The Invisible Iron Fist
What follows is the text of an article in today's Daily Free Press (the independent BU student newspaper):
I've been critical of coach Wolff in the collapse, and I would like to say that it is very big of him to take responsiblity and acknowledge that the offense was a key factor to the problems. This sort of introspection makes me hopeful for next year.The Daily Free Press - Sports
Wolff says BU has to bounce back from poor finish
By Andrew Cannarsa
Almost two weeks removed from his team's 30-point loss in the National Invitation Tournament to Georgetown University, Boston University men's basketball coach Dennis Wolff made no excuses for his team's poor finish to the 2004-05 season.
Wolff - who set aside his all-business demeanor and no-nonsense attitude - spoke candidly in his office Monday about the Terriers' offensive struggles down the stretch, poor communication between the coaches and players and the need for BU to "rebuild" and "regroup" from now until the start of next season in October.
Wolff's 11th year at BU yielded a fourth-straight 20-win season and a fourth-straight postseason appearance, but the veteran coach said the season's sour ending left him unfulfilled.
"There's a little bit of an empty feeling because of the way we played the last three weeks," Wolff said. "It was a season that unfortunately might have been better served being over with three weeks to go. On offense ... it was a struggle every possession.
"For whatever reason, we got to the point where we were very inefficient."
Never were the Terriers' offensive woes more painfully evident than during BU's 47-45 loss to the University of Maine in the America East quarterfinals. For the second straight season, Wolff's team was knocked out in its first playoff game by a lower seed. Against the Black Bears, the Terriers scored a then-season low 45 points and shot just 28 percent.
But it got worse, as BU followed the conference tournament defeat with a sad 64-34 loss to the Hoyas in Washington, D.C. on March 16. The Terriers shot a dismal 22 percent in their final loss, finishing the year losing four of their last five games and scoring less than 50 points in each loss.
Wolff cited several things that happened at the end of the year to derail the BU offense. While some players lost confidence in their shooting, others tried to do too much and lost track of their roles.
"We had way too many possessions where we didn't do the things fundamentally that we should have been doing," Wolff said. "At the end of almost every possession, you were holding your breath."
But what was most interesting was to hear Wolff say that his team might have been content with not playing its best basketball while still winning games against the America East's weaker teams.
"Sometimes, things fall on deaf ears when you're winning," Wolff said. "I can't tell you how many times after practice, I would tell the team, 'We can't be playing that way and think we're winning tomorrow.'
"We're beating these teams and then I'm going into the locker room mad," he continued. "It's really not about the winning or losing. It's about how we're practicing and playing."
The Terriers were 13-1 against America East teams below them in the conference standings, but just 1-3 against the University of Vermont and Northeastern University, the top two teams in the league. The worst of those three losses against Vermont and Northeastern was a 63-48 defeat to the Huskies at Agganis Arena on Feb. 20. BU shot 36 percent in loss, and Chaz Carr was just 2-of-18.
"That's when it started," Wolff said. "We had guys trying to make plays they shouldn't make ... and I think we weren't tough enough down the stretch. We didn't correct things before it got to be a real critical problem."
Wolff, though, said he and the coaching staff accept the blame for the team's poor finish, and the coaches will evaluate how well they're preaching team objectives throughout the season.
"We had to constantly repeat ourselves to the younger guys that we [the coaching staff] have to do a better job early on of saying, 'This is what we do, this is how we do it,'" Wolff said. "I kept saying [to the coaches] at the end of the year, 'Did we do a good job of going over these things in October, so we're not doing it in March?'"
That, along with the offensive breakdowns, did the Terriers in at the end of the season. It was, however, another 20-win year that yielded a third straight NIT appearance. Along the way, the Terriers won at the University of Michigan, opened Agganis with a win over Vermont and enjoyed an eight-game winning streak in the middle of the season.
Carr and classmate Rashad Bell - both all-league first-team players as seniors - never won fewer than 20 games in their career, making an NCAA tournament appearance in 2002.
"Any coach or any group of players that looks down at 20 wins and the NIT isn't in touch with the reality of college basketball in this day in age," Wolff said. "When I think back on these last four years, there have been very few bad games. Some have come at very inopportune times, but that's just the nature of it.
"I would like it all to be perfect, me more than anyone," he added, "but unfortunately sometimes it's not going to be."
The Terriers can only look to the future - a future without Carr and Bell, who finished eighth and ninth on the school's all-time scoring list, respectively. Wolff said the team has already signed two players - a point guard from New York City and a shooting guard from New Hampshire - for next season with plans to sign two more. Add those four new faces with forwards Ben Coblyn and Ibrahim Konate - freshman who redshirted this season with injuries - and BU will welcome six new players to the fold.
"We're gonna be in a little bit of a rebuilding mode," Wolff said. "We have questions. There's a lot more up in the air. We're gonna have to be patient because there's gonna be a lot more younger guys playing."
So after four years of unparalleled success, Wolff said the team will have to "restructure" on the fly to compete in a "dramatically different" conference, with Northeastern jumping to the Colonial Athletic Association and Vermont losing Taylor Coppenrath, T.J. Sorrentine and Tom Brennan.
For Wolff, the team and Terrier fans, it's all wait and see what unfolds next fall.
"When you've been the coach at the same school for 11 years, things go in cycles," said Wolff, who added that he doesn't plan on leaving the BU sideline anytime soon. "We'll go in having a roster of talent, and we'll just have to see how they mesh together as a team."