Tough Season for UM Coach Frank Haith

You can hear the pain in Frank Haith's voice. You can see it in his demeanor. You know he feels worse than death going through what he and his University of Miami men's basketball team has had to endure this season.

It's not fair that Haith has to go through this type of season when it was expected that his third season at UM could be the breakout season that saw the ‘Canes finally make the big dance.

It's even more unfair for him to go through a season like this when he has already had to endure a tragic personal hardship earlier this year with the killing of his nephew by the New York Police Department.

While the death of a loved cannot compare to a college basketball game, college basketball is Haith's life. It's what he has worked his entire existence for. It's in his blood. It's in his heart. It's in his soul. It's what he's put in the long hard hours to get to the point where he is a head coach of a high major Division I basketball team in the best conference in the country.

So while there were questions as to what the ‘Canes would do this year, the one thing that was expected was a quality post presence. And that was with reason because the team featured four returning post players, including Anthony King, Jimmy Graham, Ray Hicks and Adrian Thomas as well as incoming freshman Dwayne Collins and JUCO transfer Fabio Nass.

Little could Haith have expected the ‘Canes would be down only two of the expected six as King, Graham, Nass and Thomas have all suffered season ending injuries just a bit past the half way point of the season.

To make matters worse, until Hicks' 16 point, 7 rebound outing against Virginia Tech Tuesday night, he had been relegated to the end of the bench because he simply hadn't been performing anywhere near expectation.

While the losses have been incredibly disappointing to Haith, at this point what he wants from his team is to play a full 40 minutes, something that did not happen Tuesday night when the ‘Canes didn't show up the first ten minutes of the game. And it's something that hasn't happened in quite some time.

"We competed the final 30 minutes of the game," Haith said. "The first ten minutes we were not competitive."

That lack of competitiveness caused the ‘Canes to fall behind 38-17, a hole that simply too deep to climb out of as Miami eventually cut the lead to 78-74, but couldn't get any closer.

"We were able to cut it to four, but we just couldn't get over the hump," Haith said.

While some of his players have looked good at times, the team hasn't looked good as a unit for quite some time. One of the biggest problems this year's team is having is that almost every opponent has a player that has a career night when they play the ‘Canes because of the porous defense the ‘Canes have played this season, especially on the perimeter.

It remained true Tuesday as Zabian Dowdell, although a great player scored a career high 30 points for Virginia Tech and the Hokies hit 8 of 16 from three-point range.

"Our perimeter defense was not real good and has not been good this year," Haith said. "We are not doing a good job of taking charges or challenging shooters.

"That's the thing that's very disappointing because we were very good on defense last year," Haith said. "But it's an area we are struggling in this year. When playing defense, you have to be tough and we have not been tough. We don't get in position to take chargers or keeping people out of the paint."

The problems have been identified, but truthfully, there isn't much Haith can do to fix it and he knows it. The only things that will fix it are game experience as the ‘Canes are incredibly young and the passion to play defense the way championship teams do. That's why when you hear him speak in post game press conferences of last, you hear his pain.

You saw his passion Tuesday night when he was nearly ten feet on the court when the ‘Canes cut the lead to four Tuesday, you saw how much he wanted to win. You saw how much he wanted his team to play balls to the wall defense, but they simply couldn't do it. You saw the desire and passion that fuels Haith. The problem that remains though is that the players don't have that same desire and passion. At least they don't show it. And until they show the courage and pride their coach expects them to play with, the same courage and pride he's coached this team with, the pain will continue for Haith this year.

And it's simply not fair.

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat can be reached by emailing him at rudy@canestime.com

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