Twice a week, the South Mountain Community College mens basketball team embarks on a popular pub and eatery event and one that allows amateur and sometimes gifted individuals to show off their talents in front of the public and, perhaps, land them a performing gig.
Its an open mic (microphone) night, (assistant) coach (Larry) Watkins called it, South Mountain coach Dan Nichols said. He said, Yeah, youve got open mic night every game.
And Nichols has had a lot of entertainers on stage, several of them talented. But he’s growing tired of being the conference’s version of Simon Cowell.
In fact, there are few, if any, teams as talented as the Cougars up and down the lineup. Nichols regularly uses an 11-man rotation –eight of them guards– but nobody has taken the microphone and landed his own gig after a first half that has South (10-10, 4-7) in fourth place in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference Division II standings, three games behind Scottsdale (13-5, 7-4) which handed South a narrow setback Wednesday.
Ive got to get somebody to step up in crunch time, said Nichols, in his eighth season at SMCC after one year as head coach at NCAA Division II Grand Canyon University last season. We lack some internal leadership. I think thats been our biggest deficiency. Until we get someone that can do that, were going to continue to struggle. I keep talking to the guys about it and thats whats got to happen.
But, how do you find the next Elvis?
Thats the majic question, he said. Im in the twighlight zone trying to figure that out. I dont think any one of them is capable, so I think theyre going to have to do it as a group.
Mostly because of a fairly light schedule, Nichols guided his squad to a 3-1 start, a solid accomplishment considering he had only three players back off last seasons 1-21 team that finished dead last.
The Cougars have gone 1-6 since thanks mainly to the lack of leadership and poor shooting as evidenced in Wednesdays loss at Scottsdale where SMCC went 6 for 33 from the field in the opening half.
Once ranked No.15 in the NJCAAs Div. II rankings, South is in the middle of the pack in offense, defense, shooting and rebounding in the ACCAC.
Chuck Cole is Souths scoring leader at 14.1 per game and is the only Cougar in the ACCACs top 35 in scoring. Nichols has to find a lot of players playing time.
Weve got guys playing 20 minutes going 0-for-5 with one rebound and saying, Ya know coach, I need more time, Nichols said. And I say, Well, theres nothing here thats telling me that youre going to do anything other than what youre doing.
At 61, Brian Schaeffer is Souths top rebounder at 6.4 per game which ranks 17th in the conference. Schaeffers 41 percent from 3-point distance ranks seventh. Jeff Battle leads South in steals (2.1) and assists (4.0) per game.
According to Nichols, dissension has not been a problem.
Theyre so frustrated right now, its pitifiul, Nichols said. But they are intent on turning this thing around. It was storming last night and the roads were flooded and we were wondering who would show up but they were out there in full force with smiles on their faces and a lot of enthusiasm.
If I had guys quitting and being bitchy then Id be worried. We don’t have that.
Im still pretty positive that well get this thing in the right direction. Nobodys down. Were going to be lurking right down to the end. Were going to figure it out or were going to die trying.
Id pretty much bet my bank account that were going to be there.