Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cornell - An Exercise In Team Unity

I think it is safe to say that we are now familiar with the "Cinderellas" of the NCAA Division-I national tournament now. Having spent three years at low/mid major schools, I have a tremendous amount of respect, love, and admiration for teams like Northern Iowa and Saint Mary's. Being that I coach at the Division-III level without athletic grants-in-aid (or what is most commonly referred to as scholarships, even though they are not based on academic merit) I have even more appreciation for Cornell getting to the Sweet 16 due to the fact they are operating under those same stipulations with considerably stricter academic standards.

One of my favorite things about this Cornell squad is their unity. Watching them last week was a source of joy. They seem to truly enjoy being together and playing together. They move with a sense of purpose, of which most of the time that purpose seems to be helping their teammate. Whether it is setting a good screen to get a teammate open or rotating on the weakside of the floor defensively, these guys are there for each other. This ultimately leads to a well-oiled machine that is wonderfully efficient; they are shooting almost 60% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc in their two tournament games.

It is not just on the basketball court either. These young men are tight off the floor as well. In David Fox's article for Yahoo! Sports, he describes how much fun the team has together and their inside jokes. A quick read, but just a lot of fun: Cornell laughing all the way to the Sweet 16. Another great article on how well these players get along off the floor is from The New York Times', Pete Thamel: Cornell Counts on Closeness Against Kentucky. It is my sincere hope that once I have the opportunity to coach my own team, that I can foster an environment like the one Steve Donohue and his staff have created.

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