David Carter gave his concession speech Tuesday night.
“I don’t have any answers,” the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball coach said after a we-just-hit-rock-bottom 69-64 overtime loss at home to the Fresno State Bulldogs.
Carter sounded like a father whose son just stole the keys to the family Cadillac and promptly crashed it into the tree on the corner. He was angry. He was frustrated. He was fuming down deep inside and on the surface. He used words that would make Alphie blush.
He was defeated.
“It is what it is,” he said after the loss to the worst team (before Tuesday, that is) in the Mountain West. “We are what we are.”
What are they? They are a team that doesn’t play hard, doesn’t play smart, doesn’t play for each other, doesn’t have a clue how to win close games. They play scared, they have no leadership on the floor and they get lazy on defense and offense.
What it is, Carter said Tuesday, isn’t pretty.
“We missed free throws,” Carter said, explaining the loss to Fresno. “If you can’t make free throws, maybe you’re not a Division I player. That’s just toughness and we have to address that. It has to come from somewhere.”
Well, it’s not going to come from this roster. That has been obvious all season long.
“It gets old,” Carter said.
Carter questioned his team’s toughness, character and heart. He wondered aloud whether they wanted to pay the price to be good, let alone great. He threatened to take away their playing time, scholarships, girlfriends, Twitter privileges and iPhones.
And he was absolutely right.
Carter gave his team a verbal beat down that should have taken place a month ago. Carter, though, still had pie-in-the-sky dreams about what this team could be a month ago. Hey, they went 28-7 last year, remember? A month ago -- maybe even as recent as 10 days ago before the embarrassing 20-point loss at Wyoming and Tuesday night’s kick in the teeth -- Carter still believed that their toughness, character and heart would grow to approximately the same size as their sizable talent and even larger basketball innocence.
He was dead wrong. And he admitted as much Tuesday night.
“We have to make changes,” said Carter, whose team has now lost four of six Mountain West games at home. “Drastic changes. They had their chance.”
It sounded as if Carter was giving up. That can’t be true, of course. Carter is a warrior and his little rant Tuesday night proved that. A coach that has given up -- see Chris Ault after all of the last-minute meltdowns last fall -- doesn’t show as much anger as Carter showed late Tuesday night.
But it did sound that way.
“There’s only so much I can control,” he said. “It’s up to them to decided what they want to be.”
Carter knows as well as anyone that players shouldn’t be allowed to decide anything. Trent Johnson never allowed his players to decide anything. Mark Fox wouldn’t allow his players any wiggle room. Carter, who helped Johnson and Fox become millionaires, is certainly the same way.
So, don’t worry, Pack fans Carter isn’t giving up. He’s not going to throw a starting lineup of Richard Bell, Ali Fall, Keith Fuetsch, Brice Crook and Patrick Nyeko out on the floor Saturday afternoon at San Diego State. He should. But he won’t. Well, at least we don’t think so.
This is not the time, after all, to give up control. This is exactly the time for a coach to start to control everything.
He can start by getting rid of that stupid rap song that is played on the scoreboard before every game. Pack, Pack, Pack, Pack. Catchy, huh? All it does is bring to mind another four-letter word than ends in ck. It’s also time Carter prohibits the showing of those silly 10-second videos of his players telling the crowd to get fired up. It’s time this team tells each other to get fired up.
The real changes, though, will come this spring and summer when players mysteriously vanish. Don’t forget that there are just three seniors on the roster and just one of them (Malik Story) even sees the floor on most nights.
It is what it is. They are what they are.
And what they are is driving their coach crazy.
“There comes a time when they have to take ownership of the team,” Carter said, again washing his hands of the whole mess. “There’s only so much I can do.”
Carter was absolutely correct in going public with his frustrations after the Fresno game. When your team stops listening to you the next step is embarrassing them in public. It’s the only thing that gets players’ attention. You want to get your team to listen to you? Post it on Twitter, Facebook or a press conference.
And don’t worry about their feelings.
This isn’t a middle school team or high school junior varsity. They are grown men. They can handle it. And if they can’t, well, then maybe Division I basketball isn’t where they belong.
