Ain’t No Sunshine March 2, 2012
I had to work until 11:30 tonight. OK, I really only had to work until 9:30 – I had about 4 more hours of work to do once 5:30 arrived – but I took a few hours to watch the game. Big ups to my company for switching to an ISP that carries ESPN3.
I left at 11:30 and just arrived home. On the half-hour drive home, I listen to Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers on repeat. It’s only a two minute song – I probably listened to it 14 times. Why? Because sometimes some songs just fit the mood and you don’t want to leave. Tonight’s mood: melancholy.
At certain points during this basketball season I’ve been angry. Mostly at the coach – play Myke Henry more, why only a 6 man rotation when Northwestern is shorthanded, do we even practice offense – but sometimes at the players. I’ve been thrilled (Ohio State), gut-punched (Minnesota), and depressed (Purdue). Tonight, I’m melancholy. Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.
The moment that put me there was a subtle one. In the second half, as we were mounting a little comeback, Brandon Paul missed a three pointer but was fouled. Fouled-while-shooting-a-three, especially fouled-while-shooting-a-three-while-attempting-a-comeback-in-a-desperation-game, is a go-to cheering moment for any basketball crowd. Nobody doesn’t cheer fouled-while-shooting-a-three. It’s a great “in your face – now we get THREE free throws” moment. The crowd tonight? Not a sound. Our crowd didn’t even cheer for a fouled-while-shooting-a-three.
But I don’t say this to complain about the crowd. Given the crowd inertia, I probably wouldn’t have cheered. I’m saying this because of what it reveals. Because of what Jalen Rose observed. Assembly Hall is shellshocked, to the point of barely being able to cheer. And that makes me tremendously sad. This house just ain’t no home.
Again, I’m not angry. This isn’t a shake-my-fist-at-Bruce post. This is the post where I can’t find words. This thing I loved is a shell of itself, and nobody seems to know how to fix it. It needs to be sent away for repairs, but we still have to use it 2 or 3 more times, so we’re just limping it along until repairs can be made. It’s hard to watch.
A situation like that is tremendously unfair to the players. If you’ve read this blog for long, you know that I always point to DJ Richardson as the player most harmed by Bruce Weber’s helicopter coaching style. I just don’t think he’s the type of player that can handle a coach telling him what he’s doing wrong while he’s out on the court doing it. I still feel like there will be a moment where DJ turns to him in the middle of a game and says “will you just let me play basketball??”
To see DJ regress near the end of the season for the second year in a row makes me sad. Part of it is the coaching staff, and yes, part of it is on the player, but all of it makes me listen to songs 14 consecutive times. Sam Maniscalco’s season hasn’t turned out anything like he’d planned, Tyler Griffey went from promising in December to buried in February, and Brandon Paul’s stare on camera at the end of the game spoke volumes. All of it makes me so very sad. It’s not supposed to go like this. We’re Illinois Basketball. But all the king’s men don’t seem to have a clue how to put it back together.
Repairs will be made soon, and quite honestly, with the right coaching staff and a fresh approach, I could be feeling really good about our program going forward not even a month from now. There’s lots of talent on this roster.
But tonight, this is just painful. I’ve seen some tweets and message board posts that are mockingly celebrating this disaster. “The season is lost, so sit back and enjoy the tire fire” kind of stuff. I can’t do that. It doesn’t make me a better Illini fan (probably worse, given my whining), but I don’t possess that kind of car-wreck-on-the-interstate morbidity. I just want my program back.
And she’s gone.