Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sacred Heart End of Season Interview with Head Coach Dave Bike

Nearly two weeks ago, long time Sacred Heart head coach Dave Bike granted me an interview to discuss the Pioneer’s past season.  I was very appreciative for the opportunity, considering I basically arrived at Coach Bike’s office unannounced.  Despite never having met me, he was very friendly and engaging, answering all my questions.  Below is my interview transcript with the Sacred Heart coach:

Pioneer Pride: To start, Sacred Heart was picked 8th in the NEC preseason poll, you finished right around there, but you certainly had your ups and downs during the season.  The ups were you swept the America East teams in non-conference, you beat Quinnipiac twice, and you had a riveting buzzer beater against Central.  The downs were you lost a lot of close games, especially in conference.  What were your general thoughts on how the season went for your club?
Coach Bike: Well, I was actually disappointed in the close ones.  You don’t count the close ones we won; you’re only disappointed in the close ones we lost.  I’m having trouble trying to figure it out, finding another year where we lost so many games that we were right there, where we had a legitimate chance to win… We finished where we were picked, and I think we had a legitimate chance to move up and we didn’t.

Pioneer Pride: Why did your team struggle in the close games?
Coach Bike: When we lost the Yale game…we allowed their player to take the ball strong to the basket and we didn’t stop him.  The second to last game against Robert Morris, again we didn’t stop Velton Jones on the last play.  So, it was a combination of different things.  We showed some improvement in some categories, our defense at times played decently, but when we needed to win a game with a defensive stop, we didn’t.

Pioneer Pride: Do you think defense was the biggest problem in late game situations then?
Coach Bike: There were times we missed a couple of shots to win a game and sometimes we didn’t get the key rebound or make the stops defensively.  And I think one thing is when the other team tests us; we have to learn to test them by going to the basket.  I think that’s what hurt us.  I don’t think we’re worse than other teams on defense, but I think our problem is we don’t test them as much as they test us.

Pioneer Pride: So your team wasn’t as aggressive as they could have been?
Coach Bike: We have to get the foul line more, and we have to be convinced of that.  We have to learn to take it to the other teams as much as they take it to us.

Pioneer Pride: Building off that, how can your team progress next season to reach the NEC Elite -- the upper quadrant of the league -- where SHU is challenging teams like Wagner, Robert Morris, and LIU?
Coach Bike: We have to get stronger physically, and if we get stronger physically then we’ll get stronger mentally, and then we’ll get tougher too, I think.  Now Gibson has worked on his body, is a strong guard and he showed more endurance this year.  But I think the other guys have to get stronger and play stronger.

Pioneer Pride : Your team didn’t have that reliable second or third guy behind Shane Gibson.  Sacred Heart didn’t get consistent play from Louis Montes, Evan Kelley, Justin Swidowski, and Chris Evans.  Were you disappointed with their inconsistent play throughout the season?
Coach Bike: We had an exercise before the year started where each player had to write down their expectations.  Gibson came the closest to his expectations -- he was right on the mark -- but some guys didn’t meet their own expectations and that’s disappointing.  The difference between being a very good player and a so-so player is consistency, there’s no doubt about it.  So we’ll do the same exercise again, and I’ll be interested if people lower their expectations, which is OK because you don’t want to have an expectation you can’t meet.  That’s unfair for a coach to expect guys to do something that they’ll have trouble (accomplishing).  You want to be in the ballpark, but then we have to figure out how to get there.

Pioneer Pride: Did injuries play a role toward the inconsistency?
Coach Bike: Yeah, for some teams a guy gets hurt and the team picks it up for a game or two.  How guys come back from an injury makes a difference.  Evans never really came back and played as tough as he could of from his injury.  Every team has them and you have to play over them or play with them.  I’m not sure if we handled injuries as well as other teams would have handled the same injuries.

Pioneer Pride: Let’s talk about some positives for the season. Shane Gibson had an incredible year as he led the NEC in points per game by scoring at a very efficient rate.  Even though Julian Boyd was obviously deserving of winning NEC Player of the Year, I was surprised the voting was unanimous, because I felt Gibson warranted at least some consideration for the award.  Did Gibson have the best season you’ve ever coached for a Division 1 player?
Coach Bike: Well, scoring wise it is, so yeah it is the best season as far as points and percentage.  Can he get better? Well, I think he shortchanged himself.  It was remarkable that he shot 51% from the floor when he could have gotten fouled more.  I think he can improve in that area.  I think he can improve on his assist/turnover ratio.  But in terms of pure scoring, he was very good.  You were talking about how surprised you were that Boyd was unanimous (winning NEC Player of the Year), but if we were in first place and LIU was in 8th place, well guess what, then Shane would have been unanimous (in winning NEC Player of the Year)... Now Shane had a remarkable year as you said, but it's not over and let’s see what he does next year.

Pioneer Pride: Another positive was the play of freshman Phil Gaetano.  I was particularly impressed with Gaetano’s poise as a freshman, since he made some key plays in the clutch on occasion.  Comment on Gaetano’s progress and where you see him next season.
Coach Bike: The coaches had high expectations for Phil, and he met most of those expectations. A lot of kid’s goals are to play Division 1, but Phil’s goal is to be good in Division 1.  And I think he has a chance.  Now his size hurts him, so he has to compensate for that a little by getting stronger.  He has a good head for the game, he’s firm with the ball, and we expect him to be a good player.

Pioneer Pride: Stan Dulaire is the only major contributor you’re losing next season, so I’d like your thoughts on the Sacred Heart career of Stan, who by all accounts was a great teammate and a hard worker.
Coach Bike: Stan is a super kid.  I think he started to make moves that he could have made a few years ago.  He started to take the ball stronger to the basket.  We talked to him about red-shirting when he was freshman, and he didn’t want any part of it.  The way we tried to do things around here, it would have really benefited him.  He was a real good teammate, and a real respectful person, and he was an easy guy to root for.  He improved in all aspects of the game, but it’s too bad his college career has to end now.

Pioneer Pride: You have two incoming players, 6-foot-7 recruit Tevin Falzon, who supposedly possesses a nice inside-out game for a big man, and 6-foot-8 transfer Mostafa Abdel Latif.  How much contribution do you think you’ll get from both players in the front-court next season?
Coach Bike: The thing that was disappointing this year is (we didn’t have anyone to pass the ball inside to).  I really believe that’s an important factor, but we didn’t say that this year.  It’s not that I don’t believe we should get the ball inside more, but if I said “pass it inside”, my question this year was to whom?  Who really wanted it inside?  So one area that’s available -- to get back to my philosophy -- is if somebody shows they (can play the post).  Somebody has to step up in that area.  Could it be the returning guys?  Yeah.  Could it be the new guys?  Yeah.  I would say they have a better chance at participating (in playing the post) if they’re the guy we say, “get the ball inside to.”  I think Swidowski would have a good chance to be the post guy – I think he has real good moves – but he doesn’t want to use them around the basket the way he should…

Pioneer Pride: Coach, you’ve been coaching for a long time.  You’re coming up on your 35th year, which is remarkable.  You’re the face of Sacred Heart basketball.  How much longer do you want to do this, and are you going on a year-to-year basis now?
Coach Bike: Yeah, year to year.  At this age, I’m not planning for the next 35 years (laughs).  So we’re taking it a year at a time, a day at a time, and we’ll play it by ear.

A special thanks again to Coach Bike for the interview and hopefully I'll have the opportunity to talk with him at the Northeast Conference media day in the preseason and during next season.

You can follow Pioneer Pride for Sacred Heart and Northeast Conference men's basketball updates on Twitter at @pioneer_pride

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