Carter said as much after the game.
Basketball, don’t forget, isn’t just something they do for fun on the weekends or in between classes. They go to class in between basketball. Hey, if you want a gigantic poster-sized blowup of your smiling face waving in the student section, if you want cheerleaders to giggle as you pass by on campus, if you want grown men to ask you for your autograph and pose for pictures with their kids and wife, well, you have to take the good with the bad.
And Tuesday night was the bad.
It was real bad. It was judgment day bad. It was nowhere-to-go-from-here-but-up bad.
Carter had to explode. He’s only human.
“There’s only so much I can do,” he said, seemingly on an endless loop.
That was his only mistake Tuesday. Well, other than not demanding his team foul somebody with less than 10 seconds left and the Pack leading by three, that is.
Only so much he can do? Since when? There is a lot he can do. There is a lot he must do. He knows that as well as anyone.
And the first thing he must do now is accept part of the blame.
This, after all, is his team. He recruited them, signed them, sweet-talked their parents and asked them to be a part of Wolf Pack basketball. He put this team together piece by piece. He coddled them, babied them, nurtured them. And this was going to be the year they became men on the basketball court.
“The thing that really bothers me the most is that these guys are juniors now,” Carter said. “It’s not like they just got here.”
What Carter got this year was a team that plays as if it is a bunch of high school kids on the AAU circuit. They don’t play defense from one possession to the next, they don’t take good shots from one possession to the next, they don’t play like men.
And, for that, he must take some of the blame.
When a team doesn’t play hard, some of the blame has to fall on the coach. When a team doesn’t execute down the stretch in close games, the coach must shoulder some of the blame. When a team looks confused, unsure of itself and plays as if it wants to pull the covers over its head -- especially at home -- well, the guy at the end of the bench is partly at fault.
Carter, though, is right.
He can’t shoot free throws for them. He can’t guard against the 3-point shot for them when they are up by three with less than 10 seconds to play. He can’t hustle after loose balls for them. He can’t rebound for them. He can’t help his 6-foot-10 junior center avoid getting four fouls in five minutes like he did Tuesday night. He can’t prevent a senior and three juniors from going 2-for-15 combined on threes like they did against Fresno.
But he must take some of the blame for all those things taking place.
This is, after all, his team. His players. None of these players, after all, have ever played for another Division I coach at Nevada. They grew up under Carter’s care, his system and his philosophy.
And they are underachieving.
Carter, though, said Tuesday that this team wasn’t recruited for the Mountain West, as if that explains the 3-8 league record. It was recruited for the Western Athletic Conference, he explained.
That’s not entirely true. The Wolf Pack knew it was joining the Mountain West in August 2010. Freshmen Marqueze Coleman and Cole Huff and junior Ali Fall didn’t join the program until 2012.
“It takes a different kind of player in the Mountain West,” he said.
When the Wolf Pack was dominating the WAC from 2004-07 and going to the NCAA Tournament every year, it wasn’t recruiting for the WAC. It was recruiting to get to the Sweet 16. When did they start simply recruiting to play in the WAC?
Carter also added that things wouldn’t be this bad if they were still in the WAC. We’re not so sure about that either. Wasn’t Fresno State in the WAC last year?
This Pack team is dysfunctional, no matter what conference it is playing in. They don’t rebound, don’t defend all the time, don’t play with any basketball intelligence or toughness and they seem to forget what their coach tells them as soon as they leave the huddle. And Kevin Panzer is not a center in any Division I conference and most Division II and III conferences, for that matter.
Carter must take some of the blame for that. Not all of the blame. Not even most of the blame. Just some of the blame. On Tuesday, though, he wasn’t taking any of it.
Again, that’s understandable. This team is playing ugly basketball right now. He was frustrated, angry and dejected on Tuesday night. He had to vent. He was like the guy at the end of the bar talking to no one in particular who just found out his wife took off with the mailman, the 60-inch television and the Cadillac.
He looked disrespected, deceived and lied to. And he had to talk about it.
That’s fine. We understand. But it’s not Tuesday night anymore. It’s now time to take some of the blame.
It is, after all, what it is.