KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Steve Hawkins says he has used scripture and the words of John Wooden to light a fire under his basketball team at Western Michigan. Which works best? God or legendary UCLA coach?
WMU Coach Steve Hawkins huddles with team (file photo)
So far, neither.
Westerns 61-51 non-conference loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay on Tuesday night was the Broncos sixth loss in seven games. Theyll enter Mid-American Conference play Jan. 11 at rival Central Michigan with a 3-10 record.
The Broncos havent started a season this poorly since 2000-01, when Hawkins was an assistant coach in his first year under former head coach Robert McCullum, and Western lost 12 of its first 13 games.
I have pushed about as many buttons as I possibly could, Hawkins said after the loss to Green Bay in which the Broncos actually led by seven points. Theres not a whole lot we havent done.
The Broncos have lost three of five home games, which used to be a rarity at University Arena. They lost three home games in the previous two seasons combined. In 2003-04, WMUs last MAC championship year, the Broncos didnt lose any at home.
A non-conference schedule that has taken the Broncos to VCU, UNLV and Southern Illinois, all losses, might have taken a toll on the team.
It has, Hawkins said. Its affected enthusiasm.
As the crowds at University Arena grow quieter, the email messages to Hawkins get louder. Emails, he said, that sometimes try to compare current players to Broncos of old.
The Broncos arent without their star power. Junior guard David Kool, the No. 4 scorer in the MAC, ranks among the schools top 25 scorers. Senior guard Shawntes Gary ranks No. 3 in the MAC with more than 4 defensive rebounds per game and has two double-doubles this season. Junior center Donald Lawson had a career-high 11 rebounds vs. Southern Illinois and had another 11 vs. Green Bay.
His (Lawsons) progression has been astounding, Hawkins said.
You wont hear much about Bronco basketball the next two weeks, and the Broncos believe thats a good thing. They dont play again until Jan. 11. For the first time, Hawkins said, theyll be able to stay in their own gym, no traveling, and work on their game. Hawkins has a few surprises, and said it made no sense to unveil them in the Green Bay game.