And the first season of the Jim Ferry era came to an end quietly Saturday with another loss, this time to Richmond, in a season of mounting losses and many disappointments.
But that doesn’t mean it was a total loss.
Yes, losing 17 of your final 18 games, winning only once after Jan. 1st and going winless at home in conference games is never good and there is no way to put a positive spin on the season.
And there is also no reason for me to go back and rehash every bad thing that happened.
So here is an analysis – with a look ahead to next year and beyond….
1.) Greg Amodio and by extension Jim Ferry knew this was going to be an awful year and knew the team was going to struggle. There is no doubt about that and the expectations were low. But this low? I’m not sure I buy that.
Yes, the best players from last year were gone, yes this was a young team and yes this is a team devoid of talent – but 1-15? I don’t know if they thought it would be that bad but it is what it is (to use a stupid meaningless cliché). I will say I thought they team could have won more games than it did and for whatever reason, they could never figure out how to finish a game (see Charlotte game last week).
This is not good for the freshmen because I wonder if they are going to have to be taught how to win and you hope they don’t get beaten down by all the losing.
Transitions are never easy though, and my gut is that Ferry has had a track record of success and will teach this team how to win games and it will be fine in the long run.
One thing to remember – I get asked why some transitions are smoother than others and I point to three factors (1) returning talent (2) how drastic is change in philosophy and (3) returning leadership.
In this case, I’d say the triple whammy was hit ---
A) It is well documented that there was a large talent deficiency on this team. Again, no need to beat a dead horse and make it deader…..
B) Jim Ferry’s defensive philosophy is so different than Ron Everhart’s that it is almost like they are coaching two different sports. Ferry values physicality, rebounding and building a wall around the hoop – Everhart values pressure, athleticism and forcing mistakes. Completely different and the old mindset was hard to break as guys still took way too many chances and weren’t good at staying in front of their man. Offensively Ferry does like transition game, but he doesn’t want a team that jacks 90 3s a game and that was what his leftover talent was so I give him credit for adapting his offense to accommodate that but I would be willing to bet this team will be a much tougher, more physical team in the near future and scoring on the block will not be an issue like it was this year.
C) The senior class was small and while both of those kids made the most of a tough situation, neither really was a leader until way too late in the season when they tried to lead by example and it was almost too late.
Throw in the fact that the Atlantic 10 was much tougher than it has been in years and well it makes for a very, very long year. That’s reality.
2.) Ferry needs to recruit two things – some bigs that can play (he has two coming in and a third who is sitting out and will be eligible so he has a good start there) and a back-up point guard. Derrick Colter had too much pressure on him this year and never got a break because they couldn’t take him out of the game. The first thing the team needs, tough, are some tough guys who can rebound the way Ferry wants them to rebound. It was painfully obvious this year that the Dukes bigs were not physical players nor were they blessed with freakish athleticism and that hurt them on the glass. Colter is a good player but he can’t be asked to play 35 minutes every night like he seemed to down the stretch. A tough “glue” player, a garbage man – someone who does all the little things and defends like a maniac – would be a nice addition as well. Again, you can’t address all the needs in one class but these three things – a defender, a couple of posts and a back-up point guard are a must.
3.) The returning players need to get better. All of the guys have some talent they hang their hat on – too many of them are one dimensional. Quevyn Winters is really good at letting them fly – he needs to develop a post game and work hard to become a threat to beat guys off the bounce. Jeremiah Jones needs to work on his overall offensive game. Kadeem Pantophlat needs to continue to work on getting stronger and become a more physical player rather than a guy who just jacks 3s – I could go on and I think all of these guys could develop into a good players, but they cannot waste a day in the offseason. They all need to work on the parts of their games that need to improve. It is that simple. You can’t rely on a team full of freshmen to win a lot of games – unless you are John Calipari – so these veteran guys need to progress and most of them have a long way to go.
4.) One thing that will actually help Duquesne next year – the Atlantic 10 will be weaker with no Xavier, Charlotte, Temple and Butler in it and this is something the Dukes must take advantage of. Now is the time to begin to make a move upward so that when the expansion dust settles, the Dukes are in position to become one of the top teams in the new Atlantic 10. This is something that cannot be underestimated - who–you play is sometimes as important as who you are.
5.) This season was the toughest one of the Jim Ferry era and that is the good news. I think that Ferry showed a lot of patience this year, I think he showed an ability to adapt and I think that he also showed that he is not afraid to mix things up and hold guys accountable. I can’t say for certainty what is going to happen next year – my gut is that it will be another rough one – but I bet the Dukes are much improved and I bet they win a lot more of those 50/50 games than they did this year and that will help improve their record. I don’t expect them to get to a postseason tournament other than the Atlantic 10 next year but I think the following year – year three – assuming Ferry recruits the right guys, will be the year where the program will begin to take noticeable steps forward.