Thursday, October 29, 2009

Horn Doing It Right

At a glance for many of us it looks like Darrin Horn is a good young coach, a little arrogant, a little untouchable, a little too secretive, a little too protective and for some a little abrasive.  But in actuality he is running a major college basketball program under contract with a very professional leadership organization supported by thousands of fans expecting to receive a quality product in a winning basketball program.  In 2008 Horn started a season that led to the Eastern Division regular season championship, but just a few (one or two) quality wins short of the first or second goal of a season, to make the "dance", the NCAA tournament.  Instead, the team fizzled down the stretch, mostly due to fatigue and not motivation, game plan or X's and O's.  The lack of depth eventually caught up.

But lets examine what did happen in the 2008-2009 season, a rebuilding and revitalization year under the new young head coach.  Very quickly Horn commenced a steady ticket sale campaign and promised a quality product, and very quickly he did place a very competitive basketball team on the floor, led by the electrifying Devan Downey.  He further allowed Devan to be himself, along with Senior Zam Fredrick and Junior Dominque Archie.  Coach Horn and his staff directed and guided the three leaders and taught and nurtured the remaining roster into very usable roles.  But the real development has been the implementation of a true constant 6th man, the student body.  Horn created the Garnet Army.  No let me correct that he created his Garnet Army, wearing their combat camouflage attire and responding to the coach's every motion to support, cheer and encourage.  The result, a 21-10 season record, 10-6 in the conference, 16-3 (losses to Clemson, Tennessee and Davidson, in the NIT opening round) overall at home, sporting a 7-1 home SEC record.  This connection has Darrin Horn with a team roster far over the standard collection of scholarships and walk-ons, normally equaling 15.  The young coach understands what this is really all about,outside of the money, it's the enthusiasm, the excitement, the energy level and the atmosphere that brings the extra edge, motivates the additional fans, that inspires the extra effort and offers a chance at the miracle finish.

With the second annual student scrimmage and clinic out of the way this year, over 500 members of the 6th man squad known as the "Garnet Army" are now charged and ready to start their season and assist in the advancement of meeting team goals with their fellow court playing teammates, and getting the team to the next level.  They have been given the fundamentals of making the atmosphere electric, and the instructions of how to play a role in making the opponents legally uncomfortable, while letting their playing teammates know they are there in the "fox hole" fight for a win right along side, in most cases displaying just as much sweat.

Horn understand the business, but he also understands the atmosphere and the resources and advantages available.  He also understands students and he has found a way to return the college game back to the most faithful of fans, the ones least likely to quit on you over one loss, the young supporters who also have a vested interest and have a daily connection to the actual players.  Returning the constant enthusiasm, cheering, positive encouragement, electricity and energy is what Horn has done.     " I do what I have to do."  "I enjoy when I'm among my people, and these students, they're everything to the energy in our arena,  We truly consider them an extension and a part of our team.  It's almost like being at practice, " Horn stated.  He proved last year that you can win games on effort, enthusiasm and energy.  Now this season with depth and experience on the court and in the stands, Horn, his staff, his players and the student body have begun to restore the atmosphere of college basketball to the campus and will likely see the rewards played out in the Colonial Center throughout the season.  The un-rostered 6th man may just be the added ingredient to a team picked fourth in the SEC Eastern Division to challenge for the regular season title, but you'll never know unless you come out to see how well the 6th man performs.

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