Butch McAdam, the first-year basketball coach at Mackin High School, is struggling right now and readily admits it.
The Trojans, usually among the ranked metropolitan-area teams, were only 2-7 in Metro Conference play and 9-8 overall going into this week -- a poor season by Mackin's standards.
"That's how it is when you're driving someone else's car," said McAdam, who took over Mackin's program after seven successful years at Maret. "What is happening here, I fully expected. It's hard to deal with losing but I started out the same way at Maret. I have a completely different philosophy from the former coach (Paul DeStafano) and it's been a big adjustment for the seniors.
"I prefer the slower, controlled tempo rather than the run-and-gun game. And some seniors weren't doing what I expected so I decided to go with some of my younger players. And I plan to bring up several other younger players to finish out the year. They'll make mistakes, but it'll benefit them and the Mackin program in the long run."
McAdam, a no-nonsense disciplinarian who graduated from Mackin and the University of the District of Columbia, says he is committed to rebuilding the Trojans' program. He also has another important quality -- honesty.
"It's killing me to lose so many games in the last period, but that's the problem that goes with using inexperienced kids," he said.
McAdam is still feeling the pain of a 56-54 loss to Good Counsel last week. The score was tied at 54 with eight seconds to play and Good Counsel had possession. During a timeout, the one thing McAdam emphasized was not to foul.
"If we lose, we'll lose on a good shot," McAdam said he told his players. "Just don't foul anyone."
So what happens? Before the ball is put in play, one of Mackin's players gets called for holding Chris Windlan, Good Counsel's leading scorer. Windlan makes two free throws and Mackin loses.
"Those are the types of mistakes young kids make," McAdam said. "But they'll learn. I had no idea who could play when I came here and I knew very little about the Mackin program before this year. But I think we've been fortunate to have won as many as we have. It's tough to beat the DeMathas, St. John's and Gonzagas right now. I expected to take my lumps."
Mackin, which finished 16-11 last year and 15-13 two years ago, had only three experienced players among the 14 varsity members this year. To further complicate McAdam's life, one of his best players, sophomore Shawn Johnson, recently broke a finger and is out for the season. That puts an additional burden on seniors Ernest Bruno and Gordon Clark, who were asked to play different positions this year.
"With Johnson in the lineup, we were 8-4. When he went out, we dropped four straight. Under the circumstances, Bruno and Clark have done a fine job for us," said McAdam, who teaches physical education and ninth-grade religion at the Northwest Catholic school. "The talent at Mackin appears to have dropped off since the Johnny Dawkins-Dominique Pressley days. It took time at Maret and it'll take time here."
Those expected to play major roles in the rebuilding of Mackin include Johnson, sophomore Namion Reid and freshman Gerald Hall.
"They are the future, so why not let them learn the game now?" said McAdam, who also does color for Interhigh games broadcast on WYCB radio. "I think if Johnson was still playing, we would have a good chance at a .500 season. We have some tough games left and unless something unexpected happens, the best we might do is 11 or 12 wins. And that would be an excellent year."