A confidential source shared some insights with me about Flyers leadership and the departure of Xeyrius Williams. My source indicated that Coach Grant initially thought very highly of Mr. Williams. In fact, Mr. Williams went to Grant once he was hired and asked to be made captain of the team.
While Mr. Williams indeed has had some troubling back problems, during the mid-season he started showing up late to basketball activities and became a cancer in the locker room.
March 8, 2018
As expected, the Flyers played competitively, but lost in the first round of the A-10 tournament to VCU:
Dayton’s slim chance of extending its streaks of 11 straight winning seasons and four straight NCAA tournament appearances ended. The Flyers finished 14-17, the same record they had in 2005-06, the last time they had a losing season. It’s Dayton’s second losing season in the last 19 years.
During this difficult season, the Flyers frequently couldn’t play offense or defense. They allowed 73.5 points per game, the most in a season since 1994-95 when the Flyers finished 7-20. As previously mentioned, the Flyers zone defense was especially poor in defending the 3-point shot, ranking 324th in the country.
A new coach typically gets a ‘pass’ his first year (since its technically not his team), and then a couple of more years to prove that he has the moxie to recruit and lead a winning team. While the Flyers are not considered a powerhouse, there will certainly be pressure on Mr. Grant to be more successful next year. Given that three college teams within a 50 mile radius from downtown Dayton (Xavier, Cincinnati, and Wright State) are all going to the March Madness tourney, the UD fans have higher expectations than most mid-major programs.
February 15, 2018
For some reason, coach Grant likes to play zone defense and the players don’t like defending much at all. The recent lopsided loss to a mediocre George Mason takes the cake in the unfolding of a very ugly year (perhaps the Dayton fans have become spoiled *, but when was the last time the Flyers were 11-14?). For the 10th time this season, the Flyers’ opponent shot around 50% from behind the 3-point arc. This is not a result of playing great teams. It’s the result of some missing ingredients.
* Dayton Flyers have been to a post-season basketball tournament (NCAA or NIT) 15 of the last 20 years
January 9, 2018
I don’t claim to be a basketball coaching expert. My insights are based on five years of coaching middle school and 9th grade AAU basketball. In addition, I don’t know much about the new UD Flyers head coach Anthony Grant other than he is a former UD player that possesses a decent record as a head coach in the D-1 college ranks.
I would say that I started pondering Mr. Grant’s coaching decisions during the 2nd game of the season. With more than 9 minutes to go in a close game, coach Grant elected to not insert his team captain and leading scorer, Josh Cunningham, back into the game. A game that the Flyers eventually lost 72-69.
It’s also fairly evident that the coaching staff does not stress strong man-up defense. Even against a slower-footed team such as Penn, coach Grant had the Flyers playing a 2-3 zone while the Ivy league basketball team shot 57% from beyond the 3-point line. A game the Flyers lost 78-70. My understanding of basketball fundamentals is that you often have to man-up when a team is hot from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile the offensive schemes often do not make sense. For example, Josh Cunningham is a superb scorer with his back to the basket and he puts the ball in the hoop more than 65% of the time. For some reason, the Flyers’ offensive schemes have Cuningham coming outside the 3-point line to take possession of the ball. It appears that the coaching staff is not aware of the power in using Cunningham in a basic pick & roll as a way of getting the rock into his hands.
I used to tell my sons that a coach (grade school, college, or professional) has three primary roles in managing a team:
1) Recruiting, selecting, or drafting the best players that fit your planned approach for being successful in the sport
2) Managing the game tactics so you can exploit the opposing team’s weaknesses and defend against their strengths
3) Motivating the players to constantly improve and overcome adversity when the season or games aren’t going as desired
When I recently read an article that quoted coach Grant as saying the team needs a psychiatrist, this told me that he was already shirking some of his coaching responsibilities. In some ways, this is akin to throwing the players under the bus.
It’s still a wide-open season in the A-10 conference. Perhaps coach Grant will spend sufficient time with Bucky Bockhorn to help turn the season around.