Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Loyola coach's strategy was bizarre

First, the questions were about whether Stephen Curry was hurt.

Those of us on press row during Tuesday night's game at Belk Arena between Davidson and Loyola (Md.) spent most of the time wondering what was going on with Curry, the nation's leading scorer.

He took one shot in the first half and was scoreless. Was he hurt? There was a little bandage just below his right knee. Was that there on Monday? What was wrong?

As it turned out, nothing was wrong with Curry. He simply spent the game playing the role Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos wanted him to - uninvolved in Davidson's offense. So Curry played the game, drawing two Loyola defenders away each Davidson offensive possession and watched his teammates dismantle the Greyhounds in a game of 4-on-3.

What was surprising was how long Patsos kept the strategy in place - the whole game.

In the second half, word began leaking out that Curry could go scoreless. The press row phone was ringing off the hook with national media outlets keeping an eye on the game via the Internet wanting to know why Curry had a zero on the box score. Was he hurt? What's the story?

In the end, the story was less about what Curry didn't do and more about what Patsos did. At some point Patsos probably had in place a legitimate defensive strategy. By halftime, when his team had scored 17 points, he should have known that strategy wasn't getting him anywhere. At some point his strategy became an obsession.

In a wild, bizarre post-game interview, Patsos all but admitted his team could take pride in being the only one so far to hold Curry scoreless. But was it worth the cost?

A 30-point loss later combined with the ridicule Patsos is getting today, it's hard to see how.

- Jim Utter