We knew the first year of Derek being a head coach was going to be a bust. The team was not very good when he got there and he only had one scholarship to give. Those that are married to coaches know there is absolutely no fun in losing especially when you know you are going to lose before the season even starts! When you win the atmosphere around your house is jubilant. There is a kick in your step and you are energized. But, when you are losing there is a sense of dread. It is like a depression.
Derek’s first year record was 3-24. That is less than a one win per month average. There was a dark cloud over our heads that first year. It was an extremely hard year. It was the worst record in school history. I think what put him over the edge was when we lost to an NAIA school. He told me later that he thought he was going to pass out during that game because he was so exhausted and emotional from coaching.
The second year was much better. Derek recruited a fantastic junior college player. The good news was that he was going to be a major game changer; the bad news was that he only had one year of eligibility left so Derek was going to have to make the best of it. The team went 11-18 and finished fifth in the Mid-Con Conference. It was the highest ranking they had ever received in that conference. Derek had six games that year that were lost by less than 3 points and of those six games four were lost at the buzzer. I never knew how much losing at the buzzer can take out of someone. You are on an emotional roller coaster ride the entire game. As a fan it is draining, I can’t imagine what it does to the coach. You are winning, then losing, then winning, then in one split second it is over and you lost. At least if you are losing by a lot there is time to accept it and admit defeat but when it happens at the last second there is no time to prepare. It is like if you are watching a movie and right as you are getting to the good part the credits start to roll and the movie is over. You leave the gym feeling like you have just been taken advantage of. There is nothing you can do to make it better. It was harder to take the loss when he was a head coach because that “L” went on his record. It hurt too when he was an assistant but the knife went a little deeper when he was the head coach. I was thinking what a great record he could have had if those close losses were close victories. He already had one of the biggest turn around programs in the country going from 3 wins to 11 wins in one year and if he could have added a few more victories maybe he could have put the school on the map. Their season ended that year in March when they lost by 5 points to the #3 seed in the first round of the conference tournament. Our community considered it a great year but I know Derek was not satisfied. He had visions of making it to post season play and anything less was not acceptable. After the season, Derek received various offers to be an assistant coach at some high level Division I schools but he turned them down. He had a five year contract and he wanted to see just how far he could take them (that turned out to be a HUGE mistake).