I returned to Reno 48 hours ago after taking a year-long hiatus from the city.. Naturally, the first thing at the top of my to-do list was to go catch the next Nevada men’s basketball game to satisfy my longtime itch for live hoops.
It was a lovely surprise to see our rivals from the state known primarily for potatoes had made the trip down to Lawlor Events Center last night. Boise, being 10-4 overall, and the Wolf Pack riding a pretty successful stretch of basketball led me to believe I’d have a front row seat to a highly competitive game. I anticipated the outcome would be decided by less than five points.
Boy oh boy, I could not have been more wrong. What I witnessed last night was by far one of the most embarrassing displays put on by any Wolf Pack team since I’ve been a student. And yes, I did just watch the thrashing on the gridiron that came from the hands of Western Michigan University just a few weeks prior.
Typically, when people think of basketball, they envision a game similar to a tide ebbing and flowing on a beach. The game is a constant push and pull, with a momentum-filled pendulum swinging in and out of favor for your team until the final buzzer rings. Last night felt like a blue and orange tsunami had swept through Lawlor and left in its wake a defeated team.
Nevada could not seem to get into a rhythm at any point in the game, constantly trying to counter every move Boise made. Now, I understand if one player is in a funk or slumping, but when the whole rotation from top to bottom can’t get any sort of rhythm or cohesion going, it points back to one place and one place only:
Steve Alford seems to be what is sticking out to me the most as to why this team is not reaching its lofty preseason aspirations. The Wolf Pack have a plethora of talent and many have said this team is one of the most talented the school has ever had the pleasure of calling its own.
So what isn’t working? The coaching.
Steve Alford came in like a lion in his first season at Nevada. He took a team with much less ability and guided them through a promising run in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. This season has demonstrated he is completely content with going out like a lamb.
If you go back and look at every game the Wolf Pack has played this year—and yes, I mean all the way back to when they went to face the University of San Diego—most of these games have ended with disappointing finishes. We’ve lost in a humiliating fashion to multiple teams which realistically should not be able to compete with us: USD, Santa Clara, USF, and now most recently Boise. One thing seems to constantly happen: poor rotation management, an over reliance on stars like Desmond Cambridge Jr. and Grant Sherfield to shoulder the burden of getting the team out of deficits and an air of stubbornness to not change a thing.
What we are seeing is exactly what happened to Steve Alford at UCLA. The reason we see it here at Nevada is because of my least favorite trend in college sports—hiring retread coaches who could not make it work at bigger institutions.
Now, I know that this may be a bit of a knee jerk reaction, and I agree it is to an extent. Alford needs a cold water bath to wake up and come to his senses. What has been tried by him before has not worked, so why try it again? Just like they say … insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Devansh Mehra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush