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The Morning Dish – Friday, January 12, 2018

by - Published January 12, 2018 in The Morning Dish

Heaven knows there’s too much coach worship in college basketball, an art going back decades in the sport, well before the current best-known media sources. (As good of a meat-and-potatoes analyst as Billy Packer as was, he was almost as good hyping the guys on the sideline as diagramming a play). It’s hard not to get caught up in the work Chris Holtmann has done with Ohio State this year.

Ohio State has not one but two of the most improved players in the country. The Buckeyes’ contributions from newcomers have been significant, but hardly overwhelming, yet there they are, undefeated in the Big Ten, slaying top-ranked teams and soon to be solidly in the top 25. … Continue Reading

A game a day for the 2017-18 season: January

by - Published November 8, 2017 in Columns

We roll on with a look at our favorite games for every day of the season, our ultimate dream road trip through an entire college basketball season.

To refresh: in some cases they’re the biggest matchup of the day, in others they may be what we think will be the best game for any reason, whether it be competitiveness, rivalry, atmosphere, etc. We started on Monday with November, continued with December on Tuesday, and today we move into January:

Jan. 1: West Virginia at Kansas State. Most every conference surrenders Jan. 1 to college football this year save for the SWAC and a couple Big 12 games. Bob Huggins heads back to his previous stop, where the Wildcats have a prime opportunity for one of those name wins that got them into the NCAA Tournament last year. Honorable mention: Southern at Texas Southern

Jan. 2: Michigan at Iowa. If the Hawkeyes are an NCAA Tournament team, Fran McCaffery’s history says they’ll probably get off to a smoking hot start to the season through about 20 games. They also almost certainly have to win games like this at home. Honorable mention: Vermont at Harvard … Continue Reading

St. Francis (Pa.) Comes Along in Rebuilding Process

by - Published February 12, 2010 in Columns

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – When you’re rebuilding a program, sometimes little milestones help more than one might think.  It’s also true that as meaningful as those milestones might be at the time, it doesn’t change what the bottom line goal is.  It’s not the end of the growth.  For Don Friday’s St. Francis (Pa.) team, that’s the story after their 60-34 win at Bryant, their first road win of the season.

“To get a win like this, yes, it’s a good feeling to walk out of somebody’s place with a win,” Friday said following the game.

In the same breath, though, the second-year head coach was thinking about something larger.  Friday thought back a few weeks earlier, when the Red Flash blew a lead at Fairleigh Dickinson and lost.  How they lost was indicative of a lesson he tried to teach the team, and one they seemed to get since they played better even in losses to Northeast Conference leader Robert Morris.  The big keys were being aggressive and tough, things that were lacking after they got the lead against FDU.

Learning experiences matter, and Friday is also trying to get his younger players to understand that the season is a marathon.  To that end, one way he’s bridged the divide that can sometimes happen between younger players and veterans with a new coach is by assigning mentors to different players for both on- and off-court matters.  He got the seniors to understand that they are needed because the newcomers would not learn simply by being on the court.

“Those guys have been pretty consistent with these kids off the court,” Friday said of the seniors.

Not only have they done that, but it seems the freshmen have done more than just show the potential of this team.  Added Friday: “They’re feeding off the freshmen.”

Two freshmen start for the Red Flash, as Chris Johnson starts at the point and Will Felder starts inside.  Felder had ten points and eight rebounds on Thursday and looks like he can develop into an anchor inside.  Johnson had an off night against Bryant but has a nearly 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is rare for a freshman.  He moved into the starting lineup for NEC games and has stabilized the position at both ends of the floor.

“The thing that Chris has done for us that he’s really hung his hat on is pressuring the basketball, and he sets the tone for us out front,” said Friday.  “Our steals and deflections are a lot higher now because of Chris.”

Anthony Ervin sees the most minutes off the bench among the freshmen, and he has some potential.  He can score from the wing, and as he improves he could become the kind of instant offense player teams need off the bench or make his way into the starting lineup.

With their play and that of seniors like Devin Sweetney, the team’s best player, the Red Flash are now just a game away from .500 in NEC play.  They have already won three more NEC games than last season and the most since they went 10-8 in 2004-05.  Friday doesn’t want to stop there, naturally.  Just getting the first road win of the season or within a game of .500 in conference play is a small step toward larger goals.

“I want to win every game out of here that we can and make (the conference) tournament, so that I have a rallying cry for my freshmen and sophomores returning next year,” Friday said.  “This is what it’s going to take in the weight room, this is why you have to become stronger.”

He is already taking steps to help that happen in addition to what he’s done to help the freshmen grow and the seniors to be a big part of this.  Friday said that he’s cutting down the practices because he wants the team to have something left at the end of the season.  He’s using games like the FDU game as a teaching tool, as well as Thursday’s win as he wants the team to know how it feels to walk out of another team’s gym with a victory.

“You can’t take anything for granted when you’re trying to rebuild, so every opportunity is a learning opportunity,” said Friday, who was previously an assistant at Bucknell for nine seasons before spending five years as the head coach at Division III Lycoming College.

When Friday first got the job after the 2007-08 season, he started hustling.  He’s kept it up in the same way he tells his players now that everything is a marathon and not a sprint.  He knew he wasn’t in an established program like he had been during his last Division I stint, so he could take nothing for granted.  While patience is never easy because fans and alumni want to see their teams in the NCAA Tournament yesterday, Friday seems to be maintaining a balance between the impatience of wanting to win now and being patient in light of the youth of his team and the mission to build the program.

In the journey of building a program, sometimes small milestones help, even if not as much as one might think.  The Red Flash just reached one and might not be far away from getting another one in the form of a trip to the conference tournament, which would give the young players valuable experience in that setting.  That wouldn’t be a small milestone, but there’s no question it would help.

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College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

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April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
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"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
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