The Georgia State men's basketball team has landed in Richmond, Virginia without their head coach and with a ton of questions. How will this team respond without Rod Barnes? How will interim coach Paul Graham handle the lineup? Will the Panthers break out the scoring at some point?
On Sunday, GSU announced that Barnes was relieved of his duties and Graham would take over for the CAA Tournament. Graham has some head coaching experience at Washington State, and has been a long time assistant in the Big 12 and Pac 10. How Graham will alter the playing rotation is unknown at this point, but he did offer some comments in the CAA Teleconference on Monday.
Coach Graham also offered some insight about what he said to the players:
What I told my players, I’m not Coach Barnes, I have to be myself and coach the way I feel. What we do is sound and fundamental. We just have to go out and compete. What I believe in is if you defend, rebound the basketball, play as hard as you can and don’t turn the ball over you’re going to be right there in the game. When you get this late in the year, everybody knows what you’re going to do. There’s no secret.
Georgia State faces the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks for the 3rd time this season in the 8/9 game on Friday at noon. The Panthers have played in this matchup three times in their five-year stay in the CAA. Both teams won on their respective home courts, and both games were very close. Also, something interesting (to me, at least) is that UNCW relieved their coach of his duties in January 2010 and were also led by an interim coach into last March's CAA Tournament.
Seahawks senior guard Ahmad Grant offered his own advice on what the Panthers should do moving forward:
A team, it’s like family. The head coach is like the dad of the team. So I mean losing that, he’s not there any more, it’s like a child waking up and his dad’s not there. It’s weird, it’s different. You come into practice, you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know what’s going on. It’s definitely hard. They have no choice but to go harder, they don’t know who they’ve got coming in next year or anything like that. All they can do is play hard.
The winner of this game has the unfortunate gift of playing one of the hottest teams in the country in George Mason on Saturday. The Panthers have not advanced into the second round but once in the last three attempts. The task will be difficult, but not impossible. You have to love GSU freshman guard Devonta White and his optimism this morning:
Bout to fly to Richmond for the CAA tourney..straight business trip..tweet when I get back to atl with my ring until then...be good folks!!