Andrew Mishler is a senior telecommunications news major and writes ‘Glass Half Something’ for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper.
During James Whitford’s introductory press conference Wednesday, I listened for verbal pauses. I looked for nervous body language. I waited to see a wide-eyed man who felt small in one of the biggest moments of his life.
And I came up completely empty.
Whitford was charismatic, charming and poised in front of a packed room of donors, media members and Ball State athletics employees. He talked about how his children thought Ball State was in the NCAA Tournament Championship game, and how he first introduced his wife to his parents at Worthen Arena nine years ago.
The former Arizona associate coach had the audience laughing throughout the entire press conference. And steadily, an anonymous man to the Ball State community became one of the family.
Call it hyperbole if you want, but for a while I could have sworn I was listening to Bill Clinton speak about being named the new Ball State men’s basketball coach (the good Bill Clinton).
It was the kind of performance needed for a coach stepping into a job that has as apathetic a fan base as Ball State does. Whitford will look over tape from last season and quickly learn that Ball State fans don’t embrace the Arizona motto of “Bear Down.” They just barely show up.
So after six seasons of Billy Taylor’s uninspiring attitude, the program desperately needs energy. Whitford certainly brings that.
Think back to when Pete Lembo was named the new Ball State football head coach. After two miserable years under Stan Parrish, Lembo sold himself as a likeable man who had the skills to rebuild the program.
And so far, he has delivered.
Two years later, Whitford mirrored Lembo in his first appearance with the Ball State community.
But words don’t turn a program around, no matter how eloquently they are delivered. Wins do.
Whitford doesn’t have the luxury to develop the team for a few years before the program becomes a consistent winner. Ball State fans are impatient for success after watching Lembo and women’s basketball coach Brady Sallee reach it so quickly.
Whitford will need to prove that his teams won’t underperform the way Taylor’s did, and that his promises to install an up-tempo offense and great defensive identity won’t be empty come November.
Ball State fans have every reason to trust that athletic director Bill Scholl and deputy athletic director Bill Hardin hired the right coach. So far, Scholl has seen success from all three of his hires in the past year.
So as a fan, cherish this moment. For the first time in a long time, the future of Ball State men’s basketball looks promising.