Granted, it’s probably not very often, but there are times during the off season when Randy Rahe leaves basketball.
And yet basketball never leaves him.
Coming off a terrific 2013-14 season in which his team won a Big Sky Conference championship and earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament, the Weber State men’s hoops coach said he was asked, repeatedly, about his plans for this season.
“I’ve been asked this a hundred times this summer, ‘Who’s the go-to guy?’” Rahe explained last week.
See, that’s what happens when you’ve done what Rahe has done here in Ogden. When you’ve built on the school’s strong basketball legacy and made it even stronger, people want to know what’s next.
They make it their business to know about your program.
Oh sure, you can get away from the game, if even for a day or so during the summer. But when well-intentioned, supportive fans see you around town, they want the 411 on your team.
And so last summer, in the wake of that great season, people wanted to know who was going to step up and replace departing seniors Davion Berry and Kyle Tresnak, the outside-inside stars of the team.
Indeed, Berry, Tresnak and fellow seniors Byron Fulton and Jordan Richardson, did much to propel last season’s team.
And now the question remains: Who’s next?
“Hopefully we’ll have a go-to guy by committee, where everybody’s involved,” he said. “Our success offensively is going to be based on ball movement, from everybody trusting each other and moving (the ball) and sharing it. It’s going to be by committee.”
This philosophy of trusting and sharing and moving as one, it’s hardly a new concept in basketball. In fact, that’s how the game is meant to be played. It was designed that way and when it works it’s a thing of beauty to watch.
Great coaches at all levels of the sport tend to speak very passionately about the teamwork of basketball. You can hear it in the energy of their voices and you can see it with a gleam in their eyes. They feel there is an awesomeness to pure team basketball and they love to preach the word.
It’s not that Rahe didn’t appreciate coaching last season, or when Damian Lillard was playing for him. Of course he did, but it’s plain to see he’s excited about the prospect of coaching this team, this season.
“In general, I’ve had teams like that in the past and those teams are fun teams, so everybody’s involved,” he said.
Coaches love the concept of five players working as one, like fingers in a glove. But players, well, they’re not always so sure. It sounds good but once someone else takes that first critical shot, all bets are off.
Rahe was asked about that idea and his response was as pretty as a Ray Allen jumper and as blunt as a Dikembe Mutombo blocked shot.
“Well, they have to, they have no choice,” he said. “(If they don’t) they’re not going to play, to be honest with you. But we have a great group of guys. A very unselfish team and if a guy can’t buy into it then it won’t work.”
Even when players buy into the concept, there are moments in the middle of the season, when it’s a freezing cold night in, say, Missoula or Flagstaff or Pocatello, when the shots aren’t falling and frustration sets in.
In those moments, even the tightest of teams struggle to stay together.
What happens then?
“Well, that’s just where the leadership comes in,” said center James Hajek, the Wildcats’ lone senior. “That’s where, obviously, I’ve got to take that role. I know the other four returning guys we’ve just got to take that role and say, ‘Look, we’ve been through this conference season before. We know how tough it is.’ (We have) got to pick up the young guys. We’ve just got to take it upon ourselves to take that leadership role.”
Oh man, that’s good stuff. And you can bet somewhere Randy Rahe has a gleam in his eye.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo