To start the process of bringing a program back to national prominence begins with getting the right coach and players in place to make that first a possibility then a reality.
Following the firing of Pat Knight in March, the fans were happy when a new coach was hired that has been known for turning around programs in little time was named the new headman of the Red Raiders – Billy Gillispie.
The former Texas A&M coach took over and started the process, but now halfway through the 2011-2012 campaign the results are not what people expected or wanted – a 0-6 start in Big 12 Conference play, while losing five of their six games by double digits.
"Our legacy is really always determined by how we do in tough times, not how we do when things are going well for us," Gillispie said about the tough start. "It's a great opportunity for us, now I don't wanna continue losing, I'd rather win them all and see how we handle that, but that's the way I look at it. I know it's hard; I'm the most competitive guy in the world. Whatever the situation is we're going to fight through it and we'll see what happens before it's all over."
One of the many problems for the Red Raiders this season has
been their inability to stay competitive in games, which for stretches has not
been the issue, but rather the dry stretches they have hit in games.
In their last loss to Iowa State the Red Raiders experienced a seven minute and 58 second stretch where they were outscored 16-5 and fell behind 26-16 to the Cyclones.
"We haven't responded well to adversity," Gillispie said. "We haven't done it in practice, and we don't do it in games. There's going to be parts of games aren't going to go well, because the teams we are playing are very good. You have to be resilient enough and tough enough in the mind to say ‘OK we got to dig in, hey we turned it over but we're going to get a stop', and that's exactly what we're not doing."
In the second half of the game, the Red Raiders experienced the same issues as they gave up a 13-8 run which extended the Cyclones lead to 49-33, putting the possibility of a comeback almost unfathomable.
Senior Robert Lewandowski, who scored 20 points in the loss to Iowa State marking the first double-digit performance since scoring 10 points against CSU-Bakersfield on December 27, 2011, said the team has to get better about hanging in games and putting themselves into a position to actually win the game.
"That's the main goal for this team is to be in the last three minutes is to be in a position to win if not already have the game won and we haven't done that yet," he said. "We just need to keep striving and keep pushing in practice, we'll get there, it's going to take some time. It's already taken some time, we've made strides but we'll get there."
Lewandowski was the only player to reach double-digits in scoring and the closest to him was freshman walk-on Clark Lammert with nine points.
In the past six games it has almost been a different player every game that has stepped up and delivered, but it hasn't been consistent.
Jaye Crockett has been the player closest to being the most consistent during conference play averaging 12.3 points per game entering the game against Iowa State, but like the season has gone he was held to no points and took only one shot from the field.
This fact has been one of the most troubling things for the first-year head coach, Gillispie said, in trying to get the program turned in the right direction.
"That's the thing that's frustrating for me with this team, is you just don't know what you're going to get from everyone," he said. "Other than (Javarez Willis) guarding the ball, I know (Willis) is going to try and guard the ball, and that's pretty much all I know going into a game."
To start getting things turned around Lewandowski said they have to start focusing more in practice, and there are some habits that are occurring in practice that need to change for the team to start going in the right direction.
There are 12 games left in Big 12 play and that gives the Red Raiders some time to start getting things turned around, but Gillispie said despite the losing and the struggles his team has still been improving throughout the season thus far.
But this season is No.1 for the new players and coaching staff, and Gillispie said it is important to get this current team going in the right direction this season, but putting the building blocks in place for future success for the program is just as important at the same time.
"We knew what we were in for when we started, and we understand that," Gillispie said. "We're going to take whatever steps we need to take to try and get this team better, but also build a program. I've been around before, and it's going to happen. These guys understand that every time we get another chance to play a game it's an opportunity, we need to learn how to prepare better and that's my job. But we're going to take it one game at a time, whether you're winning or losing we're going to play the entire 18-game schedule, and we're going to be a lot better before it's all said and done."