Updated: May 27, 2010 at 12:00 am
Andrea Williams’ eyes are fixed on the future, which allows her to look right past the history/wreckage of the Air Force Academy’s women’s basketball program.
Yes, the Falcons have lost 37 straight Mountain West Conference games, and, yes, the Falcons lost 23 of those games by 20 points or more.
“There’s only one way to go,” said Williams, who is in charge of repairing the wreckage.
The Falcons new coach is right, of course. There is one advantage to all those losses:
It can’t get any worse.
The Falcons reside in the dungeon of college basketball, but Williams walks through life as an aggressive optimist. She believes fiercely a rise in fortune is inevitable. In her eyes, nights of fast-paced fun and victory are in the near distance.
She plans to attack the same MWC teams that so pitilessly mauled the Falcons for years. She promises to install a pressing defense and a run-run-run offense.
She will employ the Clune Arena’s 7,000-foot altitude to drain opponents.
“And when we go down off the mountain to other places, we’ll use our fitness to our advantage,” she said. “We’re going to keep it going for 40 minutes, for every game.
“We’re going to keep coming at you, keep coming at you, keep coming at you for the whole game.”
Don’t get the wrong idea. Williams is not a clueless coach who has lost grip on reality. She knows the mess she’s marching into.
But so did Ardie McInelly. Nine years ago, McInelly arrived at AFA promising to revive the women’s team. She had just led Idaho State to a 25-5 record, which included a 21-game winning streak and a 16-0 conference mark, and proclaimed she could perform similar wonders on the edge of Colorado Springs.
Her Falcons, she said, would finish in the top half of the Mountain West.
“Is it a lofty goal?” McInelly asked before delivering her own answer. “No, I don’t think so.”
But it was a lofty goal. McInelly finished with 12 wins in the MWC and 124 losses. Don’t blame her too much. She only followed a terrifying trend.
Since 1996-97, the Falcons have won 14 conference games and lost 194. Yes, those numbers are correct. That’s one conference win a season. That’s ugly.
McInelly possessed the coaching skills to succeed, but never could persuade elite high school players to tackle the rigors of a service academy.
She was a fine motivator and strategist. She failed because she failed as a recruiter.
Williams could be different. She worked as an assistant coach at Navy from 2002-2004. She understands the special challenges that await her at AFA.
Colorado is jammed with gifted high school female basketball players, and Williams is convinced she can persuade them to enroll at AFA. She believes – honest, she does – she can resurrect this program.
All those 20-point losses?
“That’s only 10 baskets,” Williams said. “That’s five baskets a half.”
Williams met with the current team this week and discovered a hunger for wins. She talked with players weary of losing nearly every night.
These Falcons, she said, want to run, want to press, want to attack.
Williams walked voluntarily into this wreckage. She’s convinced she’s ready for a massive, successful repair job.