“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
You have a problem to work out, and a little more than a week to do so.
The time from April to November, the offseason, has always been long, but honestly they became easy. We knew how to look at them. These players were leaving, those players were coming, and the returnees were improving in these other ways. Shaka Smart and his new assistant coach would havoc them up and banter surrounded win totals, scoring averages, and NCAA tournament wins.
It was the college basketball equivalent of learning long division in fifth-grade math class. It was arduous and it took awhile, but if you took the steps in order–summer, workouts, practice, Black & Gold, secret scrimmage, exhibition–you arrived at the second week in November foaming at the mouth.
If it was anything, the offseason was consistent.
Not this year. VCU basketball has changed. That’s a fact. And it’s forcing everyone–you, me, the national media–to change the way in which we think about VCU basketball.
So we have this mental conundrum to deal with as we high-tide our way to the season: you are being forced to look at VCU basketball differently, and think about it differently, and that isn’t comfortable.
You have no choice.
But here’s the good news: some of you changed your viewpoint when Jeff Capel was hired. More did it when Anthony Grant was hired. Even more when Shaka Smart was hired. And now a metric ton of you are going through this for the first time.
We will be fine. In fact, we will be better. It’s called growth, and sometimes that’s not a linear process. Sometimes you have to pick the train up and put it on different, but familiar, track. That’s VCUs opportunity.
You see, I think we got a little lost the past couple of years. I think we became distracted by what we did not have and blinded by buzz words and bright lights. I don’t yet properly know how to phrase this phenomenon, but I feel it. Hindsight is very kind in that way.
VCU made a very fast rise from mid-majordom into the national discourse. It wasn’t the Final Four run. It was everything after. It was that we’ve been back to the NCAA tournament every year since.
“Havoc,” Shaka Smart, and moving into a bigger and tougher conference and immediately becoming the team to beat were a part of it. Ditto Ed McLaughlin picking up the administrative ball and continuing to invest in men’s basketball.
It wasn’t lightning in a bottle nor a blip on the radar. VCU kept winning and kept moving forward.
It was a lightning bolt five years. And I think within that ride we lost some of the identity that is the bedrock of what got us here. Our thinking got a little skewed. We lost sight of the makeup and mindset of what VCU basketball means.
And when that focus changed, that’s when conversation naturally turned towards what we didn’t have–a practice facility, recruits with the right number of stars, multiple NCAA tournament berths, national rankings and conversation.
We talked about sellout streaks and rankings and stars next to the names of recruits. All of those are things to be proud of, but none of those occur on the court.
It isn’t that anything was handled badly. In fact, I think everything has been handled remarkably well. There was nothing wrong in embracing all of this new stuff, and the stuff that looked great but we didn’t yet have.
It was just unique and no model of behavior existed, and that maelstrom was also the tornadic dust.
Let me put it this way: Darius Theus once worried about what he didn’t have. Once. I saw Theus sitting outside the locker room, alone, at Saint Louis after a tough defeat, in tears. He didn’t have something and there would be discussion. A win. He wanted to junk-yard-dog and get better at the game of basketball and made certain his teammates were held to that standard. On that day he failed, and it was eating him alive.
Some would call that a chip, I don’t know. I just know that Theus is the kind of player I’ll go to war with any day, the kind of player that defines VCU basketball.
But guess what? We have been given a gift. Our leadership and our prolonged and consistent success has ensured we have those things I mentioned before.
Now, we don’t have to talk about what we don’t have. We can approach a basketball season looking at who we are and what we have. I read somewhere that you should never compare your inside with someone else’s outside. That’s always been the hidden secret to our success. First, we do VCU things.
While everyone has been focused on Will Wade bringing in Samir Doughty and Hamdy and playing some zone defense, those are typical things. Basketball things.
Wade has mentioned one other thing, and almost as a side note, but this is the most important thing he’s bringing to VCU basketball: a culture that gives us back the VCU basketball identity.
That consistency is no hobgoblin.