May 31, 2013 by Brian Casey in Opinion with 187 comments
I played four years with the UNC-Wilmington Seamen from 2005-2009 and this year returned to help coach for the 2012-2013 campaign. When I arrived to the team, we had no direction and very little grasp on the history of the program. By 2009 we had established ourselves as a contender with the top teams and had developed an identity. We were a gritty team known for physical defense, efficient offense, and a team that would wear you down. The moment we began seeing success as a program again, the identity was suddenly not our own, but rather a reincarnated one based off the teams from the 90’s. Tully Beatty, a co-coach of mine this year, said it best: “Our reputation arrives Tuesday and we arrive on Thursday and we take a cab on Sunday.”
The average Seamen player this year was born within one year of the infamous 1993 National Championship UNC-W squad. Still, though, the reputation and stigma that comes with having UNC-W written on your back filters down through the years. The 2013 season that should be remembered as a great run characterized by taking the back-to-back national champions to half, beating a star studded Colorado team in prequarters, and fighting hard against a Carleton team advancing to their sixth straight semifinals appearance will instead be characterized by a single play in the Pittsburgh game.
One of our players had an overly physical play in the game for which he was immediately reprimanded at the time of the incident. Other than that single play, I saw no difference between the physicality of UNC-W and any other of the top level teams in the tournament. The first question asked by the media after the Pittsburgh game was about the reputation of the team. The commentary after the Colorado game didn’t emphasize the way that we won the game in all aspects, but rather alluded to the fact that we won in a way that wasn’t expected, wasn’t chippy.
In his last college year, the legacy of Tommy Lamar at UNC-W should reflect his dominance in the Colorado game. More people should be talking about Trueman Nottingham and Robert Goode as some of the premiere college players. This team was a collection of 25 players who bought into their potential and worked for the guy running sprints beside them. It is unfair to the players that have given their time and energy to our program to overshadow the run that UNC-W made at Nationals because of one play.
UNCW had the privilege of having two games filmed by Ultiworld that are now available to watch. Anyone can watch these videos and make up their own minds about the physicality and the way in which we play. The things that I take away from those games are that UNC-W has a reputation that precedes us and impacts the way opponents, observers, and the general public view us.
Let me make one thing clear: UNC-W is here to win, that is the sole focus of our team. We are never going to win any spirit awards and that isn’t something we emphasize in any of our practices or coaching. What we do emphasize comes in a question we ask after practices and after tournaments: At the end of the day are we closer to an ECU or NC State or Carleton/Oregon? We’re further from the former and closer to the latter not because of overly-physical play. Our ability to compete and beat the top teams in the country is a testament to the strategy we have in place.
We aim to sustain a high level of energy, passion, and stamina, and we do it through what we call the “Constant Huddle.” The fact that every team we played lost their subsequent game is a testament to the strength of our team. UNC-W finished tied for fifth in the country this year without the benefit of a 70-80 college tryout process, without the benefit of a large student population to pull from, and without the benefit of a long standing developmental team. Say what you will about us, but that speaks for itself.