Chuck Landon: Welcome to Danny D’Antoni unplugged
It seemed like I was lobbing a softball of a question.
There is no such thing when dealing with Marshall University basketball coach Danny D’Antoni.
So, instead of getting a routine answer when I asked if it were important for the Thundering Herd to get its lengthy five-game, four-state, 22-day road trip off to a good start against Akron at 2 p.m. Saturday in James A. Rhodes Arena at Akron, Ohio, D’Antoni delivered a rambling, philosophical discourse on life, coaching, basketball and getting older.
It was fascinating.
“Every game is important,” began D’Antoni. “I don’t think one game leads to another. Never have. They are all individual things. So, when we leave Akron - whether we win or lose - I don’t think it means anything to the next game. When we leave Texas A&M, I don’t believe that has anything to do with Virginia.
“Other than ... you are getting more experience and you are getting better together, win or lose. We have film to show. We’re getting to see mistakes, correct mistakes, see good things and improve on those.
“That just goes along regardless of what happens (winning or losing).”
D’Antoni quickly acknowledged, however, that not all coaches feel that way.
“Maybe some coaches play roles,” he said, “or they amp up victories or they get really hard into their teams on defeat. I don’t go one way or the other. I get angry at bad plays in spots, but for the whole game? We’ve got to be better at this and this and this, but I don’t go, ‘We lost a game to daggone Ohio, how we gonna lose to them?’ I don’t do that. We just go to the next game.
“Not to say that I didn’t coach the other way when I was young. I learned that games change, games flip. Matchups change regardless of how many games that team has won. So, it’s one game at a time.”
Now that D’Antoni is a veteran coach, he understands concepts he didn’t realize when he was younger.
“Oh, I hope,” he said with a laugh. “I would hope to get smarter. I think when you are young, it’s hard to see past the moment. And you kind of don’t understand the length of a season and that it is a process.”
The older anybody gets, the easier it is to see the big picture. That goes for coaches, sportswriters and everybody else. It’s the journey of life.
“I think so,” said D’Antoni. “To be honest, basketball is a part of my life, it’s not all of my life. I think once you get it to where it’s all of your life, it’s like an up-and-down drum.
“Have you ever watched the movie ‘Hoosiers’ when that kid hits that shot? Did you ever watch the other coach? He walks out with a smile, acknowledging how good Jimmy Chitwood was. He wasn’t cussing. It’s like that shot that kid from Toledo (Jaelan Sanford) made. Give the kid credit. He was moving sideways and leaning and he shoots it and it goes in. When that happens, you’re probably going to get beat.
“I guess I recognize that more. I also recognize, as I get older, it’s not all about me. There are some things you can control, but on a one-game basis? Maybe not.”
Good answer, Danny.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.