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Salty women’s basketball coach has had it with participation trophies

Jeff Walz, former Maryland assistant and current opinion-haver. (Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press)

Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz had a few things on his mind Thursday night, after his No. 7 Cardinals lost at home to No. 5 Maryland, Walz’s former employer.

The coach wanted to talk about missed free throws. And about a lack of hustle. And about inadequate defense. And about the creeping rot in American society, as represented by youth sports coaches handing out shiny trinkets to 12-year-old losers who would do better to sit in their rooms and think about how big of losers they really are.

Here’s Walz, asked how his team can better fight down the stretch.

“You’ve got to have a will. You’ve got to have a will,” he began. “Right now the generation of kids that are coming through, everybody gets a damn trophy, okay? You finish last, you come home with a trophy. You kidding me? I mean, what’s that teaching kids? It’s okay to lose. And unfortunately, it’s our society. It’s what we’re building for.

“And it’s not just in basketball; it’s in life. You know, everybody thinks they should get a job. Everybody thinks they should get a good job. No, that’s not the way it works. But unfortunately that’s what we are preparing for. Because you finish fifth, you walk home with this nice trophy, parents are all excited.

“No. I mean, not to be too blunt, but you’re a loser. Like, we’re losers. We got beat. You lost. There is no trophy for us.  But unfortunately the way these kids are brought up today, there is a trophy. Because nobody wants anybody to have hard feelings; nobody wants to get their feelings hurt. But unfortunately in the real world — I’m not sure how it is with your all’s jobs — but with mine, if you lose enough, you get fired. And that’s just the way it is.

“And I’m trying to explain to our kids, like ‘Hey, I’m trying to prepare you for the real world, because when you go to get a job, there’s competition, and what are you gonna do to stand out’? But unfortunately, we’re not preparing these kids — before they get to us, at least — to be  ready for that.

“You know, when you play three, four AAU games in one day, you lose three of them and then you win the last one and everybody goes home happy, you’re 1-3. I mean, I know it was a long time ago, but God darn, the days we played, when you lost, you went home. There was no friendship bracket. You know, ‘Let’s go on the left side to the friendship games so everybody can play two more games.’ No, you went home. You went home a loser. And then you worked at it if you wanted to be good. You figured out a way.”

Louisville — which has lost in six consecutive conference tournaments, each time accepting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament — led by two points in the fourth quarter before Maryland closed with a 16-8 run, in which Walz found his team’s effort lacking. He was asked whether players knew they weren’t getting back quickly enough.

“I really don’t know how to answer that question,” he said. “If somebody’s running past you, and you don’t know they’re running past you, we’ve got problems. God forbid, I mean, it’s kind of like if you’re going 60 and the speed limit’s 55 and you get pulled over and you’re like, ‘What’d you pull me over for, I was only going 60.’ No [bleep], that’s speeding. Like, so when they run past you, if you can’t figure out that you’re not running, boy, it’s not good. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what it is. How about heart? How about heart?”

Walz also pointed out that some of his non-shooters might have had chances to shoot the ball.

It’s like I always tell them, when you’re open, there’s probably a reason they’re not guarding you,” he said. “So if you catch it and you’re wide open, you might really want to think twice before you shoot it, because they want you to. And we’ve got a few of them that don’t quite understand that yet. Like, they catch it, they’re open, they’re shocked. Don’t be shocked. They ain’t guarding you. So God forbid, don’t shoot it.”

Finally, Walz called out several players by name, then said he wasn’t calling them out.

“It’s just the facts,” he said. “Like, it’s facts. See, and this is the problem. Everybody’s gonna be like, ‘Man, you called your players [out].’ No I didn’t. It’s just facts. It’s on the stat sheet. You know, it’s okay, people. Like I’ve got to sit here and go home tonight and figure out how are we going to fix this? Because it’s on me. It’s on me. I recruited these kids, so it’s ON ME. And I’ve got no problem saying that. But dammit, what we’re doing, it’s not just status quo. We aren’t gonna come to practice and hold hands and sing Kumbaya. I promise you that.”

And so on. Walz was ultimately asked whether he had time for one more question.

“Hell, I’ve got all the time in the world,” he said.

“Some of us have a deadline,” pointed out The Post’s Gene Wang.