Chuck Landon: D’Antoni’s body language says it all
There Danny D’Antoni stands.
Marshall University’s head basketball coach is as stationary as a statue with his arms folded across his suit coat and “Hillbilly Ball” long-sleeve T-shirt, while standing in front of the official scorer’s table.
His face is as hard as Wyoming County coal. The usually happy-go-lucky D’Antoni is grim. His eyes are slits and his mouth that ordinarily laughs so easily is set in a thin, firm line of disapproval.
This has become a familiar pose for D’Antoni during the Thundering Herd’s last four basketball games. Don’t be surprised if he reprises it when Marshall hosts Toledo at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the Cam Henderson Center.
D’Antoni isn’t happy.
He doesn’t bother to hide it, either.
After Marshall’s troubling 93-82 loss Wednesday night at Duquesne, D’Antoni stuffed his candor in a coat pocket and said, “We haven’t played as a ‘we,’ we’re playing as a ‘me.’ The score doesn’t matter until we learn how to play as a ‘we.’”
He usually is.
The problem began during Marshall’s embarrassing 104-67 loss at Maryland. There were agents in the stands. There were NBA scouts in the stands. And it had a telling effect on some of Marshall’s players.
It was the beginning of “me” vs. “we.”
Although it appeared to dissipate during MU’s 84-64 home win over William & Mary, it reappeared during troubling, back-to-back losses at Ohio and Duquesne.
So, is it as simple as senior guards Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks combining for 111-of-248 shooting while the other 10 members of the team are a combined 140 of 297?
The real problem is Ajdin Penava doesn’t play here anymore. Everyone knew the 6-foot-10 European would be missed, but nobody realized his absence would wreak such havoc.
That’s because no replacement for Penava has surfaced. Although 6-9, 330-pound Iran Bennett started the first seven games, the redshirt freshman isn’t the answer. At least, not yet. Until he loses another 50 pounds, Bennett won’t be capable of replacing Penava.
That’s one of the factors in the “me” vs. “we” controversy.
“We’ve got Jon and Rondale (Watson) and C.J. — especially Jon and C.J.,” said D’Antoni. “They’re used to the wide-open system. Especially Jon. The quick ball movement, the quick cuts and things that allow him to be Jon. If it slows down a little bit, he gets stuck.
“Watching tape and everything, our team has slowed down. And, then, all of a sudden Iran is out and we speed up. Then, we slow down again. We can’t do that. We have to have a rhythm that we play at.”
Marshall also has to have the ability to spread the floor by putting all five players on the perimeter as legitimate 3-point threats.
“That’s what we did with Penava,” said D’Antoni. “And Penava kept the flow where you could get the quick cuts through the middle and things like that. I see Iran getting there, but he’s not there.
“The thing is that two or three years ago we could wait. Now, we think we’re in a different place and we want to win every game. So, it’s not as easy to wait — let’s put it that way.”
That’s because the future is now.
Yet, there’s no future in playing four-on-five basketball featuring players going one-on-one.
That’s the problem D’Antoni is dealing with.
See why he isn’t smiling?
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at email@example.com.