Thursday, February 12, 2009

Odds and Ends/Preview of Marist Game

My column about the Jon Han dismissal and the Stags past few games went online today at the Fairfield Mirror Web site. The column came after spending the day trying to track Han down to do an interview with him and a long conversation that Keith Connors and I had with head coach Ed Cooley in his office on Tuesday afternoon. Walking into the office, just about 15-20 minutes before practice, Cooley had his head in his hands and began by talking about how stressful the past week or so has been, with the Han situation coupled with the fact he had watched another player unable to play, Herbie Allen.

According to Cooley, Allen was going to sit out of practice for most of this week and he hopes he can play at Marist, but he came down with the flu in Buffalo and was too sick to play during the game against the Purple Eagles. As of now, Allen plans to travel to Poughkeepsie with the team, but it is up in the air as to whether or not he will play.

Most of my conversation, which focused on the amount of injuries the Stags have had to overcome and the difficult decision that Cooley had to make regarding Han, can be read in my column or Keith's article, but there were a few other interesting points that Cooley brought up.

  • Cooley on the team's performance over the weekend: "Against Canisius I thought we controlled the tempo of the game. The one thing I think we have done really well is defend. We’ve defended really good, with man, zone and pressure, that has been good. We have controlled the game defensively. Offensively I think we are getting a lot of contributions from a lot of people. I thought that was great for the three games we had success, but against Niagara we just did not have enough experience on the floor against a very talented offensive team. To beat them on their floor in a building as loud as that was. We just did not have enough game experience to compete."
  • Based off of that, Cooley talked about the fact that the top four teams in the MAAC rarely use freshmen in key situations, maybe except Rider, which plays Novar Gadson about 20 minutes per game. He brought up Matt Ryan, the former BC Eagles QB as an example of someone who excelled in his first-year as a pro. He said he is a "great kid" who would always say hello on campus. Based on the conversation it seems that he values a player like Ryan who is likable, a good leader and is an ambassador for the program.
  • He also gave high praise to freshman center Ryan Olander, again using the "ambassador" phrase, saying he is a nice kid, who is also a 4.0 student and has the potential to be one of the best big men in school history, based on his pure basketball skills. Cooley said: "I’ve coached a lot of great big men, but he has what they don’t. He needs to get a little stronger, but he catches, he passes, at 6’11 that’s not paper height, he’s a long joker."
  • Cooley talked a lot about how great of a learning experience this has been for him as a young coach. He said that he had to revert back to some of the strategies he used to motivate during his first two years as a coach, because it is a much younger, much more inexperienced team than when this year started. He has a lot of work ahead of him, but he is proud of the way his players have come together at this point and he made that obvious.
As for the Marist game, the Stags are going to be facing a very different team than they did at the Arena at Harbor Yard. With David Devezin on the court, the Red Foxes are a lot smoother offensively. That will make it harder on the Stags to cover long-range shooter Ryan Schneider and they already had a hard time doing that in the last game. Plus, the McCann Center is never a fun place to play. Fairfield should win this game if they are healthy, a point Cooley stressed. Health is the key to the end of this season. This will be a key game, as the Stags will have uphill battles against both Rider and Niagara and are already in a dogfight for fourth place in the MAAC. Fairfield needs to win this game and the Manhattan game later this month if it has any chance of avoiding the sixth seed and a matchup with either Rider or Niagara in the first round.

The Mirror will be traveling up to Marist for the game tomorrow night and will bring you live coverage from the McCann Center. Also, Chris Simmons will be bringing you coverage of the huge women's showdown against Marist at Alumni Hall in a game that should decide who will win first-place in the MAAC .

Huge day for Fairfield basketball tomorrow, should be a fun one.

-Tom Cleary

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