Asked whether his players have been “angry” in practice over the consecutives blowout losses at Iowa and Ohio State, coach Tubby Smith will describe some of his guys as “chippy.”
He falls just short describing their reactions as “angry,” however, while he would like to see more of that mood.
“I would hope they’d come out angry and play with a real sense of urgency,” Smith said.
“Guys get a little chippy – but I’m not sure what guys are getting chippy for and it hasn’t translated to playing well. I thought coming off the Wisconsin win, everyone was all excited, having a good time, dancing in the locker room, spontaneous, and then to come out and play the way we played at Iowa and then it carried over into the next game, so I’m eager to see how we respond to those two losses.”
But it’s tough to elicit that response from a team when the coach doesn’t wear that attitude either.
“I’m not happy, but I’m not a guy that gets really angry,” Smith said. “We try to get our guys to create the atmosphere in practice to make it tough, so when we get into the game we play relaxed. The practices are tougher than the games. We’ve tried to create that over the last few days.”
Smith has had his players running as a group for each turnover in practice, a implementation that caused Saturday’s workout to be rather “intense,” Andre Hollins said.
But he’s also played to the players’ suffering psyche, bringing in sports psychologist Rick Aberman to talk with the players over the weekend.
Smith can’t seem to decide whether he wants to play the part of drill sergeant or the shoulder to lean on, but if anger is what he’s looking for, he might need to change his approach altogether – after Monday’s shootaround, the message among players was mostly positive as they looked ahead with the “backs against the wall” mentality somewhat lacking.
The coach pointed out that he would like to see the team working out on their own, beyond organized practices – a routine that would seem common sense given the team’s struggles.
“I’d like to see them in here more,” Smith said. “I always want to see guys get up more shots and get into the gym more. That’s what they do. That’s what they like doing. Whether they’re getting in there enough, each individual player, whether it’s a coach bringing them in or sitting down watching film, you could always do more.”
That would certainly seem the case if these Gophers – who are teetering on the edge of playing themselves out of the NCAA tournament – want to achieve more. And getting angry -- both coach and players -- would be the first step.