Growing up, I was a passably decent basketball player, who trained year round. My last 3 years in high school, while being pretty much consumed by the sport, the teams I played on were a collective 27-36. 42%. We won 12 games the last two seasons. Now, I’m not going to go all Uncle Rico about my mediocre basketball career. I do want to impart to Bronco Fans who did not suffer through the football win droughts of the 80’s and part of the 90’s, though, an important lesson. That is the art of losing.
Losing more than winning is painful. It’s a land of heartbreak, and what the Broncos Men’s basketball is dealing with, since they are now 5-6 in conference after a loss to Utah State this afternoon in Logan. The guys are also 3-5 away from Taco Bell Arena, and not only does their confidence seem drained after losing several games this season when up big at one point, but fan support is waning.
One thing I learned from the debacle in the first paragraph was that changing coaches is a rough affair. If it can be avoided, it should be. We had 3 coaches in 3 years, and it was awful. Coach Rice is three seasons in, and still winning more than losing, and that means that the hot seat is nothing more at this point than a nice warm leather car seat in 20 degree weather. Teams require consistency, and Rice is statistically the best Bronco Basketball coach EVER in Bronco History, currently 70% win percentage. No Boise State coach ever is that high – even Bobby Dye ended up at 61%. Coach Rice is having the best season he’s ever had, and has a two-year improving streak, not including this season. There is ZERO reason to be calling for his job at this point.
The next thing I learned is that losing can’t be the end. Basketball, in my experience on a losing team, is about the fight. Winning is about asserting your will – being creative and having fun, while ensuring the outcome is the one you envision. The keys to winning anything from games of quarters to National Championships are simple: Have a plan, have the skill, desire to finish, and work ethic to execute that plan to the very best of your ability, figure out a way to enjoy the process, and share it with great people. If a person gets up excited to attack rather than dreading the action, then winning is inevitable.
The teams I played on always got stuck in the step after the one the guys are in – a rough stretch of close games, taking losses at home and away, making nothing about the game much fun at all. Let’s face it, losing freaking sucks. Bad. Players internally question their skill and their teammate’s commitment, they stop communicating well which just exacerbates the issue, and then all of a sudden nobody is having a bit of fun and starts playing to Not Lose.
I don’t think the Broncos have hit that mark yet, they’re still talking, but the outside noise is louder and it’s probably getting hard to ignore losing. They’re on the verge of two outcomes – Bronco Nation stops showing up, games continue to be lost, and everybody on both sides gets disillusioned and are happy to be out in the first part of the tourney, or the team finds their identity, does some conditioning, finds their killer instinct, and makes a run we’ll never forget.
The last thing I learned about losing is this: being a gracious loser is much better than throwing tantrums. Shockingly, I had a foul mouth and a violent set of elbows back in those days. I fouled out nearly every game, usually 4 fouls that could probably be considered misdemeanor assault if they happened at a bar, and a technical. My attitude was crap, losing hurt my heart, and since we were a bunch of teenage girls everything was theatrical and The Worst Thing Ever in the History of Things. (It was kind of like a IRL twitter fit, except all the time and at high pitch with tears.) Losing causes trauma and drama with the wrong mindset. Bronco Nation, we don’t have to be happy with losing. We don’t have to pretend like nothing is wrong and never criticize anybody for anything. We do, however, need to keep perspective. The Bronco Bouncyhoop team wins more than they lose, they’re working hard, and if anybody can figure out the puzzle that is getting personalities of young men to mesh and work together in a way that makes victory achievable, I think it’s probably the all time winning-est coach in the history of Boise State.