Predicting the future is always fraught with danger but I have no fear of that danger for I speak Musselmaneese. In an interview with the radio voice of Wolf Pack basketball John Ramey coach Eric Musselman described the game at the Pit as”maybe the worst game we have played in my 3 1/2 years at Nevada.” Musselman is often described as intense on and off the court, but in the interview that took place on the plane ride back to Reno, there was a calmness in his voice that seems to contradict what we have come to expect from Nevada’s Head Coach.
We have seen this side of Musselman before after a loss, sedate, calm and reserved. This is not the side of Musselman Nevada fans have come to know and love but it is indeed a side of the coach that resurrected the Nevada program. After the Washington exhibition game, Musselman talked in the same almost secretive way, at one point during the interview while discussing possible lineup changes he responded when pressed for specifics with “I’m not going to tell you more because this isn’t a pre-game show.”
In the wide-ranging interview, Musselman talked about a lack of effort against New Mexico and how some players had gotten comfortable. While that explains in part the poor performance from Nevada it also speaks to what we can expect to see against San Jose State. Musselman, who is a defacto father figure to many of his players said after the game in the Pit that he was “disappointed.”
A parent responding to the poor behavior of a child with anger does little to change that behavior, however, a parent calmly saying they are disappointed with the way their child behaved often leads to an alteration or elimination of said behavior.
I started by saying I understood Musselmaneese, and by that I mean that when looking at his body of spoken and tweeted words there is always a purpose behind what he says and tweets. While I am not sure which motivational books Musselman has read I do know he has a deep understanding of the subject, that is evident from his 5 PM tweets (except after a loss when twitter goes dark for a period of reflection) that consistently address topics like sacrificing for team, to be the best you have to work the hardest.
Winning every night is tough and playing on the road makes it even tougher. Musselman stressed this point and was effusive in his praise for the atmosphere at the Pit, the energy of the crowd, the noise level and energy. In many ways, the loss may have felt like a weight lifted off the teams collective back as Musselman talked about the pressure that builds game after game when going undefeated. By now the New Mexico game is the rear view mirror with San Jose State filling up their windshield.
What can we expect from Nevada tonight? “Energy, defense, regardless of the score” is what Musselman is looking for out of his team in the first 5 minutes of the game. Expect to see more Wolf Pack players diving for loose balls, better rotation on defense and more overall intensity.
I also expect Cory Henson to get the chance to produce over a more extended period of time. Henson has quietly put together 2 very productive games on both ends of the court, 19 minutes, nine points and an offensive rating of 140 and 169 (that’s Jazz Johnson level numbers).
There has been lots of talk about Nevada only playing 6 1/2 players something Musselman also addressed. He expressed a real desire to have a deeper rotation but production has been lacking from Henson and Nisre Zouzoua when they have gotten the chance. More important to Musselman than a certain lineup that gets off to better starts is “getting somebody confidence that doesn’t have it so that we can expand our rotation.” Henson is getting that confidence while Zouzoua and Jordan Brown are still searching.
With Nevada being a huge favorite in the game and Nevada having a 25-3 record after a loss under Musselman there certainly is a chance that this game could become as one-sided as their game against New Mexico was. Should that eventuate expect to see lots of bench minutes for Nevada?
Conference play is a long grind and Nevada will need more production from their bench and from more players that are currently contributing and the Nevada coaching staff is keenly aware of that.
Is Musselman a master motivator, will Nevada come out with intensity on defense and play less selfish on offense, make the extra pass? “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior,” is an old adage that should it be valid gives us a glimpse into the future. Failure fuels success, at least it has in the past for Nevada under Musselman, expect the epic failure at New Mexico to translate to success on the court tonight at Lawlor.