After the road victory against St Louis, it doesn’t seem like much of a reach to do a piece defending Jim Ferry. However, I decided to write it earlier in the day on Thursday, and I thought I’d really be going out on a limb. I anticipated a loss later that evening and possibly an ugly one at that. Thankfully, the Dukes did us extremely proud and got one of the biggest upsets of the season. Suddenly, this entry got a whole lot safer to put together.
I really do feel like Jim Ferry has a plan and simply needs time to execute it. I thought he shared a great quote with the media that appeared in the Post Gazette yesterday.
“It takes a little patience, like I’ve always said, to do it the right way,” Ferry said. “And I know Dukes fans don’t want to hear that all the time, but it’s true. It’s reality. If you want to be a team that can sustain winning at a high level, you’ve got wins like this to help it move forward, but you’ve got to continue to do it the right way.
I don’t know specifically what “the right way” means to Ferry, but I believe it has something to do with having a plan and executing it. Are they on track?
I think Ferry has a simple philosophy, put yourself in high percentage situations more often than you allow your opponent to get into them. It manifests itself in a number way. Draw fouls but don’t foul the other guy. Generate scoring chances in the lane while keeping your opponent out. Make them beat your defense by shooting over it and push them to shoot from the corners if you can. Rebound, run and look for easy transition baskets. I think that’s a practical formula that in theory can win in the Atlantic 10.
In order to execute, Ferry needs to do three things: recruit the right players, develop them and make the appropriate adjustments as needed. So far, I think he’s recruited to his system. In order for it work, Ferry needs big men who can rebound, handle the basketball a little and finish around the rim. He’s found players that allow him to work from the inside out, the outside in or have the potential to do both. Ovie Soko might represent the prototypical Jim Ferry power forward with his ability to attack the rim, generate contact and get to the line. Of course, he needs forwards who can hit their free throws at a higher rate than Soko, but I think he’s found them in LG Gill and Isaiah Watkins. They just need to get there more often.
With the improvements of Gill and center Darius Lewis since summer, the coaching staff appear capable of developing their interior players even if they’ve struggled with guards. I give credit to Ferry for hiring John Rhodes, but this is one area where fans need to exercise patience. Ferry does not play a simple defensive system while his offense requires a good deal of familiarity between players especially in transition. Thankfully Ferry hasn’t taken any short cuts to get there. He’s implementing his system and avoiding win now gimmicks. While it’s painful to watch the team lose this often, sticking to the plan should make a difference in a few years when his players are prepared to play the way he wants.
Ferry’s also made adjustments from what he did at LIU. In the NEC, he played two power forwards, two wings and a point guard. I think he’s recognized that he needs more ball handling and size on the floor to win his way in the Atlantic 10 and as a result, he’s targeted combo guards and a couple of true centers. I expect him to go bigger than he did at his last job at some point, but he just doesn’t have the personal to do it right now.
So far, I like Ferry’s philosophy and I believe it can work in the Atlantic 10. I like his coaching chops and how he’s avoided gimmicks to get cheap short term wins at the expense of the system. I like that he doesn’t seem entirely stuck his ways. The question remains in whether or not he can get the players to continue to develop especially at guard while bringing in even more talented recruits to eventually replace the current players. We don’t have much choice but to patiently await that answer.