Following an uncharacteristic 9-21 season, Tom Moore has put last season's struggles behind him at Quinnipiac, where he is hopeful for a reversal of fortune with a more seasoned roster next year. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)
When you're a coach who has been accustomed to winning, and winning consistently, for over two decades, a nine-win season can be an unnerving dose of culture shock.
So it was for Tom Moore and Quinnipiac last year, as the Bobcats sought to reclaim their spot in the top half of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference after each of their four leading scorers in the 2014-15 season graduated. But for all the promise and upside prevalent in Hamden, the results were unfortunately not as abundant as those in the program had hoped when all was said and done.
"It was obviously a disappointing season," Moore lamented, putting to rest what had been an unusual experience for the longtime assistant to Jim Calhoun at the University of Connecticut, where he had helped deliver a pair of national championships before building his own successful program at Quinnipiac. "It's the first year myself and my staff have really ever experienced losing that much. We've been fortunate that if we had a sub-.500 season, it's been one game under."
"There were quite a few things that contributed to us being as ineffective offensively as we were," he said of the Bobcats' maladies with the ball in their hands, "and the shame of it is that for, I think three-quarters of the season, it really undercut what was a really good defensive team and a really good rebounding team."
Quinnipiac remained true to itself on the defensive end with its aggressive rebounding principles, and their philosophy did indeed keep them in the majority of their contests through Moore's ninth season at the helm. However, the youth that the coach was hopeful would make their mark while tasked with the responsibility of replacing first team all-MAAC talents in Ousmane Drame and Zaid Hearst, as well as role players in Evan Conti and Justin Harris, proved to be more of a factor than anticipated in the Bobcats' growing pains.
"I knew there was going to be a lot of pressure on our sophomore class just because we lost the four seniors from the year before," said Moore. "I was hopeful that that sophomore class would take a big step up in production and maturity with the opportunity that was ahead of them."
Even in adversity, though, there were noticeable bright spots.
"I thought Chaise Daniels did as best as you can expect," Moore said, heaping praise on his burgeoning forward, "especially when he lost about five games to a knee injury in the middle of the year. I thought James Ford did a nice job for us defensively and leadership-wise, but he was the only real seasoned sort of veteran in our program that was playing meaningful minutes."
Ford has since graduated, and point guard Giovanni McLean; who was approved for a final year of eligibility by the NCAA, will transfer elsewhere as a graduate student, Quinnipiac announced on Tuesday via Twitter.
Gio McLean will graduate from QU this week, earned waiver from NCAA for final year of eligibility & will look elsewhere for grad school.— QU Men's Basketball (@QU_MBB) May 17, 2016
Despite the losses, Quinnipiac still returns nearly all of their major rotation players up front, and will lean on sharpshooter Daniel Harris to anchor a transitioning backcourt in a season that Moore admits he is eager to see unfold, although he is aware of what is at stake for the program.
"I think the main thing is we have to get more of our swagger back internally," he revealed. "There's no way of sugarcoating it: When you have a losing season, you lose some of that. There's going to be a lot more pressure on me as a head coach and on my staff to make sure we instill that, but also on the older guys to be really on top of their game on and off the court as far as establishing that."
"There are a lot of things at stake with us, because we entered the league a lot higher than people thought," he warned. "We came in through the front door and didn't crawl in through the bottom, and then in year three, we finished lower than we would have thought. We have to first find ourselves this year. This will be our fourth season, (in the MAAC) and I'm excited about going through it."