Kissimmee, Fla., November 21, 2016 – NBA players and coaches have long complained about the scheduling necessity of periodically having three games in just four days. Cramming that many contests into such a short amount of time is a chore that is dreaded throughout the league. It is a burden that Mike Dunleavy is well familiar with from his quarter century spent in the NBA (eight seasons as a player and 17 as a coach).
On the college level, however, such a schedule usually takes place only during early-season tournaments. Dunleavy, who is making his college coaching debut this year with the Tulane Green Wave, received his first experience with such an event at the 2016 Tire Pros Invitational. And like most college coaches, he found the condensed schedule to be both enjoyable and beneficial.
“I liked the tournament. I think it’s good,” Dunleavy said following the final round of the 2016 Tire Pros Invitational, which was won by Xavier. “I like having the chance to play so many good teams early. There’s value in seeing how some of the elite programs play. You compete against them and take something away from it.
“It’s good for our guys. Each game is a learning experience. You’re hoping to win, but even if you lose you can win if you come away and make improvement in what you’re doing on the floor. You can improve as far as your communication and good comradery.”
Here are what the other coaches whose teams competed in this year’s Tire Pros Invitational had to say about the event:
● Kim Anderson, Missouri: “The hospitality and the tournament have been great. These tournaments are really of great value to teams. You play some good competition, and you have to prepare fast. It keeps your players sharp, because they have to play good teams every day. It helps guys become better basketball players. You may not win the game, but it helps you down the line become a better player. We’ve had a great time.”
● Bobby Hurley, Arizona State: “I really love it. I thought it was a great event. It was run in a first-class way. And it’s great for our team. We got to spend a lot of time together. We played three games against very good competition early in the year. It just gives you a feel for what you need to get better at, what you think your strengths and weaknesses are. And then just the bonding of the team, doing things away from the court. It was very beneficial.”
● Bob McKillop, Davidson: “It’s a lot of fun for your program and your players. It was a terrific venue in a great city. The ESPN people do a marvelous job of orchestrating it and directing it. So it’s a memorable experience. It really helps teams to play three games in four days. It’s sort of an NCAA Tournament type of preparation, because you’re playing on a neutral site against a lot of teams that are going to be in the NCAA Tournament. So it gives you an experience in November for what you hope is going to happen to you in March.”
● Brad Brownell, Clemson: “This was good for us. We played some really good competition and learned some things about our team. We get into these types of tournaments because we want to face good teams and challenge our guys. The hosts here have been great. They’ve treated us well. We stayed in a really nice hotel. And we’ve had good crowds. It’s been fun. It’s felt like NCAA Tournament basketball.”
● Lon Kruger, Oklahoma: “This tournament was great. It’s a valuable opportunity early in the year like this. You practice and try to prepare, but when you get into three games in four days you find out you have a lot more things to work on. A lot more things are brought out. You don’t know for sure what your combinations are going to be like lineup-wise. You don’t know for sure how your guys are going to respond going into three games like this, especially a young team. So this was very important for us, very valuable. We’ll come out of this much improved both from the experience that we had, but also understanding what we have to do going forward.”
● Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa: “I think it helped this team, because we have enough new guys who have not spent that much time together. So it was good for them to be here for the entire tournament and do some things together. Obviously you play the games and watch film and do all the basketball things. But to also get to spend a little time away from that on our off day was really beneficial for this team, just to help them get to know each other. And then we played hard enough and at times well enough that we established some things on the basketball court and started to build some trust with each other. So it was a great week for us for a lot of reasons.”
● Chris Mack, Xavier: “We learned a lot about our team. I’ve been in tournaments like these where we lost three in a row, and we were still able to go back to the drawing board and figure some things out. Early-season tournaments really prepare you for being able to do things on the fly. You play great competition, which helps your (NCAA Tournament) resume at the end of the year. And as a coaching staff – and I think players will say it as well – you learn a lot about each other. We learned what different guys are doing really well, and also where our team can maybe grow in certain areas.”