Misnomers, Aliens and a Winning Season Brings New Vibe to American
Michael Gardner | 4/4/14 6:23pm
Winning makes a difference at American University, and everyone is having fun.
“I don’t know if fun is the right word,” men’s basketball Head Coach Mike Brennan said. “I don’t think coaches necessarily have fun. If you win it is more of a relief, you put in so much time and effort.
“But it’s been a great group to coach, they’ve just been zeroed in and focused from the start. Everything we’ve asked of them, they’ve done.”
The American University men’s basketball team (15-11, 11-4 PL) is off to one of the program’s best starts in school history, bouncing back after a 10-20 season under former head coach Jeff Jones. Last season was statistically the worst in American basketball history since 2001, and the Eagles weren’t a member of the Patriot League then.
“[Brennan is] way different than our previous coach,” sophomore Marko Vasic said. “He’s intense, but he’s like all getting us better individually and as a team. So, I’ve enjoyed playing his style of offense and I share his opinion on the court, I agree with his philosophies.”
Under Brennan, the Princeton grad and former Georgetown assistant has brought high-octane hoops back to Bender Arena with new faces and a new playing style. When the Patriot League preseason poll came out, the Eagles were predicted to finish second to last due to a first-year coach and only two returning starters.
“It’s been pretty cool, especially since its been unexpected everybody picked us to be last, bottom of the barrel and we have kind of come back and proven everybody wrong, so it’s been kind of fun,” sophomore Jesse Reed said.
Under the leadership of red shirt-junior Darius Gardner and the consistent, diverse scoring, American not only leads the conference in scoring defense, but has the Patriot League’s best team assist average and field goal percentage, courtesy of the infamous Princeton offense.
“I feel like we figured out how to play this style of offense, play with each other,” Vasic said. “It’s very fun because we all share the ball.
“I think everybody is starting to recognized their role and that the team is the most important thing. And that came around conference play luckily.”
The offense emphasizes the simple fundamentals of the game in passing, dribbling and shooting the ball. According to Brennan, the team’s offense is similar to what he ran as a player under Hall of Fame coach Pete Carril at Princeton. A simple idea that has not change even when Carril came up with the concept watching the early Boston Celtics teams of Bill Russell and Sam Jones distribute the basketball.
“The Princeton offense is a bit of a misnomer,” Brennan said. “The term might have been hijacked a little bit over the years.
“Simple concepts; may be a cut here, a cut there, but the basic principles are important of the offense. Not a lot has been changed.”
Simple offense, but foreign to most.
“It’s not like the Princeton offense is like aliens, but I never ran any similar type of offense,” Vasic said. “Definitely this was something that was new to me.”
With the renaissance in men’s basketball, the Eagles have learned as much from Brennan as they have from each other, embracing the winning conference season and returning back to glory as the best in the Patriot League.