Those mottoes, corny slogans and inspiring mantras that college basketball teams will plaster on posters, locker room dry erase boards, T-shirts and tag on the end of more than a few Twitter posts serving as a rallying cry of sorts for fans and players alike for the coming season.
Before last season, I polled the 11 men’s basketball coaches of the Mountain West Conference about their team mottoes for an article the Journal published Oct. 10.
Now, as the dust has settled on the 2013-14 season, I decided to revisit those mottoes and see just how well they reflected the teams that used them. First, you’ll see what each coach said in October (with the exception of UNLV’s Dave Rice, as noted). Then, my take.
Air Force: “Win the Day”
Coach Dave Pilipovich in October: “Every day we’ve got to win that practice and get better every day. As long as we take that approach, that’s what we’re going for.”
I’m not sure how many days the Falcons won, but they finished 12-18 (6-12 in league play) and went 2-10 between Jan. 18 and March 5 with the 10 losses being by an average of 14.7 points, including ending that stretch by losing by a combined 54 points vs. UNLV and at UNM.
Boise State: “214”
Coach Leon Rice in October: The Broncos put the number on T-shirts as a reminder of the team’s 2012-13 ranking in defensive field-goal percentage. “It all goes back to wanting to compete for a title. … We have to get a lot better defensively.”
Broncos opponents shot 44.6 percent from the field, which ranked 223rd in the nation and the team wasn’t invited to either the NCAA Tournament or NIT. I’m guessing they won’t have T-shirts with “223” on them next season.
Colorado State: “Team. Together.”
Coach Larry Eustachy in October: “I think it’s huge. That tells everything. If we stay together, we’ve got a chance.”
The message seemed to be lost at times, namely during a timeout in San Diego when team leader Daniel Bejarano was being restrained by teammates while yelling at his coach during a loss to the Aztecs. Truth be told, CSU should be very good this coming season, and keeping things together over the past season will be a big reason why.
Fresno State: “Family”
Coach Rodney Terry in October: “It’s about family on the court, family off the court. You’ve got to walk that walk every day.”
The Fresno State family was still playing in April (the Bulldogs lost in the CBI finals), which is something no other team in the league could say. After a 1-7 start in MWC play, they had as impressive a turnaround as any team in any league in the country.
Coach David Carter in October: “When I played, the motivation was the game and the competition. It’s not about what’s on a T-shirt. It’s what’s underneath the T-shirt.”
Carter went from the coaching hot seat to the No. 3 seed in the Mountain West tournament. Hard to argue with that.
New Mexico: “Unfinished Business”
Coach Craig Neal in October: “(Lobo fans are) all good with all the championships we’ve won, but at the end of the day we’ve got to do better in the NCAA Tournament.”
In the week leading up to his team’s NCAA Tournament loss to Stanford, Neal amended the “unfinished business” mantra to being one for the program as a whole, not specifically this past season’s team as he felt the media had unfairly portrayed. Bottom line is the business of an NCAA run remains unfinished, but I’m not expecting the phrase to be uttered much moving forward.
San Diego State: “The Team. The Team. The Team”
Coach Steve Fisher in October: “We want to focus on the team. When the team wins, we all win.”
Xavier Thames won the league’s player of the year, but nobody else on that roster was surefire all-league caliber. SDSU played better than the sum of its parts, and the regular-season champion was indeed a very good team.
San Jose State: “PP … TMPW”
Coach Dave Wojcik in October: “It means players play … tough-minded players win.”
Here’s another acronym that will have a bigger say in the 2014-15 season for the Spartans: APR. The program is banned from the postseason next year due to academic sanctions Wojcik inherited when he took the job, which has to be one of the more difficult turnaround jobs in college basketball.
Coach Dave Rice in October: UNLV used “Let’s Run” then “Run as One” in Rice’s first two seasons before going away from a motto this past season.
Motto or not, running — as in away from the team — remains a theme. In his first three seasons, no fewer than 10 players have left the program for various reasons (some good, some bad) before their eligibility was exhausted.
Utah State: “Win the next game”
Coach Stew Morrill in October: “There is a goal file in (our team notebook) and all it is is one sheet. It says, ‘Win the next game.’ You think about that, and that just about covers it.”
It seems USU took a page from the Nevada playbook in its MWC debut season. The Aggies struggled mightily after being a perennial power in the WAC. Morrill said it “kind of slapped me in the face.”
Coach Larry Shyatt in October: “We pray a lot, and we use ADU (Aggressive. Disciplined. Unselfish.) in all of our prayers.”
The Cowboys lived up to their motto, and had Larry Nance Jr. not tore his ACL, who knows how they might have ended their season?