Winning and Confidence: Jim Ferry and Body Language

by Rogabee

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As the Western Michigan game was venturing further into the second half last night, something unusual was happening.  The Dukes were seeing a 13 point second half lead whittled away and brought down to a three point lead near the eight minute media.  Ok, that wasn't unusual, we're used to that after the last long stretches of losing here.  But something mightily unusual was happening during this stretch.  Of the grouping of three season ticket holders that sit in front of me and four regulars that were in the two rows behind me for the game, not a single person uttered the words "loss" or "lose."  Nor was there any hint of the word.  Why?  Last night, seemingly different from past regimes, there was a sense of confidence that the Dukes last night would actually (gasp) WIN despite a second half comeback by yet another opponent.  No longer were there thoughts - yet alone spoken words - of "I wonder how we'll lose this one" or the like.  Our four sections firmly believed that we would win.

I know it's early, but there is in my opinion a culture change developing before us in that regard.  What happened to bring about the change?  I'm giving the majority of the credit to Coach Ferry, particularly his demeanor and body language on the sideline.  Ferry is easily the most confident coach I've seen at DU, though I've only been following the program since 2002.  Heck, Ferry on the sidelines has been (RMU game aside when he was after the officiating more) perhaps the most assertive and direct coach I've seen at Palumbo on the men's side, home or opposition.  His style the last couple of minutes differs vastly from Everhart's, particularly Ron's last two years.  Everhart seemingly lived and died with every play and looked like he was on an emotional roller coaster at times, which was understandable.  Plenty of coaches are into the games this way, and it works for many coaches and teams.  However, particularly the last year or two Everhart may have (consciously or subconsciously) realized that his job was potentially on the line and he needed every win he could get, and RE was seemingly more up and down that usual.  However, it didn't suit an already emotionally fragile team at times.  A quick example of the change is after Jeremiah's tecnical.  After Jeremiah's technical and ejection, Ferry decisively turned to the bench and confidently called upon Jerry (rather than throwing his arms exasperated like we saw previous coaches do after an awfully timed turnover-foul).  Ferry's directness and assertiveness when he's coaching during the game is also noteworthy.

What's more important is that Ferry's confidence is rubbing off on the players.  Take a look at players body language vs. WMU this year vs. St. Joe's last year in a similar scenario when we were blowing a double digit lead.  A few individuals (I won't name names here) last year in my opinion had that look of "here we go again" rather than staying positive as they were still leading the game, yet alone had a chance to win it.  I'll use the same example after the technical for last night's game.  After the technical-ejection last night, when Ferry called upon Jerry, Jerry Jones darted to the check-in table as quick as he would have to go after a loose ball and without hesitation.  Previously, we've  more often than not seen players meander over and bide their time if called upon in a tight game after another individual was disqualified.  Jerry looked all the part of someone ready to go out and fight.  He just had that demeanor about him checking in that said that he was going to get it done, something we're not used to seeing.

It's not just the technical foul body language, I was simply using that play as an example of what previously may have killed a team like the Dukes.  The body language of the team has been the best I've seen in a long while (I've noticed the changes since the JMU game) - and this with a frosh PG leading the way when you're used to seeing less confidence.  It's a welcome sign on the Bluff to see players confident in their abilities - confidence that can help them both on and off the floor.

Everhart did a great thing in changing the culture from losing to competitive, but I (among many others) never fully felt confident in winning and closing it out when it got tough.  Ferry is in my opinion ready to expand on what Everhart was able to accomplish in changing the culture from a losing one to a winning one.

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