Monday’s blog included a post on Johns Hopkins’ 18-5 loss to No. 5 seed Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament – a setback that cemented the program’s first losing season since 1971.
That entry generated 14 reader comments, perhaps the most by a single post this year. While some cited the team’s youth, lack of speed and/or conservative style of play as reasons for the Blue Jays’ troubles, several pinned the blame solely on coach Dave Pietramala.
Let’s review Pietramala’s resume. Under the 10-year coach, Johns Hopkins has advanced to six Final Fours and four tournament finals, capturing the national championship in 2005 and 2007. The team has compiled a 113-38 record, and Pietramala is 45 wins shy of tying Bob Scott for the most victories by a Blue Jays coach.
On the flip side, Johns Hopkins struggled to make its 39th consecutive tournament appearance, defeating Towson and Loyola in its final two regular-season games. The Blue Jays have lost 10 of their past 13 meetings with Virginia, including the past six. Johns Hopkins has lost five of its past six games against Syracuse and dropped annual showdowns with Maryland and Navy, the latter breaking a 36-game losing skid in April.
Pietramala didn’t seem bothered that he might be the target of criticism during the offseason.
"People are going to do what they want to do," he said. "Right now, we lost in the first round of the playoffs, and we’re going to get criticized for it, and we deserve to be. That’s the way that is. That’s part of this job. Am I concerned about the criticism? I’m not concerned about the criticism. I’m concerned that we’ve put ourselves in a place where we can be criticized. Am I concerned about the criticism? No, we deserve it. I’m not hiding from anything. Am I worried? No. My body of work here has been tremendous. My staff’s body of work here has been tremendous. Should [Syracuse coach] John Desko be worried now [after the Orange lost, 9-8, in double overtime to Army in the first round]? If it was easy, everybody would be doing it, and everybody’s not doing it. No matter what everybody wants to say, go back and look to see who’s won championships in the last 10 years. It’s the same teams. Did we fall down? Absolutely we did. Am I concerned that in our last two playoff games, we did not do a good job? Yeah. So we’ll fix it. We’ll adjust, we’ll adapt, we’ll change if we have to, and we’ll address it. But everybody wanted to say that Hopkins wasn’t going to make the playoffs and that it was going to happen. It didn’t happen. Isn’t it funny how we found a way to make it? We didn’t let what happened to Syracuse, Princeton and Virginia happen to us. People will look at it in one of two ways. They’ll say, ‘Well, it didn’t happen to them, so that’s a good thing.’ Or, ‘But they didn’t do the job in the playoffs.’ In the end, I’m happy that we kept that streak alive, although I’m not a streak guy. But we found a way when our backs were against the wall to do the job, and I know we’re capable of doing the job. Now we’ve got to find a way to do it all the time. … Criticism is the way it goes. That’s part of the job, and I have to deal with it. Our performance has put us in a position where we can be criticized. In the end, the only criticism that matters is the one from my administration and my staff here, and we’ve been supported tremendously here."
Pietramala vowed to take a critical look at every aspect of the team – beginning with himself.
"We have to figure out, as coaches, the mistakes that we made," he said. "That’s where it starts. You look at yourselves first. So we’ll do that. We’ve already met with our strength coach to talk about how we’re approaching the summer, the fall and the winter and what changes needed to be made there. We have to meet as a staff, but I think right now, each of us is kind of soul-searching and asking, ‘What could I have done better?’ And for me, I’ve got to do a better job of communicating with my team. Maybe when we meet, we’ve got to talk about the people we have here and do we have to adjust our style or change our style? Do we have to keep doing what we do? … We’ve been asking ourselves those questions and thinking about them as we’ve gone through the season. It’s not something where you say, ‘We’ll wait until the end and then figure it out.’ We’ve got to be, as coaches, willing to adjust to change, and I’m at the head of that list. I’m in charge of this."