Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey stood in drab grey the visiting locker room, one floor below ground level. Minutes earlier, the final buzzer had sounded and his Bearcats had fallen 50-40 against UMass Lowell, dropping to 1-15 on the season, 0-14 against Division I opponents, and 1-1 against Sub-Division I schools, losers of their last 13 in a row.
For 40 minutes, the Bearcats offense had been a mess, shooting just 14-of-42 from the floor (33.3 percent) and 2-of-17 from behind the arc (11.8 percent), while committing 23 turnovers, seemingly all of them on traveling violations.
It was a pug-ugly performance.
But he couldn’t be mad at his guys
“It’s terrible for me to stand in front of them after another loss, because I know they were ready to go tonight, and I know that they competed hard, and I know that they don’t want to be making the mistakes that they’re making, and I know that they want to make more shots,” said Dempsey after the game.
Three seasons into his tenure at the helm of Binghamton basketball, and still at the ground floor of a complete program rebuild after the previous regimes had strapped sticks of dynamite to its foundation and pushed the detonator, on paper in the wins and losses column, Binghamton looks no better than the day Dempsey first set foot on campus. But he sees changes.
“We’re starting to do things that, when you are trying to build a program, we’re doing some things that are essential. We’re defending and we’re playing hard and we’re together. We’re just sloppy and not shooting the ball right now so the product doesn’t look good and we’re having a hard time finding ourselves in the winning column,” he said. “But I say to these guys all the time, I know what winning looks like, and we’re not there yet, but we’re starting to form into a group that’s building for future success.”
On Friday, the Bearcats started four freshmen and played five, along with four sophomores in their nine-man rotation, along with sharp-shooting sophomore forward Nick Madray, who spent the game watching from the sidelines in a large cast, the result of a bad high ankle sprain. Those 10 freshmen and sophomore are all players that Dempsey recruited, and feels strongly can be the foundation of a winning program in the not too distant future.
But it will take time to build it, according to Dempsey.
“The first thing I had to do was I had to get my people in here. And now that I do, now I have to grow my people.”
“This is a group that I believe in, but now I have to go through the struggle with them till we get to the other side. I think the biggest element is that you have to go through it together, and you have to stay positive and you have to keep the room united. If you do that good things are going happen and we’ve been able to do that,” he explained.
And Dempsey still feels confident in the process and the program, and believes that the teams current struggles can still lead to later success.
“That’s why I still feel good: Because the foundation has been built. And I know the losing is hard — it’s hard on young kids, it’s hard on veteran coaches. I’ve been coaching a long time and I haven’t gone through this either. I can take it because I’ve won before and I know that we’ll win here, my job is to make these guys understand that we’re going to win here as long as we do things the right way.”
And according to Dempsey, the team has already won the biggest battle: staying together, despite mounting losses.
“These guys are in it together.”