In late March The Scribe had a sit-down interview with men’s head basketball coach Rob deGrandpre, whois in his 20th year at Hilbert, and 19th season coaching. We discussed the challenges with inconsistency this season along with what he plans to improve on for next season.
TS: How would you describe your time at Hilbert?
Rob : It’s been a long run, but it’s been it’s a labor of love. You know, I remember when I got here back in 2002, I got hired in September, which is a little late for a basketball coach. When I first met the team, there were two twins that showed up to the meeting and they were both about 5 foot one. They were tiny. Obviously, there was a lot of work to do, but you know little by little we got through that first-year. Didn’t know if we would ever get a win; we didn’t have much to work with, but. You know then the following year we brought in a really big recruiting class and then it was just brick by brick, you know the foundation was put in place. Then one win turn into five wins, five wins into ten wins, ten wins into 15 wins. We really got it going probably around the 2011-12 year. I’d like to think we’ve been on the upswing ever since. The last decade has pretty good.
TS: Why do think it was hard stringing together consistent wins?
Rob: In general, we were very young. Great group of guys, you know, nobody was afraid of any work or anything like that, but it was the setbacks I guess, of the COVID year were really, probably a little more to overcome than what we had initially thought. It wasn’t so much that we had lost players to graduation, it was more of last year we just didn’t get a full season in. and in terms of growth and development, we really had to do a lot of that this year. So we were a little behind the 8 ball. You know, we had some signature wins, no question about it. Beating La Roche and Penn State Behrend on the road were a great wins. Even late in the year, winning down at Pitt, Bradford and winning at home to close the year against Mount Aloysius, those are some just some really great wins. Yeah, it’s a long season. It’s a tough season. Our league was good this year, really good and. You know, I think I think our young guys really got a lesson. You know, it was an opportunity to. play a lot of young people and and watch their growth and I think the future looks pretty good with what we have
TS: Do you think those reasons also attribute to the win loss consistency within the past couple of years a whole?
Rob: You know, we had a heck of a backcourt for four years with Messiah Phillips and Hunter Martino. Those guys were really good four-year players. When you graduate guys that are four year impact players, the next class that comes, there’s going to be a learning curve. It takes a little bit of time. You know, we’d all like to, be able to just continue on with, what you have. But sometimes you have to go through a little bit of the bumps and bruises along the way. We have talent, there’s no question we have some talent, it’s the chemistry component of putting the whole thing together and and making sure that you know it works. You know, the season starts on October 15th and. You know, you get up three weeks to really, you know, develop somebody. That’s not enough time. Once the season really gets going with, you know, this year we started, you know, our first game was on November 9th. We played a very good Alpha University team here at home and last by five had had our chances. You know, Alfred University had a great year in the in the Empire 8 Conference. So I I think it kind of goes in waves a little bit. But you know, I go back to you know. If you wanna go back six or seven years, we had a we had a really good stretch of probably 3 20 win seasons in a row and you know regular season Title 3 appearances in the championship game, this close to going to the NCA, it’s and. You know, consistency is hard when you’re on top of the mountain. Everybody wants to knock you off. You know, I thinkthe league’s gotten better you know kudos to the AMCC i mean there’s really no nights off you know you have to come to play.
TS: Those three years you mentioned you lost in the championship all three years. What went wrong in those games?
Rob: The first time around, we lost to a very good Penn State Behrend team on their homecourt. I don’t know if people were shocked that we were in that game, but we certainly deserved to be there. That was the eyeopener. That’s the moment that I think the players realize. Hey, you know we’re one step away from getting what we’ve all worked hard for. The second year believe it or not, it took a half court shot at the buzzer to send the thing into overtime where we fell to Medaille unfortunately. And then the third one we were the number one seed, we hosted and played a very good Pitt Greensburg team, a team that we had beaten twice during the regular season, significantly well. I think we felt good about it. But they had a very good game plan and we lost that game by two points. And you know, it was a tough one. That was a tough, I think. I think that moment for me was, you know, this this is hard. Winning is hard and everybody wants to win everybody likes to win but there’s so much that has to go into it you know for everything to come together and to have you know that magical season where you where you really get what you want and that’s a championship.
TS: What went wrong in the playoff game vs La Roche?
Rob: I think they shot the ball really well, you know. We struggled to score at times. They zoned us a little bit. We did have a really good performance from one of our freshmen, Nevada Eldridge, who really emerged late in the year for us. You know, again, freshman doing this giving us an awful lot, but really came into his own as the season played out and we got closer to the finish line. He was a handful for a lot of opponents. He did a great job and we had a hard time getting him the ball and places where he could score. So just one of those nights where shots weren’t falling. I think we got good shots. The guys that needed to make shots got good looks. It was just a tough game. They’re really good. Yeah, they’re really good and you know, we just had a cold night shooting. And sometimes those nights happen. We got off to a great start. You know, it was pretty tight until about 8 minutes to go in the first half and they really extended the lead. You know, a lot of long faces in the locker room at halftime that we had to wake up. Hey, we got 20 more minutes to play and we made our runs. We got it down, I think seven or eight a couple times. But we just couldn’t get over the hump at the end and you know, they were a really good team. A lot of size, a lot of athleticism, a lot of different guys that can score inside, score from the perimeter and you know kudos to them. They were good for a reason.
TS: What do you plan on doing differently next season in order to get more wins?
Rob: Were expecting a majority of are guys back. Now it’s another year of growth. The nice part about it is all of our young guys when they come back in the fall, I don’t think their heads will be spinning. They’ll know what the expectations are and what our standards are in terms of excellence. It should be a pretty seamless transition. We do have an unofficial preseason trip to Canada planned for some exhibition games. So that might give us a leg up a little bit on the 2022-23 season. So we’re looking forward to that for sure. Good to get those early tests in good to get those early practices in and should really prepare us for what I think could be a positive step forward with the next season. Recruiting is everything we do have some holes to fill. We’ve got to be a little bit better with the back court with some of our decision making and taking care of the ball and then passing the ball and and you know we have guys that can score but they got to get the ball where they can score and that really falls on you know on our point guard play so