Fletcher provides new direction for 2003-04 season
When a team posts only one winning record in 14 seasons, something needs to change. That's exactly what University of Colorado at Colorado Springs athletic director Randy Cubero had in mind when he appointed Marty Fletcher as the Mountain Lions' head men's basketball coach for the 2003-04 season.
Fletcher has done just about everything a basketball coach can do. He's coached with legends, serving as an assistant at North Carolina State under both Norm Sloan and Jim Valvano. He's built a team from ashes, leading Virginia Military Institute to its first winning record in 15 years. He's reached the pinnacle, twice guiding Southwest Louisiana to the NCAA tournament. He's managed transition, mentoring the University of Denver through the difficult transition from Division II to Division I.
Even with all that, though, Fletcher now faces perhaps his biggest challenge - create a men's basketball program at CU-Colorado Springs despite having less that half the scholarship money available to most of his Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference rivals. And do it while continuing to built upon the foundation he laid last year with the women's program.
Fletcher's task is to build not one, but two basketball programs. At the same time. The only coach currently at the Division I or Division II level to simultaneously coach both the men's and women's programs.
"Coaching is what I do," said Fletcher in an interview with the Gazette's Bob Schaller. "I'm ready to coach two teams. I know this is a unique situation."
Going into the 2003-04 season, nobody really knows what to expect from the CU-Colorado Springs men's basketball team. The Mountain Lions have only two starters, and six players, returning from last year's team that went 6-19. Nine new faces dot the roster, many of whom will be asked to fill key roles.
RMAC coaches showed their skepticism in the preseason coaches' poll, when they picked CU-Colorado Springs to finish six out of seven teams in the conference's West Division.
"When you have a new coach everybody has the same amount of experience in you system, which is none," said Fletcher. "You basically have 15 freshmen even though some are seniors and juniors. It's just a growing process."
What fans can expect is Marty Fletcher basketball.
"The priority on defense is pressure defense and the things we do defensively," said Fletcher, now in his 21st season as a college head coach. "It's (also) a priority on playing with great intensity and enthusiasm."
Seniors Jack Bain and Casey Gutting will start at power forward and point guard, respectively. Bain led the Mountain Lions with 8.1 rebounds this past season, and was second with 12.9 points per game. Gutting's 83 assists were a team high. He also averaged 10.4 points per game and made 41.3 percent of his 3-point attempts.
"We've had very good leadership from our upperclassmen," said Fletcher of Bain, Gutting and fellow senior Jimmie Pack. "Casey Gutting is the captain, he was elected by the team. The other two seniors have shown leadership."
Josef Cruz will back up Gutting. Cruz, a classic pass-first point guard, offers an effective change of pace from the sharp-shooting Gutting. Behind Bain will be Ben Roberts, a transfer from Trinidad State Junior College who averaged 11.3 points and six rebounds in three exhibition contests.
The other three spots will remain up for grabs well into the season. Several players have shown some very good things, but none has yet stepped up to lay sole claim to a starting spot.
"Probably the biggest positive has been the attitude of our players and the way they've adapted to a new system and a new coach," said Fletcher. "There's going to be bumps in the road, but the guys have been very coachable and that's why we have so much competition at positions. I think thats always good."
That competition begins at the off guard spot, where Trey White, Pack and David Tomlin will begin the season sharing time.
White transferred from Northwest Community College, where he led the team in 3-pointers (45), was second in assists (59) and third in scoring (9.7 per game). Pack played in 22 games for CU-Colorado Springs as a defensive stopper and also shot 54.2 percent from the field. Tomlin is a freshman from Spokane, Wash., who plays with great energy and has a nose for the ball.
There's just as much competition for minutes at small forward, where Dan Deveau, Chris Riedel and Stephon Hicks are battling.
Deveau, who stands 6-foot-7, has long arms and runs the floor like a guard, is likely the most improved of the returning players and won the Lance Hammond Award for his dedication to offseason conditioning. After playing only 37 minutes in his freshman season, Deveau had 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots in 60 minutes during the preseason.
Riedel and Hicks have also been impressive. Riedel, a freshman from Woodland Park, had 20 points and nine rebounds in preseason play. Hicks, a teammate of White's at Northwest CC, had 19 points and shot 50 percent in the exhibition games.
"I'm very pleased with practice and our exhibition games," said Fletcher. "We have a long way to go and we understand that. It looks like we have enough guys who can contribute where we can play a lot of people. On the perimeter, we're two or three deep. The interior's a little bit different, we don't have as much depth."
David Goodenberger figures to open the season as the starter at center. The 6-foot-7 sophomore shot 54.5 percent from the field as a part-time starter last season but often struggled with his rebounding. He showed significant improvement in the preseason, grabbing 5.7 boards per game.
Depth at center will depend upon the health of 6-foot-10 Chris McGowne. The transfer from Division I Campbell University showed in the preseason that he could be a dominant rebounder and shot blocker for the Mountain Lions, but a broken bone in his foot could limit his availability this season. If McGowne is unable to play, Roberts and Deveau will both see time at the post.
Also factoring into the playing time picture will be Z.J. Poirier and Patrick Simpson, both guards.
With so many getting floor time, fans will need a program to know the players. Perhaps thatâ€TMs appropriate, since itâ€TMs a program that Fletcherâ€TMs trying to build.
"(Academics are) the first priority," said Fletcher. "Hopefully that translates into being a hard worker and the things I think are important to be successful basketball-wise. It is a process and we're not going to take shortcuts.
"Everywhere I've been, what we've tried to do is build a program and then you become a good team. That's always been my philosophy."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
|Additional News Stories|
|May 12, 2004||Hammond named men's basketball coach||The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs announced Wednesday that Lance Hammond was named interim men's basketball coach.|
|March 9, 2004||Bain grabs conference, regional honors||Having already secured a number of school records, senior forward Jack Bain added conference and regional honors to his resume this week.|
|February 27, 2004||Seniors shine in loss||Seniors Jack Bain, Casey Gutting and Jimmie Pack combined for 42 points in the final game of their collegiate careers, a 102-63 defeat at the hands of the Mesa State Mavericks.|
|February 24, 2004||Another Bain record leads to second stright win||Jack Bain, who has set record after record during this, his senior season, saved his best for last. And a capacity senior night crowd of 304 watched in amazement as Bain grabbed one more record.|
|February 21, 2004||Win feels might fine for men's basketball||Few teams ever deserved a win more than the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs men's basketball team. When it came, few teams could have enjoyed it more.|