In this age of measuring teams and coaches by whether or not they get to the NCAA Tournament, we miss out on appreciating so many who do great things without getting to the ultimate stage. Stony Brook is one of them, with a good coach, a good staff behind them and that includes as people, and good kids who graduate from a very good academic institution.
Stony Brook may well end up in the CIT with their 23-11 record. It would be another postseason appearance, adding to what Pikiell has done there. They want to be in the NCAA Tournament, and that day will come. Pikiell is too good a coach and the players he recruits are too good not to get there one day. At that point, some will realize what many can plainly see right now by looking past the lack of an NCAA Tournament appearance: that Pikiell has built a heck of a program.