Men open season vs. Maryville
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 23:10
The Miami University men’s basketball team opens the season with a new head coach for the first time since 1995 Wednesday.
The ’Hawks new Head Coach John Cooper takes over following the retirement of former Head Coach Charlie Coles, who left the program after a decorated 16-season career.
Cooper takes over a squad that had a tumultuous 2011-12 campaign, going 9-21 and 5-11 in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). The RedHawks finished the season with their third four game losing streak of the season, falling in the first round of the MAC Tournament to the University of Toledo.
Miami enters this season without forward Julian Mavunga, who led the RedHawks in every major statistical category last season.
“The first thing we want to do is change the culture,” Cooper said. “This means that we change how we go about doing things, and make sure everyone buys into the way we do things.”
The RedHawks found themselves in close games throughout last season, but unable to pull out victories. The ’Hawks averaged just 60 points per game on 43 percent shooting last season.
Cooper is looking to change the style of play as well, hiring long time friend and defensive guru Rick Duckett. Miami conducts very up-tempo practices, working on various offensive sets, while emphasizing a defensive strategy that is designed to cause chaos and confusion for opponents. Duckett is implementing a multi-defense strategy that includes varying zones, man-to-man and several press sets.
“Our philosophy is to always be attacking,” Duckett said. “Even when our opponents have the ball, we have to have an aggressive mindset. We don’t want to sit back and wait for a team’s offense. We’re trying to get our guys to understand that defense is a part of offense, and that the toughness of playing an aggressive defense will translate to a tough offensive game that makes it difficult for the other team.”
The coaching staff knows the risk-reward nature of playing a faster paced game.
“Playing faster is good and bad,” Cooper said. “We have an opportunity to score more points, but we also have more chances to turn the ball over and give up more points. I think the team has done a good job of adjusting to the pace of practice.”
The ’Hawks were bitten with the injury bug last season as well. Redshirt junior guard Allen Roberts and forward Bill Edwards missed the entire season and 23 games, respectively. With all players at full strength, and with 6-foot-7-inch redshirt junior forward Will Felder able to play after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer regulations, Miami is primed to be a more cohesive unit all around.
“The bottom line is that our depth is increased,” Cooper said. “We also have versatility and competition that helps hold guys accountable. I think competition among ourselves is what’s going to make us better.”
Senior center Vince Legarza said the team is past last season.
“The mentality of the team is in a good place right now,” Legarza said. “On one hand, we want to forget about what happened last year, but at the same time we want to use it as a motivator.”
The RedHawks struggled on the road last season going 2-14, but lost only one game by more than 13 points.
“We’re just going to compete at the highest level we can,” junior guard Quinten Rollins said. “You can’t always control the outcomes of games, but we know we can control what we do on the court. If it involves us winning or losing, we need to be sure we gave everything we had on the court.”
Legarza said the team needs to be more proactive away from Millett in order to change its misfortunes.
“We need to throw the first punch,” Legarza said. “If we sit back and wait to react, we’re going to get overwhelmed by the big crowds or bad calls. Being the aggressor is going to send a message that we’re ready to play a full, tough 40-minute game.”
Miami plays its only preseason tune-up game 7 p.m. Wednesday in Millett Hall vs. Maryville University, a Division II school from St. Louis, Mo. The Saints were 13-14 last year and 6-12 in Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) play. Maryville was the last seed in the 12-team GLVC Tournament, losing by 17 points in the opening round to the University of Southern Indiana.