The Golden State Warriors, led by head coach Steve Kerr, have appeared in five straight National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals. Yet despite that dominance, their success didn’t come easily. Tension was constantly brewing, particularly between All-Star forward Draymond Green and Kerr, as the pair’s butting heads remained a constant throughout the progression of new seasons and new rosters.
It’s on a smaller scale, yes; but nonetheless, there’s a similar system of conflict and change bringing life to the locker room of Chapman men’s basketball.
“With any good team, there’s tension between players and coaches,” said Dan Krikorian, assistant coach of the team. “We want to put them in those situations, so when it’s game time, they can deal with any adversity.”
The main practitioner of this theory is head coach Mike Bokosky. Despite this upcoming season being his 28th at the helm of the Panthers, he hasn’t let up any attempts to motivate the team before the season begins.
“He’s a yeller,” said Colin Ferrier, a senior shooting guard. “Not in a negative way, but he wants to build you up and make you better. He wants you to learn from your mistakes and improve.”
The Panthers are facing a potentially difficult season ahead. There are quite a few fresh faces; only five players are returning from last year’s roster. As such, the team was ranked just fifth out of nine teams in the pre-season Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) poll. Younger players will have to adjust quickly while returning members, such as sophomore Anthony Giomi, will need to support their development.
“We all love Coach (Bokosky), but for the newer guys, it can be a difficult transition to go from ‘the man’ in high school to being a freshman again learning a whole new system,” Giomi said. “The upperclassmen try to make it as easy a transition as possible.
There will likely be an interesting thrown-into-the-fire mentality that the coaching staff hasn’t employed much in recent history. Generally, the team doesn’t give underclassmen many minutes in their first couple of seasons, Ferrier said. In fact, only two freshmen last year reached the floor in more than half of the team’s games – and these two freshmen, Giomi and Daniel Foldes, are the only two sophomores returning from last year’s squad.
“Part of the reason for a low retention rate is that at the end of the day, we’re here to get good jobs,” Giomi said. “While they love basketball, the opportunity cost of playing basketball versus getting an education is too much for some people.”
The team has an established style of play: old-school, fundamental basketball and grinding out tough wins. Ultimately, their success this season will depend on the younger players’ ability to adjust to a difficult college game, as Krikorian pointed out – and a competitive yet constructive dynamic between coaches and players.
“For me, it’s easier (as an upperclassman), but for the rest of the team, they need to buy in and learn the system,” Ferrier said. “We want to win SCIAC and go onto the tournament; it all depends on how we gel.”