15th blog: South Padre Island wrap-up; a peek at scouting
By Brendan O'Hallarn
Too bad! If the Monarchs' weekend had gone a little better on the court, this would have been such a great blog entry.
Before the team left for Texas last week, I sat down with longtime assistant coach Jim Corrigan, who gave me an inside look how ODU prepares to play a team. Specifically, Corrigan outlined some of the challenges the team would face in taking on the traditional Big 12 Conference heavyweight.
Alas, Corrigan's predictions of what the Monarchs had to be wary of turned out to be exactly right. Here's a direct quote from him: "Against Missouri, they're going to trap you and pressure you the whole game, so you have to take care of the ball. You can't turn it over 25 times."
ODU almost hit that fateful number right on, turning over the rock 24 times in a 66-61 loss, including 17 times in the first half. The Monarchs also lost the third-place game as well on the weekend, falling 69-55 to Mississippi State. All in all, a disappointing weekend for a team that had roared out of the gate this season with four straight wins. And Richmond, the Monarchs' opponent on Wednesday night, knocked off both of those teams in winning the South Padre Island Invitational Tournament.
However, Corrigan, who's in his 23rd year as an assistant in the conference, the last 16 at ODU, knows that each basketball season has its ups and downs.
"One of the things that makes this a great job is that every year the team is different, every year it's like starting over. It's all new," Corrigan said. "(Duke University coach) Mike Krzyzewski wrote a book called "A Season is a Lifetime." That's just a great analogy, because it is like its own lifetime. A team grows up."
Corrigan's whole adult lifetime has been in basketball. A walk-on player at Duke, Corrigan ended earning a scholarship and playing all four years for the Blue Devils, including a Duke team which reached the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament in 1978. After his playing days were done, Corrigan found his way into coaching, and still loves it.
"It can get in your bones. It can get under your skin. It can be something when you're done playing that you don't want to let go. I don't know that there's any other sport that has as many people that want to keep involved with it," he said.
Corrigan is the team's recruiting coordinator. He makes the team's schedule ("The hardest thing I do every year," he said. "Some teams just don't want to play us."). Corrigan also does individual development with the players, something he's passionate about.
"Over time you get involved with these kids' lives," Corrigan said.
"There are battles to be fought off the court as well as on. And the ones off the court are certainly more important than the ones on the court. The games on the court you want to win, but if you don't win one, that's OK, you'll win the next one. Those games off the court you have to win."
Key among the coaching duties that Corrigan and the team's other assistants Rob Wilkes and John Richardson do is compiling a scouting report for upcoming opponents. Using that report, the assistant and head coach Blaine Taylor will concoct a game plan for that particular match.
It was Corrigan's job to scout tape of Missouri before last Friday's game, and he graciously showed me the scouting report he compiled.
Each report produced by the assistants has a detailed breakdown of the personnel the team will face - their size and stats, and whatever tendencies they might have on the court. This is important. "When we played Marshall, one of their players had taken 11 of his 12 shots all season from behind the three-point line. You've gotta know that and get out on him," Corrigan said. "Another player might drive every time they get the ball instead of shoot. The player guarding him has to know that, and the rest of the players on the team need to know that, so they can rotate and help out."
Besides the individual player stats and tendencies, there are diagrams of the team's sample offense against man-to-man defense, zone defense, and sideline and end-line out of bounds plays. Corrigan said it's tougher to assemble information like that early in the season, when a team has played so few games.
"The more you can watch a team, the better you'll get a feel for them," he said.
"This early in the year, you're really limited. Missouri's played two games (they played a third game on Tuesday night), they won one by 15 and one by 50. In a game like that, they're not going to show you anything."
But Corrigan said ODU is less interested in studying the individual plays of any team they play. "There's some programs that want their people to know the plays that other teams are running. We're really not big on that as much as being able to defend actions. We want to take a couple of actions a team runs and put them into practice drills a day or two before we play 'em, and kind of break it down."
On the report, there's also a spot for the scout (in this case, Corrigan) to write his overall impressions of the team the Monarchs are about to face. Corrigan stressed that Missouri was going to try to force ODU into an up-and-down game, with lots of trapping, full-court pressure
"Missouri just wants a chaotic, frenetic, up and down fast-paced game," he said. "When they are really successful, it isn't just that you play fast, it's that they get you to hurry. All of a sudden a guy's open for a shot and he hurries, instead of ..." Corrigan demonstrated perfect jumpshot form while sitting at his desk.
"They know exactly what they're doing. It's not as chaotic as you think. But most people don't play that way, so it's very chaotic for other people, and it's hard to play against."
Ominously, that's kind of what happened in last 10 minutes of the first half. A 10-9 Missouri lead became 25-13 in about five minutes, when the Tigers' traps caused a number of turnovers in short order. The score at halftime was a dispiriting 32-18, Missouri.
On defense, the Monarchs did what Corrigan said they had to do, which is charge back down court and get what the team calls "face," meaning all five defenders are in position, and facing the ball to defend any action. Missouri actually had difficulty generating much offense against ODU's half-court man and zone defenses. That allowed the Monarchs to pull within four with six minutes to go.
However, teams that run are also tough to rebound against. "That's part of their offense. They're come down and they shoot, when you're not necessarily set. And then they come flying at the boards," Corrigan said. Missouri grabbed 14 offensive rebounds against the Monarchs, including a handful in the second half to extend key possessions.
One final note about the weekend -- I wasn't with the team; I was in Mobile, Ala., visiting my wife's grandfather. We headed out Friday to try and find a bar with a satellite feed of the Missouri game. It was harder than I expected.
After two unsuccessful stops, my wife pointed to a bar and suggested I try in there. The staff couldn't have been nicer, finding a feed of the game, setting us up in front of a big television just before tipoff.
So my wife and I ended up spending our date night watching the game ... at Hooters.
Just one more reason my wife is the true MVP of this blog.
Brendan's Blog 46