With six games remaining in the 2015-2016 season, the La Salle Explorers sit at the very bottom of their conference standings with an A-10 conference record of 2-11. La Salle heads into the backstretch of their season following a win at home against St. Bonaventure. In this game, the Explorers were able to shoot 50% from the 3-point line and outrebound the Bonnies 38-23. Jordan Price strung together a really nice stat line of 18 points 10 rebounds and 6 assists, while Yevgen Sakhniuk was able to contribute 16 minutes off the bench and score 6 points, grab 3 rebounds, and dish-out 2 assists in his third game back from an illness that held him out of twelve consecutive games. Despite the two conference wins that La Salle has pulled off against Dayton and St. Bonaventure, a 2-11 record is not cutting it for Explorer fans. Many may be wondering, where does La Salle go from here?
Head coach Dr. Giannini is not known for his offensive ingenuity. One of the biggest criticisms of him has been that he lacks an offensive identity. Since 2011, La Salle has used a different offensive system seemingly every season. Granted, it is important that a coach adapts their strategy to complement the player’s skills, but it takes time for an offense to be learned by a team and any progress that is made over the course of a season is erased when the offense is completely changed every year. That is why Dr. G should implement a more stable offensive system that the young players can become accustomed to playing during their time at La Salle.
For a team to build a successful and lasting identity, they need to be resilient with their philosophy, during the good times and the bad. When Villanova lost 19 games in the 2011-2012 season, head coach Jay Wright did not abandon his 4-out-1-in offense. When Syracuse did not make the NCAA tournament two years in a row in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008, Jim Boeheim did not stop using his 2-3 zone defense. USC head coach Andy Enfield’s first two seasons as the Trojans’ head coach have resulted in 21 and 20 losses respectively, but he has not changed the up-tempo philosophy that got him to USC. As a result, Enfield’s team is winning this season. For any coach to have sustained success at a school, they need a consistent identity to build around on both sides of the ball.
On defense, Dr. Giannini absolutely has an idealized plan of playing opponents in man-to-man. It is only because of the severe lack of depth, that the Explorers are settling into a zone defense this season. Right now, the issue is that Dr. G has not shown that there is an offensive system that he believes will help the team win year-in and year-out. So again the question remains, where do they go from here?
The nation’s 17th worst scoring offense needs a fresh look. Dr. Giannini should look to hire a top assistant to come in and be the team’s offensive coordinator similar to what the Philadelphia 76ers did with Mike D’Antoni. There has to be an array of up-and-coming minds, climbing through the coaching ranks that have unique and virtually untapped offensive philosophies. Dr. Giannini should interview as many of these types of coaches as he can, then use his basketball instincts to pick which coach/system he thinks will best fit with the current and future La Salle roster.
La Salle will no doubt improve their record next season. With the current state of the La Salle 2016-2017 roster the way it is, the basement for expectations is much higher than what this season has produced. The only thing that can make next season worse than this season is if La Salle dismisses Dr. Giannini. As long as Dr. G is at the helm, the Explorers could use the same offense next season as they use this season and still improve by a handful of wins. If Dr. G accepts that there may be an assistant coach available that is able to help the team with Xs and Os on offense, La Salle has the potential to be competitive with the A-10s big dogs. That's not to say that Dr. G alone cannot coach the team to success. He absolutely can and has before.
Dr. Giannini fits great at La Salle as a figurehead-type coach. He says the right things to the media, is a good communicator to the players, a solid recruiter, and teaches strong defense. Adding an offensive minded assistant to the staff can only help a coach whose greatest deficiency is offensive strategy. This is a direction La Salle basketball should look to go in.
Photo: Benjamin Simon
-La Salle loses to UMass in the first round of the A-10 tournament