Sept. 1, 2003
Hello everyone! First, thanks for taking the time to follow our trip. To give you a little background, we had the idea to take this trip during our first year here at Siena. The NCAA allows schools to take a foreign trip like this once every four years. The decision to do the trip is normally based how many key returnees you will have the season that follows the trip. For Example, going into what would have been my third year at Niagara in the summer of 1992, we had at least 11 returning players, five of which were starters and seven were seniors. We practiced for ten days prior to touring England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. That season, Niagara went on to win 23 games and earn an NIT berth.
With four starters and eight players from a nine man rotation returning, we felt this season would present the optimal time to take advantage of such an opportunity. That being said, I have to thank Athletic Director John D'Argenio for being 100% behind this effort. Not only was John supportive from the outset, but he was extremely resourceful in terms of helping us find ways to make the trip become a reality, which, as you can imagine, is not easy to fund. I also want to thank Darren Goheen and Lee Frederick of Sports Tours International for organizing such a well run trip. Having been on seven foreign tours myself, I am well aware of all the things that can go wrong, and these guys are the best. I first met Darren on that 1992 tour with Niagara so it was no surprise that this year's trip ran so smoothly.
As the trip approached, what we wanted to accomplish came into greater focus. There are three basic things we wanted to get out of it. First, we wanted to get better basketball wise from a technical standpoint. That's where the 10 days of practice beforehand became so vital. From the first day of practice, I was very impressed with this group. Thanks to Justin Livesey, who I think is as good as they get when it come to strength coaches, our players came back in great shape and were ready to go from the outset. In fact, there was only one day that I felt we had a bad practice. You often hear me use the phrase: Defend, Rebound, Execute. I thought we worked hard on those areas in practice, and by the third game in Mexico, we were performing well in those areas. In fact, we showed some marked improvement in our ability to run in transition and I also think we have gotten better in our zone attack.
Secondly, we hoped this trip would help enhance our chemistry as a team. We felt the time spent together on and off the court would go a long way towards creating the kind of bond we want to have with our team. We already believe that we have a close knit group and if you have followed past journals, you can sense that these guys really like one another. With the difficulty of our non-conference schedule, and the quality of the teams in the MAAC this year (the top five teams all return at least four starters), it is important that we have a tight group that thinks collectively. This is the only way we will have a chance to develop the mental toughness and resiliency it will take to earn a championship.
The third thing we wanted to take from this trip was an education. Experience is a great teacher. So to travel to another part of the world provides a perspective for us that we would not otherwise have. I read in several of our players journals how humbling it was to see the poverty in Mexico City. The city is rich with culture and history. I felt all along that our guys embraced the entire experience. That was extremely gratifying. Casa de la Cultura is the name of facility we played two of our games at while in Cancun. Well, it also serves as an orphanage. I watched our kids interact with the young people there. It became abundantly clear how good these young men are as people. Not surprising, but great to witness. After our last game I saw two of our players take the shoes off their feet to give to a couple of youngsters.
Our feeling was that if we met those three objectives it would be very difficult to not have fun, when you consider that we spent more than half the trip in Cancun where there is plenty to do. The fun for me is knowing that we accomplished what we set out to do while having a great time and without any injuries.
Overall, the trip was a success. We made some improvements as a team and we saw some tremendous improvements from each individual on or team. We also learned a lot and got better as coaches. Now the challenge is to reap the benefits of this experience by making sure we establish some carryover into our fall workouts and practice in October. I'm sorry all of you could not have been with us, but I hope the Journal entries have provided you with some satisfying insight. I look forward to seeing you all during the year and hope everyone can make out to the Green/Gold game on October 25th!