The men’s basketball team is re-writing history.
And we are a part of it.
As I sit at my desk and write this, the team is 18-0 and has slashed records and set new ones this season putting Murray State in the mouths of ESPN and NCAA analysts as well as in the Associated Press Poll and ESPN/USA Today Coache’s Poll.
After defeating then No. 21 Memphis Tigers Dec. 11, the Racers landed 24th in the AP Poll and have crept up every week earning their place at No. 12 this week and No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
The team, with an injured Ivan Aska, now holds the impressive title of best start to a season as well as longest winning streak in Murray State history, not to mention they’re doing all of this with a first-year head coach.
Despite the record-setting performances and national attention, the Racers remain humble and distinctly focused on each other and someone else: the fans.
“What a great win in a great environment,” Coach Steve Prohm said as soon as he sat down in the press conference after Saturday’s victory over Tennessee Tech. “Really proud of the fans that came out and the attendance record for what I was told, almost 8,700 people, so I want to first thank the crowd and showing great support for our players.”
Prohm loves the fans. If it wasn’t already obvious by his tweets about Racer Nation and the Racer Fam, the coach made it evident following the Memphis victory at the end of finals week.
After that game a large group of Murray State students were eating at a Popeyes Chicken in Memphis when a bus pulled up.
The team bus.
The managers, including former assistant sports editor for The News Tim MacAllister, were inside picking up the pre-ordered food for the team and I was ordering my food when cheers and applause started exploding from the restaurant entirely occupied with students.
A scene reminiscent of a movie played out in front of us as Coach Prohm left the bus and stood in the middle of Popeyes to say hi to the fans and thank them for their support and traveling to cheer on the team.
Shouts, clapping and “Go Racers!” chants rang out through the building as Prohm finished his short appreciative speech that also implored the students to continue their support of the basketball team.
Skeptics might say Prohm is a first year coach and only rookie coaches would do something like that. “Just wait until he loses,” they say.
Call me an eternal optimist if you will, but I don’t think Prohm’s humility or appreciation for the fans will go anywhere, even if the team goes undefeated this season, because he has the very thing he works so hard to establish within each of his players: character.
Prohm always credits the other teams’ coaches and players in press conferences and talks about the way the other team shined before talking about his own players’ performance. Prohm takes responsibility for his actions, his players’ actions and doesn’t make excuses for mistakes. He points out the good and the bad of game plan implementation and never looks beyond the next game while striving to create not just champions on the floor but in life as he pushes his guys to become men.
The players aren’t letting the wins go to their heads either. Donte Poole is displaying the maturity and growth of a senior leader on and off the court and is remembering the basic fundamentals of the game.
“We can’t let the rankings, the media, ESPN, anybody come in here and break what we’ve worked so hard for or try to take that from us,” Poole said last Thursday after the Jacksonville State game. “That’s why we have to use that but stay humble and keep on working hard and stay motivated.”
When asked if it’s hard to not be distracted, the senior answered truthfully.
“It is sometimes, but you’ve got to be mature and that’s kind of where you grow as a player and as a person,” he said. “When the cameras are on you’ve got to be the same person you are, you can’t get out of character and do things just because we’re on an ESPN game or just because ESPN is here, you’ve got to stay molded to what the coaching staff and the team has built on and if we do that we’ll stay on course and success will come.”
Success has come and will keep coming, win or lose, from this team and we get to be there to watch it. So be bold, wear gold; be loud and proud, make the shirts, the signs and wear the Ed Daniel afros. Keep tweeting your love to the team and keep screaming your guts out at games. I have no doubt they will keep re-writing history.
Let’s go blue and gold. Let’s go Racers.