On the wall of the George Washington basketball office hang pictures of the first two teams that Bob Tallent coached. Beneath the pictures are the records: 18-10 and 20-7.
"I don't know about this year's bunch," said Tallent yesterday, looking at the blank space on the wall. "I'm not so sure they're going to get up on the wall. That has not yet been determined."
If this cast of confusing Colonials wants to earn any sort of permanent place in Tallent's heart, they better start mending their ways fast, starting tonight in the first round of the ECBL tournament against Vilanova in Philadelphia at 8 p.m.
The last time GW played Villanova, just 17 days ago, the Colonials held a five-point lead late in the game, then had what Tallent called "a complete defensive breakdown, allowing all sorts of easy baskets. The bottom just fell out."
That 90-77 defeat was played in Villanova's tiny fieldhouse. "The visiting bench is really the first row of the bleachers," recalled Tallent. "I spent the whole game standing up, 'cause when I sat down a Villanova fan had both his knees in my back."
The Spectrum, site of this Eastern Eight tournament (everyone hates the ECBL initials) should (cut down on Villanova's home court advantage," said Tallent. "Maybe it will help us handle their pressure defense a little better."
GW's chance against the 18-8 Wildcats might be better is only the Colonials could take a long draught of forgetfulness.
Tallent can't. It galls him that his team could lose by 10 points to American U. last Saturday.
"All we had to do was win that one game to be city champions. We may never have that chance again - to beat every team in the city, including Georgetown and Maryland. It may be a long time before anybody beats everybody again.
"You sure have to say our chances for that were a lot better than beating Villanova, then probably West Virginia and Rutgers to win this tournament and get to the NCAA tournament."
Was that AU game really moreimportant for a successful season, a good recruiting year and Tallent's peace of mind that the long shot Eastern Eight title? "Well, it sure was a lot more ready to hand," said Tallent.
Yet the AU game was a perfect example of what GW must avoid to upset Villanova. "John Holloran (21.8 average) was in foul trouble. They got him mad and frustrated. His last foul was stupid," said Tallent. "Were not a great team without John. We need him in their all the time."
When the scrappy, gap-toothed Hollocran, with his discheveled hair and his cocky jump shot from 25 feet, is on his game, GW can roll up points on any team.
"It's all a confidence game with us, a totally mental problem," said Tallent."We have young players and when they make a mistake they let it get to them. They lose confidence and make even worse mistakes. When they make a good play, then they play like they really can."
The least unstable GW frosh is 6-10 Mike Zagardo who has ousted 7-2 Kevin Hall and his infectious brand of lethargy from the pivot. "Ziggie will never loaf. He gives you everything he was," said Tallent. "He and John are our only really fiery players. Maybe more should be like that."
Freshmen 6-4 Bucky Roman and 6-7 Tom Glenn may be the keys to future winning seasons, but for the moment "Bucky has lost some confidence," and Glen "has a hard time concentrating.
"There's no way in heck I'd put Tom in at the end of a close game right now," said Tallent. "He wants to be really good and everytime I point out a mistake he says, 'That's right, coach.' But he's still at the stage where he goes back and does the same thing again anyway. It takes a long time."
Villanova, by contrast, has just the sort of tournament experience GW Larry (14.3) and 6-6 junior Keith (19.5), have stopped gunning and tightened up their free form act.
"Keith is now a great player and Larry's a very good one. larry only lacks a little of Keith's heart," said Tallent. "Villanova's center, John Olive (10) is a very poor man's Wes Unseld. He's underrated. Their guards aren't their primary scorers, but they press and handle the ball well. You can't leave them alone."
If GW can summon up one more inspired game to reach the semifinals against the winner of the West Virginia-Pittsburgh game, the Colonials may restore their team picture to the wall of honor. Right now, however, that photo is hanging directly over the trash can.