Last week I wrote a piece asserting the Pack's choppy schedule had resulted in uneven play from game to game. It was my thought that getting into a consistent two-games-a-week schedule would help this team iron out what ailed it.
It's clear to me now however, after witnessing the North Carolina Central, UNC and Clemson games, the schedule is pretty far down the list of issues facing this team.
No hustle. A splintered team effort. Dissention between players. Players calling out one another in post-game comments. If Murphy had a law that applied to the game of basketball, it's in full effect. Everything that seemingly can go wrong for this team, on and off the court, is.
Point blank: it's time now for Sidney to stop playing nice with this team. The time for kid gloves, pats on the back and "atta boys" is over.
During the debacle at Chapel Hill, I thought it a safe assumption on my part that Sidney's halftime speech was a fire-and-brimstone tirade the likes his team had never seen. A locker-slamming, clipboard-throwing, Gatorade tub-tossing spectacle. But when asked about it following the game, Sidney said there was no rant or tirade, and that he only focused on the positives.
It felt like Sidney was avoiding the obvious. It was one of the worst halves of basketball in the history of the State/Carolina series. I wondered what positives could he possibly have focused on that weren't vastly overshadowed by the glaring negatives.
And after the Clemson game Tuesday, it's clear that focusing on the positives is not enough for this team. There are too many issues left to resolve that don't have to do with X's and O's to hope that simply repeating the positive mantra will get it done.
It's time for Sidney to challenge this team's will to succeed. To acknowledge head-on that the product the "team" (again, liberal use of terminology) is putting out on the court is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
I'm not suggesting, by any means, that Sidney head down the Dave Leito or Bobby Knight path. There's challenging a team's desire, then there's verbal abuse. Taking it too far could further demoralize this team and run the risk of losing the team altogether. And Sidney's not that guy to begin with. To go into the locker room trying to crack skulls would be so far out of character it wouldn't have its intended effect.
But it is well within the rights of any coach to call out a team, either on the bench during a game or in the locker room, when they are grossly underperforming.
Roy Williams is one of the best at it. An "aw, shucks" personality off the court and with the media, Roy is an absolute bulldog on the sidelines when things aren't going right. If his team gets sloppy or lazy on the court, he'll yank all five of his starters in a heartbeat and send in the reserves. When they're on the bench, trust me, Roy's not focusing on the positives.
It's time for Sidney to grow as a college coach in this respect. Play calling and scheming will only take a team so far. He needs to develop the ability to humble a team when it needs humbling. If that means benching the starters for four minutes, a half -- hell, a whole game if that gets the message across -- then so be it. It's hard to fault a second-year coach new to the college coaching arena for lacking experience in dealing with a fractured team like this, but it's high time he gets some.
In the pros, he was working with grown men who were professionals fighting every game for their roster spots. These are kids, and without a stern hand to go along with a supporting one, this team will not come together as a group, continue to play for themselves and continue to snipe at one another in the press.