Remember this guy?
That’s former associate head coach Casey Alexander. He’d been pointing out perimeter plays with Coach Byrd for 16 years before accepting the head coaching job at Stetson in May 2011. We can easily imagine the assistant coaching role has to be a rough one. You do a ton of the behind scenes jobs like scouting and recruiting, coordinating video exchange, charting drill performance, working with video crews, overseeing academic matters and fulfilling various administrative responsibilities and get little-to-no glory. That being said, I think we all can easily understand the impetus to leave a comfy Belmont program to be the top dog at a fixer-upper program like Stetson’s.
Keep in mind though, Casey Alexander wasn’t just any assistant coach: while at Belmont FoxSports.com senior college basketball writer Jeff Goodman ranked Alexander as the No. 5 ‘Mid-Major Assistant Coach’ in the nation. Alexander was also rated 6th in the same category by Jason Belzer of CollegeInsider.com. Needless to say, Alexander was ripe for the picking.
And picked he was. Alexander, along with 11- year assistant coach Roger Idstrom opted to break up NCAA’s longest tenured coaching staff and head down to Gulfport, Florida to coach the Stetson Hatters. That’s right, not one, but two of Belmont’s coaches left the tutelage of the Byrd-man in order that they might spread their coaching wings and fly as mini-Byrd-men on the home court of a historically miserable conference opponent. Of course, Byrd maintains that the split was amicable – so much so that he told the City Paper he had always kept an eye out for head coaching gigs that might fit Alexander(what a freaking class act, am I right?). But c’mon . . . having your number 1 and 2 guys bounce on you like that has to be rough.
Alexander’s forte was developing guards into perimeter shooting powerhouses. With this in mind, Belmont’s less than stellar 3pt game this year begins to makes way too much sense. Think about it: Alex Renfroe, Ian Clark, Justin Hare, Jordan Campbell, Andy Wicke, etc. Just sayin.
So two coaches left Belmont to coach a conference rival. Why stop there? To top it all off Alexander also brought along Belmont’s 5th all time point leader Steve Drabyn to be his other head coach. Fun Fact: During his tenure at Belmont from 2000-2004, Drabyn led the entire NCAA in free throw percentage as a Junior (78-82, .951). Since then Drabyn has coached at the University of the South, Lees-McRae and Carmel (Ind.) High School.
Here’s where Stetson stands: Alexander – Belmont. Idstrom – Belmont. Drabyn – Belmont.
Together they combine for a whopping 35 years of Belmont excellence (playing and coaching).
Saturday will be the first time the two teams meet since the coaching staff shift. It’s clear these three coaches will know the Rick Byrd system better than the average film-watching A-Sun opponent. While that’s initially unsettling, knowing the Byrd system is different than stopping it and we can be confident the Stetson recruits won’t quite be on par with that of Bruins. None-the-less I’ll be really interested to see how Alexander dials up his defense and whether he’ll try to force Belmont to rely on their three pt game that for the first time in 16 years, hasn’t undergone his masterminding.
Rick Byrd Gets Candid About the Lipscomb Loss
Rick Byrd was nothing if not frank at the January Hoop Hour. Coach Byrd took the opportunity to give an honest assessment of Belmont’s shortcomings in a loss to Lipscomb that he assessed as “as bad as it gets.” To those of us that witnessed the Bruins’ 85-74 loss to the Bison(s?) last Friday, perhaps the most glaring concern was our poor shooting and our seemingly utter lack of an inside game. Yet Byrd highlighted an area that perhaps less seasoned observers (like myself) may have overlooked: our defense. Granted, defense could hardly have not been a concern considering we allowed a 20+ point swing in the final minutes of the game. However, defense as the key to the game did not cross my mind until Byrd’s sage assessment.
In too many instances, the Bruins failed to provide proper help to each other on defense. We suffered from a lack of aggression and proper positioning. Even our posture revealed at times a lack of awareness, lack of intensity, or at best a lack of energy. This was due no doubt in part to exhaustion for some players, as Belmont did not see the same bench play that was one if its hallmarks from last season. Typically reliable playmakers like Ian Clark were, by normal Belmont standards, overworked. Still, while this may be an explanation, it is not an excuse, and Byrd did not mince words when it came to characterizing the outcome of Friday’s game. We failed, no doubt about it.
The silver lining in all of this is that Byrd’s lackluster assessment of the Bruins’ performance means (and our record shows) that we can and should expect much more out of our boys. However spotty the shooting game was, Byrd said that “some days your shots just don’t go in,” but when you play D like we did “suddenly an average team is better than a good team.”
We are a good team, but we beat ourselves. Luckily we have a coach who will not let these young men off the hook. The upcoming game against Stetson is a biggie, as it decides who will lead the A-Sun. Undoubtedly many teams would like to knock Belmont off of its high horse for its last season in the conference; Belmont undoubtedly wants to leave its A-Sun opponents with hearty servings of humble pie. If we can count on anything, it’s that Rick Byrd does not let the lessons of this last Friday go unlearned. Against Stetson, expect to see a Bruins team that is fired up on defense, that can play the gaps, and is more skillful with the screen.
The chip on our shoulder from the recent loss, combined with a matchup against a coach who learned everything from Rick Byrd, and you’ve got the recipe for an aggressive, tenacious game.
-Benjamin William Smith