ruiser Flint begins his fourth season as head coach of the University of Massachusetts basketball team. Prior to beginning the 1999-2000 season, the Minutemen held their annual Midnight Madness exhibition at the Mullins Center. Before the madness, I talked to coach Flint -- who is coming off his first losing season as a head coach. Flint talked about getting the Minutemen back on the winning track and about the next two weeks of practice.
Over the last several days leading up to the beginning of our season, my feeling have been that of anticipation. I'm ready to get started to see what our team will look like this year. I do enjoy Midnight Madness (the team's first official practice). It gets the season off on a positive note. It's fun for the players and the fans look forward to it. Midnight Madness is an event for the entire campus. I like it.
I'm anxious for the season to begin, but, for me, the summer goes by quickly because I spend so much time recruiting. But the time from Sept. 26 to Oct. 15 seems to last forever. I spent a lot of time meeting with players and conducting individual workouts.
I am not telling anybody anything I haven't said before: For our team to get back on the winning track this season, we'll have to have a different attitude, which I know we will. A lot of people ask me if I feel any pressure this season. My response is simple: I really don't. The pressure is on everyone to prepare. If everyone prepares properly than performance becomes easy. It's all in our preparation.
In our preseason workouts, we spent a lot of time in a fullcourt mode, primarily because that is how we'll play this season. But come Oct. 16, our focus as a team will switch. We'll concentrate more on defense, a lot more on shooting and passing.
Our first week of practice will have more of a basketball camp atmosphere. There will be a number of stations set up in the gym where a member of our coaching staff will spend time working with players in individual components of the game. We'll work a lot on defense, fundamentals, and shooting. We'll also focus on breaking down of individual players' games. There won't be a lot of scrimmaging going on at the outset. My philosophy has always been that defense and rebounding keep teams in game, so that's our primary focus. How quickly our team grasps our game plan will dictate when we implement new strategies. Younger teams need more time to become familiar; older teams get into the flow faster. We'll need the first couple of days to determine how we stack up.
I believe we have a good and talented team and, in my next column, I'll talk about the progress we're making. Until then, I look forward to Midnight Madness and to the start of what we expect will be a successful season.