There were ups and downs, but it was a roller-coaster ride Don DeVoe was prepared to take in his first season as Navy men's basketball coach.
Before coming to Navy, DeVoe had rebuilt programs at Virginia Tech and Tennessee. Now, in Annapolis, in the first of a five-year contract, he is attempting another renovation.
"It's everything I thought it would be," said DeVoe, who is in his 20th season of Division I coaching. "I still consider this to be my ultimate challenge."
This season didn't get off to the best of starts for DeVoe and the Midshipmen.
In July, Patriot League All-Rookie team selections Mark Majick and Derrick Wall left the Naval Academy. Navy got off to an 0-5 start.
In December, after an overtime loss to Division III Gettysburg, three players quit the team -- Kevin Kozak, Kevin Havens and Brian Cochran, one of the leading reserve players and top three-point shooter (62.5 percent).
Navy has had few bright spots -- though there was a 12-day span in January when the Midshipmen won four of five games (three were Patriot League contests).
But the season isn't over for the Midshipmen (8-18, 5-9), who will face fourth-seeded Colgate in the first round of the Patriot League tournament tonight in Hamilton, N.Y.
Navy, which has lost to Colgate twice this season, is the No. 5 seed and enters the tournament with four straight losses.
"We started off not as ready as we needed to be," DeVoe said. "In our early games, the teams were a notch above where we needed to be that early in the season. We didn't quite do as well as we needed to in the non-conference games that could have added to our confidence."
Consistency has been Navy's weakness throughout the season, whether it has been failing to get a sound start or being shut down offensively near the end of the game.
Monday night, the Midshipmen, who were without starting point guard Billy Butler (illness) and 6-foot-10 plebe forward Alex Kohnen (groin pull), dropped a 72-60 decision to UNC-Greensboro after being outscored 15-2 in the final 3 1/2 minutes.
DeVoe has worked throughout the season on bringing the offensive game inside for Navy, which traditionally has relied on outside shooting.
And there has been improvement. Navy has won five league games to last season's one.
"Coach DeVoe's philosophy of hard defense and taking the open shots plays well into the Navy's kind of play. He's making steps in the right direction," senior captain John Haase said.
"It was about time for a change to come about," senior Chuck Robinson said. "He [DeVoe] has brought new pride to the school and the program."
"We probably have not done as good a job as I wanted to in terms of developing skills this season," DeVoe said. "I'm hoping we bring in talented enough basketball players so we can become more competitive soon."
Tonight, Navy will try to be competitive with Colgate.
"We have to jump out and get a lead on them. We failed to jump out and get a lead on them both times," Haase said. "I think, defensively, we'll be able to handle them, but we have to concentrate on making our shots."
Said Robinson: "We have the same outlook as we do every game -- come out and play well, stay focused and know we're going to win."