"The answer is that we are not helpless in the face of our first impressions. They may bubble up from the unconscious - from behind a locked door inside of our brain - but just because something is outside of awareness doesn't mean it's outside of control." - Malcolm Gladwell, "Blink"
Game #9-053: Loyola (Md.) vs. Albany Great DanesNovember 18, 2012 2:00 pm
UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Psychologists continue to study exactly how our brains deal with first impressions, but most are pretty sure by now it takes only milliseconds for us to form an opinion.
I have no idea exactly what Albany coach Will Brown did to tick me off in those milliseconds, but I didn't get a favorable vibe out of him Saturday as his Great Danes took care of UMKC.
For the second straight day, my seat was right next to the Albany bench, and again Brown didn't endear himself to me. While the first game of the day was going on, he came out, sat near me (in his track suit before the magic change that all coaches do), and didn't really talk to a soul. Nor did he smile. With 10 minutes left in the UMKC-Norfolk St. game, he made his way down the tunnel, and the team followed him.
Brown was taking on Jimmy Patsos and Loyola in the final of the Springfield bracket of this Hall of Fame Tournament nowhere near the Hall of Fame, and after Albany's Blake Metcalf gave them a 2-0 lead 10 seconds into the game, there wasn't much for Brown to grin about. He scowled and ranted as the Greyhounds amazingly kept Patsos relatively quiet by scoring 30 of the game's next 40 points, opening up an 18-point lead at the midway point of the first half.
Led by the Australian duo of Peter Hooley and Sam Rowley, as well as 5-foot-9 junior D.J. Evans (there seems to be a few very good short players out there this season), though, the Great Danes stabilized and trailed only 41-31 at the intermission.
Still no upside down frown from Brown.
There was something else unique about the Albany coaching staff, something that I saw Saturday as well. There was a kid (looked like maybe a student manager to me?) in a suit that sat with the players (and away from the assistant coaches near the midcourt side of the bench). That wasn't terribly unusual, but the kid didn't sit down, always wandering up to cheer on the team, and constantly in Brown's ear saying things. Seemed kind of weird, especially because rules dictate that only one coach is supposed to stand up at a time. When the referees occasionally pointed that out, he sat down quickly, but I rarely had seen any assistant coach, let alone this kid, stand up and direct a team as much as he did. Seemed bizarre to me.
Loyola led 58-45 with nine minutes left and - with the notable exception of a couple of classic Patsos moments - had miraculously not drawn the ire of their coach much.
At about that time, senior guard Mike Black - Albany's leading scorer and hero in the Great Danes' upset of Washington the week before - started favoring his right hip. Without him, Albany started to climb back into it. A Jacob Iati three-pointer followed by a Hooley bucket cut the Loyola lead to 61-55 with 5:47 left.
At a time out, Brown walked down the bench to talk with Black. I expected him to try to push Black back into the game, say how much they needed him on the floor. He didn't. He looked at his senior leader with concern, consulted with the trainer, and told Black it was OK. As he walked back to the huddle, the scorn was gone, and even without their leader, the Great Danes kept coming.
Down 64-61, Albany forced a turnover with 21 seconds left, and Iati (who looks like he might be a big factor in America East this season) drilled a 28-footer with 3.2 seconds left to tie the game for the first time since it was 2-2.
Alas, Albany was undone on the inbounds, as Anthony Winbush heaved the ball down the court. It looked like it might go all the way out on the other side, giving Albany a chance to win, but somehow Loyola point guard Dylan Cormier caught the Hail Mary behind everyone, laid it in, and got fouled. Ouch. Albany never got a shot on the ensuing play.
While I don't think I saw a smile, Brown stayed calm as the game ended, and gave his team some positive feedback as they left the floor.
When the game ended, I looked up his bio, and it gave a very different picture than my first impression gave me. I knew Brown had back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2006 and 2007, but I didn't know he took over midseason (from Scott Beeten) back in 2001-02, Albany's first season out of the purgatory of being a Division I independent (in America East). At that time, he was the second youngest Division I head coach. He finished that season with just one assistant.
He's also very active in local charities and his teams have won several sportsmanship awards, including a National Sportsmanship Award in 2011 and America East's (again) in 2012.
Now I felt bad, especially the way his team battled down the stretch, on both days I saw them. I started the season with Stony Brook and Vermont as America East favorites, but might be rethinking that a little, even though it's very early.
And as for that kid roaming up and down the sidelines?
He was no kid, he was assistant coach Jeremy Friel, one of the young breed of them making their way through various systems around the country. He was a walk-on at New Hampshire and joined Brown first as a video coordinator for two years straight out of college, and is quickly working his way up the ladder.
As it turned out, Friel's father- Gerry - was head coach at New Hampshire for two decades and was worthy of a Sports Illustrated feature toward the end of his tenure, not for his success, but for his failures, at least on the court. Friel finished with a record of 188-335, one that probably wouldn't allow him that kind of longevity in today's environment. But he made no apologies, he knew it was going to be an uphill climb at New Hampshire no matter who the coach was.
"If you don't win, you haven't lost it all," Faust told SI. "The lessons learned from losing allow you to survive against greater odds in life. I believe in playing for the experience and for the sport. I coach because I know it is worthwhile. I am a dreamer, and maybe a little bit unrealistic. But I do know what's important is to give a kid the opportunity to be in the arena."
When he was finally pushed out (he still stayed with the school in other capacities), he had a classic: "No players are out raping or killing someone, or screwing up their heads," Friel said. "We're doing everything right except win basketball games."
There's something to be said for that in today's environment, isn't there?
Sadly, Gerry Friel died in 2007, just about the time Jeremy was getting promoted to be an assistant coach at Albany.
Again, I felt pretty bad I had judged without actually knowing. Unfortunately, we all do that from time to time. But I'm doing my best to break that habit, as you've seen here.
Yes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. But that impression doesn't have to be the only one.
LOYOLA (MD.) 67, ALBANY 64
LOYOLA (MD.) 4-1 (0-0) -- E. Etherly 7-12 9-12 23; D. Cormier 5-9 5-7 16; R. Olson 3-11 0-0 8; A. Winbush 4-8 4-4 12; J. Brooks 2-2 0-0 4; T. Hubbard 1-2 0-0 3; J. Jones 0-1 1-2 1; J. Latham 0-0 0-0 0; F. Rassman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-45 19-25 67.
ALBANY 3-2 (0-0) -- J. Iati 3-7 2-3 11; B. Metcalf 6-7 0-3 12; P. Hooley 4-5 2-2 11; D. Evans 3-7 4-4 10; M. Black 3-8 1-2 7; S. Rowley 2-5 2-3 6; L. Devlin 0-2 0-2 0; J. Puk 1-1 2-2 4; J. Guerrier 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 23-45 13-21 64.
Three-point goals: LMD 4-14 (A. Winbush 0-2; R. Olson 2-8; D. Cormier 1-2; T. Hubbard 1-2), ALB 5-12 (J. Iati 3-5; M. Black 0-2; J. Guerrier 1-1; L. Devlin 0-1; P. Hooley 1-2; D. Evans 0-1); Rebounds: LMD 21 (E. Etherly 7), ALB 23 (B. Metcalf 8); Assists: LMD 9 (A. Winbush 5), ALB 9 (J. Iati 2); Total Fouls -- LMD 21, ALB 20; Fouled Out: LMD-None; ALB-None.