What we learned from the O’Banion years

It wasn’t very much fun, the Danny O’Banion era. 21 wins in four years. Only once did KSU win back-to-back games. There were long losing streaks. There were glimpses of good play.

But in preparing this, I went back and looked at statistics for the four years. They were grim.

KSU was dead last in the MAC in scoring margin every year.

In four years, the Flashes were in the top half of the league five times out of 60 statistical categories. (I looked at (15 a year).  They were 11th or 12th 32 times – more than half of all categories. Even this season’s team – which I thought was decent at times – was 11th or 12th in nine of 15 categories.

No wonder it seemed so discouraging.

I think O’Banion leaves the program in better shape than she found it. I don’t think there was a single woman on that first team who was an above-average Division I player. I’m not sure there were three average players. Now we have Jordan Korinek and Larissa Lurken – both of whom will be 1,000-point scorers before they graduate. Tyra James’ statistics this season are in the same range as Korinek’s last season. Alexa Golden would have been on an all-freshman defensive team if there were such a thing.

I’ll talk about what we have coming back in another post. For now, here are some things I learned in the last four years:

1. Don’t wait until late April to hire a coach. That’s when O’Banion was introduced, and two recruiting seasons were essentially gone. The best player Lindsay signed switched to Bowling Green There Miriam Justinger  started three of four years. Another got tired of waiting and signed with Akron. Anita Brown ended up all-MAC this season.

The way basketball recruiting is these days, most juniors are close to being locked up by April. So Danny’s first real recruiting class had Lurken – and three others who are long gone.

By her third year, we had Korinek and James and McKenna Stephens. But half of O’Banion’s time was up.

I hope Joel Nielsen learned that he just can’t wait that long.

2. A good point guard is so important. We never had one who could score, get her teammates to score and not turn the ball over. Some players did some of it some of the time. Nobody did it consistently. The new coach is going to have to get one or develop one.

3. You don’t win basketball games these days without a three-point game. KSU had Lurken. Period. She took and made more than half of KSU’s three-pointers over three years. Teams keyed on her. And she is a streak shooter in any event – 11 out of 14 one game, 3 of 15 two games later. KSU was last in three-point baskets scored all four years.

4. Defense wins games. KSU was last in points allowed three of four years. Part of it was talent. Part of it, I think, was scheme. It took two-thirds of this season to realize that a match-up zone wasn’t going to carry this team.

5. Turnovers are death. KSU led the conference in them three of four years and were 11th the other. The number was masked a little this year because KSU’s pressure defense forced turnovers, but the Flashes still led the league in ones they made.

Two very good things I learned that had little to do with basketball.

1 . It’s possible to stay up in a down situation. O’Banion is the most relentlessly upbeat person I’ve ever known. At least to me, she always looked at things that were going right and the way things could get better.

2. Some thing are much more important than putting a basketball through a net. Danny O’Banion is alive. She beat Stage II lymphoma. What’s a won-loss record compared to that?


One comment

  1. goldenflash101

    Well said. The statistics were eye opening. I know over the four years I would look at them looking for signs of improvement and there was little if any. The only thing I mildly disagree with is waiting until April being a bad thing. First of all in this case the team is set for next year so the only recruiting would be if players leave. Even then it shouldn’t be critical. Secondly we have to get it right this time. If we don’t our program will be bottom of the barrel for a long time. We already have a bad rep. Another 4 years of this will put us in such a deep hole we might not crawl out of it in my lifetime. Finally thanks for this blog. It allows more detailed discussion of the women’s program.


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